On Taking Up Space
I have my (not so rare) moments of imposter syndrome where I go down a spiral of 'I don't belong here' and 'I probably don't deserve to be here' and my absolute favourite 'My admission was probably a mistake.' But my occasional doubts about my talent have never related to my gender.
I am twenty years old and I guess it is a privilege that I can say that no one ever treated me different because I am a woman until today. It should not be, but I was reminded of the validity of the sexism so many of my feminist activist friends point out through this comment under one of my YouTube videos:
When I read the comment for the first time, I honestly believed I had misread it. No, that I must have misread it. I mean, it is the twenty-first century. But no, the comment was what it had been on the first read. I could have simply deleted the comment from my video and not talk about it. But that did not feel right. So instead I took a screenshot of the comment and took it to Twitter:
You may wonder why I chose to reply on Twitter instead of directly commenting directly on the post. It is a strategy I have adopted with offensive comments because I believe in the importance of keeping evidence of comments like this one. When there is backlash, people may delete their offensive comments, but this does not undo them for the people who saw them under my videos and were affected by them. It also does not undo the ideas they represent. I also think that moving the discussion to another platform decreases the risk of it escalating into a fight in the comments since it takes away the anonymity someone's YouTube profile provides. You can, of course, make a Twitter profile with the same alias but most people are not willing to go that extra mile. I then usually post a link to my reply under the comment to let them know where they can go to educate themselves a little.
But now let me talk about the comment: As I said in my tweet, I earned my place at Cambridge. I do not normally shower myself with praise, but allow me to do it just a little: I work incredibly hard, getting up at 4am on many days and I have never missed a deadline in my entire time in school. I have worked towards going to law school since the age of 12. I worked so hard on my school work that it resulted in a scholarship for a boarding school in Hong Kong. I finished my schooling in a foreign language. I am studying law in a foreign language. And I do at least five hours of volunteering every week. So, even if I sometimes doubt it, I think I am allowed to say that I earned this place and that I deserve it.
Writing these words seems so entitled to me and I guess it is worrying that I cannot just say that I earned this spot at my university. But that comment has certainly made me want to be able to say and write proudly that I earned my place here.
My gender does not matter for my law degree - none of the students studying with me or the teachers who teach us have ever treated me differently due to my gender. The same expectations are placed on all students and we all receive the same amount of incredible support. My gender was non-decisive for the decision to admit me - and so was my male friends' gender.
It is frankly incredibly insulting to tell me that my achievements should have to be confined to certain colleges to allow space for the achievements of male students. What I do academically is not defined by what is in my pants - it is defined what is in my brain. The very same thing applies to the male students. So please stop asking for privileges based on your genitalia.
And to anyone who has ever been told something similar, whether online or in person: You belong exactly where you are. You deserve to be there. It is ok to allow your inner imposter syndrome to come out every once in a while. But it is never ok to let anyone tell you that biology should determine the chances you have in life. If you worked for it, you earned it. Whether there's a 'male' or 'female' on your birth certificate does not change that.
Keep working for what you want.
Lots of Love,
P.S.: If you would like to contact me, you can send me a message here.
The title picture for this post was taken by Cie Jen Wong.