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The Rife Team

How Sex Education reminded me of the importance of sisterhood

Parys identifies with a powerful storyline which shows women supporting other women

Like many of you, I have just finished binge watching the second season of Netflix’s very own Sex Education. It’s a show about an awkward teenage boy whose mum’s profession as a sex therapist has somewhat stifled his ability to openly talk about sex, girls and pretty much everything else. It’s all binge-worthy, but there was one episode in this season that particularly grabbed my attention from the get-go.

After sexual secrets of students and members of the faculty end up being leaked all around campus, someone starts slut-shaming a teacher, which inevitably ends up with a group of students being punished in detention. All the students in this group are female, and though they share the same identified gender, that’s pretty much all they have in common. They all have different races, religions, sexual orientations and hobbies, but they are all forced to spend time together until someone owns up to making the degrading comments.

In this detention they’re forced to collaborate on a presentation with the title, ‘what bonds you together as females?’ One of the characters, Aimee, breaks down in tears, and her breakdown leads to the rest of the girls asking why she’s so upset. She replies that she had a traumatic experience involving unwanted sexual advances from a stranger on the bus, so she hasn’t been able to make herself get on the bus since. Aimee’s confession sparks a conversation between the rest of the girls that leads them all to confess that they have experienced similar situations, that made them feel just as powerless and unsafe as Aimee did. They realise that even though they have nothing in common on the surface, they had all experienced unwanted sexual advances from men.

Watching this episode was a tough experience but that scene gave me a glimmer of hope. The girls coming together, even in their differences, to support a fellow girl who was going through something tough was something I recognised completely.

After all, being a girl in today’s society is incredibly scary. When you walk alone at night, you feel you need to keep your keys between your fingers just in case someone happens to try attack you. You’re told how to act and what to wear and to be careful because ‘wearing a skirt that short means you’re asking for it.’ But just like those girls in Sex Education, this is also a time when women are standing up for themselves and taking back their power, together. It reminded me of all the amazing women in my own life, who have empowered me over and over again.

Growing up with four sisters and being raised by the strongest, most amazing womanthat I am lucky enough to call my mum, I was taught very quickly that being a girl didn’t make me any ‘less’ than a man or boy. From a very young age I was always told to stand up for myself, that I could do anything the boys in school could do and that I always had the right to say no. Growing up in an all-female household taught me that owning your female power is always important. Being surrounded by such amazing women showed me to embrace that power and own it without being scared. Having such a strong, independent mother really shaped me into the woman I am today. Seeing her overcome obstacles and struggles and come out the other side triumphantly was always a huge inspiration and has shaped my outlook on life as a woman and in general.

Another thing that’s been really important to me is female unity. This was definitely influenced by how I grew up and the environment I was brought up in. Raising five daughters doesn’t seem like it would be the easiest job in the world but my mum raised me and my sisters to never cower at change or challenges but to embrace them, knowing we would come out on top and, most importantly, to help each other in the face of those challenges, which is something I not only apply to my sisters but to friends and women everywhere. The world is a tough enough place as a female, and we need for our fellow ladies to support ALL women of ALL shapes, sizes, race and sexual identity. Sisterhood is more than biological sisters standing together but sisters anywhere and everywhere lifting each other up.

Another big factor in my life on was working at a saloon bar back home in Cardiff called ‘Coyote Ugly.’ A lot of people hear that name and recoil with a sour look on their face, but that’s only the narrow-minded people who refuse to see it as anything other than a tacky bar (which is far from what it is.) Created by the amazing Lilliana Lovel, Coyote Ugly is a place where girls can be their most authentic selves. You can be loud and rowdy, wear what you want and never be labelled as ‘too much.’ For a very long time it was the only place that felt like I wouldn’t be judged when I was being me but after working there for a few months and with the help of the amazing team of girls who I had the pleasure of working alongside of, I learnt that I could be that me anywhere and everywhere.

And as much as women are shamed for it, I also learned to not apologise for being someone’s idea of ‘too much.’ Their encouragement to own my sexuality and femininity was huge in taking back my power as a female in a society that judges girls harshly on every little thing.

Women feeling powerful is something that has taken a while to get to and we’re still not 100% there just yet, but every day we’re just that little bit closer. As Michelle Obama once said, ‘there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.’

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