On Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

It was in busily thinking of an argument to counter a loud, brash and proudly antifeminist acquaintance that I had the (second or third) greatest epiphany of my life.

It is simple, so devastatingly simple – yet rather easy to miss – “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”

It is easy, I suppose, to live and think in extremes. Dismissing something as all bad or embracing another as all good is something many of us do naturally. And though this might be realistic or accurate to some extent in conceptualising simple entities and basic thoughts, one must admit, if one really thinks deeply, that when one considers a human being – an inherently complex human being it is not so simple. And if it is difficult for a human being to be all bad or all good, imagine that complexity and nuance multiplied a thousand or a million times over in an organisation, a movement or a religion.

As I said, it was in thinking of an argument to counter this guy – who declared feminism and feminists were useless and stupid because he had discovered a group of feminists who practised free-bleeding – that this occurred to me. At that time, I was going through an areligious phase myself, and I often proudly declared all religion to be useless and unnecessary. And yet in that brief pause in our argument, I saw myself for the hypocrite I was. You see, I was perfectly willing to accept that the different cultures, contexts and life experiences of different human beings resulted in different manifestations of feminist thought, and this was fine with me — and yet I refused to allow for this same nuance in religion. And when I put my mind to it, I started to realise other not-so-black-and-whites.

Life isn’t always black and white – there are usually several shades of grey.

Ever since I accepted the greys, it has become easier to understand and engage with different modes of thought. I almost never dismiss a complex ideology/ organisation/ movement because I do not agree with some of its tenets.

I am not beautiful, and that’s okay!

It was a decision I made, in 2008. I’m not beautiful. I stopped wearing earrings, stopped spending lots of money on clothes, gradually stopped spending lots of money on my hair. Most importantly, though not immediately, I stopped caring whether people thought I was pretty or not. How did I come to that point? I guess things had been building up for a while. From going through puberty in JSS where girls in my school would get ranked by the boys in terms of beauty, leaving a trail of bruised egos and battered self esteem… …To going through SSS and watching girls struggle to work makeup magic with Vaseline and talcum powder. Seeing girls cry pitifully because their breasts were too small or because their stomachs were too big. Oh, how many girls lost their virginity to the first guy that said to them: “You’re beautiful”!?… …Then being in university, watching girls spend up to 2 hours getting dressed and made up for lectures. Watching girls buy butt and breast enlargement pills, do stomach flattening exercises everyday, cry because some guy said they were ugly… Juxtapose that with having a male best friend and a squad of male friends who were virtually untouched by these “troubles”. And of course, add my laziness (waking up 2 extra hours early to get dressed is not easy for me), my desire to be first in my class, my inability to wear high heels or breathe in tight clothing, my reluctance to spend Cedis and hours in a salon, sitting under a hair dryer… Now there are women that are (almost) universally accepted as beautiful. Off the top of my head, Beyoncé, my friend Gyamfua, Genevieve Nnaji, etc. Now take your mirror, look at yourself. Are you really there? Ok, now put away the mirror and ask 5 strangers. I see too many girls fuss unnecessarily about their appearances, when frankly, there’s not much improvement in the befores and afters, and they really shouldn’t waste their time and money. And as my Anji and I say, pick your things in life and go be excellent at them. This is why I don’t play piano; I love music, but I sucked at it and it never “clicked” with me, so I pushed it aside to concentrate on other things… Some things can be bought, including beauty, but until you’re rich enough for that, stop wasting your time and with a joyful shrug, repeat after me…. I AM NOT BEAUTIFUL, AND THAT IS OKAY. Instead, work on things you actually + foreseeably have a shot at, such as a career, or a business or an education – you know, those things where it has been proven that time + effort = success. When you’re successful, you can buy a new face, breasts, buttocks etcetera. You don’t believe me? Just ask Nicki Minaj and Kim K! Also, my new catch phrase.. “Nowhere cool”. Kelly Rowland, who I thought was perfection, got breast implants. Charley even her, she wasn’t happy with herself. I wonder if she’s okay now. I mean, there will always be a prettier face, hotter body, bigger rack… So where does it end? At some point in 2008, I said to myself “who the hell (that I actually care about) cares anyway?” I certainly didn’t! It isn’t all rosy self-acceptance, mind you. I’ve had tough moments where a cheating boyfriend caused me to want to care more about my looks… Occasionally I relapse into vanityliosis, but thankfully these have been less frequent as I’ve grown older 🙂 About guys, I guess I’ve been lucky enough to fall for guys that aren’t really into looks (MOST OF THE TIME), and thankfully everyone I’ve liked has liked me back. 😔 Well, not everyone, Johnny Depp… *sigh*

I want to be a successful architect, and help people and improve lives with my talent. I decided early on that I didn’t need to be beautiful to achieve this, and that’s okay with me. I am not beautiful, and that’s okay.

