A Letter From an Editor
Welcome back to That’s What She Said! I wish I could say it has been a great start to the academic year, but unfortunately, recent events in politics continue to deplete my faith in humanity. Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the terrorist attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsborough, and the Trump administration’s proposed legislation to delegitimize the existence of transgender people have left many of us in FemCo, and in the broader BB&N community, feeling powerless. Although it’s easy to lose hope, there are countless individuals and movements that remind me we are, overall, moving in the right direction. For the first year in U.S. history, white men don't make up the majority of Democratic candidates for Congress. And earlier this fall, right here in Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley was elected to become our first black Congresswoman. On a more personal level, I am ecstatic to join the rest of my generation in voting in my first midterm election on November 6. For the first time in our lives, many of us feel like we have the power to institute real change. It’s on us now to shape the state and country we call home—and I’m confident we will not disappoint in delivering another step, however small, in the right direction.
Being Female in Finance
I don’t know what specific series of events led me to want a future in finance, however for the entirety of my time in high school I have strived for a career on Wall Street. In freshman year, I joined BB&N’s Investment Club based on the enticing opportunity to make money and something I’d heard my parents say at dinner. I so vividly remember stepping into my first meeting as a naive freshman. The room was filled with upperclassmen, only a few of whom were girls. Was I intimidated? Yes. Initially, walking into that room was a jump into the unknown. I was scared, but I was determined to keep going.
The Investment Club at BB&N was founded in the 1980s by a group of boys who made up of the vast majority of the members, a microcosm of the real world of investment. After speaking with BB&N alumni who were Investment Club members in the 1990s and comparing their experiences with my own in 2018, it is clear the club hasn’t really changed. Leadership positions have been passed down from one guy to the next over the past three decades—until last year.
Throughout my time in Investment Club, I had been working towards my goal of becoming President. Finally, last year I applied for the position and went through the interview process and a stock pitch. Despite my initiating a series of talks by external speakers from the investment and finance world, I was nervous to apply because I did not consider myself sufficiently qualified. Classic imposter syndrome. Thankfully my mum convinced me to go for it, and with the same spirit of my freshman self I persevered.
By the end of this process I was elated to discover that I had been chosen to be co-President; however, the decision also left me with some questions. As far I as know, up until this point, BB&N’s Investment Club had only ever had one president. Additionally, there had never been a female President. So, I could only help but wonder: was it really just a coincidence that the first year Investment Club had female leader was also the first year the Presidency could no longer be entrusted to a single individual? This burning question kept occupying my mind. Was I seen as less capable because of my gender? Was this the beginning of the end as far as my leadership titles go in life? Will I always be just slightly less than a man?
I wish I could enter the financial workplace as male. Because this is impossible, I genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, do not know if I will ever become as successful as I want to be. Will I always face the same issues I have been facing since I was a freshman? Will I always be the only girl in the room? If this is so, I’m grateful for my experiences in Investment Club—especially for the guys who didn’t think I could do it. I am grateful that they were waiting for me to quit, whether they are aware of it or not. I am grateful for the times they turned away from me in the middle of a conversation and dismissed my remarks. I truly am. Because at the end of the day, all of those small battles and microaggressions have made me into a stronger, more resilient young woman.
And she saw broken so perfectly.
She could see the fractures before they happened, bones slowly breaking, cracking open. Exposed.
She could distinguish scars after they healed, slices of tissue streaking across the skin. Changed.
She could taste the wounds that people were licking, cowering in the corner. Recovering.
She knew the secrets they were keeping. Silently praying that no one knew. Quivering.
She recognized the sound of crashing glass, splintering into thousands of pieces. Shattered.
She could make out the smell of dried tears, fallen on the ground. Splattered.
She knew that pieces would never fit the same again, always slightly off. Forever.
But that they would form something new, completely different but maybe. Better.
And she saw broken so perfectly.
And she was broken so perfectly.
Only in the dark rooms could one see her scars,
Shining brightly, reaching, screaming,
Calling out for someone to notice.
Hiding in plain sight were her tears,
Just barely absorbed back into her skin.
Ready to spill back out again.
Around the corner were her demons,
Waiting for her to come out.
