By-Mubina C I am a woman of color the one who is racially profiled and wrongfully convicted are my race, ethnicity, and faith such a threat? why do I wanting the same privilege as you makes you so upset? I am a woman of color who is attacked and falsely accused for starting a pandemic and putting the world in a troubled state if only they knew a much worse disease is hate I am a woman of color who doesn't get a callback or a job interview for this reason, my name does not sound white enough but I keep my head high and stay tough! I am a woman of color who suffers violent crimes if I have the freedom to wear whatever I want why am I viewed as oppressed when I choose to cover myself? Or a flaunter if I am provocatively dressed? I am a woman of color who is exoticized and hypersexualized in American films dominated by white men objectifying and degrading me again and again I am a woman of color who is excluded and having my dreams shattered like my voice never mattered everyone ignoring my troubles you see, white women are not the only ones with tears and struggles
It was the Fall of 2017. I was on the F train going home after a long day at work. It was getting dark, and there weren’t many people in the subway car. After a few stops, the doors opened, and a blonde woman in her early 30’s walked in and sat down few seats away from me. She held this beautiful green handbag.
“Nice purse” I told her. “Thanks” she responded with a smile. We had a 40 minutes long conversation in which one of the questions I asked her was what she did for a living. “I am an escort” she told me. At that time, I had no idea what that was, and there was no WIFI on the train for me to search it up on google.
“what’s that?” I asked with a confused look on my face. “It’s when you get paid to spend time with someone at a social event.” she replied. I was surprised I never heard about people giving money to spend time with them. For a moment, I thought about quitting my retail job and becoming an escort myself. “That’s so cool! how much do you make, if you don’t mind me asking?” I know it was a personal question I don’t usually ask people, but this was the first time I learned such a job exists. “around $400-$700 per hour.” I was extremely shocked. After almost breaking every bone in my body and putting my mental health at risk, that was the amount I made in a one-week paycheck. I have made many friends and spent time with them, but the most I had gotten was a Starbucks coffee.
Before I could start asking her more questions, she cut me off by telling me that being an escort is somewhat like prostitution. At times escorts are paid to have sex with the person they are accompanying. She looked a little embarrassed and continued by saying, “I don’t tell people because they are likely to judge.” I understood what she was trying to say, and it was true. I asked her why she told me a “hijabi woman” wasn’t she afraid I might say something or judge her?
” Yeah. But you seem nice,” she responded. I thanked her and changed the topic before it could get more awkward. We started talking about college courses, and she informed me she had a degree in graphic design. I didn’t understand and had to question her why she worked as an escort after having a degree. She said it was a quick way to give her brother financial help, who was fighting cancer. Her brother was the only family she had. Her mother passed away when she was a teenager, and her father abandoned their family right after her brother was born. She did work as a graphic designer for a year or so. Unfortunately, most of her salary went into paying rent and bills. She made more money as an escort in NYC than two proper jobs and overtime.
She told me many of her childhood friends were Muslim. They would bring her Indian sweets during the month of Ramadan. Some of them she was still friends with and had them on Facebook. “you are a strong woman, and your brother is lucky to have a sister like you.” I assured her. After volunteering at a senior center with many cancer patients last summer, I wanted to help her. I wrote a list of organizations that give cancer individuals financial assistance and ways to get it. She was thankful and relieved that someone was willing to help and not pass judgment. Her stop came, and we said our goodbyes. That was the last time I saw her. When she left, I kept thinking about the struggles and offensive comments this woman must have been facing.
At times we are so quick to judge others we ignore to ask what’s the reason and how they are coping with that problem. Even though sex work is shunned and many reasons why that is. We are all human beings who require emotional support and respect. Someone’s life choices shouldn’t be the reason why they don’t deserve that. That day was the first time I had a conversation with a sex worker. Talking to her made me realize that society looks down on prostitution but not the people paying for it. What about the males who exploit and abuse these women? Shouldn’t they be held accountable?.
