Exceeding Expectations

Esther

Sometime today, a friend posted a question on Facebook: “To all the women on my friends list: What do you celebrate about being a woman?”

I almost answered with “The prerogative to have a little fun!” Yes, I shamelessly nicked that from Shania Twain’s song called Man! I Feel like a Woman. I decided not to, though, because it didn’t sound witty enough. Besides, I would’ve preferred an answer I came up with on my own.

Now that I have more time to think, what I celebrate about being a woman is that we get more credit when we do something right because people don’t usually expect us to. Let me elaborate.

Yesterday I wrote (I quoted, more likely) an article about Zoe Smith taking a stand against derogatory comments directed towards her, mostly at her physical appearance as a weight lifter. She’s been one of the most impressive Olympians, but most of all, I admire her courage to speak up.

She’s not the first female sportsperson to experience gender inequality. I still remember clearly when two Sky broadcasters made derogatory remarks on a female assistant referee called Sian Massey, on air, at Liverpool vs Wolves game in January last year. I remember it clearly because I was so upset especially when she didn’t make any incorrect calls during the game. Even if she had, it would’ve had nothing to do with her being a female. I am a football fan and I’ve seen male referees make countless ridiculously unacceptable (in a nutshell, wrong) decisions, and people actually leave their manliness out of the discussion. Why should a female referee get boo-ed just because of her gender?

That was when I started having soft spots for Kenny Dalglish. He wrote an article in which he said, “But it won’t take long for [Andy Gray and Richard Keys] to get back on the television screens somewhere in the world. It’s the career of Sian Massey we should be concerned about. She doesn’t deserve to be sidelined, not even by the people who are meant to be protecting her.”

I couldn’t agree more. We need more people like Mr. Dalglish. When I read his article, I couldn’t help but make a mental picture of Ben the Cow from Barnyard saying, “A strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others.”

Speaking of strength, I’m now thinking of a personal friend from Bangladesh who continuously shows how much she cares about her community despite the circumstances through her work. Her name is Farzana Hossen and she’s a photographer. A brilliant one. But it’s not her brilliance that I find admirable. It’s the extra effort she makes to get to where she is now, an accomplished young photographer.

Each photo she produces contains a story. I can never forget how much she loves her country. And her culture, too.

Apparently culture is her favorite topic. She tells me a lot about her country’s perspective on gender issues, but I particularly recall the time she seemed to be troubled by one certain issue: forced marriage.

She once shared a story about one young lady who had been forced to marry an older man. Farzana paid frequent visits to her house and would continue to do so while taking photos of her. Her reason was to expose such injustice in public, and if possible, stop the practice of forced marriage.

And not too long ago I received a message from her saying her work had been showcased at the Guardian Gallery, Kings Place, London until July 22, 2012. This time, she surprised me by capturing the other sides of physically impaired people. Her people. When I watched the video, I couldn’t string proper sentences together. It was beautiful.

That said, I think I have found an answer to the earlier question. What do I celebrate about being a woman? That we have what it takes to exceed expectations. If they can do it, so can I. So can you. Now all we have to do is figure out a way to exceed expectations without missing the fun, in honor of Shania Twain (it’s our prerogative). Hey, she speaks for generations.

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