Bendr Magazine

A few days ago my dearest friend and editor-in-chief of BenderMag, Natalie Soysa asked me to write about how Bendr has changed me after starting it with Chadini Fernando back in 2019.

I was thrilled and excited to write about my life change after starting Bendr because I hoped it would give me a chance to revisit my past self before embarking on what I didn’t expect to be a life changing project.

To start with, let us travel back to my childhood growing up in Sri Lanka, back to those horrible 2000 fashion choices (yes they were terrible, pls stop lying to yourself if you are trying to convince yourself that they weren’t terrible). Growing up, I was always terribly critical of the way I looked, the way I behaved and really wanted to be liked by everyone.

The people around me at the time weren’t too kind either. They made an extra effort to point out my flaws. I spent a lot of time mulling over teen magazines trying to clean up all my imperfections and indulging in self-hate; wishing my skin was my fairer, bleaching my skin with copious amounts of Fair and Lovely. Consuming very white (with no people of colour) Hollywood Teen roms where stereotypes ran rampant, where most of the narrative included the girl having to always change herself in order to get the guy or that a bad guy can change for a good woman.

Ahhhh that good ol’ narrative combined with the Sri Lankan cultural mentality of “victim blaming”, “boys will be boys” and you've got yourself a one way ticket for therapy.

Fast forward to my lovelife, in my twenties which can be summed in one word, tumultuous. Mostly because growing up watching all those movies and seeing my friends also in these toxic relationships of their own made me think this was very normal. Or rather that is what real love meant. I was under the impression that if I stayed in these types of relationships, that love would be enough because love conquers all, right? So, I was most willing to put up with everything and anything when it came to their needs and their wants.

I would change myself to fit whatever manic dream girl they wanted me to play.

I would change myself to fit whatever manic dream girl they wanted me to play.

If they wanted the innocent but cute girl at the party, I could play it. If they wanted the life of the party, loud mouthed type of girl, hell I could be that too, If they wanted the girl who could kick back and chill with bros type of girl, I was that too. They named it and I delivered my performance. The perfect “pick me girl”, carefully bundled and packaged. All the while shaming other girls who tried to play the perfect “pick me girl “ part too.

Enter BENDR to the rescue.

My dearest friend Chadini Fernando shared with me and Natalie a TedTalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and one the highlights in her talk that struck a chord with me was this statement “we teach girls that they can have ambition, but not too much... to be successful, but not too successful, or they'll threaten men”.

That statement consumed me as I began to realize how much that statement rang true in my everyday life. I had shrunk myself in order to fit into this patriarchal world and become someone that was defined by gender and my gender expectation in this world

From that day forth Chadini, Natalie and I would deconstruct all other social notions that women were just expected to follow but not question. Small things that seemed harmless but later upon realization, contributed to gender inequality that plagued our society.

Bendr helped me cast off my internalised misogyny and I became a more empathetic individual not only towards all women, but all individuals facing their own discirmantions and gender expectations in society.

I realized or rather, Bendr made me realize how much I had denied myself just to not seem “too much” but to adequately fit in. I gather today, I am not everyone's cup of tea and that's fine. Through Bendr, I had long made my peace with that. But Bendr made me rediscover myself and realized that I am everything.

I am a duality of characteristics that can switch on and off when I decide. I can be that loud mouthed life of the party girl, but I can also be that introvert who would rather stay in bed and listen to music. I am that, kick back with bros, girl if I choose. I can be the cute but innocent girl but on other days if I want to go out and howl at the moon you best believe I'll be there howling my life out.

However most importantly Bendr made me realize I can be whatever that I, Nadine Croos decide to be that day for myself and most importantly Bendr made me realize that I always have choice and that's what I hope Bendr continues to inspire in people that your gender, your parents, your culture, your lover doesn't define you, you define yourself and you can take all the time in the world finding out what makes you, you.

NADINE CROOS

Co founder of Bendr is a graduate from the university of Houston and is a Business Developer with a passion for Music. In her free time she can be frolicking in forests or getting angry with people on the internet. She’s passionate about gender equality and Tax the rich incentives.