HerCampus president Katie McLaughlin participates in this year’s HerCarnival. MADELYN JULE / SNAPPER
I have had such an adventure being a woman throughout my life. I have had moments I wouldn’t give up for anything, and also moments where I’ve felt a sadness and fear I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be just like my mom. She had such a beautiful influence on me for as long as I can remember. I am proud to have grown up in her footsteps, and she has been such a rockstar my entire life. She is the first woman I ever remember looking up to, and she is the woman I will look up to for the rest of my life. I would not be the woman I am today without her.
As I got a little older, I joined Girl Scouts and was constantly surrounded by friends and leaders who I loved and respected, and who taught me a lot about girlhood and women empowerment. I was proud to be a girl. And it wasn’t just Girl Scouts where I had positive influences. My grandparents, friends, friends’ parents, and teachers were all positive role models for me, and I am so thankful to have grown up with such a supportive group of women in my life.
But, as the end of elementary school hit, I was suddenly tuned into the fact that I couldn’t wear a tank top that wasn’t at least three fingers wide in width, and that my shorts or skirt had to be longer than my fingers with my hands at my sides. In high school after band events when we were changing out of uniform, the boys could walk around shirtless but the girls could not be in a sports bra.
Once I hit high school, I was far more aware of the world I was growing up in, and the precautions I had to take as a woman in the world. I don’t like to walk alone at night. I am constantly having to be a hundred percent aware of my surroundings. In fact, a male coworker walked me to my car one day after work because there was some suspicious behavior happening around my work location. I heard stories of violence and fear from women all over the world.
I grew up in a world where there is still a gender pay gap. A world where women’s pain is ignored or waved off. A world where women are still diminished for wanting a certain career. A world where women don’t have a right to their own bodily autonomy.
I hope the next generation gets to grow up in a world that’s a little more loving towards women than the world I have spent my first twenty-one years in. But I also hope the next generation feels the same joy out of the little things that I did growing up. As I grew up, I loved putting stickers on my ears and pretending I had piercings and getting all dolled up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Walt Disney World. Now, I love going to the bathroom in pairs and venturing into the American Girl Place every time I visit New York City to relieve a little bit of my childhood. While those things are not inherently girly, they are things I’ve experienced and enjoyed as a girl and a woman.
I’ve gotten older, and I hope I’ve grown into the woman a younger me would look up and be proud to know. I am proud to be the woman I am, and I am going to try my best to not let anyone try and change that.