I’ve got a Friend in Me: The diaries of my journey to self-loving

***It’s a Saturday night. I’m at my friend’s house and we’re getting ready to go out. “Aaah I look so fat and ugly!” my friend suddenly blurts out, her arms flailing frantically in the air as she wrestles with her dress in a desperate attempt to get it off her decidedly ‘too fat’ body. “There is no way I can wear this dress out tonight, I look like a fat old frump,” she exclaims, flinging the dress onto a heaped pile of clothing that she’s already deemed unfit. 

“Yes, you’re too fat,” I encouragingly egg her on. “You’re probably better off just wearing a tent or an XXXL t-shirt to cover that blob of a body. You shouldn’t have eaten that second slice of cake at lunch. Why the hell did you have a second helping? As if one piece wasn’t already pushing it. Can’t you just learn some self-control, other people can say no. Why can’t you? No wonder you look so fat and ugly,” I add, just to make her feel better about herself knowing that I share her same sentiments regarding her body image, because don’t we all want to feel understood and accepted?***

The above scenario never actually happened. Well, of course, it didn’t! Because any half decent friend with half a brain would NEVER respond like that to someone they care about.

In real life if I happened to be the friend on the receiving end of one of my friend’s verbally violent self-loathings I would physically fly across the room, shake her back to reality and knock all those nonsensical thoughts out of her head.

It does happen in real life. I’ve had countless experiences of witnessing similar ‘self-depreciating’ dialogues, and more often than not, I’ve been the subject of my own self-destructive criticisms, as I’m sure almost everyone has.

The only difference I’ve noticed is the way I respond depends largely on who the subject is. When the subject is a friend (or anyone other than myself for that matter) my reaction is characteristically one you would expect from a friend: to exert every inch of my power to counteract her negativity with reaffirming positive statements.

“Nonsense! You’re beautiful, don’t say such rubbish about yourself!”

That is the most likely response to fall out of my mouth before my brain has time to catch on to the words I’ve just spoken. It’s the most natural counteraction I know. As a friend, my main objective is to remedy her blatant attempt at self-harm; to defend her against herself, the same way I would stand up for her against a bully.

But when I am the one hurling verbal abuse at the face staring back at me in the mirror, I have to confess to possessing double standard. I guess you can call me a hypocrite because I’m not the same friend to myself that I would be to someone else.

It dawned on me one morning while I was enacting this exact scene; a show-stopping performance of my internalized, angry soliloquy addressed to the self that had failed again:

Failed to look a million dollars on a student budget; Failed to stay away from the junk food, so now I have a big fat pimple on my chin, plus a desperate need of a new full-piece swimsuit because I’ve failed to make it to the gym and therefore flunked all prospects of that ‘summer-ready-bikini-body that is being flashed in front of my eyes from every direction and every second page of every women’s magazine.

Oh, and on top of all that here I am hating myself, so I’ve clearly failed dismally at that ‘self-love’ concept that is preached through the pages of the same magazines (usually on the opposite page of the “three easy steps to a bikini-body” guide, because you know, that really helps hit the message home harder.)

Eventually, I stopped my taunting tantrum to take a breath while thinking up more ammunition to (figuratively) slap me in the face with. But then I noticed those eyes; my eyes, staring back at me, had a human quality that didn’t match my demonic utterings.

“Why are you trying so hard to tear yourself down?” I finally let the vulnerable voice inside me speak. I realised in that moment that if my inner voice had belonged to anyone outside my body, I would never dream of entertaining such soul-crushing comments.

Why can’t I show the same amount of respect, patience, and understanding to myself that I so easily offer to others?  This simple act of self-reflection exposed my transgressions in transparency.

We are raised up on the mantra of “treating others the way you would like to be treated.” But perhaps it’s time to revisit the teaching that slides so easily off our tongue without a second thought. What would happen if we dared to play the motivational tape backward:

What if we dared to treat ourselves the way we treat others?

