I have some considerably sharp features (my nose, specifically). Persians are known for their frequent use of cosmetic surgery to touch up their noses and lips and laser hair removal to remove unwanted facial and body hair. There have been times where I’ve contemplated the costs and benefits of giving in to the pressure to change. After some serious prioritizing, however, I’ve grown out of that line of thinking. While I fully endorse cosmetic enhancement, it’s important that it genuinely originates from one’s own preferences. Once things originate from peer pressure, they become problematic.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family and community that prioritized the beauty of my thoughts. It didn’t matter if you were aesthetically attractive; your body was simply a medium through which you could exercise your voice. Your voice, your words, your actions shaped your reputation. My parents were political refugees from the Iranian Revolution. The last thing on their minds was what they looked like, as they left an oppressive regime that refused to serve their well-being.
That being said, I will never forget this one incident in high school. I had returned to school after working as a Legislative Page for three weeks at Queen’s Park. We were sitting in class and I noticed that my peers were snickering. One of them pointed to my math project that was posted just above the blackboard. Someone had written “Alk” just before my name (Ida) in a miserable attempt to imply that I was a terrorist. I mean at least get the spelling right. That was tough. I was 13 years old. My esteem plummeted pretty quickly compared to my overwhelming happiness when I was working at Queen’s Park. I was surrounded by some amazing, hardworking young people in the government and had fostered some great relationships, to come back to school and be ridiculed because of my name. The contrast in maturity levels really shocked me. We were all the same age. We were all educated. Not all of us, though, were respectful.
Ida is an Iranian-Canadian law student at the University of Ottawa. She pursued her undergraduate degree in Political Science, World Islamic & Middle East Studies, and Communications at McGill University. She’s served as an executive on women empowerment groups including McGill Women in Leadership and the University of Ottawa Association of Women in the Law. She has been a strong advocate for the respect of mental health issues and the accessibility of opportunities for the communities she represents. She’s played the flute at Carnegie Hall, worked as a Legislative Page, and met some important international figures as a result of her dedication to student well-being.
Photo Creds to Thomas Borcsok