Confessions of a loud girl

Even writing this title makes me uncomfortable. I hate being called “loud” and every time someone refers to me as such, I cringe. Whether it’s the sudden turn of your head and narrowing of your eyes when you hear me laugh, or whether you actually call me “loud”, I hate it. It sounds like an insult, like you’ve invited an elephant to your tea party just so you can make fun of her for breaking your china. Shame. That’s an accurate description of what I feel when I’m called “loud”. I feel ashamed. Maybe in ancient times, my people required the power of sneakiness as a means of survival, and that’s why I’m ashamed to be loud. Maybe my brain triggers shame to protect me from an evolutionary perspective. Maybe, a more likely option, my shame is linked to the idea that women are not meant to be loud. To be a woman is to be quiet, delicate and gentle, you don’t speak out of turn and you’re not bossy or opinionated.  To be a woman, is to be a creature of grace- serene femininity oozing from every measured word with the indulgence of a coquettish giggle when the occasion calls for it. How easily a loud girl fails that criteria. Truth be told, I don’t even consider myself loud. I am assertive, opinionated and unapologetic about using my voice, but I’d never describe myself as loud. But perhaps I should, perhaps I should reclaim it. Perhaps in this world, where all too often we silence the voice of women in so many inventive and subtle ways, I should be proud of being loud. If I am loud and just one woman hears my voice, isn’t that enough to be proud of?

In thinking about being loud, I’ve thought of my voice. I’ve also thought of women around the world who feel like they have none.  I used to think that my greatest fear was not being understood, but I’m beginning to feel like it’s something that precedes understanding. At its most basic form, if no one hears you, if your voice is lost, how will you ever be understood? I can’t say with absolute conviction that I feel like I’m heard. I can’t say with even a little conviction that men have not spoken over me, that I haven’t been ignored in male dominated environments. Yes, even though I’m “loud”. I can say that often during a discussion when I offer a suggestion to an otherwise male audience, it lands heavy but with no purpose. It serves to draw silence before an awkward man who has not really heard the concept, or my idea, presses forward as if I had not said anything at all. My words were just a speed bump along the road that starts and ends with solutions that I have no power to shape. It’s more than a slap in the face to be ignored in that way, it more than an insult, it’s an indication of my worthlessness. It’s often at some later point, once I’ve tried to make my point for the third time, that some man comes to my “rescue” saying, “What I think she’s trying to say is…,”. It fascinates me to see others bob their head when my ideas take on a male voice. Of course, it’s not uncommon that whichever man explained my suggestion also gets the credit for “his idea”. I reread what I’ve just written and part of me wants to delete the entire thing because I want to believe I’m making it up. I want to believe this isn’t what I’m experiencing with a shocking and sickening regularity. But it is true, and it does happen and not only to me. I’ve also seen this happen to men, from all walks of life, but I’ve never seen it happen as frequently as I see it happening to women. All around me I see women being silenced, I see their ideas being trampled on, I see men taking the credit where they don’t deserve it. We silence women by telling them they need to show up in certain way to fit in. We silence women when they grow tired of fighting to be heard and simply give up. We silence women when we show them that their voices do not matter. We silence women daily, routinely and without thought. Women do have voices and they aren’t afraid to use them, but have we been listening?

Perhaps what I should be, beyond loud, is louder. Perhaps I should speak and write till I am heard, perhaps I should also let my actions be louder. Perhaps I should own who I am, along with my voice so that I can allow other women to also do the same . For the longest time one of my frustrations with being “loud” was the assumption that I should be anything but. That I shouldn’t own the space I occupy, that I should be apologetic for even existing. That I should make myself and my voice smaller so as not to inconvenience anyone. It feels like that judgement seeks to replace me with a more acceptable version. But I’m not having that. Sorry, that’s not me. I am inconvenient, and, you know what, I love that about myself. The world is better with me being loud, brass, assertive and ambitious because that’s who I am. And folks, that’s most certainly nothing to be quiet about.