When phrased like that the meaning largely stays the same, but it opens up a new lens for interpretation.  We are forced to first reflect on how exactly we treat ourselves. I would argue that if there is an imbalance between the way we treat ourselves in relation to others, we risk being categorized as either narcissistic or self-abusive.

I decided I didn’t want to be either. So, I started to monitor my interactions with myself and others.  The results of my self-regulatory experiment confirmed what I already suspected: I have a tendency to treat others better than myself. Moreover, I’ve developed this bad habit of constantly comparing myself to others, and no surprise once again, I always come out second best.

Now while this was great news for everyone else I interact with, it wasn’t such great news for me.

How can I expect others to respect me and love me if I can’t even get it right myself? It started to seem a little unfair to expect others to treat me fairly when I didn’t even deem it necessary to treat myself that way.

How come could I encourage all my girlfriends to stop comparing themselves to others; tell them to stop running in search of unattainable perfection the media imposes on us, while I deemed it perfectly practical to place my happiness in the hands of photoshopped mannequins?

Okay, so the answer is simple right? and it’s already out there! Just start loving yourself? Right??


Trust me, I’ve tried. This whole concept of self-love that is preached to us from every platform of society only works in theory. It’s a perfect example of something I find myself saying over and over again on a daily basis: Easier said than done. Sometimes life feels like one long list of things that are easier said than done.

Everyone’s forever talking. Talking over everyone else. And above all this constant noise of unsolicited advice and instructions that aren’t user-friendly, there’s my inner voice screaming “practice what you preach.” But ‘practicing what you preach’ is a theory too. And I’m done talking, especially when I have nothing nice to say to myself.

So the next step in the hypothesis of this self-love experiment is to take action. Just, not the same action that’s been shoved down all our throats in the form of that pathetically ambivalent universal “Learn to love yourself in three easy steps!” that reads something like this:

Step number 1. Love yourself.

Step 2. Repeat Step one. Every day.

Step 3. Repeat step 2 or go back to step 1 if you get stuck. 

Oh please no. Like I said, I’ve tried, tested and failed, AGAIN!

I finally figured that the only common denominator in all these ‘body confidence’ buzz words is self. Self-love; self-acceptance; self-confidence; they all require an action of the self. Why then am I constantly looking to other sources for inspiration on how to love myself, shouldn’t I just consult myself?

After a lot of soul-searching, I finally came to the conclusion that perhaps what I needed was to stop being my own worst enemy. Don’t we all!?!?

So that is exactly what I’m going to do. From this moment forward, I am going to practice being friendly, to everyone around me, including me. I’m going to try and invite the friend that lives within my heart, to inhabit my head. I say try because I know at times, I’m bound to fail, but from this moment forward, I am going to focus my energy on dealing with my failures as a friend and not a foe.

And, I’m going to keep a diary to myself and record the entries here, to hold me accountable (because sometimes we all need a little nudge) as well as to (hopefully) inspire you to write yourself some friendly letters too.

I’m not asking us to perfect the near-impossible task of always loving ourselves, I’m proposing that we start exercising our friendly voice’s vocal chords so that when we do find it hard to love ourselves, our inner friend shouts louder than our inner enemy.

Then maybe we can all unite in the reassurance that we’ve all got friends in both ourselves and in others.


When the going gets tough, the tough write songs about it and we all sing along.

There’s nothing more comforting than being understood. And as women, no one truly gets us better than our female friends.

It’s also a universal fact that sometimes nothing says it better than a song, so on that note, here’s a playlist carefully curated for the ones who rule the world, as Beyoncé calls us.

Whether you need a girl power pep talk, a boost of self-confidence, some girl-to-girl encouragement, a reminder that you’re perfect just the way you are and that you deserve to be respected, or if you just feel like celebrating the gigantic package of awesome-ness that you are, here’s a list of lyrics to echo every tune of our hearts.

1.) Beautiful– Christina Aguilera

Yes, “I am beautiful, no matter what they say” and No, “words can’t get me down!” Now sing it like you mean it!

