“From a young age, society teaches us gender roles to which we are expected to conform. Children are taught that girls like pink and boys like blue; girls like ballet and boys like football; girls study the arts and boys study sciences; women are expected to be less competitive and men are more.

“When I was a child I didn’t ‘fit’ into these gender norms: I was talented at most sports, especially football which I loved more than anything that was considered more ‘girly’ and therefore I was regarded as unusual, an exception to the norm. I was not encouraged to continue playing football, the sports encouraged at school heavily differed for boys and girls, and the clothes I enjoyed wearing – however neutral and unisex they were but just not ‘feminine’ – were continuously suggested to be replaced by ‘girly’ dresses. Eventually I stopped playing football because there were never enough other girls with whom I could play, and I started to lack confidence in my ability and how I came across, as I started to care more in teenage years.

“It is true to say that societal pressures may not affect 21st century adults as much as they once did and I no longer care how I’m perceived by others, however the decisions made in younger life, based on the pressures created by gender norms, cause this stereotyping to continue into later life through the pursuit of ‘girly’ or ‘manly’ career paths.

“By using words like ‘girly’ and ‘manly’, you associate certain things with a gender rather than an individual person. Why does me choosing a different style make me into an exception to a gender stereotype? Why can it not just be me?”

Photo credit: Ming Au
Editing credit: Ming Au & Harriet Evans

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