The first time I ran for president, I was twenty-one; needless to say, it was for all the wrong reasons. Dennis, this tall, dark, handsome man’s humour could make you think you could be his Blake Lively and his witty self, your Ryan Reynolds. Most girls bought this, but it’s their experiences that fueled my passion. He’s a top-shot attorney now, dashing often, but there’s more than meets the eyes.
You know when you are twenty-one and you want to get everything right? You listen to Jay Shetty and Unfuck Yourself for that epic feminine energy. Right when you are getting off the ‘whore-phase’ and are philandering through books, music, art and everything in between. You want to find purpose in everything. Want to be the woman with glowy skin, healthy hair, neat nails and the perfect man? Well, most ‘put together’ women are like this for the most part of their lives, save for me and probably you.
It was that ‘becoming’ era. The era when Beyonce’s album is your gym playlist, trying to channel every kind of woman lying under your skin. On Sundays, you are Sarah Jakes Roberts, breaking generational curses and declaring God’s power over your life. On Mondays you channel the smart money Oprah Winfrey in you and on Tuesdays you question the system; a fierce Kamala Harris about to make a life-changing speech, but all you get are a few retweets, comments and critics. You don’t show the world the vulnerable, Rupi Kaur poetic mess you are on Fridays while with ‘the man you see a future with’. At twenty-one, you are mostly an unpaid actress in a movie scripted by yourself. Basically, your life is a low-budget Hollywood movie.
It was then that the ill-informed decision to vie for president was born. To be honest, a few friends I’ve not seen for years influenced my decision. It was supposed to be a middle finger to this guy who had a one-night stand with my friend. Well, it wasn’t necessarily that. He invited her to these campus events and she turned up. They drank and partied till around 4 in the morning when he offered to take her to the hostels. She was intoxicated, and security wouldn’t allow her in at such an ungodly hour.
He offered to let her use his office to rest for the remaining time till morning and she obliged. He went in for a kiss, and after a few minutes of caressing her, he pushed aside her panties and had sex with her. She moaned and then kept telling him to stop but he continued until he finished. Things didn’t pan out well when she confronted him the next day to have a chat about the little session they had.
“But you didn’t scream?” he asked, concerned.
“Is that the only language you understand? Did you not hear me say stop?”
“That’s a thing women say when it’s too good,” he said, believing his own words.
“What women?” Her eyes were rolling with surprise.
“Almost all of the women I’ve been with.”
“Do you ever stop and ask if they are okay?” Her voice had intonated to concern at this point.
He was quiet for a minute then said, “No”.
“Consent? Ever heard of that?” she asked.
“You were kissing me; your insides were moist and you moaned. What do you mean? You definitely wanted it!” he said with finality. He appeared a little surprised, that a girl had walked up to him and expressed her discontent about what had happened the previous night.
“Dennis, that’s how rapists are made.” She walked off and hit her head really badly on a window because tears blurred her vision. We got her emergency pills and we did what women do best; demand apologies and plot for revenge, if the apology isn’t granted. I was happy to help, but something about the situation called me to do more because it felt like I needed to do something more.
Dennis was a brainy and articulate man. You could tell from the influence he had on the students around campus. Airing his dirty laundry in public could be bad for my friend, but we decided to make the bold step. We figured the best thing would be to frustrate his re-election because he’d been voted in while in his second year. It did not come as a surprise when Dennis secured the presidency seat on campus.
I had just launched Sista for Sista’s, an organization to help fight sexual abuse on campus, I desperately wanted to prove the credibility of the organization, so I decided to go all Hollywood. I announced my candidacy for the presidential seat on campus. While we all had doubts about this approach, we understood that we needed equally great influence to sway the masses and I tossed myself in the limelight.
The inspiration behind Sista for Sista’s foundation was the horror stories we shared in our hostel rooms. Most of the girls felt defenceless, unable to speak for themselves against lecturers who made sexual demands and sadly, those who were experiencing intimate partner violence. You’d assume that the couple you see on campus holding hands on campus are happy beyond measure, but that wasn’t the case behind closed doors.