2.) Who runs the world? – Beyoncé

Yes, you guessed it,  the answer is GIRLS!

3.) Pretty hurts– Beyoncé

“Blonder hair, flat chest
TV says, “Bigger is better.”
South beach, sugar free
Vogue says, “Thinner is better.”

This feminist of note speaks directly to the female condition society imposes on us, and calls out its superficial, two-faced expectations. “Perfection is a disease of a nation” Queen B sings. 

“We shine the light on whatever’s worst
We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery” 

Amen! We can all resonate!

4.) Girls just wanna have funCyndi Lauper

If the previous song spoke too deeply to your soul, then let Cyndi Lauper remind you what’s really important: Having fun. Life is too short to be taken in by all the image-centred negativity, because “when the working day is done, girls just wanna have fun!” Right?

Of course.

And just to reinforce the fact that Female actually stands for Fun:

5.) Man I feel like a woman– Shania Twain

The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun.” Shania said it. I second it. So as for me, I’m singing along.

6.) Who says– Selena Gomez

Who says you’re not perfect???

It doesn’t matter anyway because whoever they are, they’re wrong! If you’re not convinced, Selena will remind you that you’re a diamond in the rough, and you’re totally worth it!  (Heres me reminding you now too.)

7.) All about that bass– Meghan Trainor

Here’s Meghan Trainor singing what your mother has forever been telling you, but you’ve never chosen to believe. I guess Meghan has a better voice, because how can you not let her catchy words sink in: “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”

8.) Me too- Meghan Trainor

“If I was you, I’d wanna be me too.”

Meghan Trainor’s self-confidence is addictive- trust me, when this song’s stuck in your head you won’t be able to stop singing “I thank God every day that I woke up feelin’ this way, and I can’t help loving myself…” 

Damn, can we have some of whatever she’s on?

Just keep on singing the song!  

(I wish it took something as easy as singing to convince me though!)

9.) All the single ladies- Beyoncé

Single ladies unite! We’re awesome just the way we are and we don’t need someone to dance with when we’ve got each other!

But for those women who have, (or have high hopes of having) a significant other, here’s Meghan Trainor reminding you that you DO deserve to be treated RIGHT:

10.) Dear future husband– Meghan Trainor

And just to clarify: By right, we mean with respect and equality. Translation: Dear future husband, this is not the 1950s and we are not glorified domestic help.

But just hum along to the song, Trainor makes her point loud and clear.

11.) Brave– Sara Bareilles

For all the women who are victims of not being considered an equal in the eyes of our male counterparts, and fail to have their voices, opinions and truths heard, take Sara Bareilles advice and just Say what you want to say anyway!

“Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins”

Ponder on these words and don’t let that patriarchal shadow overshadow your brilliant self!

12.) And ultimately, never forget that YOU WILL SURVIVE! In the event that you do forget, let Gloria Gaynor remind you with her iconic song I will survive.

“But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along..”

Go Gloria! This is a lyrical and melodic masterpiece, and perfect for karaoke, so call all your girlfriends together and sing the inspiration into existence.

AND lastly,

13.)While you’re all together, bonding over these shared experiences, let ABBA  channel your inner Dancing Queen.

The bed is your stage, the deodorant can is your microphone, so sing and dance and have a fabulous time celebrating your unique girl power!

Who. Why. Wear?

We have already established that clothes are never just clothes. They’re threaded with meaning and reflect our identities. We all have a relationship with the clothes we wear, whether we like it or realize it or not.

At a basic level, we need them to serve the primary function of covering our bodies, but the choice of materials and styles we choose to fulfill this purpose goes far deeper. The decision to wear what we wear is embedded in our psyche.

I am fascinated with this latter reason for dressing and so I decided to take advantage of the diversity of styles that inhabits Rhodes University’s campus and go find out what students wear, and why they wear it.

