My power is always here

In my adventure (that is how I am reframing it now) of job hunting, one thing I caught myself often doing is to visit the company’s websites and took a look at the pictures of the people who worked there. I did this in no way to be stalkerish, but just to see if there is someone in the company who looked like me — Asian, brown, woman, and most importantly, a hijabi, and in extension, visibly Muslim. Sadly, I haven’t seen anyone who looked like me yet in any of the companies I applied for.

I kept thinking of what this means for me, and for others who look like me. If I join this company, what does it mean to be the first visibly Muslim woman, or anyone in the margins within the dynamics that centre whiteness, to join an organisation whose entire lineup consists of people who don’t look like you? Is the first always good, but does it mean the companies weren’t ready to accept anyone who looked like me before, or if there isn’t anyone who looked like me applying at all? If I become the first visibly Muslim woman in the company, could I remain to hold the door open for someone who looked like me, and as talented as myself to join the organisation too? — which I really want to do!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about writing for people who looked like me. In Malaysia, I am part of the majority — Muslim woman, hijabi, cisgender, lower middle class, with some higher education, polyglot, and of Malay ethnicity. The last part is the most important and the most privileged out of the whole intersections, as it is tied to the ethnic group which makes me as a bumiputera, or ‘son of the soil’, rendering me eligible to a lot of rights the other ethnicities of the country don’t. But more so than these identities, I have been thinking to write about someone particularly like me — an only child who had never got into trouble, and who had to put her dreams on hold for now in place of caregiving for an elderly parent, or anything of that sort. I haven’t heard any of those voices, maybe partly because I haven’t read just as widely, maybe also because someone else hasn’t written stories about us. Saeed Jones wrote in his newsletter about writing to save yourself so the future you would thank you — because no one else would write about you but yourself. Alexander Chee, in interviewing Ursula K. Le Guin, mentioned the esteemed science fiction writer had to teach herself to write as a woman, and in learning this, he learned how to write about himself — Asian-American, gay, activist, son, brother, a man of a repertoire of interests. I think it’s about time I start to learn to write about myself too.

Today Chanel Miller posted a series of pictures in her Instagram account — the first picture shows of her a year ago, sitting outside the courtroom while going over her notes in preparation for the trial of her assault case. The next two picture and video show her signing her book at the Sydney Opera House, surrounded by people who are inspired by her resilience, and she was clearly overjoyed. But what struck me the most was her last paragraph in the caption (emphasis mine): “These photos are not a weak to powerful comparison, not a before and after. My power was always there, it just took on a different, quieter form. I was also loved in both photos. But in the first one, I didn’t understand why, and in the second one I fully do. Wherever you are in your timeline, keep going. Life will stun you.” I have no words except that I love her.

Thank you for reminding me that my power is always here.

In my tabs:

  • Very important article on channelling our worries into action regarding the coronavirus outbreak from Anne Helen Petersen: “I say this as much to myself as to all of you — you can channel some of that anxious energy away from reading articles on the internet and towards thinking about who in your life and in your community will certainly need help or assistance. Who can you talk to now to make a plan to help them later? (With supplies, with groceries, with their pets or children) If you’re able, can you donate to your local food bank, or donate additional supplies to the homeless shelter? Can you buy things from local businesses, restaurants, and artists now, so that things might be less lean for them in the months to come? If you’re someone who’s high risk, how can you be honest with yourself and others about it? If you’re able to work from home and still pull your normal salary, can you commit to still paying someone who provides you with a service (a housecleaner, a dog walker, a hairdresser, a yoga teacher, etc) even if they have to stay home?”
  • “We should prepare, not because we may feel personally at risk, but so that we can help lessen the risk for everyone. We should prepare not because we are facing a doomsday scenario out of our control, but because we can alter every aspect of this risk we face as a society. That’s right, you should prepare because your neighbours need you to prepare — especially your elderly neighbours, your neighbours who work at hospitals, your neighbours with chronic illnesses, and your neighbours who may not have the means or the time to prepare because of lack of resources or time.” Preparing for coronavirus to hit the US (and elsewhere).
  • I love Moses Sumney‘s music but I had no idea his music — his dreamy music! — centres around the idea of aromanticism (which is also one of his album titles), the inability to engage in romantic attachment.
  • Reading in the age of ads.
  • “I have been woman / for a long time / beware my smile“.

STATUS BOARD

  • Reading: Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a story in the 1920s Jazz Age about a Mexican girl who found herself entangled between the feud of two Mayan gods.
  • Listening: Moses Sumney!
  • Viewing: Hakan Muhafız, the Turkish series about a young shopkeeper who found out he was connected to a secret ancient order tasked with protecting Istanbul from an immortal enemy, is out on Netflix today with its third season. Going to watch it!
  • Food & Drink: Tealive (my favourite Malaysian boba chain) had the buy one free one promotion, so of course I got one two!

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