Hardwired For Sorry [conclusion]

One

The Power of One

I shook my head as I reviewed Ope’s first draft for the series. Her prose though beautiful did not resonate with me. This piece lacks heart I thought. It did not. The problem was me. I could not conceive that a girl would have insecurities about her height. That others brought them on was beside the point. How could she not see how lucky she is? Someone said that privilege is invisible to those who have it. I am the petite girl with graces, how could I know?

Aware of my bias, I reread Ope’s piece, processing her ideas and connecting them to my experiences.

Tall girls seem to be the norm where I live. I have watched little girls grow up to be gorgeous tall women and none has expressed any reservations about her height. But once when I asked one why she enjoys watching the TV series, Suits, she replied, “Because I look like Gina Torres, and she’s badass!” Was she looking for a role model to validate her six-foot frame? By questioning the premise of her heightend apologies, I see how Ope has become a lighthouse for tall girls and short boys too.

Stories are a way to share our humanity and reading stories is both a conscious and unconscious search for validation.

When Abi submitted her article, she mentioned that every sentence of her rant was factual and she had exceeded the set word count. In fact, every contributor to the series burst through the imposed word count to set their stories free and I, wielding the editor’s scissors, could find little to trim.

Abi’s article stemmed in part from people’s inability to see the pervasive misogyny in her society. Just as I could not connect with Ope’s story at first, they could find no basis for the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quotes, which Abi shared, tagging them mischievous.

Adichie says that gender is a difficult conversation to have and as Sheryl Sandberg notes, the subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated same. It seems Abi wanted to make gender visible to men and women.

Some dismissively brand articles like Abi’s feminist. Have you ever been in conversation where a word popped up that made you stop listening and start churning points in your mind to deconstruct what the other person is saying? Anything that reeks of feminism arouses this impulse in some. So, when Abi signed off as a feminist in her bio, I was tempted to remove it.

There are two jars of honey in my cupboard. One label says the honey is from wild flowers and the label on the second jar says the honey is from honeydew. Humans are too complex to categorize into neat labels like honey. This explains why feminism has many definitions and connotations as well as branches—socialist feminism, African feminism, free-the-nipple feminism, and so on.

Those who take this as a sign of confusion should remember all the other philosophies that are similarly ‘confused’: democrat, conservative democrat, republican, liberal republican, catholic, catholic charismatic, Christian, evangelical Christian—are you laughing yet? Wherever human agency exists, there will be divisions, sub-divisions, and further divisions of the sub-divisions. The challenge then is not to merely dismiss ideologies because of labels but to listen in spite of them.

When a woman shares her story, it should cause us to remember our own challenges. At the very least, it should broaden our understanding of our world and our place in it.

After I pitched the idea of the series to Ekpos, she replied, “My own issue is different; people are always saying sorry to me!” Other challenges like physical disability eclipse gender, but only partially. Ekpos relates an incident at the airport where a porter looked at her and exclaimed, “Kai, fine girl like you; wetin happen to ya leg?”

She notes that wit is often the bridge through awkward situations. We need to laugh at ourselves more and get the world to laugh and then see with us. Amy Schumer uses comedy to good effect in her I’m Sorry sketch. According to Schumer, her show has been likened to putting shaved carrots into brownies. Emancipation is a journey, smile you’re on camera!

Ekpos makes the distinction between things she could and could not control. Disability and gender were thrust upon her. The will to overcome these perceived limitations was hers to invoke. The external factors, which make women hardwired for sorry, will not change overnight. But women can take charge of themselves by rejecting the messages they have internalized.

Bel takes this approach in her article. Although she was invited to the table, as were the women in Schumer’s sketch, she tottered at the edge, self-doubt hampering her stride. Many women are echoing songs their parents and grandparents taught them, songs that romanticized a woman’s lowly place in society. They are unconsciously complicit in their disempowerment. Bel noticed that the same self-doubt that tortured her was also present in the minds of some very fine, intelligent women in her company.

By looking inwards with a view to understanding herself, she finally gave herself permission to stand. In her words, “Fortified with this knowledge, I set out to change my story . . . I have begun to tell myself, first, that I am bigger on the inside than I am on the outside.”

Amy Schumer’s sketch isn’t about semantics, in my view. Sorry is still a useful word. However, the characters in the sketch were really using sorry to: diminish their accomplishments so they could be likable, temper their requests for their entitlements with ‘humility’, register their opinion as though it isn’t worth hearing, take nurturing to the nth degree by assuming responsibility for things beyond their scope, and mask impostor’s syndrome. 

