‘If she is a writer of colour, com­pare her skin to food’

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FILTER -

mag­a­zine celebrity sto­ries any more.They al­ways sound the same: what she was wear­ing, and the sur­pris­ing choices she or­dered from the menu in re­la­tion to her body shape.

But that isn’t the big­gest bone I have to pick about the way women are writ­ten about when it comes to their ca­reers. Per­haps you could ar­gue that looks and style are rel­e­vant to how an ac­tor de­liv­ers a per­for­mance (yes, I’m be­ing face­tious), but the same yard­stick seems to be used even when a woman’s pro­fes­sion has noth­ing to do with the way she looks.Take the re­cent pass­ing of Aus­tralian neu­ro­sci­en­tist and best­selling au­thor of Colleen McCul­lough. Her obit­u­ary, pub­lished in be­gins, ‘She was a charmer. Plain of fea­ture and cer­tainly over­weight, she was, nev­er­the­less, a woman of wit and warmth.’ This of a woman who wrote 25 books, with alone sell­ing 30 mil­lion copies. Com­ment­ing on the obit­u­ary,

Stephanie Mer­ritt said, ‘We see it ev­ery­where now, this idea that it’s rea­son­able to judge a woman on her ap­pear­ance first, re­gard­less of her tal­ents.’ I agree, as does Beu­lah Maud Devaney, es­pe­cially when it comes to speak­ing about black fe­male writ­ers. As Beu­lah writes in ‘If she is at­trac­tive, tell your read­ers ex­actly how at­trac­tive, within the first para­graph. If she is a writer of colour, com­pare her skin to food: choco­late, caramel, raisins, brown bread. If she is white, don’t worry about it; your read­ers know what that looks like.’ She mocks the preva­lence of misog­y­nis­tic writ­ing about fe­male writ­ers in gen­eral but it can be ap­plied to any pro­fes­sion. And re­mem­ber the com­men­tary about French ten­nis player Mar­ion Bar­toli not be­ing pretty enough af­ter she won the Wim­ble­don women’s sin­gles ti­tle in 2013? As if her back­hand had any­thing to do with the pro­file of her nose. I un­der­stand the in­cli­na­tion when we dis­cuss a model, but when we speak about au­thors, sci­en­tists, politi­cians, sports stars and even ac­tors, our ca­reers and skills need to be the first and only things that are listed as ac­com­plish­ments or fail­ures. What do you think about the way women are por­trayed in the me­dia? Tweet us

then we go through ex­pe­ri­ences that shock us into con­sid­er­ing new per­spec­tives.Maybe re­al­is­ing that living where you do – and not in a war-torn coun­try like Syria, for ex­am­ple – means you have more to be grate­ful for than you ac­knowl­edge.Think­ing about our own sit­u­a­tions in re­la­tion to oth­ers’,of­ten re­sults in a re­newed sense of hu­mil­ity and ap­pre­ci­a­tion.How of­ten do you wake up in the morn­ing and greet your re­flec­tion in the mir­ror with dis­sat­is­fac­tion? Is the first thing that comes out of your mouth a com­plaint? Do you of­ten find your­self jump­ing on the bandwagon along­side the mis­er­able peo­ple who take plea­sure in point­ing out ev­ery­thing that is wrong with this coun­try? Per­sis­tent neg­a­tiv­ity is ex­haust­ing. In a re­cent study by Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity, it was found that em­ploy­ees who are con­stantly neg­a­tive are more likely to be­come men­tally fa­tigued and ex­pe­ri­ence a de­crease in pro­duc­tiv­ity in the work­place.

For some, it may be dif­fi­cult to start ev­ery morn­ing with a spring in their step. Of­ten, bad news is all around and is­sues like debt, ill­ness and un­happy re­la­tion­ships weigh on us. But th­ese is­sues are not unique to you. They hap­pen to ev­ery­one, and so I won­der: what sep­a­rates the pes­simists from the op­ti­mists? I re­cently be­came com­fort­able in a vor­tex of neg­a­tiv­ity I’d cre­ated for my­self. I com­plained about ev­ery­thing and af­forded my­self a lot of self-pity be­cause I felt my life should be bet­ter.Then some­one I love and re­spect said to me,‘All any of us has go­ing into life,is hope.Why do you feel you de­serve more than that?’That was all it took to make me re­alise I don’t de­serve more than the hope that each new day prom­ises.And see­ing the glass as half-full re­ally is up to me.

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