On Nerdy Girls, Girl Power,Turbo Divas and the World Robotics Olympiad

I like girl nerds and I cannot lie!

Two days ago, I was super excited because I heard two teenage Ghanaian girls talking about the robot they built and programmed (themselves oh) on Citi fm. I wasn’t as excited by the fact that they had built their own robot as I was by the absolutely casual attitude they had about the whole thing. They spoke about programming Baby Diva the robot to pick up Komodo dragon eggs like it was easy and I thought my heart would burst from excitement!

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Leslie and Maia on the Citi fm Breakfast Show

The host of the show, Bernard Avle, seemed to be reading my mind as he asked them the questions I really wanted to know the answers to. “So, why are you doing science in school at all?”

Paraphrasing

Leslie: Mainly because of my future career aspirations.

Bernard: And what is that? What do you want to be in future?

At this point, I braced myself. I said to myself, I will still love them no matter what they want to be.

Again, paraphrasing

Leslie: Genetic Engineer

Bernard: Ei! Really?!

Me at home: Ooooo whoa! Wow! Hahaha! Yes!

Bernard: And you Maia?

Maia: Aerospace Engineer

Bernard:

Me at home:

And that’s not all, when Bernard asked them what Genetic & Aerospace Engineers do, they answered perfectly, beautifully, awesomely and intelligently.

It was a great day.

Serious Business

Maia Effah Kaufman, Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi, Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson, Leslie Goloh and their coach Ms Levina Ansong from Aburi Girls SHS are in Jakarta right now to participate in the World Robotics Olympiad. The name of their team is “Turbo Divas”. (cute huh?)
There are teams from Bishop Herman SHS and St. Augustine’s SHS representing Ghana as well, but an impartial inside source told me this when I asked him if the Ghanaians can win. “The other countries have been participating for years, and they take it very seriously. Our kids are brilliant and have a good chance of winning something, but if I had to pick one team, it would be the girls from Aburi”

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Team Ghana!

The Turbo Divas had this to say when they were asked what they expected from their teammates.

“At the end of WRO I expect that my team members and I would be extra confident, be very meticulous and extra careful and strategic. We should know how to work with people from all walks of life and believe in ourselves.Team members must come to appreciate the fact that hard work really pays.” – Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi

“I expect that after the WRO competition i will acquire more knowledge and skills in programming as well as building .Also i expect that, after the competition working together with people in a team is going to be an easy task and learn to take their opinions and views. Finally i expect my team to emerge victorious after this competition.” – Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson

“As a result of my participation in WRO i expect that there will be a boost in my self-confidence and self-image. I also expect that my problem solving ability will improve. I expect to be smarter and more precise in my way of thinking and doing things. After working with my fellow team mates in the past months, i expect to be able to live with and appreciate those around me. Finally i expect an astonishing victory for my team as a reward for our hard work, dedication and sacrifice.” – Leslie Goloh

“Considering the great amount of time and energy my team has put into the preparations for WRO 2013 over the past few months, i am expecting us to excel.
I strongly believe that we are going to leave a mark and make our beloved country proud. I also hope that our team will be able to use this opportunity to motivate more Ghanaians to show interest in science and technology.” – Maia Effah Kaufman

“After coaching the ‘Turbo Divas’ from Aburi Girls S.H.S. for WRO 2013, all I expect is an excellent performance by the team. My girls have worked so hard and I know they are the best and would do anything in their capacity to remain on top .After the team’s participation in WRO 2013, I look forward to seeing my girls gain more confidence, be problem solvers, be innovators, become more aware of their potentials and learn to connect theories learnt in the classroom with the real world around them since that is what Robotics is all about.One other thing I expect is that after thier excellent performance in the WRO, the world would in no doubt accept the fact that girls are as capable and intelligent as boys and can even be better.” – Ms Levina Ansong

(Source, Ghana Robotics on Facebook)

In conclusion, Turbo Divas, Go for Gold! You have all my support!