R: euhm... I would say if someone is girly in their personality, I would say that they make themselves very vulnerable.

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1 My personal story United Kingdom 19 Female Primary Topic: IDENTITY Topics: CHILDHOOD / FAMILY LIFE / RELATIONSHIPS SOCIETAL CONTEXT Year: love relationship single/couple (in-) dependence (un-) happiness femininity masculinity religion strength/strong weak(-ness) church ideological convictions R: Okay, so I think when you're at school, I came in straight through so whole my life has been, all my life experience has been through school (the respondent is 19 and still studying). So, I think when you're a girl at school it is very hard - I found it very hard to t in. Because I was never really very 'girly'. But if you're not 'girly', well at my school anyway, if I wasn't really feminine, they seemed I was a lesbian. Because, you know, God forbid there could be just a girl who doesn t wanna wear tons of makeup and stuff. ( ) R: ( ) Yes, so that was quite hard for me. I think I think even now, I mean I live now with 6 other girls at university so, and they are all very girly. I m probably the least girly out of all of them. But I'm slowly learning on how to be comfortable with being very feminine. I think... I think... I used see it as making myself too vulnerable to be really, really feminine. 1

2 Because I needed... I used to feel, you know, I used to feel very much like I needed to compete, with guys and guys... Being around too many guys used to make me quite uncomfortable. And I become very masculine when I am around guys. And I have that kind of, I joke like I'm a boy and I talk and the way I sit changes. I think it is just because I get very uncomfortable around being, around too many men. I have no idea why, but it is just the way it is and I just. I do think that I do absolutely compete when I'm - even socially - even I was at a party, I feel like I need to compete and stand my ground in front of guys. Cause otherwise I just think guys tear girls up otherwise. They just... I don't know, they just... I think a lot of guys see girls as easy pickings in terms of making fun of girls. To gain social status in front of their friends and to show off. I think that is one big thing that I think I kind of recognized when I was growing up, when I was at school, was that socially guys use girls a lot easier, with a lot more ease than... girls could never really do that to guys. Actually yeah... ( ) I: How would you describe a woman who is 'girly' as you say both from the 'outside' characteristics - the looks - but also from, say, the 'inside' characteristics? R: euhm... I would say if someone is girly in their personality, I would say that they make themselves very vulnerable. I: And how do they make themselves vulnerable? R: They put themselves in situation where their feeling get hurt and they put too much hope into things. Whether it be in friendships or with boyfriends or things like that or like guys. I mean I see a lot in this house (the respondent lives together with 5 other female students) when I'm with these girls, they all, there is always someone who is really upset because they just, they put all their hopes on things and they, they are not realistic about things and I think that, I think that that is something that... that girls do and guys don't. And I always... I see that as a bit of a weakness, I think, that they, you know... I: Do you mean with regards to their relationship with men so that they put, that they have very romantic unrealistic aspirations which will never be responded to by the men? 2

3 R: Yes, oh yeah, yeah, I mean we have, that s going on all the time here. Especially, there is like a few speci c girls and they, they meet a guy one night and it is all very nice and then, I mean, constantly what they do is talk about it and then text him and call him all the time, and then when the guy turns around and says: 'actually I'm not really very interested'. They just crash, because in their head they've built up that this guy that they have met once or twice really likes them and they are going to become, they're going to enter a relationship. And I think that is a very unrealistic way to think and yeah... when I think that girls are girly, it's a combination of that vulnerability that girls seem to have. Yes, de nitely a sense of vulnerability. Also... that kind of typical gossipy thing. And I don't like either of those. I don't like either, so I nd them both very di cult to deal with. When girls either get gossipy or too upset because they have made themselves vulnerable, I have to... I can't deal with the situation. It scares me. I: To me it sounds a bit like what I would call the 'Cinderella Syndrome', where women are sort of patiently waiting until there is big prince on a horse coming to rescue them and that will be the central focus of their life and their source of happiness? R: Yes, I like that idea, I like that idea. Yeah... that's absolutely what some... I: Yes and so they're very centrally focused on conquering that prince and doing whatever it takes. R: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, and yeah... that is so right actually... isn't it just... and it takes one thing, a small thing for a guy to do and suddenly they latch unto it and I nd that all very bizarre. I nd that very bizarre. And the guys they don't know, but they assume that they can get to relationships and things. I mean, I've not really had like many relationships, but they have always been with boys who were my friends before anything else. But you know that is not to say that I haven't ever... I mean I'm sure I have done it before. Where I've met a guy and just though that he was the best thing since... and then he's, and then I kind of got my hopes up a bit too much or what have you, but... yeah... I do struggle with kind of really girly girls sometimes. In this house I think it was kind of throwing me in the deep ends. And I actually have to say that I have loved it and looking back on it and 3