If you, man or woman, are concerned about the external and internal factors that predispose women to shrinking themselves, then you need to answer this question: what change or sacrifice do I make to ensure women are unapologetic about taking up space in the world? One thing. Then follow through. Ripples will occur. This is the power of one.

I can’t thank you enough for writing, reading, liking, sharing, and joining the conversation.

timi

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Hardwired For Sorry [5]

apology

My Height-ened Apology

My uncles, aunts, the traders at Iwaya market, and the sales person at Wranglers boutique conspired to spit accusations at me. I burrowed the ground with my eyes and hid my lanky arms behind my back. They made me regard my elongating form with shame.

Ahan Ope, do you want to grow as tall as iroko?” People questioned me without expecting answers.

I wanted to die and on the days that I did not want to die, I wished God would shrink my height—who would marry me? They said I was tall for a girl and at the rate at which I was growing, it would be impossible to find a man taller than I was. Even when I pretended not to care, fury spread its wings on my face and at night, I buried my face in my pillow while crying away the pain.

And so, I learned to apologize. I apologized to the inconvenienced sales person who searched and searched for the right size of shoes for me. I apologized to the world, boys in particular, by slouching a little so that the measure of my stature did not intimidate. I apologized to petite girls, who would never have a problem when it came to marriage, by silencing my brewing envy and playing nice. I apologized to my older siblings by giving up my right to speak in their presence because I was told that I had stolen their right to be taller than me.

Like the women in Amy Schumer’s sketch, I say sorry when I do not need to. After I hit my head on the roof of a campus shuttle bus as I got off, my auto-response to the driver’s remark, “All these tall people eh,” was sorry. It was my defense for distracting the other passengers, by making them concerned about me. It was embarrassment for being five feet ten inches tall. It was martyrdom without the halo.

In the last scene of Schumer’s sketch, the male moderator inadvertently pours hot coffee on the third panelist’s legs. She falls down in pain, screaming, “Sorry!” Exaggerated for comic effect, her legs melt off and in agony, she moves with her splintered legs to the chorus of sorry from sympathizers. Her dramatic exit ends with these words, “I’m sorry, I’m dying, I’ve ruined everything. It’s all my fault.”

The moderator never says sorry. He says, “Oops!”

 

Until recently, I believed apologizing for my height was the polite thing to do. I have not unlearned this, but I have become more conscious of it and begun to question the premise of my apology.

Why should anyone have to apologize for the genes they received? Do I apologize for my father and mother too? Why should I be ‘conditioned’ for marriage as if it is the highest purpose I could aspire to? And is a woman who is taller than her husband an anomaly really? Really? Does my height mean I am likely to be more domineering than petite women with graces are? Can flat shoes and a small car truly alter my outcomes in life?

The message from my society is subtly clear: make yourself smaller so men can feel bigger, taller, and more powerful. My height is but a metaphor, which affronts obstinate traditional ideas about gender.

stand out where I come from. Perhaps I’m not supposed to fit in; I am to own and celebrate my uniqueness and be a lighthouse for tall girls and ‘short’ boys too.

This hardwiring for sorry cuts across cultures. My apology revolves around my height; what does yours spin around?

 

Ope Adedeji is a fourth year law student at the University of Lagos. She dreams about bridging the gender equality gap and working with the United Nations. Ope writes occasionally at artsandafrica.com and talesbycecile.wordpress.com.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hardwired For Sorry [4]

sorry scream

If I Hear Another Sorry, I Will Scream!

I was confused after listening to the high-achieving female innovators in Amy Schumer’s video string a melody with the word sorry. What did their sorry mean? In my part of the world, sorry is usually used to convey pity and sympathy. It is a word I am intimately familiar with.

I remember being a rambunctious kid, playful and energetic. Then my world flipped and went in a direction my young mind could never have imagined. At age seven, I contracted polio and had to learn to walk again, albeit with a limp. Then, just before my sixteenth birthday, I had a freak accident and sustained a fracture to my left femur.  After a couple of surgeries, I was confined to a pair of crutches. I have used them for twenty-eight years. People say sorry to me all the time even though I’m not in any kind of pain.

Because my physical disability attracted pitiful stares and sorrys, I became obsessed with trying to prove that I wasn’t as helpless and disabled as I looked. I focused my energies on education and worked hard to find a footing where the brilliant students stood. Intellectual development became my foremost life goal: if you can’t walk or run, by all means think.

