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Teenage Girls

Ode to the teenage diary

Author:
dear diary

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I feel as though when I say that I keep a diary, people look at me differently. There’s something judgemental in their response. That’s something that I’m used to, because I was a teenage girl for a pretty long time, and I’m a massive One Direction fan – most people tend to look down on people who meet this criteria. Actually, there’s a link there. People who like One Direction and people who write diaries can be anyone, but what demographic are they traditionally associated with? That’s right – teenage girls.

Obviously, I’m a cheerleader for teenage girls. I love teenage girls and I have experienced first-hand how smart they can be, how kind they can be, how strong and brave and creative they can be.

I am also a cheerleader for diaries and journaling. I believe that there is so much value in this practice, especially as something in the life of a teenage girl.

In a culture which teaches girls to hold back our emotions; to be good and sit pretty; where we are to be seen and not heard – writing a diary is an amazing release. Our diaries are private spaces, and nobody can criticise or judge us. Our diaries are places where we are allowed to let it out. All of it.

Anger is a particularly difficult emotion for a lot of girls to express, because we’ve been taught that it’s an ‘ugly’ emotion. I really struggle with it, and tend to only ever direct it onto myself. But if I take the time to sit down with my journal (or any old notebook, even a scrap piece of paper – and failing that, the notes app in my phone) I can get out some of that pent up rage. I can release my frustrations, and it doesn’t cause any harm to me or to anyone else. I also like that because nobody else is going to see what I write, it can be messy visually, too. I like things to be ‘perfect’, because I like to have people’s approval. In the comfort of my own pages, I don’t need anybody’s approval. I can, for once, relax, and scribble away.

It’s not just the emotions of girls that are undervalued, but our everyday experiences. We are taught to value what upper-middle class white men say, and to ignore the lessons we learn in our own lives. We learn early in life to question what we have to contribute to the world, we are told the story of our irrationality, our fickleness, our naivety. When we write in our diaries, we tell ourselves a new narrative. When we write about our lives, we are writing to remind ourselves that we have something to say and that it matters.

As a teenage girl, I was told often that my mood swings were normal, ‘just hormonal’, and that I was overdramatic. Now, I cannot say that I was not dramatic – I remain so to this day – but I can say that these comments were dismissive. They told me that other people knew best what was going on in my head, and that stopped me from talking about it. I even told myself, “you’re making this all up”, “this isn’t real”. I didn’t believe in my own version of events, I didn’t trust myself in the slightest. Finding that self-trust is something I’m still working on. But I am always learning, and my diary is instrumental in that discovery. At 15 years old, reading my own diary entry from the day before was what made me wake up, and realise that what was going on in my head was serious. At 19, it is what made me stop denying the truth and recognise the significance of what I was feeling – my diary helped me to end a relationship I was no longer happy in, and leave a space that was triggering my anxiety and depression to the extreme. My diary saved me from my own denial.

This record of memories and the validation of our personal experiences is also important to our identity. It is so easy for your sense of who you are to get tangled up with who you’re ‘supposed to be’. Teenage girls are thrown hundreds of mixed messages every single day, and we lose ourselves to it all. We allow ourselves to be defined by others and simply categorised. Not because we want to be, but because it’s overwhelming, and it can feel like the easiest option to play pretend. But in our diaries, we can take off the masks. We can be honest, and that is healing.

Nobody’s identity is static, but mine is particularly erratic. I have spent my life moulding myself into different forms, usually out of a sense of desperation, a need to be seen, a fear of being abandoned by the people I loved. For me, identity is something I don’t understand – none of the people I’ve been in the past really feel like me. When I read through old diaries, it’s painful. “I don’t know her”, I think, going through the journal I kept during my hospitalisation at 15 years old. But as uncomfortable as my past selves make me, it’s important that I connect with them, learn to accept them and, ultimately, forgive them. And when I read my old diaries, I learn about who they were, and by extension who I am. This was the only place that I was honest, and so it gives me an insight to thought patterns; shows me the consistencies in my likes and dislikes; proves to me that there is a thread which connects me to myself. I’m not just fragments.

