The Things We Don't Talk About On Women's Day

2016-03-08 09:02

The scent of scepticism is heavy, and the ambivalence of designated days to celebrate a certain kind of human is a concept too strange to absorb. But okay, happy International Woman's Day; for we know that, at least today, our timelines and newsfeeds will be bombarded by otherwise silenced voices and promising activist's causes.

We know that, at least today, the "Top 12 Powerful Women in History" charts will be retweeted, our mothers will be loved, and Hillary Clinton might even pull in some voters, who knows.

There are, however, certain issues, certain creeping concerns that cloud the entire gender dialectic and are pushed aside for the sake of political correctness.

In order for us to truly measure our progress in fighting the epidemic of violence against women, and further pursuing gender equality, there is a need for honest contemplation on the situations and issues that we face, so let's take a look at some thoughts that often go unnoticed.

Birthing Baby Jesus

It's no secret that in the most modern of African homes, there is always a relative that maintains the belief that the birth of a male is a reason for celebration, moreso than the birth of a female. But this is not the point of discussion, not as much as it serves as the point of departure. Conventionally, the act of childbirth within the marriage agreement serves as an extension of labour, a means of continuation and of potential expansion of business and/or the family's livelihood. The birth of the boy not only meant the possibility of economic advancement (based on the labour carried out by males, on mines and such simillar works), but also meant future hegemony over another family, the bride's family.

The legitimate heir to the family's name (and pride, and money), the boy is raised to walk in the imaginary footsteps of ascribed superiority. The boy grows up watching his sister do works in the house considered trivial, or less-then; the boy watches his mother tolerate verbal murmurs that escape his father's dry tongue (such emotional unavailability from his part can be traced to the way in which mothers treat their sons, too); the boy learns, at a very young age, that his gender is more than nature's way of classifying him: it's his never-ending amunition.

Socializing Girls Into Silent Victims

Conversely, the older sister or the distant cousin is sentenced to a life behind the apron. Of course, there is no need to demonize said societal roles, but when the girl is taught to remain silent at the face of what might look like gender-based violence and abuse, we need to re-evaluate some of our tighly ingrained cultural practices.

The narrative around what or how a woman ought to be centers around her ability to please the to-be-husband. From the moment her head reaches the sync, her father sees in his little girl an opportunity for economic profit. Practices like child marriage are deeply motivated by economic insecurities, which cause both the parents to give in to this incidency.

Another equally, if not more, disturbing pandemic is Female Genital Mutilation; a practice that is susbstantiated by traditionally kept value systems promoting the notion that a mutilated woman who is deprived of sexual pleasure will remain loyal to the husband. Several Nigerian girls and women share their sentiments in the widely shared video, "Why Did You Cut Me, Mummy?", challenging the longevity of the ritual and the participation fo women in it.

The Final Paradox

We have arrived at a stage where the word "gender" has been gendered itself. The average human mind will not immediately associate gender-based violence with males, and this is not to say it doesn't happen. Even when it comes to women-initiated gender-based violence, we all have a difficult time wrapping ourselves around the idea that all this pain and suffering often passes through the hands of a woman.

We accuse the likes of Kendricks and Drakes for their misogynistic lyrics and applaud Minaj's assertiveness. We file a suit for verbal abuse and echo the word "bitch" in Formation without noticing; We stand against the policing of women and yet resort to slut-shaming.

The truth is we are making progress, but we are not going far. Not when our understanding of discrimination and intimidation is narrowed by the belief that males are the only perpetuators of violence against women. The inconvenient truth is that, irrespective of the levels of patriarchy that are daily reproduced in our cultural beliefs, the real gatekeepers of such inequity are still at the disposal of the matrons that safeguard society. The matrons who occupy high social positions and are respected for the knowledge and experience they possess; the same who hold the control on the semantics of being a woman and acting like it, and those of us, who so blindly consume the product of our collective blindness.

We are stuck in acting like women and thinking like men, as if womanhood is a lacking concept in its nature that needs compensation through absorbtion. The identity of the girl-child, like her body and self-respect, should not be permeated by self-inflicted insecurities.

So today, on International Woman's Day, we should take some time to reflect on our own role, as women, in stalling the progress of the causes we all wish to advance. We should take an honest look at our realities and our societies, and re-examine the problems and issues that face the plight of the girl-child and woman.

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