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As Women, We Must Normalise Saying ‘Buzz Off’ To Toxic People Who Gaslight Us With Micro Aggression

As women, we often face a ton of micro aggression and sundry toxic behaviour. We can either brush it under the carpet and be affected by it, or face it and call it out.

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As women, we often face a ton of micro aggression and sundry toxic behaviour. We can either brush it under the carpet and be affected by it, or face it and call it out.

So some background before I pitch myself into what I want to say. I am a legal professional, and an internationally published freelance fashion model based out of the US, and I would like to speak about the micro aggression I have often faced, as a woman and a working woman.

It all started when my dreams of becoming a cabin crew member were realized by my parents who encouraged me, and I joined the a premier institute to train as an air hostess right after completing my B.A. in English literature. Little did I envision my liaison with the phenomenal Kingfisher Airlines in the later years and the birth of a ‘flying model’.

The very first encounter I can recall of finding myself at the receiving end of gender based micro aggression was during my training, when one of my instructors confided in my father how I should put on some weight in order to look more ‘womanly’ and less childlike. Though he only said this as he wanted my immediate placement with one of the leading UAE based airlines, as a knock-on repercussion I was left with this staggering sense of inferiority for quite a while.

As women we face a lot of active manifestations of this kind of behaviour, but we tend to either brush them under the carpet, or like me, talk about them head-on. In my case one thing has always stayed static – an undaunted grip on my beliefs and an unflinching faith in my voice no matter what.

Micro aggression towards women isn’t anything new

When you belong to a world that is rooted in art and entertainment, the smallest of acknowledgements inspire you to bring better content to the table. I’m not someone who would brag about stuff like this, but as it is relevant, why not? Especially, when artists like those who have worked with Catherine Zeta-Jones take a moment to notice and follow your craft, you’re bound to open your contemplative eyes and reflect how far you’ve come.

This happened a few days back, and I quickly slipped into reminiscing over the first year of my professional modelling career in the United States/Canada.

Cut to the scenario where I was told by an established photographer who was helping me build my portfolio, that I must take some photos with my shorts button down, to make it up for my ‘delayed start in the business’!

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True to my disobedient and rebel self, I refused to follow those ‘directions’, not because I’m against creating any particular style of art, but since I was trying to achieve something else. Thereafter my portfolio was never completed by him as my agent, but by myself and my supportive husband.

My growth and success stories in the following years are in the public domain, but what makes it sweeter is that the gentleman later did reach out several times showing interest in working together. However, it couldn’t materialize due to my insane schedule.

Well, this is what empowers me. What else? Uplifting my tribe of powerful women who know exactly how to take over the reins of their lives and carve a path that they want to walk on. It’s about US who do not seek validation for anything. It’s about learning to feel comfortable in OUR own skin and what OUR life experiences transform us into. It’s about how WE do not allow any negativity to affect us, let alone any judgment, criticism and unsolicited advices.

It’s kind of deep seated in our society for centuries. Just like patriarchy has been preached, accepted and drilled into our systems as a chronic, never ending disorder in the longest time in history. The only way to tackle it is not letting it feed off our spirit but to challenge it, question it continually. It’s about time that we call them out.

Nine out of ten times women are told things (apparently ‘meaning well’ and without a harmful intention) that stem from a toxic mentality, and this creates a perfect environment for verbal and emotional abuse to bourgeon. More often than not these are a bunch of sexist attitudes in forms of insults, insensitive comments, or generalized toxic behaviour. Behavioral patterns that are marked by an innate tendency to objectify, stereotype and discriminate. These types of offhand remarks, questions, or actions are consciously/unconsciously directed towards an individual’s race, gender, age and physical features.

Surviving toxic behaviour

Having said that, the most unsettling part remains how casually, frequently, as well as blatantly they occur in everyday life; almost pushing them to an edge where the only option is to adopt such internalized misogyny oneself, to survive.

When I was in my twenties I was less vocal and struggled to prioritize peace in my life. I knew less about the art of cutting toxic people off along with their offensive statements. Now when I’m asked questions like – what do I do to stay healthy and fit – I cannot emphasize enough the importance of inner contentment with yourself. Only if I could turn the clock back and start practicing self love a little earlier.

I must confess the massive role played by so many significant characters that left some considerable influence on my young vulnerable mind, and helped me become who I am to this date.

Shout out to that old gasbag relative who never left a stone unturned to skinny-shame me by suggesting over and over again how firmly I should cling on to my mother when a tornado hits our city or else I might just blow up and disappear. This is at the age of 6/7.

The not so benevolent schoolmate who never missed a chance to call me a ‘richie rich brat’ flaunting a pair of diamond ear studs (side by side pulling my ears pretty bad and they’ll turn red in embarrassment).

That curious flat mate who asked if the state that I came from is famous for witchcraft.

The guy I was dating then who reminded I must lose a pound or two before the wedding only so that my love handles remain hidden under the choli (blouse).

That brass-necked management supervisor who offered a promotion only if I would meet him in the hotel room after a drink.

That unabashed former colleague who wanted to check if I still got kids or not.

The icing on the cake being I was also told how attractive I look ‘now’ with a drastic change in my bodily appearance.

Thanks to all these (and more), I learnt to be stronger

I’m incredibly grateful to each one of these marvellous entities for encouraging me to take more care of the woman I’m proud to be. They make me appreciate the beauty of what it takes to foster quiet confidence and shun loud insecurities like theirs. They do reinforce the urgency to deliberately avoid a specific section of mankind to protect my own mental, emotional and spiritual state.

So next time someone tries to put you down sis, show them the door. They’ll be forced to think twice before rubbing you the wrong way.

While my neighbour has been on her way to recovery from an abusive marriage, and was recently told how worthless she is, and that she could easily be replaced for a superior match, I had the same message for the girl. Putting yourself first is the key, as is not taking on the burden of hate and envy. I believe it’s time to take charge of such situations, and perceive them as opportunities to coach yourself in celebrating the strength and resilience that you are capable of.

Every single time I’m told I come across as different from what was interpreted of me ten to fifteen years back, I have this yearning to level up further unapologetically and continue doing what makes me happy.

It’s high time we normalize being selective in our social network and repeat saying ‘buzz off’ often just like chanting ‘OM’. Let’s normalize saying no without an explanation, setting boundaries, taking time off and shutting things out that you don’t want to be accessible for. No more of tolerating or encouraging micro aggression.

Being a woman or human for that matter, your value doesn’t diminish like a receding hairline as you age. If resisting micro aggression makes you look insolent; giving in and playing a victim also doesn’t contribute to your community. The healing process must be in a way that your treatment of others does not end up looking like a reflection of your own frustration. We are all voyagers here, steering through the tides. There’ll be sharks on and off that you can not expose yourself to. Just like, while your antibody-producing cells may help in a long lasting immunity post Covid-19 infection, nevertheless, you wouldn’t bank upon it for the rest of your life, and would still get vaccinated. Similarly, re-evaluating your tolerance is essential because these sharks have a lot of time available and love to stir the pot.

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish

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About the Author

Ushasi Sinha

Ushasi Sinha Mallik best describes herself as an artist, a dreamer and a warrior. Now a proud “pawrent”, she’s based out of New Jersey, United States with her husband. A legal professional and internationally read more...

1 Posts | 1,423 Views

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