Domestic, and in Love

Your puppy woke us up that morning,

tucking her cold nose between our bodies and tickling us with her whiskers.

You pulled me under your arm and gently kissed me awake, 

threw the blankets off us both

and stood up.

I watched you from my curled up position, 

marveling at your magnificence,

and counting myself the luckiest to see you

with sunlight streaming in.

It was so very domestic

to see you dress,

and play with the puppy,

and dance around each other making breakfast,

and sip coffee while reading the news,

and absentmindely brush your hair behind your ear. 

In that moment,

I forgot.

I forgot that it wasn’t our house

that I had exams and studying to finish

that it wasn’t always like this

that this wasn’t how life had always been.

I forgot everything

but you.

And remembered that life could be like that

if we made it so.

I gazed at you with the puppy at our feet,

and my heart lept with delight

in knowing it belongs to you. 

Inc. Magazine and the Power of Women

“Here’s an experiment: Name five iconic entrepreneurs. Actually, don’t bother, because we can pretty much predict your answer. Every year, we ask the Inc. 500 honorees to name the entrepreneurs they most admire. The answers: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, and Bill Gates. We’ve also seen Mark Zuckerberg and Tony Hsieh. The list varies a bit each year, but one constant remains: They’re all men.”

Inc. Magazine‘s article about the power of female founders begins with the above quote. Never has it been more apparent to the world the distinct snub of human capital, and this article does a phenomenal job at explaining the progress we are making towards gender equity in industries that are normally male dominated. Kimberley Weisul details and explores some of the differences in how men and women lead, and their long-term effectiveness. Many of the companies discussed are private tech companies, so the report is narrower in its scope, but the numbers are very hopeful: when women lead, there is a 35% higher return on investment compared to their male counterparts.

As a university student, gender issues and disparity come up often, though not as much as they probably should. While I am not part of the STEM system where inequality is at an extreme end, I am studying Economics and International Affairs where many of my courses are male dominated- especially as I enter the higher level economics courses. As these issues come to the forefront of society and of the media, I think it’s important to remember that they are also part of the intersectionality of problems. Race, ability, nationality, and many other identities play into the disparity in the classroom and the workplace, so it is necessary in those discussions that everyone is given a voice, and given the chance to speak from their own experiences. For example, women earn 77 cents to the man’s dollar, but that is a white woman to a white man. Women of different races, especially black and Latina women, earn even less.

Even our schooling system (at least in America) has issues, which are acutely evident in the way history is taught. Monumental events such as Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 were footnotes in my U.S. history courses. I remember learning about Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman, but their relation to the early feminist movement was often glossed over. While I understand that there is a lot of time covered in those courses, some junctures in history are simply too important to be overlooked. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote- only white women though. It wasn’t until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act passed that people of all races were given the right to vote in the U.S. Again, intersectionality plays a massive part in how we interpret and understand the events.

Perceptions of the sexes contribute to the idea that women are “less qualified” or “less able” to lead a company. Weisul talks about pitch videos that were shown to a group of people, with the only difference being who was speaking- the script and the rest of the video were exactly the same. Unsurprisingly, people were more likely to fund the project when a man was speaking, which points to an “unconcious bias” present. (If you have a couple of hours to kill, take a look at the film called In a World. Focused on the film voice-over industry that is heavily governed by men. Have you ever heard a trailer where a woman is doing the voice-over? Something to think about…) While many are working to change this implicit bias, there is still a lot of headway needed in order to move away from the idea that when women control only 20% of a conversation, that conversation is considered “dominated” by women. (X)

Both women and men will have a role to play in equalizing our society. We need to create environments that allow women to flourish without being forced into stereotypes, where their voice is heard and considered just as important as any man’s. Women can push themselves to support and empower one another, rather than living in a state of constant competition. Also, it couldn’t hurt to disrupt the “myopia and patriarchal outlook” of many of our industries – women have the power and wherewithal to revolutionize our society. All we need to do now is make sure we’re making ourselves visible and heard.

