Coming out of a shell and making it natural
Mother woke me up one morning, blazing with anger and waving a letter. I was hazy from my sleep and was thus having a hard time figuring what was going on. I knew she was upset, but my mind was slow. I felt my flesh being pulled, as she scolded me, and the pain left me more disoriented. I recoiled back into my blankets to protect myself.
“What did I tell you about boys? Why is this boy writing you this letter?” she enquired. “Do not lie to me, how did he get your postal address, and why is he saying all these things. What did you do to attract him?” So many questions.
I have never known the contents of that letter, but the scolding and the pinches I got many years ago, irritate me till today. Why was I blamed for a boy’s choice to write me a letter? Why was it assumed that I must have done something to attract the boy?
“Do not hold your hair like that, who are you trying to attract? Why are your lips glossy, remove that?”
I now understand my mother was doing her best to protect me from boys; I know she had my best interest at heart, but why does it always have to be the woman’s fault and burden? When I was 15 years old, I remember girls in my school being rounded up and forced to cut our hair short.
“This is a distraction”, the school administration explained. “Girls are using hair to attract and distract the boys.”
Why is it that the woman has to confine her body, her sexuality, her talents, her need to explore, all in the name of respecting limits which have been imposed by and continue to be re-invented a patriarchal culture?
A close friend of mine recently called me to share what he thought was a fascinating sight. He had decided to treat himself to a nice meal, one Sunday evening, when a small boy proudly aiming his pee into a fish pond caught his attention. Everyone watched him, amused but not embarrassed. My friend was excited when narrating the story. “The boy was just being a boy,” he explained.
I could not help comparing this story to that of the girl child. Would the sight of a small girl, squatting to shoot a stream of pee into a pond draw the same reaction? Would they have been amused, and simply say, “The girl is just being a girl”? Even with such natural performances, and from early ages, the destiny of the boy to “move out” to explore to challenge gravity is encouraged. The girls on the other hand or encouraged to respect limits; respect gravity.
Such acts are reflective of the socialisation processes in society. They encourage a feeling of conservativeness in girls, and exploration in boys. As a young girl I learned to bottle up feelings and experiences, because I knew that society would either blame me or be embarrassed of me. The burden lies on the woman.
Do not get me wrong women can be and are assertive, they can be and are explorers; they can be and are seen as active participants in public spaces. However, such women are considered empowered, because they are rejecting what patriarchy has branded as normal and it has not been an easy. Challenging patriarchal limits leads to such labels as wicked woman, among others. Hence, the struggle of the empowered woman continues. My worry is: will it ever be as natural for the girl as it has been for the boy? Or will the woman forever have to fight against such patriarchal natural processes?
Coming out of my shell; this is what I have been doing for the past few months; learning to trust my voice. I have read theories about women and travelled to remote communities to listen to her-story. I have seen women working hard to take control of their lives, coming out of their shells. Being a voice of our future correspondent serves two purposes for me: personal exploration and discovery as I do that which I feel in my pulse; making the empowerment of the woman natural.