Likeability is a uniquely female problem

“You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

  • (then) Senator Barack H. Obama

The time was circa 2008, during the Democratic Primary. There was a hullabaloo (or a brouhaha, if you will) about how Hillary Clinton wasn’t as likable as her charismatic husband. Barely setting aside the fact that Hillary was married to a libertine who has faced a myriad of sexual assault allegations, ranging from abusing his office, to violent rape, she was the unlikable one? In 2008, HRC was already a two-term Senator from the state of New York, having led NYC through the aftermath of 9/11, as well as the Great Recession. Alas, it was all for naught – she wasn’t likable enough.

 

Hillary Rodham was voted most admired woman over 20 times – from the time she was First Lady, to her tenure as Secretary of State. She was suddenly likable enough again, after being appointed as the most powerful diplomat who isn’t POTUS. Why is that?

“It was a job I was asked to do by a man.”

  • Hillary Clinton, 2017

Women can be great AND likable, if and only if we are subordinates to greater and more powerful men. We can aspire to graze the ceiling, but not truly break it, because being “the first woman” to do something means dealing with a deluge of disdain. It means having to coddle men’s egos.

Likability is a problem that burdens leaders who are encumbered with a uterus. Men are unfettered to questions about the way they talk, their tone, their facial expressions… The work speaks for itself.

 

Women are vilified where their male counterparts skate free. “Let them eat cake” is a phrase misattributed to Marie Antoinette, but it is very telling that she has been levied with a plethora of scorn, that skated over her husband, the true villain, Louis XVI.

Smile more. Be a little less aggressive. More timid. Why are these prescribed to women? Why are women, even in positions of leadership or authority expected to defer to men? Why is initiative-taking and aggression a compliment for men, but detrimental to women? Why must we dumb ourselves down so people don’t feel discomfited?

“You’re likable enough.”

What if I don’t want to be likable? What if all I want is to do the best job possible? Why are women’s capabilities in tandem with their “palatability”?

 

“You’re likable enough.”

 

Yeah, I like me. That’s enough.

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Sexism: The Economic and Social Cost

Not all men sexually harass, or sexually abuse women, but all men benefit from it economically.

It’s how the patriarchy intended it.

If you are still shocked by the prevalence of sexual harassment. I take it you never speak to the women in your lives.

Whispers. Glances. Vague advice.

“Don’t be alone in a room with him.”
“Of he offers you a drink, decline it.”

Women have been advising other women about dangerous men for eons. In a world where victims of sexual assault are seldom believed, and are shunned into silence, sometimes the only justice they have is to save someone else from the same fate.

The guilt of knowing that your abuser went on to abuse someone else is part and parcel of victim blaming. Why must the onus befall victims to be brave and name their abusers, instead of it falling on men not to abuse in the first place.
The question of why there is such a lack of representation of women in leadership goals is not an accident or a fluke of the system – it’s the success of the patriarchal structures.

When a woman has to leave her job, leave her career, leave her city, because her supervisor abused her and HR wasn’t helpful, it jettisons her opportunities for advancement in that field.

How many CEOs do young graduates get warnings about not working for, because they are known predators? Men who are pioneers in their fields, who should be shaping young minds, but instead feel entitled to the bodies that host them.

How many young women have had excellent resumes. but failed to get the job after refusing to sleep with the Director of the organization? To whom do we then speak truth to power, if the powerful are our abusers?

It is easy for men who are “good guys,” yet still deny the existence of sexism to blame women for a pernicious work environment. It is easy for them to blame the lack of forward mobility on a lack of ambition in women’s part. What is not easy to understand is that we have been warned not to work for Mr X because he gets handy. or Mr Y demands sex during the interview, or Mr Z is constantly making sexual comments.

So before you spout “not all men abuse women,” remember all women know men who abuse us.

Can I have my identity back?

Doctor. Lawyer. Astronaut. Teacher. Accountant. These are the things children grow up dreaming of becoming. Dreams that are based on the assumption that they can choose for themselves who and what they want to be. Yet of those young girls, 1 in 3 will be defined by someone else’s actions; 1 in 3 will lose control of the narrative of their life; 1 in 3 will become a victim.

