Your face is everywhere. Your voice rings throughout cramped lecture halls. You don’t even know how many people you’ve commodified yourself toward — how many hands you’ve shaken with or without feeling, how many walks you’ve taken with community members you’ve never cared to look at, how many times you’ve forced a smile. You haven’t slept for more than four hours a night in the past two weeks, enveloped in an imprisoning sleep ruled by nightmares of public forum blemishes and class reps gone wild. Habit milkshakes are your diet, and you’re okay with that. Your entire routine has intensified under the ruthless grip of campus politics, because it’s election season, and you will do anything to win that fucking position.
This is precisely how I felt by the END of elections last year when I ran for a Senate position within Associated Students. I entered as a younger me, someone I wouldn’t recognize today, someone with trust in myself and others participating in this cycle of *disguised* hierarchical fulfillment. Naïve Leila thought that genuine intention was a ticket to success, because everyone coming in would have a progressive, representative and action-oriented dream for the student body to thrive off of, yeah? Many of the candidates did have this vision, and fervently so. They came from communities with struggles, with deep wisdom and with the need for a representative to ensure that they were treated with equality and commitment. Many of these people are still fighting freedom today and live their goals in alignment with their original focus. But I lost sight of a vision for others throughout the election process, because of the ego that is necessary to engage and stay, and the vulnerability of my inexperience and easily self-consumed state I wasn’t able to control.
I underestimated the necessary evils I had to endure to promote myself while running. I didn’t understand that campus politics mimics the crude policies of politics in the “real world,” and I never entertained the idea that I could grow to become a worse version of myself. I would become someone who was less fit to take up a position (that I didn’t win) because of the growing ego that ate away my pure visions from the start of campaigning to the last day of voting. It’s hard for me to think that malleable and sometimes vulnerable college students can enter office as a better version of themselves after this dehumanizing process, making me think that the ego inflation of elections may hinder original potential in many political leaders.
Objectification. That’s how I see elections. Objectification in the literal sense of presenting yourself as an object to the student body, something that can become an enticing desire for others to invest in, something that will bring them pleasure of some kind. When you’re trying to reach out for votes in places you’ve never been, you must make yourself look shiny. You must change your appeal for the audience, and you must sell yourself until no other product can work for your buyer the way you can. You must say things, do things, look a certain way, and act in accordance with how they view the quintessential model of whatever you’re presenting. I have never had to sell myself to complete strangers and so quickly at that. It was an exhilarating and empty process the same.
How did I do this? I smiled. I increased my pitch in tone. I wore short skirts and I stretched my campaign shirt so it would show more of my cleavage. I flirted, with so many people. I flirted with guys, I flirted with girls, I dumbed myself down to be that dreamy dumb girl of someone’s fantasy. I used make-up and hair and teeth whitener to lure anyone I could into my spell, especially those people who didn’t really care about campus politics at all. I had ideas I truly believed in, but when most people weren’t listening, I flashed a cute glance and started to talk with sexualized body language. I exotified myself. How shameful. I got high at people’s houses, stayed for food, talked for hours and acted happy more than I’ve ever actually felt happy. I’m a happy person who actually has clinical depression, but at that time, I could never let anyone in on my true self. I wasn’t being me, the girl who hated objects, materialism, consumerism, capitalism — a girl who was becoming an American system of deceit and selfish intentions.
With this objectification, I disrespected myself. I didn’t feel like a humxn being. I felt like a robot, and this robot forgot about humanity. It was all about me. Me, me, my face on the board, everyone changing their profile picture to me, me being here, me being there, me being looked up to in a way I’ve never been before. I felt like I was everywhere — on social media, on campus, in people’s minds, in my mind, the only thing in my mind. I couldn’t escape the ever-growing ego.
How can anyone stay down to Earth when so many supportive family, friends and community members are raving about them publicly, wearing material that sports them, constantly promoting this product of self?
Ego is immersing yourself in you and nothing else. Ego is convincing people that you’re the best, because you think you are the best and that they need to know it and live in a way that is compatible in flattering this disgusting thing. How can anyone stay down to Earth when so many supportive family, friends and community members are raving about them publicly, wearing material that sports them, constantly promoting this product of self? I couldn’t stay humble, and I doubt that every candidate can stay humble by the end of this. I don’t have hope. That’s the problem; elections promotes the ego so much that by the end, I feel like the candidates are less prepared to represent the student body in a selfless way than when they started. It takes a great deal of strength and constant self-awareness and checking when it comes to hushing this devil in the pursuit of humble authority. Elections will always be corrupt. The ego will always win.
I’m not sure if I regret running or not. For example, elections was one of the reasons my romantic relationship ended last year. My ego got so big that I started looking down on someone I was once madly in love with. I began to text guys I met canvassing, going on causal outings with other men I liked, hell, I started liking womxn too and pursuing them. If you’re not careful, elections can ruin your relationships, because you have no room to think of anyone else.
When I lost, I thought more about myself losing than my plans for improvement losing. Fuck. This is the reason why I didn’t run in elections this year. I find it almost impossible to pursue a life of humility while asking people to change their profile pictures to your face. I feel worked up just looking at the elections this year. So many beautiful and brilliant people are running, but it’s unfortunate that the process is so fake.
You look around again. Your face is no longer just your face. It’s no longer just a part of your humxn rawness. It’s a product of the system. It’s an agenda waiting to be won. It’s election season and you have begun the process of commodifying yourself in pursuit of something. What that something is, is questionable. What will come out of this, whether you lose or win? It seems like a lose-lose situation no matter which way the voting goes. I do not have faith that our student body can ever be truly representative of the populations that need to be represented. That’s not on the candidates; that’s on the system of nasty politics and I hope to be proven wrong. Until then, I will continue to watch the ego seep into your soul. Maybe you’ll decide to kill it in rebellion against systematic productions; maybe you’ll love how it feels way too much.