AN OPEN LETTER TO MY BOSS ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
At first, when I saw your mail asking me to submit an entry, I was ecstatic! A competition about women – challenging gender bias? Wow! But as I began to think about doing it, anxiety began to set in; adding to my other daily battles. So instead, I thought to write you a letter about an average day in my life as a female graphic artist.
When I wake up in the morning, there’s really nothing to remind me that I’m female. Oh, I forgot – except it’s that time of the month. I mean, it comes up every 21 days or less, and lasts for three days or more. That’s pretty average if you ask me…
On such days, I begin to go through my wardrobe, looking for an outfit that is an ally with the colour red, yet is corporate enough and still expressive of the creative that I am. And that is the first challenge – being a female graphic artist means I need to be able to get up and move (tools in my backpack) and that mostly requires trousers, sneakers, and tops. But I love dresses too. Pretty, cute dresses. I adore pink (with emphasis on the ‘adore’).
However, I have learned to wear trousers and top more often; not just because they are comfortable, but because I have met people who look down on me or ignore what I do simply because to them, I have to be dressed as a ‘tomboy’ to be a graphics artist.
Fast forward to me in the office, crippled by mood swings and cramps, but having to act normal because “menstruation” is such a sacred word. But that’s not the height of it. It is knowing that in my 4years plus of designing, I have never physically met or worked with a fellow female graphics designer – let alone had one as my team lead. And oh the things I’m missing out on! There is no role model to show me all that is possible; no one to understand what being a woman on the job feels like; plus I don’t even get to enjoy girly relatable on-the-job jokes. But then again, some people will say I should be thankful.
They talk about female bosses being angry, fierce, difficult to please, and the list goes on. This brings me to the third issue; stereotypes.
Isn’t that what this year’s International Women’s Day is about? Challenging the many hasty generalizations and stereotypical statements which have existed for so long. For instance, the other day I was brainstorming with a colleague and he said “phew, you can never please women.” I started to ask what the conversation had to do with pleasing women and he repeated the statement. And you know what? I didn’t fight it. Because first, I was reserving my energy for the work I had to do and secondly because I knew it was more of a handed-down mindset – of which stealing five minutes from my office time will do nothing to change.
“Women are complex/complicated”
“Women have problem”
“Women are too emotional” – and when you are not, you are “manly” (talk about pleasing people!)
It’s a long list. Just ask the lady beside you, she probably remembers her top ten receipts without flinching.
At the close of work, I pick up my bag and head home but I am not excited about the trip home. Rather, I look forward to actually getting home; doors locked, safe and in one piece. But who knows what I shall be called today? Yesterday, I was called “big breast”, the other day, “my wife” and once, a man walking opposite me said he wishes he could grab my breast and squeeze it. Yet, the ones that call at you are even better than those who actually reach out to grab you. Even decent, looking working class men in clean rides. You will be surprised! And when you complain? They say they are appreciating ‘God’s work’. They even wonder why you are complaining. Others even question if that is not what every woman wants.
I can go on and on about all the things that make living as a woman feel like a daily battle. Nevertheless, I still think baby girls are cute. I still look forward to having one and raising a woman who is better at winning in this world – while we’re still changing it, one day at a time.
In the meantime, I hope you share this letter with the person next to you – male and female alike. I hope it helps. But most importantly, I hope it lends a voice to the many whispers of women across the world.
A pretty graphics artist.