I asked eight students to describe their personal style and explain why they wear the clothes they wear. Here’s what they said:


Borrowed time

My mother’s fiance died when I was nine years old and for years after that, we would commemorate the anniversary of his death by sharing a box of Ferrero Rochers, his and our favourite chocolates. I don’t remember exactly how long we upheld this ritual before, gradually, year after year grief began to slowly loosen its grasp and now the day passes without me even registering its historical significance.

I don’t want that to be the case with the memory of my grandmother’s last days. In fact, I have a vivid fear of letting the memory slip away into a blur, especially since the memory is already so blurred over with overwhelming emotion and regret.

It hit me in the face the other day when the first anniversary of her death came and went and I nearly passed the day by, blissfully unaware of its bitter undertones. My mother brought me back to reality when she phoned and mentioned that the rest of my family back home would be going out for breakfast to commemorate the day and “just be together.” I felt guilty for forgetting, and my heart stiffened into a knot, tangled with a mixture of warmth, longing, and regret at the sudden conjuring up of the last memory I have of her.

On her death bed, holding my hand and looking intently into my eyes, she added a few more inches to the incredibly large shoes she was leaving for me to fill by imparting on me this profound purpose:

“Be everything to everyone,” she said.

That phrase clouds every memory I have of her now, because only after her death did I discover what she really meant and the great extent to which she embodied that phrase throughout her life. People of all different ages would come to me and tell me how my beloved grandmother had touched their lives, and I soon began to realize that although I was an only child, and had no siblings to share my gran with, she wasn’t only my grandmother. She fulfilled the role of mother and grandmother to so many other people that had need of the love she had to give. I inherited a family formed not only by blood but bonded by her love and acceptance.

In her beautifully written memoir, Letters to my daughter, Maya Angelou explains that while she gave birth to one son, she has “thousands of daughters.”

“You are black and white, Jewish and Muslim, spanish-speaking, Native-American and Aleut. You are fat and thin, pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all, here is my offering to you.” -Maya Angelou

This quote reminds me of my grandmother, my very own Maya Angelou.

In her life, she served as a mother, a mayoress, a music teacher, a company director, an excellent cook, a good wife and a treasured friend. The list goes on. She lived out her life being everything to everyone, and she did so with enthusiasm, grace, generosity, and gentleness.  She epitomized the art of being formidable without raising your voice.

How do I commemorate the memory of a life so well lived? Maya Angelou also said that “Life loves the liver of it,” and my grandmother certainly knew how to live life. Boldly and with colour.

So here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, all alone. Sipping my cappuccino and filling the empty chair next to me with all my memories of her. I’m trying to refresh them, to see them clearer; shuffle them around and place them in order, but most importantly I’m trying to reassure myself that the memory of her; all that she means to me, hasn’t slipped away and faded like an old, colourless photograph that no longer captures the life of its subjects.

Three months before my entrance into this world, my grandmother was involved in a life-threatening head-on collision motor accident. The deciding factor of whether or not she would live to meet her only grand-daughter rested on a single heartbeat. Her heart stopped beating at the scene of the accident and if the paramedic hadn’t listened to that ludicrous voice urging him to give ONE more attempt at resuscitation, I would never have been blessed with the experience of knowing and having my grandmother in my life just long enough for her to witness me emerge into the first stage of adulthood.

I’m reminded of that bible story when King Hezekiah’s life was due to come to an end, but he pleaded with God for an extension, and God proved to be more lenient than some of my University Professors and granted him an extra 15 years.

My gran was supposed to die that day. She actually did die. For a few minutes, her heart ceased to beat. But thanks to a persevering paramedic, who went over and above his normal lengths of duty, my grandmother was given a second chance at life, and I was given a chance to have my grandmother around for just as long as it took her to teach me and shape me into the person I am, and into the person her influence and her life constantly inspires me to aspire to become.

I like to think of it as borrowed time. Time leased out to fulfill a purpose. Time, that does not belong to us but is lent to us and the only way to pay it back is to pay it forward.  She was certainly a gift to me, a gift I can only repay and express my gratitude for by aspiring to follow in her footsteps, to continue her legacy.