My worldview changed after I read about Helen Keller’s achievements despite contracting an illness in childhood, which left her blind and mute. I also read about Franklin Roosevelt, who contracted polio at thirty-nine, but went on to become president of the United States and was re-elected three times. I believed America was the only place for my dream of a normal life. I dreamed about studying and possibly living in The States. When I finally had the opportunity to pursue an MBA in America, I was refused a study visa twice.

I was crushed by disappointment but by this time, had become a possibility thinker. I ended up in England, where I received my MBA and DBA degrees. Seven years in England, and I never heard the kind of sorry or endured the stares that made me want to hide back home.

I returned to my country after my studies hoping that because I now had Dr. before my name, sympathy would morph to admiration and sorry would drown in the applause of praise. Not so. People still stared with pitiful eyes and they still tell me sorry.

However, pity that makes me feel inadequate isn’t the only narrative. Once as I stood at Port Harcourt International Airport waiting for my luggage, a porter walked up to assist me. As we made our way out of the airport, he looked at me again and exclaimed, “Kai, fine girl like you; wetin happen to ya leg?” I was speechless for a second. Then I asked him if bad things were the preserve of ugly girls. He laughed out loud, and I joined him. Often wit is the bridge through an awkward situation.

In addition to the old mind-sets I contend with daily, I try not to sound too intelligent on purpose. I even overthink the act of posting my thoughts on social networks. I used to be disability conscious, now I am overly conscious about my intellectual achievements. After striving to be extraordinary and do extraordinarily well in my endeavours, I find myself trying to be ordinary to make everyone around me comfortable.

I have spent a good chunk of my life trying to prove a point and trying to change perceptions. So, maybe a part of me understands why the four leading female innovators in Schumer’s video are chorusing sorry. They seem to be apologising for being women at the top of their game.

We have no control over our gender. I had no control over my physical challenges. I controlled what I could. I overcame the limitations of my disability and developed myself in the ways that mattered most.

I am a woman. I have a physical disability. But then, I also have a doctorate degree. There is nothing to be sorry about. If I hear another sorry, I will scream!

 

Ekpos Waritimi is a management consultant, researcher, and speaker. She currently lives in Port Harcourt.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Hardwired For Sorry [3]

Apology

An Apology For Womanhood

I posted quotes by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on my Facebook Timeline earlier today. All day, the quotes rolled through my mind like a refrain to a sad love song. And as I navigated thick traffic in Abuja, Nigeria’s equivalent of Washington, it hung like a wet blanket alongside my cranky baby’s cries. Hunger and exhaustion made me extra tense. I turned the radio on just in time to hear the anchor dispense advice to a caller who was seeking help for a floundering marriage and periodic punches from her husband.

“You know men have egos. You just have to stoop to conquer. Avoid behaviours that anger him. If he tells you to stop serving dinner late, you too, get home earlier!”

‘Softening,’ he concluded by recommending she watch her tone and find opportune moments to discuss issues with her husband.

 

We raise girls to cater to the fragile egos of men. 

 

Seconds later, my car rocked from the impact of a danfo bus running into the passenger-side door where my baby was seated. The driver had been trying to shunt the traffic queue. Rage propelled me out of my car. He sauntered out of his bus muttering, “Na woman sef.”

My fury grew as he unrepentantly argued with me and as he spat, “Hey! Mistake na mistake. I get your type for house! Don’t talk to me anyhow! Na so you dey talk to your husband for house?”

Bystanders advised me to calm down. “Shebi you know he is a man,” one of them counseled.

 

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. 

 

When we finally made it home, the water heater failed. I needed the electrician, Mr. Kehinde, to repair it. However, I couldn’t call him because he has issues taking instructions from women. So I rang my husband who was 800km away to call the electrician who was 4km away, and tell him to fix the heater.

Later, a friend called me to lament her experience at the police station where she had gone to bail a neighbour. The officer in charge had laughed in her face and told her that because she is a woman, she was not qualified to bail anyone. My friend, a medical doctor, then had to get her driver who has a secondary school-leaving certificate, to post bail. She was bitter and vented for a long time.

 

Each time they ignore me, I feel invisible. I feel upset. I want to tell them that I am just as human as the man, that I am just as worthy of acknowledgement. These are little things but sometimes it’s the little things that sting the most. 

