Emma looked into the bathroom mirror and repeated. “Your disability does not make you weak.” for the twentieth time. This was going to be her 3rd interview in a week. She knew she was capable. She finally felt empowered to take a stand for herself after years of being bullied and pitied.
Emma suffered from language impairment and developmental disability. Stuttering and ADHD. But that didn’t stop Emma from achieving all her goals. She graduated with a Masters’s degree in Child Psychology with a 3.5 GPA. She was on the Swim team in H.S. and the Chess club. She was an A+ student. But, despite that, she felt she was not good enough due to her low self-esteem. She didn’t have many friends. If she had a problem, she would talk to her older cousin Alexis about it. Her parents were doctors and busy with work most of the time.
In America alone, 1 out of 5 women has a disability. That is 36 million women in the U.S. Women with disabilities are more likely to experience gender-based violence and discrimination.
Emma didn’t land that job interview. Even with her credentials. That rejection turned out to be the best for her. She still wanted to use her knowledge for the better and volunteered to help children that suffer from speech impairment. Emma Landed a job at the same therapy center she volunteered. In 2019 she specialized in working with children suffering from speech impairment and psychological health problems. She is moving on to start her center in 2024.
Emma’s story helped me understand that even with our disabilities, we are privileged. To get help 24/7 anywhere in America. And to use that privilege to help the less fortunate. As a type 1 diabetic since age 12 and suffering from ADD. I have donated to charities in 3rd world countries that help children suffering from diabetes with supplies and diabetes education.
So if you have a disability, be it physical or psychological, don’t be ashamed to accept it. Overcome it. And be an Emma.
Many changes occur in a women’s body during pregnancy. After delivery, women go out of their way to get their bodies the way they used to. From postpartum diet to daily exercise. Many even go to extreme levels like surgery. But we fail to realize that some things might not ever be the same. For example, your stretch marks might take years to go away. The days you stayed out late to party with your friends will be missed. You might wonder how your life went from mixing drinks to making a bottle for your newborn every few hours. That postpartum back pain may continue until a decade. YEP, A DECADE!. Your daily schedule has now changed for someone else. And it’s going to stay like that for some time.
You might scroll through your old prepregnancy photos and want to cry. And it is entirely alright to shed a tear. Our body has done so much. Science says a human body can bear up to 45 dels (units) of pain, yet a mother feels 57 dels (units) of pain when giving birth. Even after the baby is born, we are exhausted and sleep-deprived, slowing down our recovery process. Becoming a problem that now starts affecting our mental state.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION
One in seven women suffers from PPD (postpartum depression). Symptoms can appear anytime during pregnancy to the first 12 months after childbirth. Suicide accounts for about 20% of postpartum death and is the second leading cause of mortality in postpartum women. Black and Hispanic women are more likely to get PPD and less likely to get treatment. Did you know that there are 7 types of mood disorders that a woman can experience from pregnancy to postpartum?. So a mother can suffer in silence with a disorder and won’t even know she has it.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. I myself have met with a counselor while being pregnant. Even if you don’t suffer from PPD there is a positive feeling you get just by sharing your thoughts with others.
Pregnancy and motherhood are not a picnic. And it is unfortunate that many don’t give attention to it. There will be struggles that mothers need to overcome. For working and single mothers, it may be more challenging than others. Speak to your gynecologist and contact online support groups for assistance. Don’t feel guilty to take time out for yourself to love yourself so you can make a healthy and positive environment for you and your baby.
I parked my car in my workplace parking lot and took a deep breath looking through my updated schedule on my phone. It would be an overwhelming day, and I was trying my best to prepare myself mentally. I told myself I wasn’t the only one. People work to keep a roof over their heads, not because it’s entertaining. I had even talked about this with my friends who told me, “Jobs aren’t supposed to be enjoyable. Favoritism and discrimination happen in every workplace. Suck it up.” That is definitely what I did for some time. One can take legal action for being discriminated not for being a victim of favoritism.