There are still so many points I haven’t hit, so feel free to come yell at me in the comments.

Does Hephaestus Laugh?

She tied her boat off and started to climb the cliffs. She knew no one survived what lay beyond the clouds, but still she climbed. Step after step, pulling and pushing her way through boulder fields and open rock faces. And she thought of Olympus, and the gods, and wondered if they missed their lofty hearth. She wondered if Hephaestus and Hades could hear her traipsing over their heads, and if they laughed or shook their head at her advancement. Did they fear the wrath of the king, or were they simply content to while away the nights and days watching the world above move on without them? And did the queen ever fear a dethroning, or was she content to sit at the foot of the throne? She clambered through the air, thick with moisture and wintry particles. She could feel her temperature falling despite the exertions, her breath coming out in harsh pants. Was Zeus watching and waiting for an opportune moment, filling the world with heavy air? Did he and Poseidon work together to conquer the planet? Did they fall together or fall apart? She reached the summit and looked around. Without warning, the clouds were swept away to reveal the whole of the earth, from one edge to the other, and she knew why no one returned. Was this how Atlas felt, was this the view he had from the stars?

A Forecast of Brutality

They say “Here’s my can of mace,” the way one might say “Borrow my umbrella, I think they’ve forecast rain.” It’s a two stop twenty minute walk from dinner to the flat, but we live as though we’re locked in mortal combat. Wear your headphones, but play no music – they’ll think you can’t hear them but you’ll be more alert with every breath. The subway is the most problematic, with no room to run or fight. Every time you step foot inside the car your blood pressure soars. You try to remember the fighting styles you learned when you thought it was fun and games, and hope that you hit hard enough if ever that time came. And when you walk you stare straight ahead, the RBF mask slipped into place. You hear their jeers and taunting, them begging you to smile, “‘Cos shouldn’t a pretty girl like you be happy all the time?” The few that dare approach and stand within your space are threatened with a scowl, and when you refuse to change your path and shoulder them instead, you hear all manner of insults directed at your head. Squared shoulders and a purposeful stride make for a significant deterrent, yet sometimes an elbow or a fist is suddenly required and that’s when you remember that life is always forecast for sunny with a chance of brutality. You remember all you’ve read about statistics, to make a scene and scream and fight, hold your keys in your fist and tight. The elbows are the sharpest point of contact and the pocket-knife is hid inside your sleeve. Slash don’t stab, yell ‘FIRE’ if you’re grabbed. And watch out for the girls around you, protect them as you would you. It’s horrid, these precautions we must put ourselves through, but to see another day it’s all that we can do.

Hold Your Breath

Hold your breath. We’ve been told it before – Suck it in, hold your breath. Family photographs, school portrait day, and sports photo day were nightmares come to life. Every year, keeping me up, my brain overcharged on anxiety and self-loathing. The camera is never my friend, unless of course, I’m the one shooting. I hid(e) from the view of the lens, and when there is no escape, I flash a perfectly fake smile that has been practiced in private. In photographs I can see every lump, every scar, every angry red mark marring my face. My shoulders always appear too broad, my eyes too heavy with darkness, and my body just seems much too much. ‘Just sit up straight’. ‘Just turn a little more.’ ‘Just tilt your head.’ And on and on they go. And yes, I have heard it all before – everyone is beautiful in their own way or beauty isn’t the only thing that matters. But I truly believe that the chemistry of a brain can be altered (almost irrevocably) by the force-feeding culture of the media. Pick up a magazine that is printed ‘for’ women. You’ll likely find this mix: an impossibly beautiful woman on one page, followed by a how-to in attaining that impossibility, rounded out by some sort of ‘motivational’ quote and a cake recipe. It’s the quiet undermining of the woman’s psyche. I have to un-learn all of that, and relearn to (maybe) love myself again. But the camera is always there, taunting me, telling me I’ll never be good enough. The camera is my horror story, and holding my breath is the only way I keep from screaming.

Poetry Sunday: Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.