At Sista for Sista, we saw it raw. Felt it raw. The bruises, the blood stains, the anguish in their eyes, the regret and the fear. I remember how my friend felt after her conversation with Dennis and I resolved to do better, to do right by her and we set the campaign in motion. We demanded that the university set an in-house disciplinary committee for sexual offenders and beyond that, bar anyone with sexual offences from running for office. Besides this, members of the organization pooled together resources to create a little self-care haven in school, demanded and demanded an immediate apology from Dennis.
Ladies and gentle ladies… No! Ladies and gentlemen, do I have your attention? (I expect a resounding clap and roars of laughter).
But, what do you expect from a man with a good sense of humour, expensive cologne, great fashion sense, intelligence and people’s trust? He offered a pretty lame excuse, besides it, jargon-filled suggestions of how an uninterested woman is supposed to react during sex she didn’t enjoy. Talk of audacity! We retaliated with the last card we had on our plan, we pressed charges against him.
We pushed through with our campaign, citing loopholes in his apology and in fact weaponized it. My campaign team and I capitalized on tarnishing his name and image to win us sympathy votes and convince the movable middle. I’ll admit, it felt good. Walking around campus, feeling people staring at me and flashing smiles at my voters. Initially, we’d planned to pull out of the ballot at the last minute, but the growing influence got to me, us and we stayed in the race. The campaign brought a lot of attention to the organization, more girls came forth to speak against sexual abuse and it felt like something was moving.
Three days before the election, Dennis asked that we meet privately for a conversation about the elections. I was riding the high horse, getting down was not an option. He was not budging and neither did I. At that time, I felt like a prize, a conquest and he made me one. It was like foreplay, the way we brushed shoulders, proving to each other that we both had power and influence. The power trip ended in a landslide. We won against Dennis with a landslide.
Most of the people on his campaign team were appalled by the results, so they took it upon themselves to drag me in the mud. My first hurdle in office, after I was sworn in, was damage control. They had somehow managed to get to my exes and frenemies and gotten a few secrets from my past and he went to the streets with my business. You’d think that a woman in a position of power is numb, untouchable even, with little rumours about their life floating around, but that’s not close. Dennis was an overachiever. Unlike most successful people, he didn’t take failure with as much grace as he did success. He also adored perfection and when he wasn’t in the moment; he was busily tainting the person that took the spotlight away from him, especially when his court case was thrusting him into the nationwide limelight.
My first instinct was to resign. It’s the most human thing to do when you are between a rock and a hard place. You escape to safety. But it infuriated me, that they wanted to force me out of power, by exposing my weakness. Dennis advised that I don’t and he signed up as the first male to our organization to fight against sexual abuse in school. He issued a public apology and influenced a few other men to join the organization. His reform has to my biggest win because we have trans-versed the world, advocating for justice. His commitment to the organization spoke volumes, the impact of his story influenced other institutions to follow in our steps and after appearing in court a few times, my friend withdrew the case.
In my tenure as president, we flipped things around campus and left an intangible influence at the time of my graduation. I’ll not stand here to boost my quarter-life successes but it’s at that time that I realized, I was born to be a leader. Your leader. The woman was dragged on the floor but dusted herself back up. Some of the big wins during my tenure are that we reformed a lot of rapists, and sexual offenders within the campus and beyond and managed to keep lecturers in check. We have never looked back since we set out to serve people in this capacity. Dennis works pro-bono on sexual assault cases and is very passionate about reforming men who have been convicted of the same and I can’t be prouder.
I’m running for president, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve served people in this position, but I know that I’m the woman for the job. I’ll not stand here, to make promises and promise you shiny gifts, and all that glitter that frankly all of us on this panel can afford. I’m asking for your votes, because under my Leadership, stories of impact, like the one I just told you, will be the order of the day.
“Your publicist sent me a copy of your speech, Impressive I must say, but try not to be so uptight,” Jim my husband says.
“Uptight? How do you mean?” I ask.
“It’s quite the story, an emotional one at that. Just make to smile, give your audience time to respond, be calm and cool, maybe ” he says.
“You think I should wear a nude lippie or my favourite bold red one?” I ask, pivoting the conversation away from Jim’s endless How-to lessons.
“The red one. It’ll make your smile be felt across the room.” Then he laughs softly, looking deep into my eyes. We make a toast. The click of these glasses reminds me of the times I drank too much wine in my twenties, wondering what it was I was meant to be. She would be so proud of me.
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