A few months ago, I started working at this ABA therapy center and had already seen enough favoritism and sexism. It’s not like it was my first time witnessing individuals being biased at work. I was disappointed because I earned my undergraduate degree in Psychology and chose to be in this profession, constantly desiring to help others. But felt like this job put my mental health on the line. I had registered for my RBT exam in a week and was on the verge of quitting.
I asked my coworker, hired one week after me, about his schedule and his paired clients. He was paired with a different client for the week, many of them with mild autism that didn’t show much problematic behavior. In comparison, I had the same two individuals with ASD and severe complex behavior for four months every day. Yet, I never complained and was attentive throughout all my therapy sessions. I came to work each day with a positive attitude and even asked my employer for feedback on my sessions. But, I knew I was putting all my energy into something that wasn’t helping me grow. Whenever a monthly therapist competency assessment was scheduled, I was paired with a child I had never worked with before—consistently scoring no more than an 80 because I didn’t know the client’s program well.
I remember calling out sick for a day, and the RBT that took care of my client complained the next day because the client scratched and bit her. So it was decided by the BCBA not to pair her with him again. I went through the very thing but was told to “reposition myself” so I wouldn’t get hurt. A few other BT were going for their RBT exam, but I sensed that I was the only one being treated unjustly. Whenever I talked about an idea, it was ignored. If it was a work-related issue, I was given a “puppy face” and told to “hang in there.” I was good, just not good enough to take up a new task.
I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Was it because I wasn’t gifting my schedule coordinator fancy gifts?! or complementing or kissing up to the BCBA? Maybe it was not staying late and gossiping about the client’s parents with other coworkers?. So I googled to see if others in the same occupation were having the same difficulty. I was startled at the number of people commenting on a Reddit post about this very problem, some much worse. I scanned through the post, looking for a solution. I did find a few. I did talk to my employer regarding what I was facing. It somewhat got better, and I didn’t feel so burned out. I passed my RBT exam and still work at the same center part-time. Not because I NEED a job but because I like working with my clients and positively impacting their lives. Even if there are hundreds of reasons to quit, find one reason that makes you stay. And my clients and appreciating parents were my reason. I am still searching for better opportunities that will help me improve too. However, I realized that no job would be perfect, but we need to be to maintain professionalism and integrity.
Let’s face it favoritism has taken place in at least one workplace you have been employed, or it might be every. You work your behind off day and night only for Dena, who gives your boss ‘surprise’ gifts to receive the next project. Favoritism in the workplace is toxic and illegal, yet it is still taking place. In a survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and Georgetown University researchers, about 75 percent of the survey respondents say they have witnessed favoritism, while 23 percent admit they practice favoritism. In addition, 83% agreed that unfairness leads to worse decisions in promoting people.
Either you can ignore it or talk to your manager about it (I highly doubt they will do anything). Or you can start pointing it out. Let others know how you feel. But if there comes, a time work stress starts to affect your mental health. So then, take some time off for yourself. Maintain your sense of self.
After reading “Joy of living” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, I realized individuals can have everything they want in life yet still be miserable. scientifically, happiness is a mood that is a temporary state of well-being, and in happiness, we feel joy, an emotion that comes and goes. At times we find ourselves looking for happiness in objects, places, and other people but not within. I could be sad and spend the whole day with my loved ones and feel happy for the time being to escape being disappointed and lonely. But after it’s over, I suddenly feel depressed again and try distracting myself with materialistic things. My escape from hurt would be a book, yoga, shopping, or watching a movie.
If I am not happy all the time, does that make me depressed?
Like many other women, I have had an attachment to worldly life. Such as social media, hours would go by, but I couldn’t put down my phone, and when I do put it away, I would turn towards another technological device. I wanted to keep my Instagram and Snapchat stories updated but not my mental health. For me, Social media was a way to cope with my mental health. Looking at the lives of others and picturing myself in their shoes. It wasn’t that I couldn’t go out and have fun I just didn’t want to. At times I did the same things repeatedly to get a better result. EVERYTHING I did had to be perfect. If I couldn’t get it right after several tries, it would leave me feeling anxious and upset, affecting my self-esteem. I would work extra hours, avoiding what was stressing me out. Sometimes I would wonder if what I was going through was depression or another disorder?. So I did what many South Asians find taboo, finally made an appointment with a counselor.
