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Archive for the category “Random Joy”

Is Everybody Faking It?

This is a break from the norm. Not feminist Friday chat but normal service will resume on Friday. This is all kinds of crazy.

I’ve had a bit of a reflective, possibly self-indulgent, few weeks recently. I’ve talked a lot and listened almost as much (the last part is particularly new for me…). This all began when someone, who I don’t know at all, emailed me about one of my previous posts. In this I talked about the need or expectation to try and have it all; the home life, the career, the feminism. The person who emailed me said she found it difficult to read because she has been trying to have it all, but never felt she did any of it well enough. To the point where she has stopped trying because she feels she can never be as good at it as she needs to be, or as good as others. It sounded like it was becoming a psychological struggle. Now, not being in any way a qualified counsellor I wasn’t about to provide her with any advice or support via email, but I thanked her for getting in touch and asked if I could talk to other people about how she was feeling. She very kindly agreed.

Since then, I have talked to feminist friends about this and they agreed that it can be hard work and we started talking about perhaps this might be a causal factor in why more women suffer from mental health problems. One of my very good, very assertive, feminist friends said:

“Even within feminist circles there is an absolute stereotype of what a feminist should be. So even when you’ve come to the wonderful realisation that you’re a feminist, the likelihood is, you’ll suffer a second identity crisis the minute you start engaging in it.”

Hmm. Maybe. But I think it’s actually more personal, I think it’s about self-esteem, and feminism won’t necessarily give you that, if you don’t have much of it in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, feminism has given me confidence and certainly made me politically engaged from a young age. But has it given me all the self-esteem I need? No.

I then decided to scrawl the internet (As I do often in the vain hope of finding some kind of answer. Google being my new religion, apparently) and looked for articles on feminism and self-esteem. All of it was about body confidence. The internet is a pretty big place and all I could find were blogs, news articles and social research on self-esteem around my looks. Now, by no means am I free from having self-esteem issues about my looks. The mirror and I have quite the battle every morning, followed by a mid morning battle with a car window, a lunch time battle with the glass door of the sandwich shops that sells my secret enemy: Carbohydrates and an evening battle with the weird reflective security screen on the bus. I have my issues.

But, I’m not looking for self-esteem issues related to physical appearance – that is, of course, hugely relevant to feminism. I want to know about the self-esteem issues around our capabilities and intellectual capacity.

I was talking to someone earlier today who I have a huge amount of respect for, I often compare myself to him and come up short. Yet even he, when I asked, said he often second guesses himself before putting an opinion forward. I was amazed. He puts on a really good show to convince you otherwise. I wonder how many other people, I assume are super confident, are the same? Could it be? Is everyone faking it, even just a little? Even the really egotistical ones? My mind is blown.

So let’s do a bit of social research, just for my overly curious mind. Whether male, female or other; whether feminist or not (that’s a stupid one); whether young or old; have you ever:

  • Not put your hand up during a class or meeting, because you don’t want to ask a question that you think everyone knows the answer to?
  • Decided not to apply for that job, because you could never be what they are looking for?
  • Hesitated before putting your opinion forward and thought ‘Maybe I’ll just email it after the meeting’?
  • Not put what you really think under some semi intellectual article someone shared on Facebook, cause you don’t really know enough?
  • Made a decision and then immediately asked everyone around you if they thought it was the right one? (whilst acting totally cool with it all)

I hope some people nod and agree with some of these, if not, I’ve just made my unhinged inner monologue very public.

But I wonder how many people you think are super confident and you compare yourself to, actually nodded along too?

The hypothesis is: Many people think those around them are more confident or don’t have the same concerns as them. I think that’s because everyone is putting on their best face. So while we you may think the person in front of you is more confident and capable, they might be thinking the same thing in their head about you. We let few people in on our deepest concerns.

So everyone is trying to be like the most confident person in their lives, whilst that person is desperately trying to be like someone else, more confident…so when do we actually know we’re there?

What a mental clusterf*ck. Quite frankly.

So comment below or on Facebook or whatevs and try to be honest. If you rather not make it public, email me.

