The struggles of the modern day African woman..and the emphasis placed on marriage.

…This is one of those very very random posts which will take me probably 15 minutes to write as I am very pained at the moment! It has nothing to do with academics or matters pertaining to education really.  This is more a post to encourage those who are feeling ‘discouraged’ or feel as tho their support network isn’t as strong as they had anticipated.

So in this post, I am going to briefly discuss some of the challenges I have faced in my persuit of ‘Wanting to do better.’ So, here we go!

First and foremost,  I am a woman.  Secondly,  I am a black woman. Two Words, Two Challenges.

The woman in who?
The fact that I am a woman automatically means I will and have faced discrimination in different stages of my life. Believe me when I say I am not working from a theory – I have experienced times without number. I don’t know why in this modern day, people still feel that women aren’t as clued up as their male counterparts. It’s quite sad. We had something delivered two weeks ago to my house and the delivery man said “Sure you’re gonna be ok with that? I know DIY isn’t a woman’s first language love!’ The annoyance!!!!! I just could not deal. Low and behold, I put the delivered product up myself. Now, it wasn’t that I didnt need the help. In fact, it would have been a life saver. I just took that comment as a challenge and put it up myself. Sure, it took me a couple of hours, but I got there in the end -:)

On being black
I am a black woman. Double discrimination.  Not enough that your a woman,  but you’re also black? The last few days alone, I have experienced it. Not nice. During an honest group discussion, someone pointed out that he was genuinely suprised to see a black woman in our department. I can’t blame him as I actually am the only black woman there. Being “coloured” should be something that makes you different, in a good way. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case always.

Women on women. What is the problem?
I will never understand why women are unsupportive of each other. I don’t get it. Honestly, I just don’t. Why would you see me as a threat? I am a woman, you are a woman. Forgive me, but my mind is conditioned that naturally, we should encourage each other. The plan is that we all make it together – it’s not a competition. You seeing another woman doing well should motivate you to also do well. You shouldn’t be “hating” on each other.

The solution: Hateful women will be around. You have just got to man up and keep it moving. Not everyone will be happy for you and not everyone wants to see you doing good. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll be ok.

The last few weeks especially, I have been on the receiving end of people who rather than just keep quiet, go out of their way to discourage.  It’s rather worrying to be honest. I’m not sure if its intimidation of pure insecurities. Let me give you some examples below.

The Marriage talk
Two weeks ago, I met with an aunt of mine at a party  who I haven’t seen in a little while. In London, everyone is your aunt or uncle or at least they attach themselves by introducing themselves as your distant cousin.

So, we exchanged pleasantries as you do and asked about our various families. Here was me thinking it would end there -how wrong could I have been. It quickly escalated into ‘So Fola, do you think you reallly need this phd? You will frighten men away o. This one that you have finished from law school, it’s enough o. You need to go and marry.’
I sat there, gobsmacked. I did not say a word. I was literally looking at her mouth as she was talking. This discussion went on for approximately 25 minutes. My ‘aunt’ did me the honour of tabling the reasons why I should not continue with my current course and should head down the aisle. This is coming from a housewife who does nothing but spends her husbands Amex o. Now, I once aspired to be an educated housewife wearing Prada, but I realised quickly that plan would fail. Primarily because I am too stubborn for one guy to come and use me for shakara. Secondly I know there’s only so much prada one can can’t truly be happy.

Now, I am all for advising people if you think they need it, but all na packaging and diplomacy. You cannot say you’re advising someone and then just start giving them rules and regulations as to the need to do something..right now. Not cooool at all! I sha thanked her for her concern and stylishly changed seats to the other side of the room.

You get this attitude also in church. Someone saw me at the station, (although this was a few months ago) and we again, exchanged pleasantries, as you do. This was a man by the way. So, it got to the dreaded stage of ‘what do you do?’ and as I didn’t feel any reason to play anything down, I told him. #Error.
‘It quickly turned into a one way conversation:  ‘Ahhhh sister. How old are you? Are you married? (I said no, obviously). Ah sister honestly, please let me advise you. You need to go and get married. You don’t need all these qualifications, you just need to go and settle down…’ Again, I didn’t say anything. Those who know me well know that I am usually well geared up for a sharp response. However on this occasion, alike my first experience above, I was speechless – so people still think like this?

Society and it’s views
I honestly believe that men look at women and believe that after their first degree, the next thing is to ship them off to their husbands house and start producing babies. This is a reallllly LOW mentality to have and unfortunately, this is an adequate reflection of the society we live in today. Call me modern, but I believe that there is much more to life than that.

The best way to tackle this approach? The woman in me would say keep quiet, thank him for his words of ‘wisdom’ and keep it moving. The girl in me would advise him that it was none of his buisness, if he couldn’t say something constructive, don’t say anything at all. I picked the woman voice and let it ride. As I have said previously, not everyone is happy to see progress. I have concluded that such men and women are indeed insecure and the progress of others results in a severe inferiority complex. For this reason,  a response to such comments is not necessarily necessary. In fact, such comments should ginger you to do even well and exceed the boundary society has set.

1. Moan and listen to the negative comments made by people who are NOT responsible for your tuition fees and general upkeep.Listen to the woman who spends the Amex money she has no idea how much work her husband has put in to be successful. Look, such a woman cannot really be respected by her husband because she has no regard for money and probably has the attention span of a fish. Listen to the busybody who has restricted the position of women soley to the kitchen and has crushed any hopes of ‘doing well’.

2. Take those comments on board, suck it up and turn it to motivation to get that work finished. Finish that degree, finish that course, get that amazing job. The choice is yours.

Defining the friendship zone
I used to have a large circle of friends. I think about 12 of us. But gradually, they weaned out and we became smaller and smaller. Those who married, grew wings and suddenly, we, (the single people,) were a bad influence as observed by their husbands. No whala, dey focus on your home. Those who fought with the rest of us because some of us got promoted at work and occasionally paid for all our dinners, did so and moved in with a new click. Apparently the promotion caused them to start showing signs of arrogance. Ok, now, its okkkkkkk!! Those who showed their real colours, did. And so on and so forth. So now, we are about five. And let me tell you, those five are the best.

My advice is to keep your inner circle small. It’s not a competition as to who can have the most friends. Whats the point of having people around you who don’t cultivate and encourage you? Please, do forgive my modern day understanding, but I’m sure you can do without that.

Keep your inner inner circle small but do try and have people around you who are…the key word here “ENCOURAGING”.

Building your network
In previous posts I would have highlighted the importance of mentorship and the importance of having a good support network for your academic journey. Let’s take it down a notch –  the same goes for your personal life. Your network is your networth. You don’t necessarily have to have a large circle of friends. That may cause you more problems than you anticipate. It will serve no purpose for you to be surrounded with people from the above examples as all they will do will discourage you at every opportunity. I have friends now who I have cut off who told me point blank I needed to chill out on the PhD. Why? Because I already went to law school, what was I trying to “prove”? Ok. Thats a post for another day. Your network is your networth. Surround yourself with people who will Encourage you!!!

That’s the general gist of my post today. Im sure something will spark me off again during the week and if it does, be sure that I will share it with you all!

Going back to my desk and the world of research.



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