The world would have you believe that it is a better place now, far better than how it was before. Especially with the letter from one of the richest and powerful men in the world to his daughter, who is in team with the LeanIn lady both of whom promise to make the world even better, especially for the girls. Apologies for not being able to take it with all the hopes it offers. All I want to tell you is that, keep some cynic side hidden somewhere inside you so that you don’t feel betrayed when the reality hits you in your face. Believe me, it will.
I wrote you a letter myself sometime ago after reading a letter from a mother, whose life was vastly different from her growing daughter’s. Ours too are very different lives, slightly different from the differences noted in the other letter that I was inspired to put it down on my blog. You might comment that it was mostly about me rather than anything to do with you. True. You were small at that time, in my defense. You still are, in my opinion. Yet you recently disagreed with me on the subject of theology and our takes on it, demanding that you be regarded as a separate individual who is capable of holding own theological views! Goodness me, I thought. You are growing. There are no two ways about it. You will hold your own views and opinions. There are no two ways about it either. Just would like to share some thoughts from my own learning so that you are informed to watch out for realities.
You don’t have to be all that cynic either as you know from your mother’s life that anything is possible. Some may come with some hardship, but then that will shape you up too. The world is ruled by those who are privileged. The men at the very apex of that privilege heap of all the categories and differences that one can come up with. You will soon see how your brother’s life will have more advantages, the ones you wish for yourself are easily handed to him while you have to constantly prove yourself to get anywhere near those. Your mother had a taste of it at her own home, which perhaps prepared her in line with the real world outside. Your mother did have a better life than her own mother at her own home. You, now, have a better life in your own home. Sure. Yet the bottom line was the same in the world outside. It is still the same. It will be the same too when you step out into the real world to make a life of your own. I am sorry to disappoint you that it doesn’t look like it is going to be vastly different in that aspect in your life time. There are some well meaning leaders like those I have mentioned at the very top of this letter. Yet, it is a complex issue to address. It is not an easy one to solve.
You are clever. Yet you will be questioned if you said anything “technical” that you have to prove yourself everytime. You do not like the competition mentality. You will be labelled as you are not competent enough. You don’t necessarily lead in a crowd. You will be labelled that you lack confidence. Yet boys around you can happily become “architects” for their ability to work “on their own”. Those who can bully will be called as great leaders. You will be paid less. You will be promoted less. You will not always get the good roles. You will not always get the roles for the right reasons. You have to have plenty of experience of doing the same job for years to be hired at the junior level. You might think that doesn’t make sense. How do you get the experience then, and why can’t you be given a senior role if you have experience. You cannot ask those questions yet. You will be called political, if you did. You will get even less opportunities. While men with “potential” will tell you how it is done.
If you showed any interest in progressing further, by default you will be assumed of offering sexual advances to the boss. Your boss may mark you “underperforming” if you don’t allow the sexual advances. In his defence, it was your fault. HR will ask for evidences, dates, times and witnesses. If you can get all those, yet it will be your words against his. If you are lucky enough to be asked to tell your side of the story, that is. Most of the time no one will ask your side of the story. Most women will just go silently. You will watch it in dismay.
The team members will not accept you, if you joined in a lead role and they will look for a male counterpart to report to. They will call the male manager a good manager. They will look down on you for coming to work at all while the children, according to them, are not eating cooked food at home. They will make a point to defy everything you try / say just so that they can prove that you are not fit to be in that lead role. You will watch in dismay.
You will be forever some sort of administrator/secretary, no matter high the role is. You will be the “bitch” of your boss, if you know how to fix things. Yet, a man in the same role will be a decision maker and will be called that he knows how to run the company at enterprise level, “end to end”. He can deliver, they will say. He is a good manager, they will say. And many more. You will watch the world in dismay.
You are pretty. You will be expected to display it. You will be considered a misfit, if you don’t. You will be expected to improve it. You may ask why. Good question, is all I can say. You will be constantly told that there are mistakes and areas that need improving in your appearance. There are products that can dramatically improve you. For every inch, for every shade, there are confusing number of products that promise to make you look “better”. You will also be reminded that you “still” look “beautiful”. You will wonder at the irony of it all. You will be constantly told how you are not good enough in so many ways. You will be constantly told to work on your self esteem “despite” the “shortcomings” of you both physically and intellectually. You will be expected to look for mistakes in you and you will be a constant apologiser. Don’t.
You will be expected to be the house maintainer. You will be expected to apologise for the “mess” in the house. You will be expected to organise your fridge and the events in your life, which includes your husband’s and your children’s. Your husband will have his own life with his mates. You will be expected to organise your life, which includes his life btw, around his life. You will be confused about the irony. You will be expected to apologise for everything about you. You will be expected to keep the man of the house at a respectable place in the society. You will be expected to apologise for the mess in the house. Don’t.
Don’t ever apologise. Don’t ever explain. Just stare. Grow some arrogance. You may be labelled rude. You will be labelled something or the other. Chose the label that goes with what you are comfortable with. All you can do is, choose the labels. You cannot avoid them. You brother can. You will be angry. You will be called you are taking it personal. You may be baffled how can it not be personal when it is hitting you personally. Men will say they can stay not taking things personal. How can they take personal when nothing has happened to them, you may ask. I have no answer for that. Learn this. It is about them. Men at work place and both men and women at social surroundings. They will constantly question you, label you, expect you to explain, expect you to follow what they insist that you should do. Just stare at them. It is about them. They are talking about them. Walk away. Now you know how it is not personal anymore. Men don’t know this skill. They will never have to come across this skill. Doesn’t matter. Ignore them. You can walkway now and truly take on the world. Your world. The world you choose for yourself.
The art of choosing is guided by what is around you. Sheena says it in her lovely talk what it is all about. Yet you choose. Decide and choose. It is your choice. It is your decision. Not anybody else’s. No one can force their decision on you. No one can imagine they can be allowed to put their choice on you. Not that lovely friend who appears to have the best interest or the fierce mother of yours who appears to be taking away your freedom. You decide. Your decision. You choose. Your choice. You will be peace with it. Just be aware that there will be things that are beyond your choice and yet you have to make peace with it. That is the world waiting for you. Toughen up. Your brother doesn’t need to. You do. Some of your friends might choose to stay out of the working life believing that they can avoid having to face the tough world. They will realise that there is no escape. The “socialsing” will bring it all that back to them. They may master the art of surviving in that environment. You will master the art of surviving in your environment. Don’t just survive. Live. To live, you need to face the reality and learn to blur it out. Your brother doesn’t have to know all these. He may need to learn different things. His life may be different. He might need different set of tough skills. Yours will be different. That is the bottom line.