AFRICAN FEMININITY

It's a privilege to be an African woman

In Summary

• We are not hunters, we are nurturers. We are made to receive.

• Going out to hunt, not using our feminine ways in order to survive causes great disorder in our lives.

I do not know where or when it happened but at some point, someone told the African woman that being feminine is weak or it means she is loose. She is often portrayed as a beast of burden—carrying firewood on her head or a large container of water across her back.

She does not smile. Her head is often bowed. She wears layers and layers of oversized skirts and petticoats and finishes it off with a leso. The way she fears her nakedness, it is hard to imagine that just a few decades ago we walked around naked.

In the urban cities she is often seen in tasteless pant suits and angular bob haircuts. She is in the corporate world so she tries not to wear anything that has bright colours. She still rarely smiles, but at least her head is not bowed. She looks at you straight in the eye as though she is spoiling for a fight.

She tries not to cook or do laundry, even if it is just the odd shirt or dress. She will not serve her husband or children; she has a maid to do that. Besides, what will people think? Submission (to your own man) is equal to slavery.

So, we have these two women. One who has been conditioned to work like a donkey who does not need rest. Who is not allowed nor does she allow herself any luxuries. (We come from a Third World country, I am not talking about cruises and diamonds, I am talking about the luxury of rest and hope even).

We can change what society dictates though, like the first woman who has been told by society that ‘mwanamke mzuri ni yule hachoki (a good woman does not get tired)’. A woman is meant to be looked after, meant to be soft, meant to be warm. Do not harden her with too much responsibility and rules.

Her church will not allow her to wear a dress above her knees because women who show off their knees will end up in hell where the god who made them that way will one day light the fires and burn them.

Then we have the urban woman who thinks anything associated with ‘womanly roles’ is outright backwardness and will not be caught dead playing any of those roles. She is always on the warpath because she suspects everyone is trying to get her back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. She can pay her own bills and will not let anyone forget it. Any simple favour is misconstrued. The result is a very stressed and tired woman who is almost always lonely.

According to the dictionary, femininity is a set of attributes, behaviours and roles generally associated with girls and women. Some roles are biological, others society dictates. We must not try to change what we came into this world with, because it was put there to help us survive.

We are not hunters, we are nurturers. We are made to receive. Going out to hunt, not using our feminine ways in order to survive causes great disorder in our lives. So many women these days are collapsing from exhaustion and dealing with serious lifestyle diseases at very young ages, diseases our grandmothers dealt with in their final stages of life, because of stress.

We can change what society dictates though, like the first woman who has been told by society that ‘mwanamke mzuri ni yule hachoki (a good woman does not get tired)’. A woman is meant to be looked after, meant to be soft, meant to be warm. Do not harden her with too much responsibility and rules.

I must admit the Western media, which is dominant in Africa, has not helped much in this respect. In fact, they have contributed a great deal to the confusion in what is deemed as feminine when it comes to the African woman. They often portray the white woman as a wonderful mother, who stays at home, has children and generally is a great housekeeper who drinks the odd glass of wine.

The African (black) woman is portrayed as an angry, abandoned, downcast mother, often fighting to get her children from the system, or recovering drug addict who is dealing with sexual abuse among a myriad of issues. We now have African women thinking that femininity is soft long straight hair, skin like milk and bodies that can pass through the eye of a needle.

African women, let us remember we are goddesses, we are powerful, we are women no matter what situation you find yourself. Single, married, divorced, married-single. There is strength in being feminine. Do not strive to be equal to a man, you are equal to nobody. Let us fight for our right to be feminine.