Missing Paris, the Christmas spirit and Love Actually

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I love the holidays. There is something about a season that forces us to be the best of us that makes me have faith in who we are the potential of mankind. I love everything about this time of year, the big dinners, the leftovers and the time spent with friends and family. I even love the cheesy Christmas movies.

Paris, so Chrismassy the spirit grips you the moment you enter

I love the Christmas spirit. But I seem to be missing it this year. Usually by Christmas I am brimming with the spirit and ready for Christmas day and all its glory. Interestingly earlier this month the spirit bamboozled me and as quickly as it came it left. I was in Paris for a few days and the city was so full of the Christmas spirit it knocked me off my heels. The decorations, the people and the markets, the city was so full of Christmas that it was hard not to get caught up.

Paris

Walking down the Champs-Élysées all you see are reminders of the season. The window displays done by some of the world’s famous stores, the lights that set the city ablaze at night and Christmas corners with trees and other fitting decorations. Then there is a Christmas markets with delicious crepes and more winter delights and there is shopping to be done for presents for your loved ones and yourself.

Ever since have I been back home I have yet to find that spirit, it seems it only existed in Paris for me and the minute I left its wet and cold surrounds so did the spirit. I have tried several things of course to get the spirit, a Christmas party with friends, which was amazing. However, the party felt more like a good time with friends that I had missed dearly than actual Christmas festivities.

I did get a Christmas miracle of some sort, against all odds and many obstacles I managed to catch a flight that by all rights should have left and made it home for the holidays.

Ruing Love Actually is such a douche thing to do

Then to top it all off I read this article that has apparently demystified one of my favourite holiday movie, Love Actually. Yes guy at the Atlantic, well done on being the equivalent of the guy to tell little kids there is no santa. Interestingly I agree with the piece mostly and in part articulates perfectly some of my feelings for the movie.

However I think there is still elements of romance of wishful world where things can be that easy and there are no consequences for the PM falling in love with the maid and where insurmountable human laziness gets in the way of a good thing. What I take issue with is saying it is not a holiday movie. Obviously you haven’t watched Die Hard, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and many countless holiday movies that happen to not be about Christmas but end up making great Christmas movies because they happen to take place during.

So I must say I think you are wrong, one might argue that the romantic relations in the movie are only possible because it is the season and the impossible happens. Love at first sight, love without language and love that suffers in silence. If we are being honest, and seeing as a decade later and every Christmas I still watch this movie, it is a movie that makes us want to fall in love, actually.

The Christmas spirit

The world is in such a hurry in December, the shopping malls are a nightmare and the city streets leave much to be desired. The season is about lists and checking things and people off it. Turkey dinners, fruitcake and pretty lights are summing up the season. It’s time we slowed down and remembered, no?

Perhaps, I have found the Christmas spirit after all, perhaps this year is has come in a more subtle fashion than before. Perhaps though sick in bed and watching my favourite holiday movies while my dad makes me tea and talks about tomorrow’s plans I am experience the joy of the season, a time with family. Happy Holidays.

The feminist dilemma: I am not a manifesto

feminism-now-what

This is not about one single globe trotting adventure but the trip of this year.

“You’re such a feminist,” a friend once told me. I looked at him mildly assumed, he meant it as a compliment because that is what every progressive woman wants to hear.

As a black woman I am held to different standards, I am a minority that must strive for more even harder and more fervently. There is an even higher glass ceiling that I must break through, or so I am told by successful women of my race. I am lucky, I have worked hard and very few people have tried to stand in the way of what I want. However, the glass ceiling that concerns me more is not my career it what society seems to think is acceptable to demand of me.

The more successful I get the more of a shrew I become in society, I am told that I will never find happiness because I am determined to be a feminist about life.

“You’ll never find a husband the way you are carrying on,” I was told at my sister’s wedding.
“What makes you think I want one?” I responded.
“Because you are a woman.”
“So?”
“Because what’s your worth is if you are not married,” the final response that silenced me.

My worth. I should not have given it a second thought but I gave it the better part of a year (and we will come back to this).

Months later, I posted photos of brownies I made on Instagram and a friend sent me a text message as a friendly warning.

“Why do you domesticate yourself so,” the text began. “You are so smart, all that baking and homey stuff diminishes your feminism.”

Women today face a dilemma of publicly rising to their feminist status and upholding the unwritten manifesto that defines women as such. I have never stepped up on any world stage and claimed to be radical feminist but because I believe in equality then I am. I do not reject it but I must now address it because my worth is neither bound to marriage or the feminist movement.

I believe in equality. I refuse to be bound by the shackles of society and norms and ideals built on some preconceived idea of what a woman, a man and a human being ought to be. I am not a manifesto, I am not shackled by false ideas of “sisterhood” that benefits a conversation for a platform that divides us from them. I refuse to be defined by a mob mentality because as a feminist it is expected.

I believe in equality. I refuse to be in society that teaches me to shrink myself in more than expand to experience the world. I am not a manifesto. I want the same rights that everyone else have. I have always said that equality does not mean the same. Equal should not mean exact halves of a whole but two different halves that make up a whole.

In Africa feminist means western ideals. Being an empowered woman means you have read too many books, watched too many movies and listened to many speeches. It is a society that condones slut shaming, a global pandemic, where it is okay to disgrace and publicly chastise women for their sexual behaviour but the men are praised for their worldliness.

Women in today’s society have mastered the art of perfecting pretence and civility, where they accept and play their role. Women fight for things they believe in but still worked hard to diminish their shine because society teaches us to. Women get dressed in the morning and worry what the look will relay, because all this is expected.

A friend once told me that she only gets complimented when she is in dress simply because it was a dress that showed off her legs. Yes the dress does look nice and she does look lovely and the compliments may be genuine. But we live in a world that teaches us to be cautious about everything especially when you are a woman. Why does no one compliment her when she is jeans she asked. Why indeed?

Women undermine other woman who dare to be stay at home mums belittling their sacrifice because it is un-feminist to choose to stay home and take care of your family. Women are taught to compete with each other for the affections of man and not be bold enough go to after what or who they want. We are dragged on by the chains of ideas born out of ignorance and ideologies as old as time. We bare the cross of compromise because someone must relent.

Women wage emotional wars on each other or unite in the fight against men when the real issue is to drive sustainable change and build a truly equal society. We search for the whores and ice queens because there is a category that everyone must fit, the perfect cage constructed out of civility.

Being part of the feminist movement does not define my worth. Women have made me feel less empowered than men have. Women have judged me more harshly than any man I have known. I refuse to be part of a platform that decides that my worth is one or the other. We have become so focused on telling the feminist story and upholding the ideals that we forget the human stories and human beings that make up the sexes.

I do not write this because I seek validation of who I am or who I hope to be. I write this because the world seems quite determined to pontificate about me, my gender, my race and my role here and I thought it was high time I chimed in.

I am a feminist but I am not your feminist. I believe in the social and political equality of the sexes.