For women only: No men allowed

Here’s something I’d never thought I’d hear myself say, “I’ve had so many fights since I started a book club,”. I should clarify that it is a woman’s only book club and that it is a corporate one, not that that sheds any light on why this is such a contentious topic though. For some reason people (read men) are shocked, appalled and angry with me because I’ve created a platform that excludes them. Yes, I know, I should buy them all dictionaries so they can look up the word “patriarchy”. I suspect that I’m beginning to lose my sense of humour around the whole thing, I did want to title this blog “How not be an idiot and other useful tips” so perhaps we’re already in dangerous territory. It just frustrates me that men think that they should weigh in on certain things that, quiet frankly, are none of their business. Now, I am not saying that feminism shouldn’t include men, I’m not saying that men should be excluded from the dialogue, that’s as stupid as some of the comments I’ve gotten regarding a woman only book club. What I am saying is that I’m sick of men telling what I should do and I’m sick of them thinking they have right to do so.

I’m not about to apologise for pushing the agenda for women empowerment

I’m not about to apologise for pushing the agenda for women empowerment. Neither am I willing to apologise for the fact that I’ve created a platform for women to learn and grow from each other, and hopefully one that will encourage women to use their voices. Nope, I’m not about to do that but somehow, many men I’ve spoken to seem to think that’s exactly what I should be doing. I know the conversations would be easier if I was a bit more diplomatic (read agreeable) and if every time a man told me of how the book club should also include him I simply bowed in submission and said, “Kind sir, thank you for that golden suggestion, my fragile mind had not yet thought such grand thoughts”. Truth be told I had thought of whether the book club should include men or not, I had even discussed it with a wider audience and put it up to a vote before deciding because I am explicitly aware of the fact that to move forward, we must not do it in isolation. I also believe that this book club will evolve to include a wider audience one day. I don’t know when, but one day. I am fully aware that men exist in this world and that it is also their voices and their actions that we need to dismantle patriarchy. Nobody is saying otherwise, least of all this book club. But somehow, I need to explain it, I need to justify it, I need to make the men who I’ve excluded feel better because that is what’s expected of me. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to do any of that either. Tell you what I am willing to do though, I’m willing to pretend that I’m less annoyed and put together these few gentle, guiding points on how to be less of an idiot during these conversations with me. One day I’ll learn how not be sarcastic, I don’t know when, but one day.

Instead of saying, “I also like to read”, (because my response will remain the same “So, who’s stopping you?”) say, “That’s a great idea. I also love reading, what is the book club reading now?”. Say that and you’ll shift the conversation away from me saying, “By starting a book club that I did not invite you to, I did not magical cast a spell that stops you from reading or buying books. It is my sincere hope that you do not reproduce on the off chance that they inherent your intellectual abilities.” Instead I’d merrily leap into a conversation about our current book, what key things interest me and what actions it’s sparked. Chances are, I’d probably volunteer to lend you my copy once I’m done.

Instead of saying, “Yes, but why aren’t you involving me?” say “Yes, and I’d also like to get involved. How can I contribute to uplifting women?” That would probably earn you a high-five or a hug or both and we’d get to talking about how we can do something together to serve and even wider audience.

Instead of saying, “Women need to tell us how to fix this, otherwise we’d never know” say “Patriarchy has served me my entire life and I am ignorant to the challenges that women face. Are you aware of any known cure for my ignorance?” There’s no telling how this would pan out but I’d sure respect you for admitting that your were ignorant.

Instead of saying, “I don’t understand why women need to talk amongst themselves,” say “I think it’s great that you’re creating a space where women can leverage off each other and while I’d also like to be part of the conversation, I have no right to tell you or any woman what she should be doing with her voice.” Again, this is totally five-high and or hug material. We’d probably launch into a conversation on how we could go about breaking conventions and how we could leverage of each other to do something great for women. You would inspire me and you’d also probably be a unicorn, but a girl can dream.

It’s really not that challenging to stop and check your privilege. And if you want to be part of the solution, I applaud you, I really do. We need more men who want that. We also need more men who don’t think they have a right to tell women what to do. We need more men who call themselves feminists. We need more men challenging words, thoughts and actions that cement toxic masculinity in our communities. We need more men who listen, who have been listening to what women have been saying for centuries. We need more men who believe that patriarchy is wrong and who are willing to do something to challenge something that serves them. We need all sorts of men to do all sorts of things, but by god, we do not need more men in book club.