Curiously yours,

Talat x


The One

We spent a lot of time talking/thinking about role models. An irrational amount of time. I have. We talk about people in our lives or people in the public eye who we look up to and who we want to emulate. Too often we look for perfection and are disappointed when it’s not found. Or we find out the role model is merely human (unless of course yours is Lassie the Dog, in which case you probably knew she wasn’t human, or at least I hope you did, otherwise I dread to think what it was you were emulating…)

The disappointment exists because, well with my amateur psychology, I guess we enjoy a false sense of security and if someone is perfection it gives us something to aspire to and looking at them gives us a sense of achievement for choosing right (like an emotional pat on the back). It also makes us feel safe when people match the mould we have for them in our heads. But this is rarely the case. I like to blame the Daily Mail. Not just in the case, generally, for most things. Even for the fact that I have acne and I’m a grown up. Yes, that too is the Daily Mail’s fault. I figure, if they can blame everything on everyone else (unless you are male, white and straight), I can blame my blemish prone skin on them. But the concept of what a role model should be, is actually really personal and to be honest – whatever the hell you want. It’s the Daily Mail (and, actually, a whole host of areas of society) that tell us what a role model should be:

  • Moralled
  • Kind hearted
  • Doesn’t get drunk
  • Doesn’t take drugs
  • Doesn’t swear
  • Doesn’t start a brawl
  • Preaches good vales to children
  • Makes you yawn…?

Now unless we all want Mary Poppins to be our role models (side note; she actually was a badass, was a bit obnoxious and had an affair with a chimney sweep – Disney missed that bit out but you could feel the sexual chemistry between them) most people don’t fit this category, especially celebrities. So the minute someone calls you a role model, you are destined to fail. The above list has a few unfair additions for women; an expectation of having a career, being a loving mother or wanting children and dressing appropriately (whatever that means).

I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature of late and have been unsettled by how often role models were mentioned. Yes, there was discussion of how the traditional role model of women is unfair and stereotypes our lives and choices, of course I agree. But within the same sentence would follow sheer hypocrisy. Whilst I am told to abandon all traditional roles I am told to assume a new role; one that doesn’t marry or if she does keeps her maiden name, uses Ms instead of Miss, should dismiss monogomy and high heels (this is really just from the Greer school of thought), should feel bad for working in a female orientated profession. Bugger off. Surely this doesn’t help the cause. This is what alienates it. It’s MY feminism – back off.

However, unfortunately Ive realised that I’ve been doing the same thing for years.  I’ve been on the search for a feminist role model since I was about 16. One that fits all my ideals and I can be like. I never found her. I looked to my Mum and sisters and was bitterly disappointed. (Not their fault, I was a very stroppy teenager/adult/current person…).

Recently, I met a woman who doesn’t even know the word feminist nor does she know that such a movement has existed for decades. She lives in a village in a developing country. She was widowed last year and has no education – she did what she was expected to and became a wife and mother. She had no sons and after the death of her husband, was expected to give back the land she now owned to the community – being a woman she couldn’t look after it herself. She refused. She instead, took the issue to the city court. In a place where women aren’t allowed to leave the house without a head scarf, aren’t allowed to drive cars or have jobs, she took the matter to court and won. She’s a bit awesome. To the point where she was like a celebrity to me and I just stared at her (she quickly asked me to stop). I asked her what gave her the strength for all this and she said simply ‘because it’s mine and I can take care of it just like my husband did’. At this point I thought I’d found her, The One – the role model I needed to point me in the right direction. But then she said; ‘I need the land to make money so my daughter can be married, I need to pay for her dowry’. My heart sank as she didn’t fit the mould; Strong, fighting society, fighting patriarchal tradition, having a voice and shouting with it.

 After closer inspection and spending time with her, I soon changed my mind. You see, she doesn’t need to fit my mould or anyone’s, I can take the bits I like. I realised that I was doing to her exactly what the Daily Mail does to every female politician or public figure or what the books I had been reading do to fellow feminists, just with a different set of criteria. So she’s The One, but so are several other women in my life. If we relaxed the criteria a bit, especially for women, we’d all find a few diamonds in the rough among us and maybe a few more recruits to the cause…

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