The ups and downs
At the end of the chapter, the author has told his readers to make peace with their minds and stop doubting their value. Which is something similar to what my counselor told me. Happiness is a positive emotion that we respond to AFTER enduring painful feelings. Overcoming our stress and worries is what makes us grow. All humans experience up and downs in life; it becomes a problem when we neglect to seek help for our troubled mental state. If you feel depressed, don’t be ashamed to reach out to someone you know or a mental health practitioner.
I was waiting in the La Madeleine Bakery and Café queue when I noticed a man in his mid 20’s approach two women seated at a table. One of the women had light neutral blonde hair and was wearing a bright yellow dress complimenting her green eyes. She looked beautiful and seemed pretty tall. He requested to get her number which she politely declined. Before he left, he paid the barista for the young woman’s coffee and breakfast with his phone number on a piece of napkin. The lady, though, seemed a bit annoyed than appreciative after finding out the gentleman had made her payment and left his number even after her rejection. I didn’t blame her for being upset.
This incident I had just witnessed made me question if being pretty was a privilege or a curse. However, I do agree that being physically attractive does have many benefits. For example, a good-looking person has a higher chance of getting a job, a date, less severe sentences, and store discounts. But being attractive has as many downsides.
“ALL THE GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD”
Not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so. For example, Lauren, a Doctoral Candidate of Clinical Psychology, has stated that “When someone is deemed pretty, they are presumed to be hardworking, kind, and funny- you name it.” People that are considered attractive are compelled to always live up to high standards. Psychologists believe the Halo Effectis why we subconsciously assume people’s appearances reflect their overall characters. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that physically attractive individuals are perceived as more “sociable, dominant, sexually warm, mentally healthy, intelligent, and socially skilled” (Feingold, 1992). Like in South Asia, when a person is attractive and well mannered, he/she is viewed as ‘smart.’ Girls who are lighter skin are treated favorably and get more employment opportunities and marriage proposals.
“MAYBE ITS MAYBELLINE, OR MAYBE ITS A FILTER”
Social media has made it more damaging for young women in this generation. Instagram and Snapchat filters that alter our facial features have messed with our perception so intensely that we believe that is how we should look in reality. So when one of our pretty friends uploads a selfie, we can’t help but compare ourselves to them harming our mental health. It has become a competition for young girls to be seen as attractive and become famous. For this reason, women are more likely to have low self-esteem and be lonely. An Article in 2018 stated the females have been getting plastic surgery done to look more like their Snapchat filter, known as ‘Snapchat dysmorphia.’ Around 55% of facial plastic surgeons report seeing patients seeking operations to look better in selfies. Teen girls desire to be like the models and influencers they see on social media, even if they are beautiful the way they are.
BEAUTY VS THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
Aside from friends being envious of you, good-looking young girls are likely to be sex trafficked. In a recent article by Tina Frundt, during slavery, girls of color with lighter complexion known as ‘Fancy girls’ were sold for sex at a five times higher price than those enslaved for labor. Sex trafficking of young and attractive women of color to white males is still taking place in many countries. Unfortunately, only a few of those men are held accountable and put behind bars.
Research has also shown that people are more likely to believe sexual harassment claims by young and attractive women who act more feminine. For example, the University of Washington asked a group of people to draw two women, one likely to be sexually harassed and another who wouldn’t be in such a situation. The result showed that looks matter even in harassment allegations. Furthermore, there is physical attractiveness bias in the legal system. Good-looking women serve fewer sentences while unattractive defendants get severer punishments.
IT’S EASIER WHEN YOU ARE PRETTY
In my opinion, being pretty is a privilege that society needs to accept. Attractive people are more readily accepted into society while others have to work for it. But, yes, there are a few disadvantages with pretty privilege, life is not always rainbow and ice-cream. People need to stop being bias and understand that looks don’t define a person’s character and that beauty comes from within.
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.