Watching her every move.
Underneath the harsh words, she was trying to breathe,
Meant to give her oxygen,
And she saw and was and is
Untangling Society's Beauty Standards
In many different cultures across the globe, hair is a symbol of beauty and status, and the simple choice of how we style our hair can shape the way we are perceived. I have spent time in the vastly different cultural landscapes of America and India, and as a woman, I have felt the effects of ideas surrounding beauty, and specifically hair, in these two places.
When I was five years old I spent a year living in a southern city of India, called Chennai, where my dad grew up. This year was a valuable experience, as it shaped my identity, helped me understand my father’s upbringing, and connected me to my family members. That being said, it was an adjustment, as any change is. The society was completely different than the one I had previously lived in America, and even at an age as young as five, I felt the effect. In Chennai, dark, long, straight hair is the beauty ideal, and many people desire that for themselves and expect it from others. In many ways, this expectation is a remnant of British colonialism in Indian culture.
When I lived in Chennai, many people would approach my mom, and upon seeing my short, curly hair would tell her: “You should really put coconut oil in her hair. Have you ever thought about smoothing it out?” Comments like these came rolling in, and although they may seem insignificant, they shaped how I viewed my own beauty. Before I could even read, I was being taught that one hair type was better and more beautiful than another, and I projected those wishes onto myself by striving for straighter hair.
But over time, these wishes faded. I moved back to America and began to attend a majority-white private school. At this school, there was an emphasis on diversity and inclusivity, and even though the percentage of students of color was small, I felt comfortable with my image and my identity. There were aspects of my appearance that I desired to change, but I dismissed these as insecurities that just come with age.
Then I read an opinion article by actress Kelly Marie Tran in the New York Times. She wrote about how online harassment forced her into a place of self-hate, and how that tied back to shame she received and felt as a child growing up in a “white-dominated world”. Her story put the feelings I had been struggling with for most of my life into words. I realized that standards for beauty, and hair, were equally prevalent in American and in India—just expressed in different ways.
Eventually, I was forced to confront the Eurocentric beauty standards I had internalized. One hot summer day when I was twelve-years-old, I was at a waterpark with my friend. Someone had walked by us, and as they passed, we both exclaimed how my friend and this stranger had similar long, blonde hair. My friend then pointed to someone with dark, curly hair. “Hey, that girl’s hair looks just like yours!”
I looked at her, genuinely surprised. “My hair’s not that dark.. it’s a lighter color brown.”
“Really? It looks a lot darker.”
“Well, maybe because it’s wet.”
I wasn’t sure why I was fighting this. I wasn’t sure why I even cared. My hair is dark, almost black, and that’s just a fact about my appearance. But through American entertainment and media, I had internalized the idea that paler and straighter hair is simply more beautiful. Although I now know this is false, I felt pressure to live up to this expectation. I am still constantly needing to remind myself that my hair is acceptable just the way it is. The truth is, hair does not define one’s beauty or femininity. It is a stylistic and sometimes cultural choice, and it is completely unique to every individual.
after Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck"
I have read the book of myths.
Lacing my fingers through hers, my mother
navigates our hands, adjoined—and,
together, we read.
I know what this book is for.
I know who has read it. My mother
tells me books remain in the conscience
like stems stuck in dirt—but
I wonder, as she chokes
and swallows the words like metal,
I wonder if crossing an ocean
has left her unearthed.
There was no one to tell her
where the ocean would begin—at night,
I find her asking the absence
where it will end—and
I wonder if she feels this now, too,
reading this book of myths, her tongue
somersaulting across syllables
stolen from across the ocean.
But we came. We trudged—not leaped—through
this ocean. We came to explore the wreck—
new world, redux. My mother’s voice
quivers now, vacillating between hesitance
and silence. She exhumes the words
from the tomb of her throat.
These words are purposes.
These words are maps, guiding
my mother’s mind back across oceans, guiding
like my fingers now mounded on hers—gliding
through this book of myths.
Her name does not appear—she searches
for its imprint—but where, I wonder,
will she unearth names uprooted, washed
wayward to these new shores? Failing
to find them, my mother forces
the book shut, flings
it away, and forgets—
it was never hers, anyway.