 

Earlier in the evening, I listened to my aunt counsel my cousin whose husband is cheating on her and doling money he wouldn’t spend on his family, on his mistress.

“Just keep your home. That’s what I know. You will not be the first woman. Men stray, they return. Just ensure he continues to eat your food and don’t deny him sex. Don’t let silly girls who have not suffered with him snatch him from you.”

 

We teach females, that in relationships, ‘compromise’ is what women do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs, or for accomplishments — which I think can be a good thing — but for the attention of men. 

 

And then she turned to me, “I hear you are applying for PhD again. . . come, what are you looking for? You just want to compete with your husband ehn! The poor man does not have a Masters, now you are ready to lord PhD over him abi? Continue! That’s your cousin struggling right there. You don’t have problems; you want to create some for yourself with your own hands. Already, don’t you earn more than him? My dear . . . ”

 

We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man. 

 

Just before I turned in for the night, I visited Facebook. Four angry rants filled the comment section under my post. Their lowest common denominator? Women were marginalized in Nigerian society but that narrative has since changed. Citing a few trailblazers, they maintained that today’s women are just as empowered as men are. So quotes like Adichie’s only promote mischief.

I shook my head sadly. I didn’t respond. No. I shut down and kept my angst to myself. As I drifted off, I wondered why my society would showcase exceptions as the norm while women remain second-class citizens in the pecking order. Why, in spite of clear opportunities to change the status quo, do we continue to look the other way? A society that is blind to the lived experience of roughly half its population is a sorry excuse, an apology for woman empowerment.

We’ve got a long way to go baby. But maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will bring us a new song if we open our eyes.

 

Abiodun Baiyewu is a lawyer, human rights activist, and feminist with a strong interest in medical jurisprudence and reproductive health.

Watch Amy Schumer’s video which inspired the series.

 

 

Photo credit: Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/girl-sad-crying-raining-rain-drops-690327/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hardwired For Sorry [2]

Permission to Stand

 

Permission to Stand

I still remember my first board meeting. It was three weeks after my promotion took effect. After only one year in middle management, I had been promoted to executive board level in the publishing company where I worked.

For sure, I had done very well. My promotion was speedy, and, many people agreed, extremely well deserved. In addition, it was the first time in the history of the company that a foreigner (and a woman, at that), had been appointed to the board. My co-directors and their predecessors were all cut from the same cloth: Dutch men in their fifties, same lifestyle, same background, same jokes.

And so I was the proverbial breath of fresh air. Or so the CEO said as I took my seat at the table. I wasn’t quite sure what they were expecting from me. They looked kind enough, they asked my opinion, and they deferred to me on matters within my area of expertise.

Yet, I was largely quiet. For the first few months or so, I said very little. That could of course be due mainly to my introverted nature—scanning the world, observing life and its interactions, and formulating my views before expressing them.

I would never have dared utter a word unless I was sure of my premise, my arguments, and, vitally, my conclusion. I watched in admiration as my co-directors did the opposite. Especially Max, the commercial director. He would begin with a statement, firm, emphatic, sure. He would wind down various alleys of logic and counter logic, never once wavering in his sense of conviction, and then he would end his monologue, having arrived at a conclusion antithetical to the premise with which he had opened.

I would have been mortified had my thought processes been so exposed to the world, but by his manner (born of an assurance that I never before knew existed), I knew he had no such reservations.

However, my introversion was not the only reason for my reserve. In fact, it was a convenient label I put on myself, a comfort blanket which, protected me from the sharp gusts of truth: that, in a world seemingly governed by others, I was unsure of myself, earnestly seeking permission to stand.

I could not fathom why I felt that way. My technical experience and leadership skills had carried me to the place that I now occupied. Having accepted my appointment, I had every right to play my role. Everyone treated me as my new role demanded. Every voice spoke to me with much respect, save for the voice in my head.

I remember now with mirth a business trip I took to New York during those days. As I stood waiting for a taxi at JFK airport, I saw one of our most influential shareholders at the airport. He was carrying his bags and looking for a taxi. I had this crazy impulse to dash up to him and offer to carry his bags. Now I can only thank God for the steadfastness wherewith He glued my feet to the hot tarmac.

It took me a while before I realised my self-doubt was from within. That, somehow, it was bound up with being a woman. I don’t know when I came to that realization. Maybe it was when I discovered that some of the men around me were brimful with confidence but with not much ability. Maybe it was when I saw  junior male employees swaggering around with an arrogance that could be explained not by talent, and certainly not by achievement. Maybe it was when I noticed that the same self-doubt that tortured me was also present in the minds of some very fine, intelligent women in our company.

