Tia, 15: ‘I think as a girl it’s very stressful’
Why do so many teenage girls feel depressed? In The Day’s series on gender, Tia explains the many different pressures young girls face, from exams, to make-up, to Brexit.
“I like gardening a lot,” says Tia, who is 15. “I like going out and riding bikes.” One day she wants a job that involves “talking to crowds”. “Not really like a TED talk,” she laughs, “but kind of like a TED talk”.
Tia is a cisgender girl, but says she does not feel particularly masculine or feminine. When she was 10, she enjoyed playing football as much as playing with dolls.
“I think I’m getting a bit more feminine… when you see your friends wearing make-up, and popular people wearing make-up, and your mum wearing make-up... it’s been copied and imprinted on each person, so they care — especially girls — care a lot more about their appearance.”
The pressure to look a certain way also comes from the media and the internet, she says. And it is one of many pressures that teenage girls face in the modern world. “You’ve got your exams, you’ve got your social life, you’ve got family, all of that together can be very pressuring.”
She says she read an article about how British teens have some of the lowest well-being in the world. “I find it really upsetting,” she says. “I think it’s Brexit! There’s lots of different things happening in our country."
Then there are personal hardships. Tia felt very low when her grandmother passed away a year-and-a-half ago. She says she feels better now, but “the need for support is very important” in schools. “It needs to be done more hands-on.”
How important is gender to society?
“Very important,” she says. “Some people think that there’s only a boy and a girl, but there isn’t.” Luckily, “there’s less ignorance in our generation… There’s no point in poking fun at another person because of who they are.” It is time to “open the eyes of the older generation… as a nation, and in the world, we need to change our whole perception of gender”.
- What is the biggest issue facing teenage girls in 2018?
- Write down all of the characteristics and stereotypes that you can think of which are associated with femininity. Then discuss: Are they mostly positive or negative traits? And do you think they accurately reflect the girls that you know in real life?
Some People Say...
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”Coco Chanel
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- In November last year, figures from NHS Digital showed that one in 10 girls aged 16 to 17 are being referred to specialist mental health services in Britain. There has also been a 68% rise in self-harm among teenage girls since 2011.
- What do we not know?
- What is behind the rise in mental health problems among British teenagers, or why it appears to affect girls more than boys.
- Someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth. In Tia’s case, she is biologically female, and identifies as such.
- Lowest well-being
- In February 2017, a survey of 20,000 people aged 15 to 21 conducted by the Varkey Foundation ranked Britain 19th out of 20 for mental well-being.
- Polls suggest that around 70% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
- For example, Facebook users can choose from a list of 71 genders.