All of our lives serve a purpose; we are all given ‘borrowed time’- time that one day we will have to give back. We better spend wisely because what we give back, is what we leave behind, and essentially, what we pass on to others.

We are all women, who in some way or another, at some stage of our lives, are called, or expected to be ‘everything to everyone’. Some see it as a curse, others, like Maya Angelou, and my grandmother, use it as a blessing to build others up and leave behind a legacy of love.

My grandmother was an exceptional woman, and I’m not just saying that in an attempt to ‘immortalize the dead’. She had her faults and her failures, but she never allowed herself to be defined by them.

She proved, to me at least, that you can do it all, and have it all, yet not be defined by it all. She was many different things, to many different people, but she is everything to me. And yes, she left very large shoes to fill, and it’s my life-long prayer, that I may never forget, that from her dying lips, she left them to me.

What’s on my bookshelf?

How can one write properly and insightfully on any given topic, and ensure the writing remains relevant to the present socio-political context if one doesn’t themselves engage in extensive reading on the said topic?

The answer is simply that you can’t, or at least not very successfully. As writers, we have to constantly seek inspiration not only from our own minds, but the genius thoughts of others, and so of late,  I have been doing a lot of reading on the subjects of Fashion and Feminism and the fine line between Art and self-expression.

And I’ve been so inspired and moved by the reading material that has landed in my lap, I simply feel it would be selfish of me not to share my findings and what makes them so valuable to me as a writer engaging in these different dialogues.

So here’s a list of just a few literary gems, of all mediums and lengths. Assuming majority of you have wandered on this site because you are equally as passionate about these discourses as I am, I’m confident these reads will inspire you just as much as they have inspired me. 🙂

1.) The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant. Simon and Schuster, 2009. 

This book is fast becoming my bible for understanding the correlation between fashion and the consciousness, and basically how fashion and the art of dressing and caring about our appearance, lies at the very core of our existence and history. Grant completely shuts down the argument that fashion is only a superficial, trivial and frivolous phenomenon. “You can’t have depths without surfaces,” she writes and I’m blown away. I really want her to just jump out from behind the pages so I can physically give her a high five. She uses history to prove that fashion and the desire for outward beauty exist even amidst the horrific gruesome perils of war. Do yourself a favour, and just go read it.

2.)  ReFusing Fashion: Rei Kawakubo, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 2008.

This catalog is a compilation of articles and essays on Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo from her ReFusing Fashion art exhibition in 2008 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). The exhibition as a whole, as well as the essays on her work, serve the purpose emphasizing fashion as art and its place in the museum space. Although Kawakubo’s work has often been described as ‘anti-fashion’, she uses art to create an extremely political dialogue through her designs. Her work not only screams out against social injustices but inherently emphasizes fashion as a form of identity.

3.) Coco Chanel: The legend and Life by Justine Picardie. HarperCollins, 2010.

Because you can’t claim the title ‘fashionista’ without familiarizing yourself with the legend of Coco Chanel. And there’s a pun on legend, because she gave so many varied details and different stories about the events of her early life, one simply doesn’t really know who or what to believe. It’s so easy to romanticize famous icons like Chanel and fail to look past all the glitz and glamour of their success, but to quote Linda Grant once again “You can’t have depths without surfaces”, and piecing the picture of Chanel’s early life together, is one of dark and humble beginnings. What also stood out for me, when reading about her early life is how her upbringing in an abbey, appears to have impacted her style and her designs. Reinforcing the undeniable idea that fashion is intertwined with identity. And of course, her profound quotes scattered throughout the book are always a treat. I’ll leave you with my all-time favourite:

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different,” Coco Channel

4.) This article by Emma Brockes that appeared in The Guardian titled  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot?’ 

Adichie is a feminist of note, but what I love most about her is her brutal honesty and defiance. She is a strong formidable woman, and she isn’t interested or concerned about being liked, rather what concerns her is justice, and justice with regards to how women are perceived and expected to be perceived in society.

