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Empowerment, Bullying & Other Stories
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Empowerment, Bullying & Other Stories

Every once in a while I share my thoughts on the online world and entourage here http://www.stylememaria.com/?cat=247 without expecting anyone to relate but it always surprises me how many of you tell me that speaking my mind offers you a voice through my platforms and for that I am appreciative. Today I am here to do it again after another round of taking a back seat to act as a spectator instead of someone immersed in the field. For it is by distance only that we get a clear vision and grasp an objective understanding of what is happening, and I make sure I never speak out of anger or irritation but take many steps back for many months before writing.

Let me start with something that many will find offensive but excuse me while I tell you how much the word “empowerment” is meaningless unless it is combined with actions. Can we all please stop using this buzzword just to be relevant and start changing the way we view ourselves and others? To all those shouting it on rooftops, when was the last time you helped another woman and when was the last time you bashed women you know or barely know behind their backs? Are you familiar with feminism and its literature and worldwide movements that have occurred to get to where we are today? Please stop hiding behind empowerment, posing in risqué ways and showing skin isn’t what makes us empowered (though it is a right and a choice), not everything we do is linked to empowerment, and we don’t need to make it clear every single time. It is what happens when you have a strong message of healing and acceptance to share with your friends or followers, it is when you recover from many failures and from people close to you telling you that you can’t make it, it is when you truly listen to and push forward a woman who is struggling to love herself, it is when you accept your flaws and not allow society to dictate your being.

Then there is bashing everywhere which is a form of bullying. Women are bullied all the time, we are either too thin or too fat, too athletic or not working out enough, have had plastic surgery or need some Botox, care for ourselves or put our needs last. The list goes on but for the bully the target is always a woman who is trying hard to achieve something in this world. I have watched as women and mothers are being trolled and what makes it sadder is that the participants in these mass attacks are those who would show their adulation for those women when they see them in person or on social media. How quick people are to gang up on others without giving them the benefit of a doubt! Please don’t let the online world suck you into this hate and envy, yes some “bought” their way to the top and are doing their own thing but others didn’t and are building their audience steadily and you know what, we don’t get to judge either one. Yes some are only about fashion but if you aren’t about fashion it doesn’t make you better than those who love to dress up. I say this with utmost objectiveness because in this case I am a self proclaimed lover of vintage and hippie street style but I am playing devil’s advocate and seeing things from all sides. I would never criticize a woman who dresses up all the time, it isn’t my right and I am not better than anyone just as no one out there is better than anyone.

If you thought cliques were over in middle school think again. Instagram takes this to a whole new level and only people who have mutual benefit from each other flock together. They want you to think that they are genuinely supporting each other but would they support others with good content? Never. It is a closed circle, a tit for tat, but little do they know that everyone is on to them but the rest of the entourage don’t want in on it so it isn’t as coveted as they like it to be. But these mega pages are losing on genuine content by beauty bloggers, fashionistas, artists and thinkers alike when they don’t widen their circle. Not to mention that some of the equally large or smaller pages in terms of an audience make it a point to throw about the words “authentic” and “genuine” to describe profiles most people see as portraying an ideal life in lala land where no one is tired and no one works but life is a musical where a photographer is always with them and their hair, makeup and clothes are styled by a professional. Don’t misunderstand me, I love these profiles as eye candy but I cringe when I see that other women especially mothers who are sharing true genuine content and their struggle balancing all aspects of their life are thrown on the sideline like an irrelevant bunch. And while I’m on this subject, it sickens me to see how people use each other and some would throw themselves at “instafamous” people just to be in their stories for a mere few seconds in hopes of gaining momentary recognition. I’ve had it done to me by people who would bash me the very next day then see me and be all smiles, and I have had some people warn me about many who do this but I never would have guessed it because you know what, I see the best in people. I have also seen it being done in front of my eyes with others and it is a horror to watch what society has come to. This has made me even more reclusive and a one woman show when it comes to my partnerships and content because flying solo doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you are strong and confident enough in your own abilities to stand alone.

