“I CAN only think that Miss Pennie is related to someone within The Herald's management team, otherwise how could an immature little Girl, even more annoying than Greta Thunberg, get a column at the weekend. Can't help but remember the last little Girl sitting in her bedroom having a dream and now look at the disaster caused by her becoming FM.”

I get comments like this all the time (not the nepotism accusation, that was funky and fresh and my father, Mr Herald, will be hearing about this) but someone calling me an immature, annoying little girl. Immature and annoying I may be, but the last time I checked, I was – as my mum always says – all the woman I’m ever gonnae be.

Of course, there are much worse things to be compared to than children. As someone who frequently works with young people, I am constantly impressed by their capacity for empathy, wisdom and straightforward thinking that many adults would do well to emulate. I had the opportunity to judge a children’s writing competition where the chosen subject was the climate crisis and was astounded not only by the quality of the writing but also the sensitivity and maturity with which the young people approached a topic to which most adults should dedicate more time and attention.

It is often said that the younger generation is too soft, too sensitive, to which I say there is no such thing. Demonstrating sensitivity, compassion, the ability to care for others and seek to understand instead of judge is no weakness. To go through life and retain empathy for oneself and others is admirable in a world so cynical and harsh.

Despite the fact that children are great, I do wonder at what point in the lives of women do we stop being considered “little girls”? I’ve graduated university, pay taxes and have two jobs, none of which a little girl should reasonably be expected to do.

At my age, my grandmother was married with a child, so perhaps those are acceptable criteria for womanhood. Maybe motherhood in the eyes of many represents the transition between girl and woman, something which is only to be earned through intense pain and sacrifice. If I choose never to marry, or to raise children, am I suspended in a never-ending state of girlhood, confined to a perpetual prepubescent purgatory?

The truth is, of course that nobody who chooses to infantilise a women does so because they truly believe that they are not yet a woman. We’re called “little girls” in order to discredit our contributions and silence our voices. After all, when do adults ever listen to children?

I was recently at an event for young people and was asked by a younger woman how I've handled the misogyny I've faced since beginning my career, and how I've mitigated the impact it has on my mental health. While I was impressed that these forward-thinking concerns were at the forefront of this young woman's mind, the fact this is even still an issue breaks my heart.

Sometimes I wish I could publish a few articles under a male pseudonym, with a man's picture just to see if the reaction would be different. I have male peers who do exactly the same thing I do, make the same points with a similar level of salience and clarity and the difference in response is staggering. Having been sexualised, infantalised, my work and contributions discredited simply for being a woman, my resolve gradually worn-down day after day as people refuse to acknowledge that their words have consequences, it takes a toll.

We tell our little girls that they can do anything, be anything, but we do not tell them how much harder it will be to be taken seriously, and maybe that's for the best. If I'd known everything I know now, seen the things I would have to endure, I might have chosen a different path. When I was young I always wanted to be a writer, that was my dream. I know so many little girls whose hopes and ambitions for life were slowly eroded to the point they stopped dreaming. I write for the little girl I was, to the little girls I've met and continue to meet, and to the little girl I will always be in the eyes of those who refuse to respect me as the woman I am.

Every time I speak about the misogyny I've faced, I receive the criticism that I am thin-skinned, and need to simply ignore it as if doing so will solve the problem. People tell us to let the misogyny that we face go but don’t tell us where to put it down, so we are left carrying it, like a responsibility, or a chore, or a child. Misogyny is not a graze to be left alone to heal, it is a festering wound that needs all the attention it takes to stop the rot before it continues to spread.

I do not want to live in a world where enduring disrespect without complaint is seen as the only way a woman can exhibit strength. Resilience is not an easily developed skill: it is a callus worn on the soul. If you are bored of hearing women discussing misogyny, helping to create a safer, more inclusive society will be a much more effective solution. When you hear someone shouting fire, help to put it out, don’t just complain about the noise.

Through my work with young people it is clear that they are mindful about the world in which they live, and I want to ensure that they see people visibly and vocally challenging bigotry whenever it arises. I speak up so that others might not have to in the future. So many women throughout history have experienced a world which openly resented their existence and did so with a silent strength, our mothers and grandmothers, millions of women persevered through unfair treatment in the hopes that their efforts would create a more welcoming society for the next generation. We owe it to them to keep making a fuss every time someone disrespects their effort and legacy. Through our perseverance, in continuing, we have already won.

There will never be anything more dangerous to society’s paradigm of prejudice and patriarchy than a little girl with a dream.