What does being a girl mean to you?
Our society functions on a set of social rules called gender norms. Gender norms are the codes of conduct that people belonging to a certain gender are to conduct themselves by. We’ve all heard the, ‘a girl doesn’t sit like that’, ‘boys shouldn’t wear pink’, ‘boys don’t cry’, ‘girls are delicate and shouldn’t play soccer with the boys, but rather play with dolls’. These are examples of gender norms. They are also linked to culture. How girls are to behave in one culture could be seen as inappropriate in another culture. Religion also plays a role in how the spiritual leaders from a certain religion define a virtuous woman. Being raised in the Christian faith, for example the Bible speaks of “do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” 1 Peter 3: 3-6.
It is believed that the ideal girl isn’t opinionated and doesn’t speak out of turn. She follows the direction given to her by her parents and then by her husband when she is married. A virtuous woman, wants to get married. Where she will submit to her husband. She is modest and puts the needs of her husband and the household above that of her own. She wants to have children and doesn’t express dissatisfaction. This is the ideal woman.
The influence of gender norms begins even before we are born. For example, toys and outfits for a baby will be chosen based on their sex. Maybe even the aspirations for a babies life will be envisioned by their parents based on a child’s sex. Some may argue that gender norms are outdated and toxic. Rather, we should let children decide for themselves how they want to present themselves to the world. Instead of verbally disciplining them on what is the manner they are expected to behave according to their prescribed gender.
The thing is, these heteronormative rules can be sexist. For example, a woman is to keep the home tidy, cook and basically be the support system for the man as he should be the bread winner. The man’s role is to financially provide for the household, is another gender norm. These norms can be restrictive as, what if the woman has her own career ambitions? Why should her career come second?
“We teach girls to shrink themselvesChimamanda Ngozi Adichie
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls,
“You can have ambition
But not too much”
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man.”
Gender norms also become problematic when they don’t allow for diverse sexual orientations and expressions of sexuality. They’re a breeding ground for homophobia and patriarchal notions. The ideal woman is straight for example and an ideal man isn’t gay. If you are different from the societal norms then some people may think there is something inherently wrong with you. If you don’t conform to the norms you are seen as abnormal. Gender norms encourage conformity and that you must conduct yourself in a way that maintains societies structure. The belief is there is a natural order in our world.
“There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. This movement will never survive; if you join them, you and your entire family will be shunned. At best, you will exist a pariah to be spat at and beaten. At worst, to be lynched or crucified”Cloud Atlas 2012
But what if the power structures of a given society are oppressive? We see this in the prevalence of sexual violence against woman and the LGBTQI community. Rape for example is a form of patriarchal discipline on the bodies of woman and the LGBTQI community. A woman that presents herself as being too free with her body by wearing clothes that a ‘virtuous woman’ would consider as too revealing and therefore provocative, is disciplined by being raped. As the showing of skin is an expression of freedom and sexuality. The queer community faces the phenomenon of corrective rape by toxic men. Where they are targeted and sexually assaulted in order to discipline them to conform to societies heteronormative gender roles.
It is your life and you should live your life in a way that makes you happy. Granted you are not infringing on the rights of others. Therefore, I encourage you to navigate gender norms consciously. Examine them and see whether they are in alignment with your truth, if they are not, then you don’t have to conform to them. For example, you can be a stay at home mother if that is truly what you want to be.
Don’t let society dictate to you how you should present the truth of who you are to the world. Stand in your authenticity. Live with integrity and honor who you are. Let them judge because they also judge themselves inadequate. You can be a feminist and enjoy cleaning and cooking, it’s up to you. As long as you are being truthful to who you are on the inside. You can also not be sure if you even identify as a girl. When you choose the rules, you live by you are happier because you are free. Look at the state the world is in, people are chronically depressed and anxious. These norms haven’t given us the happiness we deserve. Be aware of the reasons why you act the way you do. It’s your life, live by your rules.
I loved my university experience and I am thankful for the opportunity because I know not everyone gets to go. I had a lot of fun, I did my school work but unfortunately, I spent too much time socialising. In uni I only did what was expected of me. I didn’t push myself academically to perform to the best of my ability and that is one of my biggest regrets. If I could speak to my first-year self, I would say yes going out is fun but applying yourself is true satisfaction.
We’ve all heard the ‘don’t forget you are there for a degree’ phrase, and I didn’t. But what I did lose sight of was that there is so much more to university than just an undergraduate degree. I’m not disappointed in myself, I did graduate within the 3 years after all. But I am not comfortable with the mediocrity of my performance. So please don’t be like me, strive for excellence. Go the extra mile.
Participate in campus organisations like debating or Model UN, do some volunteering (Now, I wasn’t completely selfish, I did some volunteering but it was compulsory to get a credit for a subject so I can’t really say it was out of the good of my own heart but I did connect with those precious children), consider tutoring, trust me, you don’t want to come out varsity with your CV looking bleak. The reality is South Africa is currently facing the problem of youth unemployment, and so I suggest you do activities that you love and enjoy but will set you apart from other graduates.