Women in the workplace: Two reasons why we won’t let each other win

When I was a young girl my mother told me of how she earned less money than my father did when they both started working as teachers. I remember hearing the story and thinking that the world in the late seventies/early eighties was not only ridiculous, but also backward. It made no sense to me. My parents were the same age, got the same education and went into the same profession. The one fundamental difference between them was something they had no choice or control over, their gender. I found it hard to believe that humans could be that stupid. I admit that the idea of different pay scales based on gender as well as race fascinated and appalled me in equal measure, but I absorbed the story with a certain smugness. I was smug because I knew that the world would be a far different place once I started working. I knew that we would not make the same mistakes our parents did. Now all these years later, I’ve come to realise that our biases are far stickier than we would like to admit and that although we’ve come a long way since cavemen dragged women around by their hair, we’ve still got an awful lot more to learn and change in the name of progress. I don’t have the answers as to why women are still inadequately represented top of the corporate ladder or why patriarchy and toxic masculinity find such prevalence in our daily lives. What I do have is a few thoughts on why we, as women, don’t let each other win.

I have a two-part theory about why women struggle to, as Melinda Gates urged us to, “share power”. It’s not novel and by no means entirely my own, but it is something that we need to start thinking about. Someone said to me that women don’t need to learn about how to empower other women, that we do it already. And while that thought alone fills me with hope, I know it’s not entirely true. Just because we’ve felt the strong hand of patriarchy pushing us down every time we try to rise, just because we face the daily burden of unpaid work stifling our growth, just because we’re afraid of what it means to be a woman in this country, does not necessarily bind us to a common goal of supporting and uplifting each other. I don’t have an exhaustive list for why it is that we don’t support each other, nor do I have a theory that will apply to every woman but what I do have is thoughts around what I’ve experienced. The first part of my theory is based on scarcity and the second on sacrifice.

It’s easy to buy into the concept of scarcity if being who you are invalidates your access to the opportunities that are meant to help you.

The scarcity concept makes us believe that there a limited amount of opportunities and that when someone, a woman, rises to take one, she’s taken something away from us. It’s odd though, because sometimes we aren’t even interested in that specific opportunity, all we know is that now it’s no longer available to us. Part jealousy, part competition, we believe in the idea of win-lose, that another woman’s success means the loss of an opportunity for someone else. I link this to the dark side of competition, to the thought that there exists two teams in the world, the winners and the losers. When you think about it this way, any win that isn’t your own puts you squarely in the loser camp. Doing something “first” is also important here, you’re not winning unless you were the first to do something. Your friend starts a blog and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to it, is your initial reaction to support her? Or did she steal the one last spot available to bloggers all over the world? A coworker gets a promotion, she’s your age or younger but progressing quicker up the corporate ladder than you did. Are you wishing her well while secretly harbouring thoughts that seek to lessen the comparison between yourself and her? I get it, I do. For so many reasons, but also because I’ve felt that way. And to a degree, who can blame us for thinking this way? We’ve seen men win at the expense of women for centuries, at the very heart of patriarchy is win-lose thinking. And sure, we’ve created more opportunities for women to succeed but in order to be considered for those opportunities, you need to the “right” sort of woman. You know what I mean, the woman who speaks her mind, but is never loud or assertive. The one who disagrees, but never strongly. The woman who is committed to her family but whose children aren’t sick too often. Go ahead, be who you are, we tell women, as long as your hair’s not too untidy, you’re not too loud, you don’t sleep around and, of course, you know your place and don’t rock the boat too much. Is it any wonder why we believe that opportunities for success, or getting to the top of the corporate ladder are scarce? Perhaps we all understand that there are opportunities but that getting hold of one requires the sort of backflips and jumping through hoops that is both offensive and inauthentic. How about we start talking about opportunities and a lack thereof, when women are rewarded for who they are, instead of who others expect us to be? It’s easy to buy into the concept of scarcity if being who you are invalidates your access to the opportunities that are meant to help you.