GirlCon – come along!

Author:
girlcon logo

By Anna Hill

What is Girlcon?

Inspired by the book Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, where a bunch of teen beauty queens crash land on a desert island, Girlcon is a two day convention aiming to celebrate teenage girls, young women and non binary folk and create solidarity and community.

The conception of the convention stems from a specific and incredibly relatable conversation held in the book:
“You know, instead of some old, backassward pageant competition, we should have a con. A Girl Con! How awesome would that be?” Adina said.
“What would we do at Girl Con?” Jennifer said, giving the words a cheesy announcer’s voice.
“We could have some wicked cool workshops — writing, films, science, music, consciousness-raising…”
— Beauty Queens, p. 152

They go on to talk about having “a seminar on DIY zine production”, and talks about comic books! Excited by the prospect of a space where girls need not apologise for being themselves, a discussion of what Girlcon could consist of happened on youtube in 2013. After these discussions the first girlcon took place in 2015 and was a great success!

Girlcon is back for a second year with even more content and discussions lined up; from a discussion about rage to talks on queer animation stories and black feminist thought as well as an Asexual and Aromantic meet up and a panel on Beyonce’s new album Lemonade.

Why create Girlcon?

The reason that the organisers of girlcon are so committed to its existence are various; it needs to exist to say that girls and non-binary people should be able to take up all the space they need. It needs to exist to fight against the the toxicity of patriarchal competition; other girls are your friends, your support, your loves, not your enemies. It needs to exist so we can learn from each other and listen to each other.

When and where is Girlcon?

30th – 31st of July, Woodhouse College, London, N12 9EY!!

Here is the facebook event page and here are the free tickets (we just need to keep track of numbers!). For more information about the schedule and anything else follow us on twitter and tumblr and like our facebook page!

Queer Grrrl Lit

Author:
ReadMeLikea Book

by Sophia Simon-Bashall

I have been an avid reader of Young Adult fiction since I was 12 and read Sophie McKenzie’s Girl, Missing, for the first time. From that point onward, I devoured these stories. I lived inside them. I befriended the characters, went on adventures, got angry with them, fell in love. I liked that these stories were about people my age, and that they didn’t look down on me or talk down to me – they recognised that I, as a young woman, was an intelligent and thoughtful person. That was invaluable.

However, there was a disconnect. I was queer, and the characters that I was meeting were not, except for the occasional boy. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere. There was no proof that I existed outside of myself, that my feelings about girls were anything other than hideously wrong, an anomaly.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to realise that I, as a queer girl, was not wrong. That I, in that identity, was real and valid and okay. Much of that was about growth, and about the people I surrounded myself with. But it was also about the books I read. I did my digging, and I found that there were books about girls who, like me, were Not Straight. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.

I have found so much value in reading YA about queer girls. I have found so much comfort and validation and joy. Representation matters, without a doubt. I thought I would share, in case you are looking:

(FAVOURITE) Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCourEverything Leads
I have been enchanted by few YA novels as much as this one. LaCour has a beautiful writing style, the imagery is so vivid and emotive, the characters feel so familiar and honest, the story feels both magical and real. Reading this makes you feel the way you feel when you meet the eyes of a cute girl in a bookshop, when you talk to her and grab a hot chocolate together and you are crushing so hard. Reading this gives you butterflies. Guaranteed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
beautyQueensThis is such a kick-ass, grrrl power book! It is the epitome of awesome! It shows teenage girls as intelligent, resourceful, complex human beings! What a revelation! AND THE REPRESENTATION!!! Amongst the girls are African-Americans, girls of Indian heritage, bisexuals, lesbians, girls who are transgender … it’s like Libba Bray actually looked at society rather than painted the normative picture – can you believe it?

