by Ivy Chibanda
Her first cry marks the beginning of her trials and tribulations, the beginning of being stereotyped. Already her life is planned, the society celebrates because not only have they received a daughter, but also at the end of the day, they are looking forward to the wealth that will come from her in the form of bride price.
From a tender age, she is taught to be dependent. She is allowed to cry, girls do cry but boys don’t, it’s a girl thing. She is molded into a woman already, burdened with the responsibility of taking care of dolls and plaiting them, she has to ‘nurse’ them and put them to sleep, in preparation of what will become of her in the years to come.
Her hair is plaited and colorful, with bands and all, so that she looks beautiful. She is taught from a tender age that a woman has to look her best; it’s the way you look that attracts men.
She is not allowed to socialise with boys and play their kind of games, because she might grow up with the mentality of men. Games like tug-of-war, wrestling and racing are not hers, those are meant for boys. Her place is to play house. In playing house, she acts as the mother, who stays home with the children and waits for the ‘father’ to come back home with food. Again, she is taught to be dependent.
At school, she is groomed to become a woman who has all the skills to sustain a home. She is not expected to fail home economics it would be a disgrace. Failing math is not a big issue because it’s in the nature of women to fail science subjects.
As she gets to high school, she becomes more aware of her beauty, focuses on her beauty and the books come second. She has to look good for the men around her, so that she gets the hottest guy at school. It’s how she is groomed. When doing household chores and she appears to be lazy or fails to do something in connection with household chores, she is told she should try harder, they don’t want to be disgraced when she gets married. Her line of thinking is channeled to marriage. She is even told no matter how well educated you are, education doesn’t matter when you get married it is a secondary issue.
Beautifying herself causes trouble and pain but she has to look pretty. When the hair is plaited, it is very painful but she is told to endure, women have to endure no matter what. Looking natural becomes something that is not classy, you have to have the fake lashes, lipstick, eye shadows, fake nails and all, so as to look ‘presentable’ – it’s how you look that attracts different types of men.
When she is ready to settle down, she gets a man, and falls in love, she gives her all in the hope that the guy who proposed to her gives his all as well. It works at first but as time goes by he changes, breaks her heart and moves on. She cries and cries for her lost love and each time, she swears never to fall in love again. Again comes another, who pulls her out of her misery and promises to take care of her and promises to never hurt her. After some time, the same thing happens, and he finds another, her heart is left in tatters again.
She could decide to stay single but she has been taught to be dependent. She moves on, finds another and finally she gets married. As usual, it’s all rosy at first but as time goes on things change, the man even beats her up or abuses her emotionally. She cannot go home, she will be told that that’s what all marriages are like, and as she was taught when she was growing up, a woman endures, and it’s in her ‘nature’ to endure. She endures with all the scars in her heart and on her face, all because of love. Love is what makes her suffer. Till death, she suffers and endures, and stays because of her children and fear of being labeled in society.
She could have stayed single, but society has no respect for unmarried successful women, they are labeled. Being in a tortuous marriage may be seen as better than being labeled in society as the woman who never got married; it may even be associated with a bad omen. Again, being very successful as a young woman scares the men away. When educating herself, she gives herself a limit, because she fears rejection from the men she likes. Pressure from society also causes her to fall in love with whomever so that she gets married.
Till death, the woman aims to please, and at times with getting no appreciation at all from those she tries to please. Not only is she hurt by the men, but even the fellow women, they make each other suffer, maybe as mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, friends and even strangers.
If it is men that cause women pain, they should learn to appreciate those who love them and treat them well. If it be fellow women causing pain to other women, remember tomorrow, one way or the other, it may come back to you. If it is nature that makes women seem so weak, then nature is unfair. If it be society, then society must change the way they view women.