We become the very ones we hated, we fought against. We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that success comes with sacrifice, we need that pound of flesh because it’s what we gave up.

The sacrifice concept is based on the principle that women must often fight their way to success, that women often have to work much harder than men do just to be considered for the same opportunities. Our burden of proof is much larger and naturally, so are our sacrifices. That we fought, clawed and pushed our way into typically male dominated environments, that we sacrificed so much to do it, is sometimes a difficult thought to let go off. We want to hold onto it because it shows our strength, our perseverance and our sheer will beyond our capabilities, because we know capability alone is not enough when you’re a woman. We tell ourselves that we were more, we did more, that’s how we rose. The struggle we faced, did more than validate us, it defined us and our views on success. So, when someone comes along whose progress along a similar path seems easier, it’s hard for us to think of all we’ve sacrificed and make room for this younger woman who probably won’t face the struggles we have. Instead of shaping a journey that is fundamentally different from the one had to embark on, we shape something very similar. We become the very ones we hated, we fought against. We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that success comes with sacrifice, we need that pound of flesh because it’s what we gave up. We do it because we’ve learnt that success is painful, that it wouldn’t be right unless it was. We do it because we believe other women, need to “earn their stripes” in much the same way that the men who held the power expected from us.

I write this for women whose futures will be shaped by all sorts of men and women, in the hope that we are brave enough to claim our power or to ask for a share of it, knowing full well that it might be more than others think we deserve.

Like I’ve written earlier, I certainly can’t speak on behalf of all women worldwide, I probably know, in equal measures, women who both fit and disprove the descriptions above. I write this for the women who challenge the concept of scarcity, who go forth and shape opportunities, who challenge the notion that opportunities are only available to those who tow the line. I write this for both the women who will understand that their struggles have prepared them to make the path easier for those that follow and for the women who use their struggles as some sort of a measuring stick to gauge success. I write this for women whose futures will be shaped by all sorts of men and women, in the hope that we are brave enough to claim our power or to ask for a share of it, knowing full well that it might be more than others think we deserve.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any entity or organisation.

Why it’s okay to hate your husband and other tales from a bad wife

Husband is eating a mushroom but by the sound of things he might as well be crunching on concrete. That he is at least 500km away from me at the moment does nothing to dampen the sound of his chewing or my anger. “You know people wont even be surprised when I kill you, in fact they’d be shocked I put up with your chewing for so long” It’s pure nastiness on my part, he can’t help it. Somehow Husband’s mouth was designed to amplify. Husband decides to distract me by changing the topic but only succeeds in increasing the volume of the concrete crushing and shifting the sound closer to that part of the brain that triggers violence. I look at him through narrowed eyes, ready to spit out the snarky, mean comment I have ready for him, but I find myself stifling a laugh instead. He moves to hide himself behind and wall and continues the conversation in a manner that is impossibly cute. This must be madness, this desire to want to kill him and kiss him at the same time. Perhaps this is what marriage has done to me, I’ve been made mad by living in such close quarters with another human. I veer between laughter and anger before the former wins and I realise that this man, destroyer of mushrooms and of quiet spaces, is my Husband. Mine, and well, I do like collect things, so I might as well keep this one.