Lunaside by J.L. DouglasLunaside
I very recently read this book, because I am a sucker for cute summer camp stories and I needed to escape into that world. I was pleasantly surprised by how mature it felt, and by how the story turned out – I worried that there was a manic pixie dream girl element, but all was resolved. I think the best part for me was that one of the secondary characters was asexual. AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED!!! BUT IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!! IT’S NOT THE FOCUS!!! IT’S JUST A PART OF HER!!! Amazing.

Read Me Like a Book by Liz KesslerReadMeLikea Book
My friend, Anna and I went to the book launch for this last year, and it was wonderful. Rainbow cake and adult queer women, women who were comfortable in who they were and not brought down by the homophobia that they have fought and fought against. It was a very affirming and assuring atmosphere for both of us to be in. The novel is very much about coming to terms with being Not Straight, an invaluable read for those in such a situation. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I am perhaps a little bored of ‘coming out’ –esque stories; however, I didn’t feel at all bored reading this. I didn’t feel like I’d heard it all before, and I didn’t feel beyond it. It was written with honesty, and I think that goes a long with way with such stories.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
I Love This Part - Preview-page-001This is a graphic novel and it is so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so beautiful and fills you with so many feelings. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. It’s simultaneously immensely satisfying and deeply unsatisfying – you will want more, but you also know that it closes where it should, the way it should. To be able to do that to your readers is quite a skill.

The following are books I have not yet read, but are on my list. I have heard so many great things about them that I could not leave them out:

  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – a graphic memoir
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe – bisexual representation!
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • If You Could Be Mine + Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Let’s Have Another Toast to One Direction

Author:
1d

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I could easily write a 5000 word essay on what makes One Direction beautiful, how the media’s portrayal of them as ‘bad boy’ womanizers is an illusion founded on little white lies, and how a lot of people are unfair in their attitudes towards them and their fans. I can recall literally hundreds of instances in which Harry Styles has shut down sexism, supported the LGBTQPIA community, promoted animal welfare… there are so many things. Harry Styles is a gift to humanity. I could write at least 5000 words on him alone – I have no control. But it’s not just Harry who’s an absolute angel, 5/5 are pretty great overall (yes, I am saying that there are five of them… Zayn is their brother… till the end). As individuals and as a group, One Direction back an endless number of projects which aim to improve people’s lives, and are, more often than not, highly involved in these projects. I would list them all, but a) we’d be here for a ridiculous length of time, and b) you can look it up on tumblr, there must be about 1000 masterposts on all their little things.

I do however want to talk about the major project they’ve recently launched, action/1D, because, honestly, I think it’s the best project ever. Later this year, two massive United Nations summits are taking place, at which world leaders will be discussing how to combat climate change, improve healthcare and education, end poverty, and more. At September’s UN General Assembly, a new set of Sustainable Development Goals will be agreed upon, which is going to have a major impact on the future of our world. The guys in One Direction have asked their fans to send in videos and photos about the issues they care most about, the things they want to change. In September, world leaders will be presented with a film, filled with these contributions.

This is bigger than celebrities tweeting about current events, showing their awareness and solidarity with those affected. action/1D is a project truly aimed at the big shots, it’s about directly influencing global politics and the state of the world. This really is something great.

It’s not only the nature of the project that’s incredible, but who’s taking part in it. action/1D is not about the boys, it’s about their fans. Not wanting to perpetuate stereotypes, but the One Direction fandom is predominantly (though not exclusively) made up of teenage girls and young women. Why is this so significant? Because ultimately, politics remains a man’s world. Currently, just 20 countries in the world have a woman as leader – there are 196 countries on planet earth; 10% is nowhere near parity. Women’s voices are still marginalised in the grand scheme of things, and teenage girls know this all too well. Try to assert a political opinion as a 14 year old girl, you will be dismissed, told that you will probably change your mind thousands of times over the years, that your view is therefore invalid. Openly engage in political issues as a 16 year old girl, you will be belittled, told that you couldn’t possibly understand. Try to assert yourself in a political discussion as an 18 year old girl, you will be met with misogynistic abuse, told to “calm down, love” and that your frustration “doesn’t look good on you”, because your primary function is to sit pretty, and how very dare you have a voice. Politics is not particularly open to teenage girls, because teenage girls are fickle, naïve, and hysterical. Nothing teenage girls have to say could possibly have any value, according to those in power.

