As a young woman in my twenties, I have been subjected to comments about my body my entire life.
I remember being in dance class when I was just in high school and it was pointed out that I had very large hips for my body, but that was okay because that meant I had “childbearing hips”
This comment still haunts me.
In today’s society, living online, it’s hard not to get sucked into the women’s body debates. She’s too tall, she’s too skinny, too curvy, I could list endlessly the comments woman are subjected to because of their body.
I reached out and spoke with nine girls to get their take on being a young women in today’s society.
I asked a series of four questions and I was honestly shocked at the similarities in answers.
What are the struggles you’ve faced with being a young woman in today’s society?
I have listed all the answers below, some have asked to remain anonymous.
I’ve struggled with men’s expectations and the respect I deserve, an example would be those kinds of men in vans whistling at young girls, it’s so uncomfortable and disrespectful. So many men take being nice as flirting, I’ve had men be rude to me just because I didn’t want to kiss them (I was just being polite!).
Perhaps being dismissed to do a task just because a male can do it ‘better’
Feeling like I’m enough. I have pretty bad imposter syndrome so I work ridiculously hard and stress myself out because I see what everyone else is doing and think I need to do more and more to match up. That goes for social media or in person. – Tia Hodgson @tiaspage
When I was 10 I was already a C cup n almost as soon as I got to high school I was sexually objectified because of my breasts. Catcalling, unsolicited d*ck pics, being taken seriously, being seen as ‘over-emotional’ for expressing emotions, having men insult and degrade you when you tell them, no, having other women get nasty when I’m around their men, having my periods taken seriously!
It’s a constant battle with yourself. If one thing isn’t too small then it’s too big. You feel like you have to compete against every beautiful woman you see when they probably suffer the same as me.
Always thinking about how I can look better or how I can look like the other girls. Nose, lips, body, thighs, teeth. Trying to redesign myself in my mind to fit the norms of what it means to be a sexy and a young woman. Not realising that I should have appreciated my body and loved my body at my best when I was healthy. It’s so hard to put myself out there without thinking about how much better other women will look. I now have come to the understanding that I need to appreciate beauty as well as my beauty and not try to mimic others. The beauty industry regurgitates the same looks the same type of women and there’s a lack of diversity and inclusion which is damaging for young women.
Feeling as though I can be confident & comfortable in my clothes/with my body unapologetically. Sometimes feeling afraid when walking alone, being approached by strangers, being touched by men in bars, being catcalled, not being taken seriously – to name a few.
One of the struggles I’ve faced will defiantly be with my acne, having a family history of cystic acne on top of hormonal acne, not my best years. With beauty standards telling me it’s because I don’t wash my face enough, social media convincing me to spend hundreds of pounds on products that are guaranteed to clear my skin. Spoiler alert, none of them worked.
Being a young woman and social media is a toxic place, constantly seeing the same type of girl all over our news feed, magazines and not looking anything like them is enough for a young woman to tear herself down. It’s only recently we can see models who are plus size, who have acne, body hair, disabilities and its refreshing to see that we all have something that makes us unique and it’s a journey to loving ourselves that’s important.
I would say with society today I have faced 5 years of bullying and it destroyed me, I had no self-confidence at all. I hated myself. And I feel a lot of people struggle with this, but just know I am now 21 and I have learnt to love myself and the people who bullied me tried to get into contact with me so it just goes to show! Society’s idea of perfection is utter rubbish. You’re you for a reason and that reason is fantastic.
After reading all the girls statements I felt both a sense of relief that I wasn’t the only one that felt these things but also sadness because it confirms that the society we live in isn’t acceptable.
Men mistaking kindness for flirting and something more and when you politely decline, then you’re disgusting, he didn’t want you anyway. It’s baffling that this is the norm!! And don’t get me started on men sending nudes randomly, in what scenario would a woman appreciate that? What is the thought process behind it?
Being a young woman and living in a time where social media is at a peak is incredibly hard. I no longer look at my explore feed on Instagram or follow influencers that portray an unrealistic life because deep down I know it’s not real but there’s still that part of me that thinks wow, I wish I looked like that, and it’s upsetting.
What do you feel are the expectations of today for women?
While expectations for women aren’t as strict and society is coming to realise that a woman’s size, race, colour, hair, disability or medical history doesn’t define who they are. It’s still not enough. We are told to dress a certain way, only eat certain foods, only go out when it’s light outside, not to get too bulky and how to act. It becomes exhausting and looks like we are creating clones of the same person as they are what society calls the ‘perfect’ woman.
