I have never loved labels. They make me feel small, unseen, and judged. Ironically, people think they have me all figured out. I have been called loud, bold, confident, and assertive, and while I am these things, there is more to me. We give labels to people because we’re wired to make meaning of things, and labels act as categorizations that we use to fit one another in nice little boxes. When we cannot assign labels to people, we perceive them as threats, and no one is a bigger threat than a woman!
In the olden days, a woman was an object to be seen and not heard. She was taught to be quiet, subjective, and serving, and this was the measure of a good woman. Little has changed in today’s society. Women are still expected to do these things and to stay on track. To pursue careers like nursing and cooking that validate female societal responsibilities while leaving engineering, medicine, and similar professions to men. This is why women who have dared to venture into the male professions are considered peculiar. It becomes impossible to understand how women like Nakuru Senator and CEO of Keroche Breweries Tabitha Karanja, Microsoft Country Manager Kendi Ntwiga, and the Managing Director of Isuzu East Africa Rita Kavashe are succeeding in these spaces. It is quickly thought that their success is due to either deception or sleeping their way to the top. It is disgraceful for a successful woman in a male-dominated field to not be in the kitchen.
It doesn’t end there. As modern women, we put on makeup,accessories,and the latest fashion to accentuate our appearance. Because in order to be heard, we must first be seen. We dare to defy misogynistic traditions that have left women feeling unseen. That a woman has to introduce herself with the prefix miss, or missus, is worse. What does it matter that her marital status be known yet a man’s prefix is just mister? Marital status be damned.
It gets worse. For a woman, there is a chronological sequence to be followed. Puberty has to come at a certain age, education and employment have to be sought at a specific time, and then marriage and childbearing follow. Anything too early or too late is scornful and shameful. But not for a man, and therein lies the double standard. A man can have children at any time, with multiple partners, and even out of wedlock, and somehow, this is a measure of how much of a man he is. If a woman does this, she is shameless, broken, and irreparable. Women must follow a specific sequence and keep in mind that the clock is ticking. We don’t have the luxury of growing old like great wine.
Finally, the worth of a woman is measured by that of a man. On her own, she has no value, but when you introduce a man, et voila! She means something. When she is assaulted, abused, or even raped, men only come to her rescue under the guise that she is someone’s mother, daughter, and sister. Apparently, on her own, she does not mean much. Thus, a continuous cycle of systemic marginalisation is born and perpetuated. This is why we are sold for cows, and forced to endure practices such as FGM, because the men said so.
Let us now turn our attention to trolls and misogynists who target women who, despite their age, choose to stay childless and unmarried. Because they find inner serenity from being alone and do not require children or marriage to comply to society.
They have chosen selective deafness to anyone who points and says that they are behind schedule, simply because they are enough on their own. If I have failed to show you what it means to be a woman, learn this; like a compass needle that points North, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.