When someone steals your control, what else do you have left to yourself? Your identity is no longer yours. Your body was all you had, yet someone decided they had more of a say over it than you did. That they could overrule you, and they could change the entire trajectory of your life. From a path towards your goals, to one that will always have a chapter devoted to your assailant.

A thief came in and stole your joy, stole your light, stole your sense of self.

Shakespeare said what’s in a name. You never appreciate it until that name isn’t the only way you get to define yourself.

Can I have my identity back?

The Perfect Woman

IvankaThe greatest trick patriarchy ever pulled was co-opting women into its cause.

Just as the “Clever Black” or “Uncle Tom” who were elevated by racists, patriarchy has always made a place for the “Perfect Woman.” The woman who is smart, pure, sexy, beautiful but not so threatening enough that her rise can’t be attributed to “merit.” The Perfect Woman fits all the juxtapositions society requires of all women without breaking a sweat.

Patriarchy needs the Perfect Woman to rise in a misogynistic system so as to say: it’s not the fault of the structures that don’t work. Silicon Valley is littered with Perfect Women. Yet the true mark of an unjust system is a mediocre man can still rise to the top of the proverbial food chain, while women need to be Perfect just to get in the door – no, to the lobby.

Patriarchy needs the Perfect Woman as a cudgel to silence other women. She is the perfect tool to use to blame women for their own struggles, while saying sexism doesn’t exist. The Perfect Woman is wielded like a sword to gaslight the rest of us. Perfect Women like Ivanka Trump can say they have never experienced sexism, and point to hard work as the recipe to their success. Perfect Women like Ivanka speak in a soft voice and never demand attention in the workplace, because they have had doors opened to them by their Perfection. Perfect Women like Ivanka are also the Perfect Mom, Perfect Daughter and Perfect Wife; nary a housekeeper in sight, leaving the rest of us lesser beings wondering, “how does she do it?”

The Perfect Woman does not exist in real life. No one person is impervious to sexism; women live with its adverse effects, while men benefit from it.

Faith After Death

Know her name: Roxanne Gay

After being gang-raped at 12, she was certain she was going to go to hell, because of her Catholic upbringing. Her rapists were boys at her school, who went on to slut shame her for it. She internalized it and sought to become bigger to protect herself from future sexual assaults. How many other young girls and women have been shunned by their places of refuge because they were violated?

Religion is meant to be a source of comfort for people, but what of those of us who have faced strife that is a source of repudiation from religious leaders? What do we intuit from The Word when it says women who have been raped are to be stoned? Are we to interpret it differently, or accept that the Kingdom of God was stolen because of what men did to our bodies, without our volition?

Why does God allow suffering? Society blames the victim, and if you grew up in a religious home, you start to believe that your assault was a punishment from God. For not praying hard enough, for not dressing in a conservative manner, for being away from home… Religion speaks of forgiveness, yet how are we to forgive crimes that go unanswered?

I have so many questions of God. Babies have literally died because they were raped by men. Where does one find faith and light and peace in a world like that? What is this world, where I read an article of a woman being raped and murdered and think, “death is better than a lifetime of dealing with the aftermaths of a rape.”

Where does one find faith?

How does one find faith?

Are you there God? It’s me, someone who’s desperately trying to figure out how to be a survivor.

 

 

Trigger Warning

Your chest tightens. Your legs get numb. Your heart races.  Then the grief hits. Slowly at first, and then all at once.

Triggered.

Getting triggered is the worst. I’m not even employing hyperbole; it is literally the worst. Smack bang in the middle of living your life, and in an instant, you’re forced to contend with something you’ve buried or compartmentalized. It could be a smell, a song, a number… there are a compendium of things that can take one back to that darkest of dark moments. It’s virtually impossible to inoculate yourself from it all. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum – you have to encounter people and situations that just act as a clarion call which remind you that your life is no longer just yours. It belongs to your depression too.