Husband once asked me why it is that I refer to him as such in this blog. I wonder if it is symbolic somehow, as if through marriage, I have stripped him of his name and so labelled him “Husband”. It would make a great change from the norm of women having to cast aside their names for the sake of marriage, so I think I’ll stick to that version. It is incredibly hypocritical, in light of what I’ve just written, that I am very often annoyed at Husband when I am introduced as his wife. Maybe it’s because Husband has a habit of gesturing to me and saying “This is my wife” in a way that makes it seem as though he’s forgotten my name or if he was simply pointing out his new running shoes (in fact that might get more enthusiasm). Is it wrong to be introduced by my name (provided he can actually recall it) or perhaps by something fantastic and awe inspiring? This is Denira, reader of books, slayer of ignorance! It’s not too much to ask that this man, to whom I have bestowed the title of Husband, alludes to my greatness at very opportunity, is it? Also, if I’m being honest, I really don’t like the word “wife”, which is probably why I’m so cavalier about brandishing the title of “bad wife”. Wife, even the word sounds subservient, like you’d find it hiding in a kitchen cupboard because it forgot to salt it’s husband’s socks or wash his food, or something backward like that. Every time I say the word I want to shrug it off, it’s much the same for when I find a bug on me unexpectedly, there is a shaking of my shoulders and head and a completely paranoid check to make sure it’s really gone. I don’t like it. I don’t like it just as much as I don’t like the men who hide from their wives, who can’t be themselves around their wives. You know who I’m talking about, those men who seemed to have decided to marry their mothers. Those men who make it seem as if when they’ve managed an escape from the house, their wives are waiting for them clad in a housecoat with curlers in their hair, rolling pin in hand. The word wife makes me feel old and irrelevant, like I am incomplete, only one part of whole. There’s too much dependency in the word for someone who believes herself, alone to be enough. It’s too definitive and not powerful enough a word to encapsulate who I am. Yes, I am married but is that all I am? Will the world only ever see me as first a daughter, then a wife and finally as mother? No, that certainly will not do.

So, I am happy to be a bad wife, if it means that you’ll find me reading a book while Husband washes the dishes or if you’ll see Husband cooking dinner while I tell my puppies that I love them. I am happy to be a bad wife, if Husband is my partner, the looney human that I love spending time with, the keeper of all of my secrets and the person I can eat chips with in bed. I am happy to be a bad wife who challenges Husband, who speaks her mind and who isn’t afraid to be called “bossy”. I am happy to be a bad wife who is able to not only see Husband’s potential by my own and who is unwilling to comprise on any of our dreams. I am happy to be a bad wife who will admit that Husband frustrates, disappoints me and hurts me, he is not perfect, and neither am I. I am happy to be a bad wife who knows that apart from myself, there is no one else I’d rather be with, that Husband is my choice. I’m not a bad wife so that I can wear the badge, although the idea of the badge does appeal to me (I feel like I should start a Bad Wife Club). I’m a bad wife until we find power in the word “wife”, until it loses it dependency and until we stop selling the myth that a woman is only complete with a man.

Castrating Casanova

When I was a child my wily mother would seek a few moments of peace by allowing my sister and I to have a bubble bath. There was nothing I loved more even though the time spent in said bubble bath would almost always be filled with strange and elaborate games sprung from the fertile mind of my sister. Looking back, all those games had but one common thread, that I was the slave girl to a beautiful princess who would demand an endless supply of “tea” (the top of a shampoo bottle filled with bath water and topped up with bubbles). I always wanted to be old enough so that I could be the one shaping the storylines of those games, never realising that when you have an older sister, you’d reach the end of your days before you’d ever be “old enough”. Even though I didn’t shape those stories, I most certainly knew how they would unfold. I too would be a princess and like in every fairy-tale, I would be rescued by a handsome prince. My stories were as dreadfully unimaginative as they were unyieldingly Caucasian, it would be easier to spot an alien than brown skin in any of the fairy tales I’d read as a child. Those were childish games, dreamt of in a childish mind, where men were heroes and women were sweet virgins waiting to be rescued. Except of course, I wonder when it was that we stopped asking men to be the heroes of the story. I wonder when it was that we started raising boys to be men instead.

This has been a difficult blog for me to write, I’ve mulled over the idea for a while, constantly picking it up and then dismissing it because the words I put together don’t fully shape the thoughts hurtling around in my mind. But the idea, I suppose, is a simple one. What happens to the boys raised to be heroes when they have no one to rescue anymore? What happens when those boys raised full of bravado find their masculinity threatened? What happens to the boys who grew up and were unprepared for the world they find themselves in now? The answer isn’t only the increased violence that seems to befall women as they progress in their careers. I heard a female executive speak, with quiet disbelief and horror in her voice, that she was observing a disturbing trend; the higher up women seemed to rise in the corporate world, the angrier their spouses became. To gain one form of power was to lose another. It is a harsh reality that for some men, a more successful partner is emasculating.