Way too many to list, I feel… I would say that women are expected to uphold so many standards and they’re so outdated! Sadly there are too many “rules” women should follow and expectations in place. Sometimes it feels like we’re not living in 2020 – women still face criticism and scrutiny on a daily basis & it’s completely unfair.
To be a boss woman who has her own business, who earns solely from social media. Who has a dipped nose, big lips, big bum and boobs but small waist and thighs? Who gyms constantly, and has everything together. Women for me have to be perfect in every aspect of their lives and it then spirals. I think that these connotations come from bigger industries and advertising and it’s a lot of pressure to be a young woman and to be even close to ‘perfect’. Women are not robots they are human but I believe society tells women to hide their flaws … women can do all of these things or none of these things it should be a choice but at times it feels like an expectation.
I think women are becoming much more accepting of each other and themselves. You see so much more body awareness now which is amazing. We are all different shapes and sizes and textures and we all have bumps and scars. We all deserve to be treated with love.
I still feel like the majority expect women to still be somewhat of a pretty figure, to be ‘feminine’, but to also be smart, well educated, while also perusing a dream of children n marriage. I feel there’s still a tonne of stigma about women not wanting to have kids and also women in political positions!
To dress a certain way. To be able to cook. Be soft (not to stand up for themselves) Settling down and having kids. Expected to shave! Expected to look after the kids.
I personally feel positive about the direction we are going in but there’s still so far to go. Plus, it could just be that I surround myself with amazing women who are body positive. However, there is still so much pressure for women to be pretty, slim, professional whilst being maternal, kind, not too outspoken and opinionated (which I often get in trouble for and people think I’m rude or a b*tch). I hope I get to see a change in my lifetime where we can be multifaceted intelligent, opinionated, loving, hard-working women who can do what they want, wear what they want, look how they want and not be frightened of the repercussions.m
I feel the expectations of women are that you have to look a certain way and have this perfect hourglass image when in reality it doesn’t exist!
To me, the struggles I have faced has been looking a certain way. For example; having the slim figure. This is personal as I have recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder due to thinking I should be a certain size.
The expectations in today’s society are unrealistic. Earn six figures, seven holidays a year, a perfectly sculpted body. But is this realistic?
OF COURSE NOT.
Women are expected to have this perfect body, balanced life of fitness, healthy eating, success and while all this is going on, prepare for married life and of course, have children and cater for them for the next twenty-five years.
It’s complete and utter madness.
I am twenty-three and in a relationship, you would not believe the number of times we get asked, when are you having children? Marriage on the cards? Explaining that you haven’t even thought about it yet… the smiles start to slowly fade away.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to my younger self not to worry too much about stretch marks, cellulite and tummy rolls as everyone will experience these at some point in their life. -Don’t feel like you need to hide behind a face of makeup because I’m not comfortable going without any on, I now don’t care as much as I used to on peoples opinions. I still do definitely, like I did a lil mini photoshoot in Morrison’s car park and had male employees staring but I knew I wanted the pics so tried to ignore them
Focus on loving yourself and being alone in your own company, that right person will come along when you’re ready for it.-anybody that’s negative towards you is taking their own issues out on you to feel better so ignore them, no reaction is the best reaction.- friends come and go, so don’t worry about the quantity of ‘friends’ like, it’s better to have a few genuine relationships than 1000 Facebook friends!
Yes, your tits do keep growing so be ready for a lot of back and neck pain. I’d probably say to my younger self that you’re gorgeous and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you might feel shit now but as you get older you’re going to embrace everything about yourself. There may be bad days, but trust me it gets better.
Please don’t worry about what others think. Please don’t stare in that mirror and doubt yourself because it’ll cause problems in the future.
Omg, I could give my younger self so much advice! I would definitely say don’t put pressure on yourself to think you have to look a certain way or just because someone else has a toned body etc doesn’t mean you have to as well! Learn to love yourself for you.
Stop trying to live up to everybody else’s expectations and achievements, do more that makes you happy, don’t be scared to be yourself, and for god’s sake, I wish younger me had been interested in skincare!
It’s important to stay healthy and look after yourself. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you have to be the prettiest or the skinniest to get men’s attention. Men who are worth being with see you as more than just abs and ass.
