As a youth worker in the city there are three things which young women tell me has an impact on their lives and presents barriers to their equality. Firstly Gender stereotypes – Gender stereotypes are everywhere, they are widely used and ‘accepted’. From the moment we are born we are often dressed in a gender-focused way – girls wear pink and boys wear blue. We listen to fairy tales where our knight in shining armour arrives to sweep us off our feet and we will have our happy ending. But for many women this isn’t the case and it becomes harder and harder to challenge as it is part of the ‘expected’ route in life to travel.
There is a serious amount of pressure on young women to be an ‘ideal woman’. Do well at school, be polite, look well always and to conform to what society’s image of perfectionism is. Never initiate sex because let’s face it women aren’t sexual beings. Build a solid career, be heterosexual and ultimately find a man, get married and have kids.
- What happens if this isn’t your choice does this make you less of a woman?
- What about the women who choose to put their careers first?
- What about women who are unable to have children or choose not to?
- What level of guilt do working mums feel?
Hands up who has learned to wear a mask sometimes and pretend all is OK, when the immense pressure you put on yourself is making you feel the opposite. There isn’t anything wrong with any of these stereotypes but I would love to see a world where young women feel that their lives aren’t shaped before they reach puberty. A world that is about informed choice.
Provide information which educates, challenges and shares knowledge on informed choice. Challenge the status quo and ignite passion for young women – to realise you can choose to stay at home, you can choose to be a breadwinner, you can be a world leader or you can work in IT – all these opportunities are available to them.
We need to provide alternative messages for young women that will build them up rather than tear them down. We need to recognise the impact the media has on young women’s emotional health and well-being. Be a role model for men and women, lead by example and others will follow. And finally we need to work better at highlighting the fantastic achievements of young people in what they do.