Don’t rest on your laurels as you are capable of greatness. You are not only there for yourself, but you are also there for society. South Africa deserves young leaders that are passionate and determined. I don’t care how smart you think you are, go to class, all of them that is what you are paying for after all. Use the library more often! It’s a privilege to be in a centre of knowledge. Do your daily homework, going to class isn’t enough, do your readings. Cultivate a sense of self-discipline. Take it from me you will be happier for it.
I cherish my university experience, I really enjoyed myself. But when it comes to happiness, remember there is short-term excitement and there is long-term fulfilment. Definitively, have your fun. But developing a healthy work ethic is an essential part of #BossingUp. And please, don’t worry about me I have learned from my mistakes. I am determined to wear my gown a couple of more times, #WatchThisSpace.
This article is dedicated to those who are returning students, and have a desire to improve their ways. These ways could be academically, physically, mentally and just ones overall health. But of course we can all learn from this, even ‘freshers’ or first year students.
The university experience is by far one of the most challenging and tiresome, as returning students we can all detest to this. I think the most challenging aspect about it is trying to find the balance between everything. You obviously want to do well at school, perhaps you’ve already had these visions about your academic success, and you already know what you have to do in order to achieve your ultimate academic goal. But reality doesn’t always unfold the way we plan it, and this can be frustrating. Well, it is for me. It doesn’t unfold the way we planned for it because we constantly have to remember that we are more than just our academic journey. Perhaps if we wanted to be highly successful beings we’d have to have a plan for our mental health and activity, our spiritual journey as well as our physical health… oh let’s not forget balancing our social life. Oh god how do people do it? How? Please share?
What I’ve learnt from those who are ahead in life than I am is how imperative it is to be organized and the best way to be organized is to possess a diary, and start scheduling. Yes, schedule. Become that girl ‘Oh, I would have to check my schedule/diary and get back to you’ it’s 100% okay. I don’t know why we think that we can remember everything that has to be done, the cool thing about a diary or schedule is that you don’t have to actively remember everything, as soon as you know that something has to be ticked off from your to-do list, instantly write it down and your diary will remember it for you. All you have to do now is be disciplined enough to do what you have scheduled to do when you have scheduled to have it done.
Yes, our biggest friend and enemy at the same time has to be unfriended and unfollowed, PROCRASTINATION. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. Why do we procrastinate? It has been found that one of the biggest reasons humans procrastinate is because the workload seems unmanageable, therefore we opt to do something that does not require as much effort, like watching a series, even if we binge watch, it still does not require that much effort. How can we resolve this? Once, a woman I value to be considerably wise told me that ‘you shouldn’t think that everything has to be done all at once, that is utterly impossible, and that is when you will feel overwhelmed, and the result of that is that you will get nothing done. What you should do instead, is make sure that you do one thing at a time, and no day should pass without you haven’t done anything, even if it’s just one thing.’ What you choose to have done will be what you consider to be the most important things to do on your list. You can judge that according to time, like which is more urgent than the other.
Once you have mastered your academic organization and scheduling readings, writing down lecture notes in your own words, that assignment, and that test you will be able to find time to schedule other things that add value to your well-being, like socializing. Socializing is just as important as doing well at school, the only difference is applied energy, and that is why some people get carried away with this. It seems so much easier to just hang out with friends than it does doing anything involving schoolwork. But this is where your priorities are questioned, which is more important and which is more rewarding? How about going out as a reward, and it doesn’t have to be something big all the time, even if you have completed something minor. For example, ‘okay I’ve completed all the readings I intended to have done and made notes, sure I can meet with my girl for a movie now’. Socializing doesn’t always have to be big and loud either, dinner is a sufficient way to get your mind off many other things.
Exercise! I cannot distress this enough, physical exercise is just beneficial in all ways possible. You gain a feeling of happiness; this is due to a change in hormones.
Side note: the minute you sense yourself slipping into a depressive state just head to the gym or for a walk, put your headphones on and break a sweat.
This extra blood flow and release of serotonin (hormone responsible for happiness and satisfaction) will improve your current mental state. Exercising adds agility and motivation in many aspects than just the physical, which is very useful when one wishes to complete anything.
There are some things that we are unaware of that we may have to schedule in but are important to our perseverance and ultimate survival, such a thing is your spirituality, it is your grounding element. Whether religious or simply spiritual it is important to have constant retreats where you tend to nothing else but you and your spiritual journey. This is where the source of your doings lie. This is where your journey begins and is where your journey on this earth ends. Therefore, maintaining a healthy relationship with your spiritual self is crucial to your success as a person.
Like I mentioned before the most challenging aspect about all of these is about finding the balance. But as I’ve listed, once you find your academic balance the rest can follow, in no particular order too, it depends on which you find the most mandatory, but all are equally important. Once there is a sense of organization and you find that you can manage your time better, then there is noting that can stand in your way, you could even get a part-time job, take on more responsibility but you shouldn’t reach a stage where you’re choking. Create a healthy balance.
Gigi Lamayne chats with Zani Tsabedze about her journey in the industry and how she balances her career with her personal life. They chat about what makes her a ‘Bozza’ and how women everywhere can Boss Up in their own lives.