Speaking from firsthand experience I say that I also wish brands would be more professional with how they deal with influencers. Would you as a business ask for someone to advertise for free? Is an advertisement slot worth no money? Isn’t this their source of income as well? How about (true story) asking someone to purchase items from your store and promote you? Umm, why would I do that? If I for example love your product, one which I bought and tried, then I would share it and recommend it because that’s who I am, I give genuine opinions and support local businesses, but it doesn’t give you the right to take online platforms lightly. Credibility and transparency are things that will never be shaken or compromised by me, but being taken for a fool is something that will never happen after all the trauma I have been through in this cut throat business where you can trust no one. Another issue I request is to respect people’s time. When a meeting is scheduled and a woman/mother is taking precious time from her work or family to convene despite all storms, traffic jams and hectic errands, a certain unspoken code applies. If you don’t want to proceed with the collaboration based on certain facts given during the meeting then it is your right but get your priorities straight on the phone or email ahead of time so that the meeting won’t go to waste. And please don’t use the “no budget” card when you clearly have a budget and when this could have been said before the meeting to save time for both parties. In addition to that I learned the hard way that many will seem serious and after the price has been negotiated and they ask you for a detailed and long term content plan and instantly boom! They choose not to follow through for no apparent reason which leads me to one conclusion, that they took your proposal to apply it on their own or with someone else while you sit like an idiot reflecting on the hours of work and effort you made for them and the fact that you are a “nice” person who didn’t ask for payment upfront.

On another note, has anyone noticed how some online figures jump from brand to brand, restaurant to restaurant endorsing a new one daily? I don’t mean foodies/beauty bloggers who give us genuine reviews of each place/product they try (which is what sharing is), but those with a large presence with all its implications, monetary and otherwise. Do I even trust you anymore now? No I’m sorry you lost your credibility when you endorsed two (or more) different places with the same exact item two days in a row on your Instagram feed which makes it even clearer for us that this is a business deal and not just coverage. Pace yourself and don’t underestimate your audience’s ability to smell something fishy. At least some bloggers (especially the ones that have been here for a long while and take the time to write reviews and explain in detail) have the decency to tell us what they love and dislike about each product even when they are sponsored posts and I respect this but when you hide behind your phone preaching to everyone that you know what you’re saying and that each thing is the greatest of all time, you lost me (and your spike in popularity isn’t going to win you a Grammy for breakthrough artist of the year). How about those who post on average once a week or even less and only when they are paid to? Again, this is a business for many of us who have established a name and it is a right, but without relatable content the audience doesn’t grow, and for people to trust your review they need to see your day to day posts and stories not just endorsed content. It isn’t a competition to whose page looks more sponsored; no one will think you are “wanted” as an influencer by doing this, on the contrary, they will assume you accept everything that comes your way and not what you believe in. Same goes for brands and agencies that claim knowledge of influencers and clients but choose to work with the same group of people without checking the history, profile evolution and more in depth insights rather than face value of number of likes and comments, and place them in all their campaigns no matter how (ir)relevant they may be. Before you choose someone who hasn’t entered a gym for an exercise campaign or a model-like figure for diet center collaborations, tell me what are you afraid of? That with someone who does work out or needs to lose some weight, the image you built up as an established business will disappear? Are you that unconfident in your skills and service? Or when you choose a profile of someone who has never grazed the food/cooking territory for a staged kitchen theme campaign, do you really think they will be taken seriously and will drive sales to the brand you as an agency are hired to promote? If you have the option to work with someone who is a professional in their field for a campaign up their alley, why go another direction and lose credibility as an agency and for the brand? So many questions that are left unanswered and leave both the bloggers and audience baffled and rewinds society to the time where cars were advertised by having women stand next to them. Isn’t this what online marketing was aiming to get rid of?

You know what I’d love to see change? It is action from brands towards wonderful bloggers who are unconventional. This is where your marketing lies; this is what we want to see. We want to see a woman with wide hips model your clothes, or someone with flabby arms. We want to see real women, not perfect faces and bodies. We love perfection and magazine-like editorials but it doesn’t make your brand approachable. So instead of preaching tolerance, difference and acceptance, serve them to us by partnering with down to earth influencers so that the public feels they are also beautiful and that what you are selling is attainable. Shout out to the wonderful new bloggers who are writing, Instagrammers with interesting daily content, inspirational feminist pages, mommy bloggers who keep it real, established names that we love to follow for their unapologetic writing and trusted recommendations, you are the ones I love to watch and read, and hopefully we as a group will sustain the online community.

Finally and on a personal note, I have had some people tell me to forget about trying to change people’s perceptions and focus on positive things instead of trying to fix everything or sound bitter, I tried it for a short while but I can’t, it isn’t who I am and not why I started my platform. I am not immune to cyber bullying and have had my share of messages either directly or through someone’s platform where they choose to blindly follow someone else’s opinion and spread their negative vibes to all those who don’t agree with what they are saying. Or others who have bad mouthed me when I haven’t ever met them or know of their existence. How pathetic is that? I have never claimed perfection but instead I am growing with you and documenting my days online. It has always been about working mothers, about parenting, new experiences, loving oneself and embracing what I see as my flaws and most importantly about dreaming big and encouraging you to do the same. But when you do have these aspirations and see the other side of things, the mundane, the toxicity, the hypocrisy, would you stand by and do nothing just to gain popularity?

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