“It’s not your job to be likable. It’s your job to be yourself. Someone will like you anyway.”

She challenges and questions the idea of feminism as a trend, tackles the problem with selective feminism and deconstructs the notion of woman’s ability to ‘have it all’. Her refreshing, revolutionary, yet definite attitude towards feminism burns through all pretense, and is so raw and real you can’t ignore it. Above all, I love her response to when a student expressed doubt as to whether he could still hold her in the same esteem since she started writing “this whole feminism thing.”

“While I love to be loved, I will not accept your love if it comes with these conditions.”

Her words ring the truth of self-confidence every woman needs and deserves to practice.

5.) Self-Loved by Malibongwe Tyilo. Elle SA, March 2017

This article published in this month’s edition of Elle SA, talks about the journey to self-love. Tyilo says that the art of ‘self-love’ is an accumulation of little ways and efforts we make to care for ourselves. Like moisturizing our skin and taking care of our bodies, not based on what society is dictating to us to follow, but by responding to our individual needs.

“It’s a work-in-progress this self-love thing, and it goes far beyond the body; but every day, with every drop of moisturiser, with every cigarette I don’t smoke, I understand a little bit more that loving oneself is not some intangible idea”

With society constantly down our throats telling us we need to be this size; look this way; act that way; do this; don’t do that, in order to be the best version of ourselves, Self-love is like a constant tug-of-war battle and we always seem to end up lying in the mud. Tyilo explains that self-love isn’t a destination, as opposed to society’s idea of what loving yourself, and body confidence is, instead, it’s an accumulation of little everyday things and activities that we can focus on, like eating right, and caring for our bodies, not for the purpose of ‘looking good in skinny jeans,’ but for ourselves, to make us feel good. Taking the time to focus on what we need to do for us, instead of spending time paging through magazines that tell us what others think we need. Because in essence, love is in a relationship with time. Love=time. The same applies to how we treat ourselves and the thoughts we think towards ourselves. Do we spend time building ourselves up, or focusing on the negative, because that ultimately what will determine whether or not we foster self-love.

The ‘weaker’ voice: What it’s like to be a woman in a Man’s world.

On Wednesday, the world united together to celebrate the Wonder that is Women.

If you weren’t aware it was International Women’s Day, then you either live under the ocean, or the universe has punished you (or rewarded you, whichever way you see it) by sending you to a place that has no internet connection or any links to the real world- and if that were so, you wouldn’t be reading this, so we can dismiss that theory altogether.

For those of you who do live under the ocean, and just came up for some air on Wednesday, I’m sure you were bombarded with the motivational, inspirational, ‘Girl Power’ dialogue that dominated the day.

But then came Thursday, and we woke up to the void of Happy Women’s Day messages and perhaps unwillingly returned to normality- a state that’s forever being promoted as ‘over-rated’ and ‘cliché’ and compelled to be replaced with ‘originality’. “Don’t be normal,” they say, “be you!” -Whatever that means.

How do we ‘be’ ourselves; how do we embody what lies at the core of being when society, is constantly using its subtle tactics and manipulations to choke us into a mold.

Just like men, women are also classified as strong, brave and courageous, but not for the same reasons that men are. No, women are awarded the labels of ‘Bravery’ and ‘Strength’ for overcoming the daily hurdles that men breeze over without a second thought. Men are brave and courageous for fighting off giants and walking head first into battle and defeating their opponents without hesitation.

Women are deemed brave and courageous for daring to enter into a male’s world and succeed. Every step up the corporate ladder is a dagger in the heart of the giant, that is the Patriarchal society. Every woman who attempts to shout louder than society’s redundant voice dictating who we should be and what we should look like is walking head first into battle against a mob of brainwashed opponents.