I crave normalcy. I yearn for safe spaces in my own mind. A mind that exists as a gaol to keep me fettered to the darkest of abysses. A mind that is a chasm between before and now.

 

 

 

A Battle With Body Dysmorphia

michvilakati

Screenshot_20170625-214443

Good Lord, I can’t believe how unhealthy I was. I’m 5’5 and probably weighed about 48kg in this pic. I had been hospitalized before for low blood sugar, but I couldn’t see the correlation between my ED and my flailing health.  I remember getting a DM of concern after I posted it, and it didn’t register at all. That’s the thing about body dysmorphia: you really don’t see yourself as you truly are.

I can’t remember a specific moment where the contentedness of youth gave way to the insecurities that have plagued me through adolescence and my nascent adulthood. However, I don’t remember *not* feeling fat. It was just something in my head – even in primary school. The older girls would host modeling contests for us, and I would feel so uncomfortable in my own skin.

The first step in my recovery was acknowledging I had a problem. The…

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A Battle With Body Dysmorphia

Screenshot_20170625-214443

 

Good Lord, I can’t believe how unhealthy I was. I’m 5’5 and probably weighed about 48kg in this pic. I had been hospitalized before for low blood sugar, but I couldn’t see the correlation between my ED and my flailing health.  I remember getting a DM of concern after I posted it, and it didn’t register at all. That’s the thing about body dysmorphia: you really don’t see yourself as you truly are.

I can’t remember a specific moment where the contentedness of youth gave way to the insecurities that have plagued me through adolescence and my nascent adulthood. However, I don’t remember *not* feeling fat. It was just something in my head – even in primary school. The older girls would host modeling contests for us, and I would feel so uncomfortable in my own skin.

The first step in my recovery was acknowledging I had a problem. The second was actually wanting to fix it. There hasn’t been a magic wand to just fix everything. It’s just been a matter of melting away the chains.

When I was at Tuks, I would experiment with the Master Cleanse and only drink lemon water for days on end. Is it an eating disorder if you’re fully functional? Maybe there’s still denialism in it. Maybe I’m still unwilling to acknowledge that I was willing to gamble my health in pursuit of some unknown goal.

I’m happier now. And healthier. Perhaps not content, but learning to love myself towards that goal, instead of using hate as the fuel.

Contentedness

I often wonder how it must feel to be content in oneself.

Not happy or joyful, but at peace.

To love yourself. Completely. Absolutely.

A love that consumes you from the inside out. A love that radiates from your deepest abyss onto the surface of your skin.

A love that is unfettered to European beauty standards. A love that is not concerned with others’ perception.

A love that just is.

Content.

Whole.

Complete.

Unencumbered by the weight of the voices.

Unburdened by the albatross that is self-loathing.

Content.

“You can’t hate yourself into a version you can love,” they say.

I often wonder how you find that version you can love.

Is it hiding under society’s standards of what acceptability is?

Is it saying #bodypo quotes until I believe them?

If affirmation must be done daily, when will I really be content?

Complete.

Whole.

Happy.

Carefree black girl, I want to be one.

Ducking mirrors is my truth instead.

3 years away from 25, is a quarter century enough to find oneself?

Where does contentedness lie?

In love?

In truth?

In self. Self amidst the chaos.

That is my contentedness. That is the contentedness I pursue.

 

À mon avis

There is a misconception about what freedom of expression actually means; the delusion lies in the belief that it means one can be unfettered to say whatever, without recourse or opprobrium.

Freedom of expression means a government cannot censure you. Of course, the limits to this right are germane to the constitution of the specific state under whose jurisdiction you are in. Nevertheless, freedom of expression doesn’t inoculate you from repudiation.

We are afforded the right and privilege to express ourselves. You are entitled to your wrong opinion; calling it an opinion doesn’t make it exempt from scrutiny. The idea that a statement being an opinion is an inoculation against criticism is weak, and an exercise in the futile. The term “opinion” is a placeholder for fact or fallacy. If an opinion is informed, then it is simply factual. If an opinion is uninformed, then it should not exist.