4 remember just being really happy here. But it has taught me a lot about girls whom I'd assumed were not my kind of girls. That actually - just because they are different - doesn't make them weaker, I suppose. It just means that they think about things very differently and I shouldn't get frustrated. I nd it hard sometimes not to get frustrated. I've very strong ideas about what... about this whole competition thing. I: And how would you approach it. If you say that you don't want to approach it in a 'girly' way, because that would make me, put me in a very vulnerable position? R: I go to the other end of the spectrum completely. It's like a... I go into a complete defence mechanism. If I meet a guy, I instinctively become like one of the lads. And I become like his mate. Like play-punching each other and banto, and all those like friendly insults and stuff like that. Because I get so worried, I get very worried that I will make myself vulnerable and then I will get my feelings hurt, because I think, whether I like it or not, you know guys can be very much... hurt those feelings and they don't even know about it. I: So you sort of act like a man because you think that is a better protection not to get hurt? R: When I'm with the girls, I become very feminine on the outside. When we get dressed up to go out, I mean; I do all my hair, and put loads of make up on, and like wee little dresses and high heels and things like that and it is very bizarre, because I feel comfortable to be... What I suppose what I see as vulnerable in front of them, but I couldn't do it... as soon as the boys come over before we go out. I'll be dressed like that on the outside, but I will be acting very differently. I: Very assertive on the inside? R: I do get very assertive. I need the kind of boys to know that I'm here and that I'm not going to take any rubbish and I think than the more I get to know guys, the less I, the more I kind of calm down. I don't know I think it was just the school I was very used to being hurt by guys like a bit bullied and things. It kind of... It really stems from, when I meet guys 4

5 I get like a ghting instinct. I have to protect myself... I: Does it happen very often that women are bullied by men? In schools or on the streets? R: Yes, I would say so. I: And so coming back to your 'girly' behaviour: I can see now from what you told me, having this abusive couple in your family etc. That you really want to take up the defences. A very defensive stand? R: Yeah, yeah. I: Make sure that you avoid... R: Vulnerability... I mean, you know, recently there is this guy that I was interested in but then the minute that I felt that I wasn't in control anymore, I stopped it. I: And how did you feel that you were not in control anymore? R: Euh... because I felt like I was really starting to develop strong feelings for him. And I couldn't accept that. I couldn't make myself vulnerable, I have big problems with that, I don't know why that is. I don't know if that has anything really got to do with me, my insecurity rather than me being a girl. I think that is something that is very separate. But I think that I used my gender as a vehicle to... to understanding my insecurity. I put a lot of it on me being a woman. But actually it is not about that, it is probably about me being very insecure and being very scared of making myself vulnerable. I: And were the strong feelings reciprocal? R: Yeah and no, he didn't want a relationship. I: Okay... 5

6 R: And I wasn't happy, I was NOT happy just messing about with this guy. I don't know if I wanted a relationship but... but I would rather have nothing than have like 'no strings sex' or something like that. I nd that very, very... not so much, you know, people are allowed to do what they want to do. If people nd that kind of thing acceptable and they, and they gain from it and they are not hurting anyone in the process of it. Then by all means do it, but I don't think I can do that. Because, you know, there has been times where I have made mistakes, with guys and things like that and I woke up the next morning just being absolutely ashamed of myself. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that I'm... you know, I became a Christian when I was 15 and I nd it very hard to strike that balance between what is acceptable being Christian and like what I feel like I want to do... I don't think that I never really tted the kind of Christian women stereotype in the rst place, so I nd it very hard to then follow everything else. You know, when I went to church I was very much one in my own kind of thing. All the women were very subdued and very quiet. You never ever heard them laughing after service with their friends. Whereas I was always, you know, belly laughing. (laughs) Like really laughing and having fun and, you know, what you should be doing. You know, I think what makes life great is things like laughing and things like that. And, they were just so quiet. I found that very strange, I found it very hard. I: Why did you become a Christian? You grew up in a non-religious family? R: Yeah, my family is not religious. What happened was when I was having a hard time at school. I used to be very badly bullied, because people seemed to think I was a lesbian. Because I was not a kind of girly girl. And I started to go to a youth group with some friends outside school. And it was really cool and I really enjoyed it and then I realised very slowly that it was a liated with church and then I started meeting more children, well, more teenagers from church who attended the youth group. I kind of saw this relationship they had with God and I really wanted that. It seemed like they were just - you know, at that time, I was really struggling with my self-esteem, I felt quite worthless, actually I felt really terrible and then and I saw this amazing relationship they have with God and I just thought: 'you know what? I need, I need unconditional love. I need unconditional love and that was just right by my street and then, you know, it took me a while to kind of understand, to understand that I didn't need to push in the right code, or I didn't need to 6

7 nd a password. I just kind of needed starting accepting that that was already here for me and you know, it changed my life, it really did, because - and I think this is the thing for me, my kind of 'testament' to religion, or rather faith than religion - is that regardless of whether it is true or not, it really made me feel million dollars. It made me feel so worthwhile, that... that it was an escape for me from the bullying. A real escape, I loved it and... it seems that wherever I went I was surprised by how women behaved. I think maybe my mum... I: You mean within the church? R: Yeah, I think maybe my mum was quite different but I assumed she was the norm. And, for me, and then to go out into the wild world and as I start meeting adults who weren't my mums friends and as I started to making friends who were older than me. The church had a lot of friends who were a bit older than me. It really surprised me. I assumed, I think growing up, I assumed all women were loud and extravert and a bit, you know, a bit ery and quite strong and it really, I think growing up I really did get very surprised about how a lot of girls behaved. But at school, I think a lot of the girls who weren't allowed this were the ones who were deemed as easy and stuff like that. And I think a lot of the girls who came less... very working class families, had to assert themselves as well. I think we have that in common. That they were very loud, they were very rebellious, in lessons and they weren't interested in education and things. And they used to ght with boys and stuff sometimes. I think they REALLY had a thing about saving themselves. But then I think a lot of the ways that they have become equals with men was by engaging in kind of sexual activities with them. I mean, you know, a lot of girls whom I was at school with have already their rst or second child now. And... I: And you're only 19? R: Yes, 7

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