My name is Leah; I am a 5ft 3 blonde female who loves wearing anything pink or floral, and is known as the one who loves JLS. Despite this, I’m also an Aries. I fight off unwanted attention for my friends on nights out. I can hold my alcohol better than a lot of guys I know, and Eminem is very high up on my list of people I want to see live.
As I have got older, and especially during my three years at university, I have come to realise that a lot of people—generally men or boys—cannot seem to accept that I can be both these people. They see me as the innocent, vulnerable girl in pink; rather than the independent, strong-willed woman in size 7 Dr Martens.
Growing up, I probably played up to this perception of me.
My group of friends were all pretty, clever, and in some cases amazing at singing, dancing, and acting too. Now, I’m not saying I felt inferior to them in any way; I did well at school and threw myself into drama productions. But the difference was, I didn’t want to compete; I knew I wouldn’t be the best and so decided to take on what seemed to be the only available role left. The blonde, ditzy one.
This served me well throughout my teenage years, despite probably giving me a bad name as a feminist.
I could be the funny one who made people laugh at the blonde things she said, while still getting good grades and making my family proud. It worked.
Then I went to university.
I studied journalism and was suddenly surrounded by people unlike anyone I had ever met before. I went to an all-girls school where I was one of the few who outwardly called herself a feminist; and one of even fewer who would walk around complaining about politics. But now I was on a course surrounded by outspoken males who were ready to challenge me on anything and everything I said.
And I loved it.
I did not decide to stop being the blonde, ditzy friend; it just kind of happened.
I made friends with people who wanted to discuss politics and feminism and everything that is wrong with the world; so naturally, this side of my personality flourished. But the one thing I never anticipated was the way in which they would perceive me past my brain.
I am not saying this with any disrespect to my friends. I love them to pieces. But you can be both people.
One example is smoking.
I have a few friends who smoke, although I do not. I never really thought much of it until one night I went out with my friends while they had a cigarette. One of the boys offered me one, and then they laughed. This was one of the first times we had hung out outside of lectures, and I surprised to find myself offended by this reaction.
They commented that I was “too innocent” to smoke. I felt like Sandy at the beginning of Grease. Later in the night we were getting ready to go, so I downed the remainder of my pitcher and the boys all stared on, shocked I could do that.
This confused me. They weren’t reacting to any of my other female friends like this… why?
Because they were not dressed in pink?
Maybe because they were not blonde?
Whatever it was, it was clearly flawed logic.
I have also lost count of the amount of times someone has looked shocked that I have been able to contribute to a political discussion, because they know I also love reality TV.
I am not ashamed to admit I love Made in Chelsea, The Kardashians and Love Island. among many other shows; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t also apply to be on Question Time during my third year of University. Having political debates or discussions is one of my favourite things to do. I am fascinated by other people’s opinions, but at the same time, Made in Chelsea Mondays are one of my favourite days of the week.
The confusion of which person I am has not only occurred with friends, either.
I was on a date one time, and ordered a whiskey and coke. I do love a cocktail, and enjoy a glass of wine, but I was nervous and wanted something stronger.
He was surprised as I did not seem like “someone who would choose whiskey,” which he jokingly referred to as an old man’s drink. I was taken aback, as he had not seemed like someone who would have these narrow minded perceptions.
Although I do get frustrated by these situations, I do not blame the people in them. It is not their fault; like with most things in the world, it is societies fault.
I love a good romcom or teen movie, but they have drilled into us that you are either the popular, blonde girl who loves makeup, all things pink, and hates getting dirty; or you’re the outcast girl who refuses to fit in, judges anyone girly and chooses studying over boys.
We all allow ourselves to be influenced by things like this to some extent; it would be impossible not to. But we must try and make sure we do not let it define us, or our opinions on anyone else.
I want to remind girls and women that you can be both things.
You can be a feminist who loves pink and makeup. You can down a pint and wear heels, you can be just over 5ft and be able to give your 6’4” housemate a run for his money in an arm wrestling competition.
What you cannot do is judge someone from the way they look.