The answer isn’t only in the fact that women still downplay their smarts, their abilities so as not to threaten, so as to be accepted, to be liked. My sister (Princess of the Bubble Bath) tells me the other night that she read about a study that showed women of all ages uniformly downplaying their intellect when they were around men. Thoughts of the sheer waste of that capacity, that potential, are heavy and suffocating, to understand the constraint is to imagine a world without it. How could it be true that we’re still playing to the gender stereotypes of our parent’s generation? Is it because we never stopped creating the male hero, the Casanova, the strong yet gentle breadwinner, the provider? Part of me believes that. Part of me believes that we are still raising boys who will grow up and find their place in this world threatened. Those boys will grow up to see powerful women wielding invisible machetes and clutch their nether regions with despair.

Rightly or wrongly, I look to the mother here. I look to the women here, not because men are stupid and incapable of seeing logic. Not because the power struggles that we face daily are our fault or because no man on earth wants to see an end to patriarchy. I look to the women because I am one. I look to women because no one will understand this better than we do. I look to women and I ask, what is it we expect of our boys? Of our men? Do we expect a toxic, old fashioned version of strength? Do we expect to be taken care of? Do we expect to be rescued? Because if we do, we are part of the problem as well. We cannot to continue to propagate the power myth with our words and actions, to our sons, our brothers and our partners, if this is a myth we are seeking to dispel. I write this, and I know full well what happens to some women who challenge the power norms, and by no means do I ever want to trivialise violence or suggest that the one who survives it is somehow responsible for it in any form or way. But for me, there has to be something more here, we have to be able to look deeper and beyond the overt cases of sexism in our society. We have to start thinking deeply about what kind of messages live in our words, said or unsaid, and what clues lie in our everyday actions, conscious or not. Because if we are willing to do so, we continue to grow boys who will struggle and who will fight for significance and power in a world that would seem to take it away from them.

My Mother, My Home

I’m looking for a picture. My mother is a teenager sitting at a dinner table and everything about her is defiant. From the straight line of her forearm, elbow propped on the table, chin cradled in hand, to the look of disdain in her eyes, eyes that stare right through the picture at me. Eyes that burn with such intensity that even in her slouch, she is determined, assertive. It is the slouch of a woman who needs to tend to her wounds while she plots your inevitable demise. The first time I saw that picture, I could not love my mother any more than I did at that moment, not only for who she was to me, but also for who she was when she was a sullen teenager. I loved her then because she was real; flawed, stubborn and beautiful. It was a different love to that I felt as a young girl; then I loved my mother with ferocious fragility, I had never known someone so beautiful or perfect. I loved her like the heart shaped, glass jewellery box on her dresser. It was the kind of love that tempted permanence, for such delicate things are not meant for the hands of a child. To hold onto that love, that idea of perfection, was to grasp it too tightly. It was to break it. And break it I did, because it was the kind of love to be broken, broken into cold, sharp pieces that could never be made whole again. Broken so that the broken mess no longer resembled what I thought love to be. Broken so that in its place, could grow something fierce and unyielding.

I am looking for a memory. The rain came suddenly; heavy drops diving towards the ground with great ceremony. It was the kind of rain that did not bother to darken the sky, it would have never been that inconsiderate. Instead, this joyous rain chose to frolic alongside the sunshine, making the most out of a Summer afternoon, stealing kisses with the gentle rays. I found my mother sitting outside on a low, red bricked wall, her face to the heavens. Her back faced me and even though the rain absorbed the sound of her laughter, you could not mistake the sound of her joy. “What are you doing?” I admonished, testing out my new found adultness. I wonder if I had frowned and smiled at the same time.  Undeterred, she kicked out her feet in front of her and said to me “Haven’t you ever just sat in the rain?” She laughed at my foolishness, as if there was nothing more natural than enjoying the rain. I wanted to join her, but there was such a simple elegance to the picture of her in the rain that I knew that the heavens had opened just for her on that day. I would have my day in the rain, it would be years later, but in that moment, it was enough to watch my mother stripped bare of every hardship she’s ever had to endure. In that moment, it was enough for me learn a lesson in strength, resilience and happiness. In that moment, it was enough for me to stand back and long to be the kind of woman my mother was.