Fortified with this knowledge, I set out to change my story. No, not the perception of me that others might have had, but rather the story of me that I told myself. However, in order to do that, I had first to look at myself, come to terms with what I saw, and then begin purposefully to change that vision.

And so I did that. I have begun to tell myself, first, that I am bigger on the inside than I am on the outside. It is true that I am slightly built, soft spoken, and often given to quiet introspection. However, these are all remarkable qualities, and they add something special to whatever table I may grace. They are not weaknesses to be excused away. They are strengths, because they bring empathy and perspicacity to those with whom I have to do. I also know that I am bold, principled, and strong.

I was all the while seeking permission to stand. Now I have granted myself that precious right.

 

Bel Andrew-Amies makes her home in Amsterdam. When she’s not immersed in the world of international business law, she works on her short story collection.

Watch Amy Schumer’s video which inspired the series.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hardwired For Sorry [1]

woman sorry

I throw sorry around a lot but many times, I do not mean it as an apology for an infraction. It is my all-purpose verbal salve to lather concern, nurture, and meaningful meaninglessness to friends and strangers alike. But what lurks beneath my sorry?

Diahann Reyes writes in her post, Amy Schumer and The Art of Taking Up Space:

One of the many facets that I appreciate about comedian Amy Schumer’s work is that she shines a light not only on the cultural conditioning that keeps women in restricted place, but also she exposes the misogyny that many of us have internalized from living in a patriarchal society. As some of her sketches intimate—women and girls have been known to do as good a job as anyone of objectifying, suppressing, or disempowering themselves.

 

In my view, Schumer’s video is exaggerated to jolt us out of complacency and take stock. To appreciate this series, please watch Schumer’s three-minute sketch: I’m Sorry.

I’m serious, watch the video first.

 

Unshrinking Myself

After sharing the video with a friend, we decided to observe how much we use the word sorry. She called me one evening. Thirteen seconds into our conversation, she said, “Gotcha! You’ve said ‘sorry’ three times already.”

I had begun our conversation by apologizing for not hearing her clearly, “Hello? Sorry, I can’t hear you properly.” Then I reeled off another apology for making her wait while I put on my earphones, “Sorry, let me just use my earphones.” My third apology was for speaking out of turn, “No, sorry, you go first; you were saying?”

We both had a good laugh, especially when she used sorry twice within the next ten seconds.

On the surface there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with our sorrys. Sorry aka pardon, excuse me, kpele, etc, depending on culture and context, is the grease that facilitates polite conversation. It is sympathy, empathy, and everything else in between. However, the video made me wonder if there isn’t an unhealthy self-effacement leaning towards unworthiness in a woman’s verbal and non-verbal sorry. To my mind, the women in the video were shrinking themselves. I am yet to meet a man I admire who does this.

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

My parents raised me to ignore gender in striving for my goals. There were no limits to where I could go; not even the sky could hold me back. However, they could not cocoon me from the realities of socialization—an aggressive, assertive, and assured woman is a no-no. How many bold moves have been paralyzed by these words, but you’re a woman?

Over the years, some of my mentors have given me different advice on how to “shrink” myself. In a man’s world, it’s expedient to be the neck that turns the head than to be another head, complete with brains, that complements the man’s head. My mentors are successful women in their own right. Who am I to argue? But, I struggle with this concept.

As I learn to assert myself, I’ve been called a strong woman. It was always by women. It was never meant as a compliment. I catch myself shrinking my abilities, achievements, voice, again and again. Habits are hard to unlearn. Still, I have not yet turned pretence into an art form.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo credit: cocoparisienne/ https://pixabay.com/en/woman-woman-portrait-head-mourning-850330/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Portraits of Motherhood [3]

Motherhood3

Caramel Kids

My husband John is white and I am black. Our first daughter was conceived after a lot of body heat measurements, lovemaking, and consultant fees. As a newborn, she looked nothing like me but everything like John—dark blue eyes under straight black hair, set in pale skin dusted with freckles. Twenty-two months later, her sister was born.

My beautiful girls have always seen and described themselves as caramel. They say caramel is the mixture of white and black. I also see them as caramel. However, I refuse to raise them as caramel. I am raising them as strong black African women to give them a sense of belonging.

