Girls Are Strong...

By Lucy Harbron - 12:48

I think it was in October. I remember the weather being awful but not raining yet, I remember I was having a particularly bad day. I’d wander into town, down the long hill from my flat into the centre. I feel like I went into Lush but maybe I didn’t, chances are I got a coffee and walked back up through Division Street as the rain became more and more imminent, I was probably wearing my black coat. Probably dipped into Mooch before the definite stop off into MoonKo.

Walking into MoonKo always felt like a reset. In the most stressful months spent hiding away in the library, I’d nip in on lunchtimes to pick up a card or just to stand in the backroom and breathe in the plant air for a moment before heading back. It’s a home of calmness, holding a piece of it in the dried lavender that hung above my bed and the botanical garden print I framed post-graduation.
But on that day, I settled my eyes on the thing they’d been glancing to for a while, a small badge reading simply ‘girls are strong’. I bought it without thinking and pinned it to my lapel as a companion for the walk home.  That October had been rough so, despite limited student funds, I never regretted the purchase, seeing it as a no-work-required act of daily self-care, an affirmation shining straight up to me each time the light caught on the enamel, glimmering to me in my mirror.

But you forget that it shines out too until you’re reminded of it warmly when a woman glances quickly and looks up with a soft smile as you pass one another. But more often bitterly, as the words are repeated back to you S L O W L Y through a man’s smiling lips as if it's funny, something hilarious in the combining of the words girl and strong like a child trying to fit a square through a circle. ‘Boys are strong too you know’, yeah, I know, I’ve been told that forever.

On two occasions it was suggested the badge should be removed from the collar of my black coat, sitting pretty next to a floral broach belonging to my Grandma. One was a funeral, and the other a job interview, suggesting that my badge was inappropriately political for such occasions. I questioned it, winning one time and reluctantly removing it the other. Where is the politics in the statement? I begged to be shown where the potential offensive lay in the statement that’s surely a known fact? Would it be less offensive if it read ‘girls are weak’, girls are small, girls are cute, girls are pretty? How about ‘girls are ____’, blank, nothing.

Growing up female-identifying you get small but regular flashes of the way the world sees you. Starts early in school when for some reason you’re not allowed to wear the shorts that the boys do, and then a couple of years later the skirt you were forced to wear is now judged and regulated as your legs grow long. Flashes again in your first job in the stockroom of a shoe shop as you search for the dainty Dolly Bow for a little girl, then come back again in 5 minutes to find Leader for a boy the same age. And again, in a seminar room, as you hear the name of a female author only in a module marked with feminism, our existence and experiences relegated and only considered relevant when they’re purposefully politicised. In each space between those words, I could fit 5 more moments when words from boys seem to always hit from a height with a seemly subconscious intent to undercut, 10 more unnecessary explanations, 20 showers taken when uncalled for comments leave your body feeling sticky or entirely separate from yourself.

Boys are strong yes, humans are strong, but it’s all well and good stating the obvious while I still have to hold girls are strong like an affirmation, a radical statement that has to be taught like a realisation, not born into us, clutched in our tiny baby hands as unaffectable knowledge.

The woman on the street smiles as she glances away from our eye contact and keeps walking. It feels like we’ve passed a secret between us, not so much the affirmation itself, but the subtext of how silly it is to even say. We know, our eyes say, in our bones we know but the badge can do the presenting for me on bad October days when I don’t feel it.


In these tricky times, please shop local and shop independent if you can. MoonKo have a beautiful range of plants, prints, handmade jewellery and more to bring calm into your home and support to makers. They're still posting orders once a week, so take a look at their online shop.

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