‘Take Up Space’

I don’t explicitly apologise for the opinions I hold, the way I look, or how I choose to carry myself. However, my actions implicitly reveal that I am constantly apologetic.
Yet, my actions prove that I am constantly apologetic.

Instead of asserting myself in essays, my opinion is tentatively expressed. During debates I am too preoccupied with whether anyone will agree with me to speak up,or what I want to say will be deemed too radical, too stupid, too insignificant. That bright, blue dress that I admired and bought is still neatly, folded away in the depth of my wardrobe, unworn.  I am worried it’s too bold, too short.   I am constantly, carving away any accomplishments of mine as undeserving.

Various studies prove that women underestimate their abilities and performance, whilst men overestimate them – even when the quality of performance is identical. Low-self confidence is indicative of a culture, which thrives on making women feel inadequate. From a young age girls are inundated with admonitions relating to their bodies, opinions, and tastes; they are constantly made to feel that they are not good enough, or that they must alter various aspects in order to align themselves with the rigid, and narrow representation of what an ‘ideal’ woman must be. The assertive woman is derided for being ‘bossy’, whilst confidence is unattractive and synonymous with ‘arrogance’. Our society forces women to tread carefully for fear of over-stepping the mark, encouraging a damaging culture of low-self confidence.

Women’s bodies and lives have become a battlefield; personal preferences tussle with societal expectations.  About a year ago, I watched Vanessa Kinsule perform her poem ‘Take up Space’ for a BBC series titled ‘Women who spit’, in which female poets expressed their thoughts on varying issues concerning women.  Her words ‘Take up Space’ spoken confidently and unabashedly whilst striding around the streets of London, have lingered in my mind since.  Often the space that women occupy, physically and metaphorically is restricted.  There is a consistent lack of women occupying the top jobs, as CEO’S and company directors. Even when it comes to running the country, there are currently only 191 female MP’s, out of a total of 650 members of Parliament.  The space available for women is limited – which is even more surprising considering women are more than half of the population.

It was refreshing and empowering to hear Vanessa Kinsule pronounce ‘don’t wait for permission and approval…take up space’. It’s about discarding the rules that control so much of female lives on appearance, sexuality, and confidence.  It’s about stepping outside that small space, in which women are hedged, and exercising freedom and being confident to do so.  It’s a reminder to not shrink away from wearing what you want, saying how you feel and being confident in yourself.  It is about taking up space, and reveling in it. As for me, I think it’s about time I dig out that that blue dress and wear it with pride.


Aisha Mazhar is a first year history student at King’s College, London. She describes herself as an intersectional feminist and socialist. 

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I RISE Magazine is an online platform dedicated to showcasing the stories, talents and trials of women of colour and non-binary people of colour in educational institutions. Our aim is to collectively represent, lead the way and inspire ourselves and future generations.

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