It was 9 A.M on a Wednesday. I was drinking my morning tea scrolling through TikTok when I came across a heartbreaking video of a young Indian woman named Ayesha Banu recording her last few words before taking her life. The suicide was due to her husband’s domestic abuse, whom she married in 2018. She said her finals goodbyes with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. She sounded as if she lost all hope in humanity and was fighting a battle she would never be able to win. If only people had reached out and shown her support, she might still have been alive, and her story would have been something else that her future generation of women could have learned from. Her final call was to her husband, who told her “she should kill herself and send him the video” rather than stopping her from taking such a harsh step. As tragic as this looks, this was not the first dowry death in India, and if people don’t change their mindsets, unfortunately, it won’t be the last. About 20 women die daily in India due to harassment over dowry, either by murder or made to commit suicide. From 2005 to 2019, the death amounted to more than 7.1 thousand. Many times arrests are not made due to the lack of evidence, and criminals walk freely to find their next dowry victim.
“Why take your life? Why not leave the abusive marriage?”
To answer this question, we must first understand how the dowry system came into existence. The dowry systems started a century before the partition of India and Pakistan. That is why the dowry problem resides not just in India but all South Asia. The rich business class handlers started by giving their property as inheritance to their sons, and some of that amount was given as a gift to their daughters. Dowry was seen as a way for the family to give women their share. The dowry system has always been complex and deep-rooted. During the Colonial rule, it was the only way to get married because the British had made the practice mandatory. As time went on, it became more of a demand from the groom’s side than a gift. A few of the reasons dowry is demanded 1. it has been going on for generations in the groom’s side of the family, and no one is willing to break the cycle due to family pressure 2. The groom’s parents have spent a lot on their son’s upbringing, from paying for his education to helping him get a house. After marriage, that luxury lifestyle will be shared by his wife. 3. The groom’s side needs to maintain a status in front of relatives and friends. The more educated and wealthy the groom, the more money he will demand, the more he will display.
The Dowry prevention act of 1961 made it illegal to demand and receive dowry in India and recommended imprisonment of a minimum of 5 years. Even if the groom’s side does not demand dowry, at times, the bride’s side pays it to show pride and a symbol of social status. Instead of downright asking for dowry, the groom’s family may ask for it by saying, “We don’t want dowry; you may give your daughter any gift you want.” and just like that, the burden of dowry is placed on the parents. So legally, it will no longer be dowry but a gift given by the bride’s parents to the couple. Even if the dowry system is a threatening reality, the girl’s parents have no choice but to give dowry due to the fear that no-one will marry their daughter if they don’t.
The majority of females that are victims of dowry find it a little easier to stay in an abusive marriage than to leave. Since divorce is still taboo in the South Asian community, divorced females are often looked down upon. One reason for that is in South Asian communities; family reputation is put first. South Asians have closely-knit communities, which have a huge influence, and their opinions matter. When a daughter gets divorced, she is believed to have shamed the family’s reputation and lost respect. It’s actually worse for women seeking divorce while having paid a huge dowry amount. The husband doesn’t want her unless she brings more dowry. The girl’s parents abandon her because they don’t want to hurt their family’s reputation. The girls’ parents often tell their daughters to stay in an abusive marriage because of the amount of dowry that is already given, which cannot be taken back. They don’t want to be humiliated in front of their community and go through a difficulty of financial struggle at the same time. This leaves the girl with no emotional and financial support.
What can be done to help fix this issue?
If you or someone you know is being harassed for dowry, you could reach out to many mutual and legal support groups that help. We need to educate our daughters and help them become financially independent. If you as a parent are saving for your daughter’s dowry and not investing in her education, you are putting a price tag on your child, and she will never be able to defend herself. Getting rid of the dowry system can help fix many other problems, such as female infanticide. If possible, it’s better to get a prenuptial agreement before marriage and always know your marital rights. In India, Hindu marriages don’t consist of a contract, unlike Muslims. However, a prenup is still governed by the Indian Contract Act and has as much sanctity as other contracts, oral or written. Parents also need to realize you can always fight to get your money back, but nothing will bring back your daughter once she is gone. Stop worrying about what others might think and support your daughter who needs it the most. It’s about time we break the toxic cycle of dowry and show love and respect to our women and not put a price on them.
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.