We’re courageous for trying to break free when in actual fact we should never have been chained in the first place. And by no means does that place a slight on our achievements and strength at all, we’ve earned the title, we deserve it. We’ve undeniably proved that Women as a nation are a formidable force, but it’s a fight we shouldn’t have to continuously relive.

It’s all good and well that we’ve succeeded in standing up for ourselves countless times throughout history, but why do we continuously have to rejustify our case? Why do we constantly have to repeat ourselves in order to be heard? Why do our voices still feel so weak?

I like how Kriti Sanon says it in this video that went viral on Facebook.

This year, on International Women’s Day, while women around the world were for one isolated day, making sure that they were heard, I was interviewing a scientist who told me how on a daily basis she struggles with not being taken seriously in the workplace by her fellow male counterparts.

“It’s really difficult to be a female scientist in a largely male-dominated field. I feel like I’m always having to try a little bit harder to prove to everyone that I can do the tasks. If a man comes along, he is automatically trusted with a project, but the minute you’re female, you always end up having to defend yourself.” said Environmental scientist Puleng Tsie.

Puleng is based at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where she works as communications manager for Sci Enza, a company that works toward finding interactive ways to make learning science fun and understandable for learners. She said that although the field of female scientists is growing, it is growing at a very slow rate. “Women are still breaking into a field that for centuries has been dominated by mature male scientists,” she explained.

“Happy Women’s Day” didn’t seem like an apt response to that revelation. The worst part was that I wasn’t surprised at her answer when I brought up the topic of gender stigmatization and discrimination in the workplace. I was kind of expecting her response to be more or less on same lines.  Her answer expressed the same underlying truth that we shove in the far out corners of our minds, and we try to flush away with every pro-women motivational pep talk we seem to be constantly dishing out to one another.

Take a moment to consider the ratio of male to female non-fiction writers who win, or get nominated for literary prizes. Majority of the time, male authors walk away with the prize.  What is it about the female voice that makes it more well-received and accepted in fiction, or when women do dare to delve into the non-fiction battlefield, why do they often settle for memoirs?

In an article published on Slate, Kate Waldman questions why the memoir genre is on the rise for women non-fiction writers and links it to the fact that female non-fiction writers fail to feature on the receiving end of book prizes as often as men do.

“Does the relative invisibility of memoir on the nonfiction prize circuit lead to the underrepresentation of women? Or is it the other way around? Perhaps women are drawn to memoir for the same reasons that NBA judges seem to flinch from it: The genre’s goals feel less explicitly grandiose and weighty, more acceptable for us—with our “emotions” and our “fine brushwork”—to strive for,”  Waldman writes.

Do women stick to fiction and memoirs because it’s too treacherous a territory to compete with the loud, overbearing voices of their male counterparts? Is it the tiny societal voice that’s been subliminally engrained in us from infancy: “Blue is for boys, pink is for girls” in the adult world can translate into “stick to what you’re good at.” Who has the right to set parameters around what areas we can excel in?

There are however the few exceptions of female non-fiction writers who braved the deep waters and succeeded. Last year, three of the four writers shortlisted for The Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction, were women. So, maybe there is hope, but how long must we wait around to find out?

Women finally make it to the top of the ladder; the plateau of so-called equality, only to find that they “still have a way to go”. I hate those six words, that are repeated so often they’re bordering on cliche, but maybe I hate them more because the truth in them rings out an ineffable defeat: so close, but yet so far. Will we ever find the pot of gold under the rainbow? Does it even exist, or are we all just a bunch of supreme idealists?

Where to from here? I honestly wish I knew. Puleng has some solid advice, which she stands by:

“I know my background, I understand and I’m good at what I do. If people want to check up on me, or question me, it’s their waste of time and energy not mine.” That’s her expert advice on dealing with being second-guessed just because you’re a girl.

And as much as I agree and applaud her attitude, I fear that the day will come when after screaming so loud, for so long, in the vain hope of being heard the first time, our frail voices will finally falter, be reduced to a whisper and we’ll be back at square one. Having come so far, but with so much further still to go.