Appreciate your health because you don’t know what the future holds. Look after your body and love your body. Don’t try to be like other girls and don’t stop loving yourself because you think you have to. You are beautiful and you don’t need anyone to consolidate that. Put yourself first … it’s okay to be selfish.
Bodies change & there aren’t many instances you can avoid/control so don’t beat yourself up about it! Your body does so much for you, please be kind to yourself – it will make life easier as you grow up. Don’t ever waste time caring about what other people might say about you.
STOP straightening your hair!! Your curls are beautiful, and you should learn to embrace them. Even though society tells you to straighten your hair, don’t listen! There are never any girls in magazine or movies with curly hair, but it makes you unique and it’s part of who you are. Embrace it!!! Also, go easy on the eyeliner when you get to 15, you went a little ham with it but, never change who you are just to fit in with specific people.
You’ll see a common theme throughout these comments that we wish we could tell our younger self not to worry about society, the thoughts of others and to embrace our natural bodies.
It’s always the same, we wish we could tell ourselves not to worry about what people think and sadly it takes us twenty odd years if not more to learn this simple lesson.
I would tell my younger self to embrace who she is. I was a really big “emo” back in the day and I absolutely loved it. I had red hair, big eyeliner and I actually wore my school tie in the shape of a bow tie and the amount of hate that I received as a fifteen year old was… terrifying! I remember deleting my Twitter because I received death threats from older boys in the school. For wearing a bow tie…
It’s upsetting knowing that we hide, change and amend who we are to try and fit in with others.
What part of your body do you love the most and why?
My eyes, I believe that everyone’s eyes tell a story. Within mine, you can see that I’ve struggled through a lot, but I’ve made it out the other side and I’m now a strong independent woman who knows her worth. I’ve also gotten so many compliments about my eye and how they give off the illusion that I’m either Spanish or Greek.
That’s a tough first question… It’s hard to say I “love” any part of myself but if I had to pick it would probably be my smile/eyes. There’s no exact reason why – I guess I just think they’re maybe the first thing someone would notice about me and give off a little personality?
I love my skin and I love the imperfections on my skin because for me it represents the challenges I’ve been through with eczema and urticaria and the healing I’ve accomplished. My skin isn’t perfect but watching it heal it’s wounds for me leaves me in awe of how hard my body works for me.
My eyes. It’s the only part of me that has never changed and never will.
My birthmarks, freckles n stretch marks, they have character, they tell stories, they remind me of holidays, and life lessons, they remind me that bodies are forever changing and how each person’s body tells their own stories!
The body part I love the most is probably my boobs but idk if you can put that. If not, I’d probably say my legs as I get complimented on how long they are (always get the ‘you should be a model’ comment from older adults cos of my height)
To be honest it’s taken me a very, very long time to look in the mirror and see something I actually like. Now when I look in the mirror I make sure to be my biggest fan. It’s funny because a lot of the things I hated about myself are some of the things I love the most. My bum chin makes me more unique which I love, but I’d say my favourite is part of my hips. They have a bit of healthy fat and I love that, I love giving them a bit of a squeeze (also helps to make my waist look smaller as I already have quite a small waist).
This is a hard one, I think I like my legs the most as when I do work out, I can get the how I want them quickly. Sounds silly but honestly, it’s a very hard question for me!
I would say either my bum or my stomach probably, only because I use to struggle so much with excepting I can’t grow my bum like some people can and now I’ve accepted the way it is and I’m fine with it! And my stomach because I also found it hard working out and then I’d be seeing other girls and haunting myself because I don’t look like them. But now I’m happy within my stomach, sometimes it’s toned, sometimes it isn’t but that’s so normal!
This was probably my favourite question because it’s refreshing to see all the things these women love about their bodies.
I love my body and I am happy with where I am at. My favourite part would have to be eyes because they are black and you cannot see my pupil, I think it’s beautiful.
Loving yourself isn’t selfish and I love seeing other women praise their bodies. We should be proud of our bodies and embrace stretch marks, freckles, scars because they provide a story of our lives.
I loved getting to speak to loads of different women and realising that I am not alone in the way I feel. Society is slowly moving in the direction but it’s not good enough and we cannot settle.
I want to be able to walk home at night without running or constantly looking over my shoulder, along with phoning someone and telling them where I am in case something happens. I want to kindly reject someone at a bar without being called ugly. I wanted to be accepted EXACTLY the way I am.
The world we live in isn’t perfect, but I intend to make it that little bit better before I leave it and that’s my goal.