By Sonali Sudarshan
I just fell in love with Captain Marvel! Not because she packs a mean punch, or throws out photon blasts, or stops missiles while in binary mode.
I fell in love with her because she is as fucked up and flawed as me. Because underneath that tough-as-nails, driven exterior is a woman who is plagued by inner demons and nightmares. A woman who wakes up at night and can’t go back to sleep. A woman who constantly questions her place in the world. A woman who has learnt at a very young age that the world is not her oyster, and every inch of space she gets is going to be hard-won and hard-fought-for. Every inch!
Also, finally someone went out there and said it: emotions don’t kill you, don’t weaken you, they make you stronger. Love doesn’t reduce you, it makes you bigger. In the first wave of feminism that hit the shores of my country, we girls learnt it all a different way. We learnt the only way we could beat the men was by becoming men. We wanted to go higher, further, faster, and the only way to do it was to wear the pants.
I’ve worn the pants for a very long time.
I’ve stoically gone to work while I was losing a brother, when all I wanted to do was stay home and cry. I calmly sat and did the logistics of paperwork to sell my parental home while I was screaming inside. I have negotiated a divorce contract when I should have asked my ex to give us another chance. I’ve worn armours while dealing with deep grief and depression. I have not shown vulnerability or emotion because I have also bought into the myth that emotion weakens you, that if you show vulnerability, the vultures come in.
I want to apologise to all the girls whom I have mentored across a 20-year career span and told never to cry in public. I have cried at work many times. In secret. From frustration. From anger. From loss. I want to tell them it’s okay to break down and fall, as long as they stand back up the next day. If I were to measure the most successful projects I have worked on, the ones that I still think of and smile, it’s the ones I was emotionally invested in. In college, my professor told me my best answers were when I worked from emotion rather than logic. My greatest source of strength has been the people I love, the people I can be loony with. My Achilles heel is my strongest part.
Maybe it’s time to stop leaning in.
Maybe it’s okay to have a hysterical moment at work, or at home. Maybe it’s okay to throw something in a fit of anger. Or burst into a fit of giggles because there was genuine humour in a situation. Maybe you can do all that, and still be taken seriously. Maybe, under those crusty layers of faux un-gendering we do to ourselves in public spaces, under that tough armour we don everyday to go and fight our everyday battles, we are just girls. Furious and flawed but always fabulous.
Maybe we need to stop buying into being strong all the time. Being stoic. Being harsh to ourselves, our colleagues, our friends and our children. Maybe the world doesn’t need strong women, but kinder ones. Women who cry, who break things in frustration, who laugh unabashedly, and love unreservedly, who wear lipstick, and jump across puddles. Maybe we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously.
Strong or weak, we have nothing to prove to anybody. Just zap the critics like Captain Marvel!
Sonali Sudarshan is a public-relations professional who also likes to dabble in writing as she has an opinion on everything. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
First published in eShe’s April 2019 issue