This project is so significant for the fact that it challenges this. One Direction have turned to their millions of fans, to millions of teenage girls and young women, and have asked them what they have to say. They have recognised that we have something to say, and that there is intrinsic value in that. And they are giving us a platform from which to speak, to affect major change. These boys are acknowledging that teenage girls are thoughtful and intelligent human beings, in a way that few people with such status do. That’s why action/1D matters.

Right now, I couldn’t be more ecstatic or more proud to be a One Direction fan, and it’s not just because they’ve added my favourite song to their live shows – although that’s incredibly exciting, too. If anyone wants to ridicule me about it, I don’t really care – if you hadn’t noticed, I’m a girl almighty; I’ve got a world to change (and fanfic to read).

Could this be the end of Page 3?

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Recently I chatted to a bunch of lovely women about the No More Page Three campaign. I was near the end, and was about to crack a great joke about John Snow telling the news topless, when I saw a hand rise in the fourth row. A woman, who I estimate was probably in her forties, said “I’m sorry, but what is page three?”

I was fairly shocked. I guess I had just assumed that everyone had seen it, or at least heard about it. It made for a great discussion though. I explained that Page Three was a feature in The Sun, a newspaper who label themselves “family friendly,” and is made so that the average 8 year old could read it, but also shows a woman with her boobs out on the third page. I reckon this woman’s reaction was the best part of the whole talk.

“Seriously? How long’s that been going on for?” she called from the audience.

“It started in the 70s,” I replied to her.

“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe that’s allowed in a paper,” was her response.

It was like I had paid her to ask the question, it gave me the perfect opportunity to highlight the ridiculousness of Page Three. It’s worth noting that the whole audience were quietly giggling and tutting at how completely stupid Page Three sounds when you explain it to someone who’s never seen it before.

It was not until a few days later when, on a train journey in to London, the very woman who had raised her hand Tweeted me to alert me of a Tweet sent by Murdoch.

Murdoch Tweet

I literally gasped for joy on the train and just wanted to tell someone, anyone, about is. I can’t explain what a great feeling it is to know that something is changing, and that I am a part of the reason why. Hours of writing, days of protesting, months of campaigning, years of hoping were finally paying off. I had this instinctive reaction of “this is it” and I really just wanted to cry. Page Three, the single thing that had succeeded in destroying my early teen years, was going to be no longer. Finally, there would be No More Page Three.

My excitement doubled when Alison Webster, the official Page Three photographer, tweeted this:

Sunphotographer

In the space of a night, it seemed the end was near. For some people Page Three might only be a page in a newspaper, something they’ve been lucky enough to be able to turn a blind eye on, but not for me. Not for 206,000 other men and women who have signed the petition. Not for the many ex page three models we have in our campaign. For us, and each for our own reason, this was the end of the suffering.

Page Three still exists though. The next morning, my hopes were somewhat dashed when I saw Kelly, 19, from Brighton stood in her knickers. I must point out that I don’t buy The Sun, but checked if the Page Three feature was there on this day. Somewhat naively, I had expected a revolution over night, but sadly this was not the case.

Help us defeat Page Three. Sign the petition. Have a conversation about it. We know people are talking about us since #nomorepagethree was the third biggest trending topic on Twitter the last month. You’d be surprised at how many people support us. Get involved, and join the only revolution where #pyjamaactivism is a key concept.

We are closer than ever. The time for change is now. And with your help, we’ll get there.

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