Our second story is all about Carly! This kickboxing, horse-riding, make-up loving high school student is a participant in our Youth Activist Series (YAS). She represented Plan in the media on the International Day of the Girl, and speaks about her passion to fight against sexism. We loved getting to know Carly better, and speak with her about what it’s like being a sixteen year old growing up in Melbourne. Check it out! ❤️

WARNING: This content may be triggering.
If reading this has been upsetting in any way, you can talk to your GP or call 1800 RESPECT.

My name is Carly and I have grown up in a family with one older sister and two younger brothers. We are a very large, very stereotypical bogan family.

My friends would describe me as… well, the main word that usually comes up is weird. They always say ‘You’re weird, but we love you for it’, so, it must be a good type of weird?!

Carly portrait - Free To Be
Carly Portrait - Free To Be

I’m in Year 10 and have just chosen the subjects that I want to do for next year -  I’m doing Chemistry, Biology, General Maths, Equine Studies, German, and English. Outside of school I ride horses, I’ve have been doing that since I was little.

Carly Portrait - Free To Be
Horses have always been associated in my life. I think their intelligence is underestimated by people though, they understand more than we think they do.

I also do Muay Thai kickboxing. That is amazing. You really get a lot of strength  -  mental strength as well as physical.

You have the capability to be safe and not get hurt on the streets. As well as knowing that if you wanted to, not that you would want to, you could start a fight. And probably win the fight.

CarlyPortrait - Free To Be

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

The only negatives of kickboxing is the ugly mouth guard/makeupless face, but honestly, no one cares what you look like as long as you can take a hit and serve one back.

I have always been compared to guys because I have a very stocky muscular build. I don’t look very…Barbie-doll-ish 💁🏼

At school, girls started putting on more make-up and wearing really tight dresses. They wore short skirts and high-heels, and they did their hair perfectly.

I still wanted to go without make-up and wear my tracksuit pants and baggy shirt. That’s just me. But in the end, I felt it wasn’t OK because I got left behind somewhat.

So I started putting on make-up, but then, I figured out that I actually liked make-up so I kept doing it.

Carly at home - Free To Be
It might take me anywhere between 5-30 minutes to put my makeup on, but that's because you can't rush art... Unless you're going to be late for school.

“It is hard to find the balance between completely being yourself and also fitting in. Everyone says to be yourself, but do they really want you to be? Like if you show who you are, sometimes they reject it and so you’ve got to change it to suit them better.”

The only time I go to the city by myself is to get make-up from Sephora, or if I’m with a group of friends because they wanted to do something in the city.

Sometimes I go into Sephora knowing I can't afford their makeup, but tease myself anyway. It's a cycle of suffering 😛

I don’t particularly like shopping or big crowds, so I will avoid it if I don’t have to go.

But if my friends make me, we’ll head down Swanston Street.

I’ll get about 15 people giving me a nasty look for no reason, so I’ll put on a face that others call intimidating and keep my head dead straight.

If anyone that looks at me, I’ll glare at them.

“I definitely walk with the assumption that if I look mean, or uninterested in everyone, then no-one will bother talking to me. Because why would you want to talk to someone who looks nasty?”

My friends all go into the city loving it, they are all happy to be there. But whenever I go by myself I usually have people say stuff to me. I’ve had people touch me, and sometimes people that are on drugs can approach me and feel my bag or whatever.

I don’t know how to deal with the situation.

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

I used to love being in the city until one day I was walking down Church Street with a friend. Three guys in their twenties walked past me. I saw them looking me up and down, then one of them reached out and grabbed my butt as he walked past.

He grabbed it so hard it hurt.

I turned around and used some vulgar words towards him. He looked back with his mates (all laughing and smiling thinking it’s the best thing in the world) and said to me, ‘I know you want more of it, I know you want me to touch you again’.

I said that I didn’t.

“He didn’t really acknowledge that I had said anything until I said, ‘How does it feel to be a Paedophile? I’m sixteen’.”

His friends turned away then, but he’s like, ‘It’s not my fault that you look older than you are’.

Then he took off.

I see what I’m doing. I know I’m going out of my way to avoid scenarios where I will be talked to or touched inappropriately. But I just think about it as a way to survive.

“I am not one of those people that I can have someone talk to me like I am an animal and then get over it. It stays in my head for ages. What did I do? What did I say? What am I wearing? Do I look like a tart? Do I look like a slut?”

I’m always thinking, what can I change? And I just don’t think that there is an answer to it.

Carly at Richmond station - Free To Be
I don't want to be controlled by the fear of "what if's", so I put on a brave face and look for new experiences. I won't let past experiences hold me down.

A massive question asked by guys is, what’s the big deal of being touched?

They say, “It’s a compliment when someone cat-calls you. It’s a compliment when we say that you are fine when you walk past us. Why don’t you just take it as a compliment rather than going all Femi-nazi on us?

They just seriously don’t get that it is hurtful and scary.

I don’t know how to make a change and I don’t know what’s going to make a difference. You can talk to them and show them as much as you want, but it is up to them whether they listen.

They don’t realise how intimidating it is to have three guys come up to one girl — when they’re 10 times taller than us — and talk to us about our body like we don’t know what it looks like.

If you want to talk to us, why can’t you ask us what we are like, ask us to coffee, or get to know us?

Carly in the city with friends- Free To Be

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

I'm a really happy and crazy person with friends and family that value myself and one another. My friends and I are always looking to try new things and expand our knowledge."

I would prefer probably the countryside over the city. Just because it’s peaceful, you get quiet time rather than always having hustle and bustle around you.

But there are spots in the inner city where it is just green around you and you have enough space to think.

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

If I could go to the city and it was the way that I wanted it to be, I would still wear black because it is my favourite tone, but I would wear black a lot more freely.

I would probably bare my shoulders and I would bare my chest because I just like that part of my body, I would wear as much make-up or as little make-up as I wanted.

“I would be able to say hi and start a conversation with anyone I wanted to. I’d find out their story, what they’re like, and where they come from, without it being dangerous.”

Carly on train - Free To Be
I think people should always think over how their day went and find 5 things they learnt and relive moments within the day that made them smile.

As women we need to find our voice and find the ability to fight back and not let things that people say or do to us define who we are.

We shouldn’t give up or say it is too hard to fight. We need to actually take action and acknowledge that we are equal, we will always be equal.

They just need to start treating us like that.

“I am not delicate, I’m not dainty, I don’t like to say yes to whatever someone tells me to do. I like to stand up for myself and I like to have an opinion.”

Carly Portrait - Free To Be

Carly on public transport - Free To Be

I am getting older everyday and the world is too. Hopefully when I have a teenage daughter, she feels like the world has accomplished something great. I think through empathy and good influence, we are likely to achieve equality for everyone.