Sex work has been practiced since the beginning of time and is illegal in many countries. After society and religion came into existence, governing systems were designed. Whatever disturbs this system, such as prostitution, is criticized. The community believes that prostitutes sell their moral value for money and don’t hold dignity. After many decades, men have never been responsible for their sexual behavior, but women still are. In many cultures, a woman’s body is referred to as a temple and is supposed to guard it and prevent male sexual behavior.
Prostitution may be forced or a choice, but it is our responsibility as decent human beings to not judge and try to understand why and how they are in that profession. Try providing help and not ridicule them. If you feel someone is sex trafficked, don’t overlook it and reach out to authorities.
At least every woman has been told once in her life to “act like a lady” by her mother or older women in her family. It is a term used to control and discipline young girls during the years. Simply it means not to do anything that doesn’t look ladylike in front of society. Acting like a lady has to do with your etiquette. How a female should behave and act in the presence of others.
Where did the word “lady” come from?
The term lady was developed in the 19th century and was the equivalent of gentleman. It used to describe only women of high social class or status. The women during that time practiced acting more feminine and classy so suitors would give them attention. The word “lady” itself means strength and respect but has been misused to disparage women. When a girl is told to “act like a lady,” she is described as not equal and having less power than men. People who tell young girls to act feminine are basically saying girls can’t act a certain way or do things because of their gender. Gender stereotypes like this hold women back, making them believe they cannot succeed in life because of their sex. It causes as much harm as telling young boys to “man up” and not share their feelings.
The problem with “Boys will be Boys”
We have been using stereotypes throughout history to control one gender’s behavior and not the other’s. “Boys will be boys,” for example, has always been used to excuse poor behavior in males for years. The phrase developed in 1589 Britain originating from a Latin proverb, “children are children and do childish things.” however, like the term “lady” was misused to discredit the female gender, the word “children” was switched to “boys” to excuse the attitude and actions of men all ages. The idea that aggression and bad behavior are something boys are born with and expressing that behavior is normal does wrong. Unfortunately, “Boys will be boys” has been used to justify serious offenses like sexual assault (Steubenville 2012 Rape case). The phrase leads boys to assume that they are free to do as they please without facing the consequences because of their gender.
What can we do?
Gender stereotyping has been harmful and prevents both men and women from developing their personal and professional abilities. It lowers self-esteem leading to depression and anxiety. We should try to eliminate gender stereotypes and educate others about its damaging effects. Talk and train parents to avoid sexist behavior and raise their boys and girls the same way. Help our children understand stereotyping, and if they feel being treated differently because of their gender, they should address it.
Written by- Mubina C
Women are made to believe that we can have it all if we work hard enough from a very young age. It doesn’t matter how many hardships one faces. She should never quit because giving up is failing. When we grow up, we realize that having it all is a lie and sets us up to fail to make us feel worthless. When you ask a woman what she wants to achieve in life, she will give you a list of goals (even if many of the goals sound unrealistic). They are determined to accomplish every one of them, even if that means putting their mental and physical health in danger only because they don’t want to look like a failure in others’ eyes.
“According to a 2015 survey from Marshalls, ‘85% of American women ages 22-54 who have goals feel confident that they will achieve them in the next year.’ Which is hard if you are juggling four different goals on average. We ladies need to understand that, at times, it’s ok to let things be even after knowing we could or can’t do the task. Even if we have failed before at something, we should not be afraid to fail again because we learn valuable lessons from those failed attempts.
Just because society has expectations from us doesn’t mean we need to fulfill them, and if we decide to do so, it’s not necessary; we have to get it right on the first try. We work so hard to show the world how perfect we are when in reality, we are scared that we might fall short of ourselves. You could be working full time, be a stay-at-home mom, a college student; each one of us has a breaking point. At times we are overwhelmed, tired, and need to put everything aside to take care of our mental health. That is what we should be caring about rather than mentally hurting ourselves to accomplish every single goal in life. So do whatever it takes to put your mental health first, like meditation, reaching out to a friend, joining a self-esteem support group, doing your favorite hobby. It’s not the end of the world if you couldn’t accomplish some of your goals. It’s alright if you don’t have a set of goals you want to achieve. JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE YOU COULD DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN YOU SHOULD.