At a guess I would say that these words come out of my mouth on a weekly basis. Quite regularly there will be a reason for me to claim “I am not a real girl.” Usually this is in response to me not partaking in activities widely agreed upon as being required of women.

These tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Wearing make up
  • Understanding what all the different make up applicators and brands and face crayons are for
  • Purchasing, using, and taking a keen interested in complex skin care regimes and products
  • Styling hair [my hair, your hair, anyone’s hair]
  • Knowing the different beauty trends
  • Enjoying shopping [gaaahhh I hate shopping]
  • Clothes, fashions, and all new words and trends associated with said topics
  • Wearing heels [oh the pain]

There are, I am sure, many other things that I have not listed here. Please feel free to jog my memory in the comments.

Whenever something like this comes up and I wish to express my disinterest in these topics without causing offence, I retort “Oh I’m not a real girl,” and change the subject.

Only recently has it occurred to me that I am doing myself, and women across the land, a serious injustice.

WTF is a REAL girl anyway?

I mean, so I don’t like shopping – and what? There are plenty of girls out there who don’t like shopping; who actively avoid going to the shops, and when they absolutely must go, they ensure that they go alone, and early in the morning, and visit only the shops they know are likely to stock something to meet their particular need.

And there have got be other girls who don’t wear or enjoy the complications of make up? I have to admit I am leaning towards wanting someone else to paint my face for a special occasion [‘cause god knows I ain’t gonna be arsed to learn how to do all that contouring shit for myself!] But on a daily basis, I roll out of bed, put on some moisturiser, and away we go.

I have to admit, I did luck out in the genes department, which is probably why I don’t know how to style hair. My hair is straight. It dries by itself and it is straight. I don’t have any sort of unwanted kink, or half curl anywhere on my head. And I did absolutely nothing to cultivate or deserve that blessing; I was just born this way.

But if I wasn’t, if I did have a bit of frizz going on and I still didn’t want to tame it, I would still be a real girl, right?

I mean, being a woman is not how good your make up is, or how on fleek your hair style is [is that the right use of ‘on fleek’?] It is not having coordinated accessories and perfectly manicured nails. It is not spending your weekends shopping for clothes that make your butt look big and your waist look tiny. If that is your bag, then you do you, sister. Absolutely.

But being a woman is more than just your appearance and your ability to pass comment on someone’s perfect eyebrows [and understand what they say when they explain how they achieved said eyebrows].

Being a woman is taking the house phone to bed with you so that you can answer it if it rings at 3am ‘cause a friend is in trouble.

Being a woman is helping that mother struggling on the escalator, trying to balance two kids, a buggy and an arm full of food shopping.

Being a woman is listening to your mate cry after suffering an unspeakable loss. And it’s crying with her, and neither of you having any words… [This has happened too many times.]

Being a woman is going to work every day and proving over and over again that you can do the job as well as any man, and that you deserve to be paid the same for it.

Being a woman is understanding that people are not defined by the letters after their name, or their six figure salary, or the car that they drive.

Being a woman is living in love every day, even in those moments when you know it would be easier to scream, throw in the towel, and walk away.

Being a woman is a balancing act between being strong, powerful, and brave, while at the same time emitting an aurora of femininity, of lesser-than.

It is running in heels.

Now, I cannot literally run in heels anymore [19yo me could though – she was so fierce] but I can metaphorically run in heels.

I have been ‘real girl’-ing [yep, I just made that a verb] my entire life. I have been learning and understanding and negotiating ideas of womanhood and femininity since I was born. Those ideas, lessons and understandings change over time, and hopefully will continue to do so. Not just my ideas and understanding of womanhood and femininity, but society’s ideas and understandings. The discourse about and of womanhood is diverse and evolving daily, [evolving being the operative word for sure]. And I am active in my pursuits of the discourse of equality.

So why then do I insult myself, and other women, by claiming that I am not a real girl? Implying that beauty regimes and fashions define what it is to be a woman. How dare I!

I am a real girl. I am as real as they come. And I need to stop apologising for everything I am not. There is a whole lot of ‘real girl’ about me, and it’s got nothing to do with my mascara. Or yours.

I am grateful to be a woman. And I am grateful for the realisation that saying “I’m not a real girl” is damaging to both myself and other women. And I will stop.

I love the This Girl Can campaign developed by Sport England.