I am looking for a chain. It is an ordinary chain, made of gold; the small links are heavy and cool on my skin. The weight of the chain anchors me, lest I float off to the nightmares circling above my bed. It is my secret talisman that binds me to my mother and to the safety that I need. A nightmare stops mid circle and decides to test the power of the talisman, it leans over me to whisper that tomorrow I shall awake with no mother, that I was never good enough for her, that I was always naughty and getting into trouble. My hand clasps the chain and I shut my eyes, I make it so if my mother where to come back for the chain, she would have to wake me to take it off. I knew that if she woke me, I would convince her to take me wherever she was going, she couldn’t leave if I was awake and if I had her favourite chain around my neck. In my childish mind, full of the great desires of eating two helpings of ice cream instead of one, my plan was fool proof. Even as a child I knew I was too lucky, that she was too good, that no child could have had a better mother. As an adult, I know it to be true that I’ll always be striving to be worthy of her love, of the sacrifices she made for me and I know that I’ll never come close enough.

I am looking for my mother. And I find her in me, I find her in everything good, and in some of the bad, in me. I find her in my laughter, in my strength and in every achievement, I ever had or ever will have. I find her in awe and wonder, I find her in the parts of me that will never be her. I find her in the weird and often random people she mothers apart from the children she bore. I find her in everything I do, I find her in my drive to be more than I am today. I find her in herself, a woman who has grown more beautiful with age and who has taught me time and again what the meaning of strength really is.

My lip gloss smells like whores

Denira’s friend: “Put some lipstick on and we’ll take a picture”

Denira (takes out lip gloss): “All I have is this whore lip gloss”

Denira’s other friend: “Oooh, what does it smell like?”

Denira (applying the lip gloss): “Whores”

I’m still trying to figure out what whores smell like. But if you’re interested, my lip gloss did smell like cherries. While I recall that mildly inebriated post book club discussion with a smile, it got me thinking about using the word whore, or more to the point, calling other women whores. And let’s for a minute also include gangster rap tool version of “hoe” in this as well. If you’re interested, here’s what defines as a “hoe”.

Never since Joseph Hoe invent the gardening implement has it received such worldwide attention

The last one “Your daddy is a hoe” reads poetically to me, it talks of useful father, a father who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, but I digress.

I guess I have no issue with the word if you associate no real meaning to it. Like my whore lip gloss, it was not distilled from whore essence and wearing it did not provide me with a strong desire to solicit sex for money. But I suppose my issue comes in when we call women who we deem to be promiscuous, who have many male friends, who dress sexily, a whore. It’s the callous judgement behind that word that frustrates me, it’s the supposed shamefulness of female sexuality that piques me. We are all sexual beings and what a woman does in her bedroom (or on the kitchen counter or at the back row of the movie theatre) does not necessarily make her a whore. Apologies to all the legit whores who are just trying to make a living, that is your title, you should wear it with pride, the rest of us fakes don’t do the word justice.

It irks me that we teach young girls that it’s shameful to have more than one partner. Be safe, always respect yourself and always be with someone who respects you- isn’t that a better message? And as adults, we constantly do this to other women. Women sexier than we are, prettier than we are, women who get promoted instead of us, are too readily labelled a whore. Just let that women even laugh in the direction of a man and our suspicions are confirmed! “Did you see her laughing with him?” whispered so conspiratorially that she may have well been on her knees before him instead.

With this level of judgement, I wonder is there a law, or a rule maybe, regarding how many men you can be intimate with before you are classified as a “whore”? Maybe you should be able to count your past lovers on the fingers of one hand? But what if you have small hands (size does matter)? And does a thumb count as a finger? These rules come with all sorts of unforeseen consequences and complications so I wonder if it would be best to rather save the judgement for someone more qualified (if you are so inclined, perhaps god- any god will do).