When my seven-year old (who had played all day), wanted to play with her friends some more instead of studying, I said no despite her tears. Her friends in question are white, middle-class, and privately educated. She is mixed race, middle-class, and in a state school. In May, my daughter writes her SATs, her first exams.

Because I worry about my daughters’ academic potential, I constantly emphasize the importance of working hard at school. Only this time, her naïvety irritated me. I told her, “You will have to work twice as hard as your white friends to get where you deserve to be.”

In England, caramel is closer to black, and society regards them as mixed black Africans and not mixed white British. People see their sex and race first. They are not immune to this reality. As a warrior mum, I want them to know who they are and I want to give them every advantage they need to succeed.

Still, my main parenting ethos is to ground them in the kind of love I never experienced. Love, which is professed. Love, which cuddles. Love, which kisses. Love, which makes us spend time together. Because knowing you are loved and accepted unconditionally is a bulwark against ‘colour’ coding and separation.

Yvonne is crazy about retro and vintage fashion. She writes passionately about things that get to her at RealYvonneBlog

 

#Electiongate

E1 ran for house prefect last term. Three girls and a boy competed for the two positions. She wrote a speech and campaigned round school. After the elections, E1 came second. The highest vote was nine. She scored eight, the boy scored three, and the other girl one. E2 excitedly told her sister, “Well done, you got it.”

Imagine my shock a couple of days later when E1 reported that the other spot had gone to the boy.

I let off steam at the school office and emailed the secretary expressing my displeasure. A meeting was scheduled with the head teacher where she confirmed that because a boy and a girl traditionally filled the positions, the second post had gone to the boy.

I contended that since the candidates were not informed upfront, the entire process was a mockery. I decided to pursue the matter further as I felt E1 was robbed. Outlining my grievances in a letter, I pointed out that by denying my daughter equal opportunity the school was teaching her that gender is a deterrent to success in a society where gender discrimination is illegal.

It was a lonely and long fight. Well-meaning people asked, “What’s the big deal?” In the meantime, E1 was offered other positions. I told her it was okay to accept another position, as long as she made it clear she was still holding out for her elected post.

Countless emails and acknowledgements wearied me to the end of my tether. Then one Friday, at the close of school, the secretary handed me a letter. I ripped it open once we got to the car. E1 had been awarded the prefectship!

I turned to her, “You see why it’s important to stick to your guns and fight for your rights?” She nodded, joy brimming from her eyes.

I am trying to raise my daughters to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve or how far they can go. They know that sometimes, they will have to fight. And I want them to know I will always have their backs as God gives me strength.

Joxy, wife, mother, bookworm, bookaholic, ardent Scrabble player, tennis fan, and foodie, writes at Justjoxy’s blog.

 

A Heart of Gold

My thirteen-year-old son is not special needs. He has special needs and barely qualifies to have some of them met in school. If you met him, you would not imagine that my well-spoken boy struggles in school. This challenge began in pre-school and has now progressed to annual team meetings with teachers.

The meetings always start with, “What are your concerns about Damon?” I exhale before I rattle off the same yearly list, lack of focus and mathematical comprehension, poor grades, etc. His teachers smile sadly and nod because they see it every day. In that moment, I don’t feel alone even though they are witnesses for only nine months.

What happens next is my favorite part and it happens every time. Sure, their faces drop when they describe how Damon hunches over his paper, so they won’t know he hasn’t written anything. But they then mention how his hand shoots up above his brown curly hair to volunteer to read; and my mind travels to the years he cried because he hated reading but persevered until he loved it. They smile as they recount his eager participation in class discussions, which elevates the conversation. We all laugh at the way he smiles and assures us that he’s, “Got this!”

And yes, Damon’s got this, this being the heart of life. He carefully scoops up infants in the church nursery where he volunteers each week. He emanates warmth as he greets homeless people whenever we hit the streets to hand out supplies. You see, I mother a child who on his best day puts in twice the effort to receive half the grade and has done so for nine years. Yet his perspective of the world and himself is untainted. Once when I checked his phone for inappropriate content, I saw a text from a friend who stated he wants to be incredible like Damon.

So yeah, parenting an out-of-the-box kid isn’t easy when it comes to schooling, but witnessing his spirit shine in the face of obstacles is better than perfect marks.

Brina Harwood, recent returning full-time student, aspiring writer, and working mother of four, blogs on occasion at My Life in Crowd Control.

 

 

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