Random Musings || What Women Empowerment Isn’t

There’s this young woman whose account I follow on Instagram. For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to her as Instagram Lady. To be honest, I’d rather not follow her but I continue to because I think she’s a phenomenal writer and I absolutely love her literary work.

If you’re a woman whose mind has been freed from the shackles of society’s expectations of what a lady should be—in terms of how we must act, what we are allowed to become, etc.—I understand how it can be annoying when you meet or interact with a woman who hasn’t quite…seen the light yet. I’m talking about the type of woman who is so smug about her, sometimes, self-imposed subjugation; the type of woman that feels she has to condense herself, become shrivelled, seem unintelligent or unambitious in order to be tagged ‘an ideal woman’. The type of woman whose marital status is more or less the only reason she holds her head high. She’s married, you see, and has vowed to spend the rest of her years condemning those oh-so-lowly, unmarried womenfolk. She’s the type of woman whose ideologies of the true meaning of submission are so unbelievably warped, you can’t help but ask, “Seestah…them do you for your village?”

Instagram Lady is not one of such women. Oh, did you think I sometimes feel the need to unfollow her because she has the qualities of the aforementioned woman? Nuhhh. She’s quite the opposite actually. From her writings you can tell Instagram Lady is fully confident in her position as a female. She understands the essence of her femininity and the power it possesses. She’s an incredibly intelligent lady who seems absolutely sure of herself, who seems complete in herself, capable of handling herself. I admire that about her; but she’s also someone who derives joy in ridiculing the type of woman I described in the previous paragraph…and that is why I, sometimes, want to unfollow her.

I read some of Instagram Lady’s work and I’m thinking, “Babes, you’ve gotta chiiiill.” She comes off as harsh and contemptuous towards women who aren’t as free-thinking as her, whose minds aren’t as ‘unboxed’ and ‘unplugged’. I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong—Instagram Lady is actually married. So she certainly cannot be accused of being a bitter, unmarried feminist. However, I still fear for how she seems so…angry and condescending towards women who aren’t like her. I know a few women like Instagram Lady—African women whose liberated minds make them look down on other African women whose actions are still determined by the dogmas of acceptable female behaviour. I’m uncomfortable with women like Instagram Lady.

 

THE TOXIC LIES WE WERE FED WITH 

 

If you hear a certain thing more than enough times, you start to believe it, even if the statement is false.

 

No man will marry you if you wear your hair like that.

You won’t get married if you buy a ‘big’ car, you know.  

No man wants a woman who can’t cook.

No woman is complete without a husband.

When you get married, this is what you must do; this is how you must behave…

Girl, you don’t need  to work so hard. Are you not a woman? All you have to do is get married. Your husband is supposed to take care of you. 

The reason a woman would be unmarried at 28 is because she’s…too much—too aggressive, too ambitious, too loud. No man wants that kind of woman.

My darling daughter…all men cheat…

Etc., etc., etc…

When you continuously hear certain things, the words would most likely become gospel to you. Many women, especially those of us in Africa, have been mentally conditioned to make choices only based on how we’ll be affected maritally. We’ve been taught, from childhood to shrink and lose a bit of ourselves so as not to seem unappealing to men. And we are praised when we do that. We have been taught to believe that this belittling of ourselves is an accomplishment. This is why some women who aren’t like Instagram Lady pat themselves on the back for something that ideally, is so undeserving of praise. That’s all they know how to be and someone told them they are on the right path.

A great number of African women have been fed with lies—lies that ruled how we thought and acted for decades of our lives; sadly, lies that not all have been released from. Lies that some will never be released from, and the truth is, you can’t blame them. Most of our idiosyncrasies exist because of what we’ve been exposed to and what we’ve been taught by our immediate environment.

 

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AND BREAKING FREE ISN’T SO BLACK/WHITE 

The thing is, many times, we are afraid to confront the loopholes in some of our founding beliefs because it usually makes us question all we’ve come to know. It’s usually more comfortable to continue to believe a lie. That’s why even when you call the attention of some of these women to the toxic lies they’ve been told all their lives, they usually become defensive and stick to what they’ve always known. And again, I say, you can’t blame them. It’s typical human nature.

 

TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS—BE NICE!

So, to every woman reading this, who may be like Instagram Lady, I say: be patient with those who don’t reason as you do. I know it can be hard, especially when you interact with someone who is so stuck in their negative patterns of thought, but please, try. Some of you are lucky to have had people around you who spent their time teaching you life lessons different from what is popular. That you have been privy to certain liberating truths is actually a gift which you should be grateful for. You really don’t have to be unkind in a bid to prove you’re truly empowered. Try to be more accommodating of those women who haven’t quite come to the understanding you have. Everyone is a work in progress.

With love as always,

Ihuoma.

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