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Being a shero in a hero’s world

  • Published at 12:00 pm January 2nd, 2017
Being a shero in a hero’s world

As a young child, I have seen my mother work constantly while also looking after my sister and me.

My mother worked as a teacher, at other times in the airline industry, but my father, a doctor, was the sole breadwinner of the family, and hence, the one in a position of authority.

Yet, she never seemed to be going up the career ladder, never curving the direction for her own development, never responsible to spend money on the family, and maybe never feeling the need to.

But somehow, both my parents had managed to instill a strong message in me. From a very young age, I knew I had to earn a living for myself, to be self-dependent. I don’t know how I got to this decision, but I knew I needed to stand on my own two feet, small as they were then, and make my own destiny.

Slowly, as I started my own career, started working in organisations that presented themselves to be “women-friendly,” I realised how, although the percentage of women and men could very well be 40-60, women holding decision making roles or positions of authority were such few in number that they could easily be less than a handful.

I saw how those few women, who held decision-making roles, had to fight two battles constantly.

Battles that their male counterparts certainly didn’t; to match up to the expectation of family and friends who perceived her to be the ultimate multi-tasker, equivalent to goddess Durga with multiple hands, and secondly, and more importantly, the battle of convincing her colleagues (both male and female) that she really did deserve this position, that she didn’t reach where she is today by sleeping with her supervisor, or by flattering his male ego.

To be a shero, rather a hero, in a man’s world is certainly not top priority in every woman’s list of to-dos, and neither is it achievable. Rather, what is achievable is to play the part of a heroine, the damsel in distress rescued by her knight in shining armour, or the part of the promiscuous woman, the girl gone bad

To be a shero, rather a hero, in a man’s world, is certainly not a top priority in every woman’s list of to-dos, and neither is it achievable. Rather, what is achievable is to play the part of a heroine, the damsel in distress rescued by her knight in shining armour, or the part of the promiscuous woman, the girl gone bad.

The hero is the man who stands out because he has given birth to a nation, fought wars, or simply rescued a woeful girl from the claws of a lion.

These very dissimilar situations “deserve” and receive equal appreciation. Contradictorily, who remembers the suffrage movement in the late 1800s that resulted in women gaining voting rights, or brilliant playwrights and poets like Toni Morrison who very poignantly highlighted women’s issues, or more recently, the brave and phenomenal Licia Ronzulli who tied her baby in a sling and carried her to the parliament?

Coming back to my previous point, this percentage of women, (who are less than a handful) who have decision-making roles within organisations, what is to become of them?

How long will they continue to justify their positions and make sure to not step on someone else’s (read: Men) over-sized egoistical toes?

I don’t know about you, but I will think twice or maybe more before taking up such roles in “female-friendly organisations.” I would rather opt to remain happy where I am, doing what I am doing in my own small world, dealing with my petty problems, being my own kind of feminist, choosing some battles and letting go of others -- and that is my choice. Because someone told me that I get to have a choice.

What’s yours?

Syeda Samara Mortada is a development practitioner and a strong advocate of gender rights.

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