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I am my father’s daughter.
Opinionated. Headstrong. Vocal. I speak my mind. A reflection of our patriarch. Qualities that my father himself has admired in me yet struggled to embrace since I was a child.
I’ve had numerous conversations with my father where I have voiced my views and opinions. After all, we were sent to school to understand the world and learn to develop cohesive arguments from what we saw. School taught me so much that goes beyond the classroom. It taught me to believe I had a voice and a valuable opinion. Joining debate teams, Toastmasters and public speaking competitions all helped me fine tune my natural disposition.
You will thus understand why it came to me as a great shock when, a few years ago, a young cousin fell pregnant out of wedlock and the advice from our fathers in this instance was “Boys, wear a condom. Girls, don’t have sex.” I have never forgotten that encounter. Nor have I forgotten an argument with my Pops where I was told “You should learn to keep quiet”. Our argument had been about principles that I felt strongly about. We were not seeing eye-to-eye and when I challenged his stance, my father was left with one form of ammunition that he knew I had no armour against as a young, black African daughter. He was my elder and what he says goes. Full stop.
Look, it’s not like I wanted to go on a sex rampage nor did I want to disrespect my elders. I just felt very strongly against the double standards that were staring me in the face. Was I destined to a life of stifling my opinions, my viewpoints, my feelings, myself? As long as I thought differently to my male superiors, was I to lead a life of self-censorship? That scared me.
That is the truth of the black African woman (bAw) in many instances. Of course there are leaders in any family and world. Those are usually the male figures in families and we can’t dispute the need for leaders. The problem, however, comes when you feel less of yourself as a result of censorship. Like you are being stifled and can’t be yourself. Looking to the generations before me, the pattern seems to be perpetuated. Women in the household have a very distinct role and it most certainly is not to challenge the men.
It saddens me because I believe there is a lot of benefit that comes from open dialogue. Yes, it’s not always going to be pretty or easy, but I think greater progress can be achieved in challenging, understanding and respecting one another.
This phenomenon isn’t only prevalent with older generations as far as I’ve experienced. Young men too can be threatened by opinionated women and shy away from that. If you call a man out, it is deemed unattractive. The expectation seems to be for women to tolerate all of men’s wiles and behaviours, even if disrespectful. It’s a catch 22 and has been a landmine to navigate in my short life.
All this has been cause for much deliberation and consternation in me as I seek to understand life. Surely God didn’t allow me to have these thoughts and views for them to be silenced? Granted, I am far from perfect and have been on a journey towards expressing myself in a way that others are more receptive to. All that being said, I know I cannot be an anomaly. I don’t believe I would be.
It is an ongoing struggle. Learning when I need to hush without stifling myself and speaking up when I need to whilst being respectful to others. One day, I hope it will be less taboo and more appreciated for opinionated and vocal women. For now though, a luta continua.
Rumbidzayi Dube is a phenomenal young woman who is intelligent, brave and well-articulated when it comes to the daily struggles of a young black African woman. She is a beautiful child of God who is passionately seeking to fulfill His purpose on Earth and part of that includes running a thought-provoking blogsite at http://www.rumbidzayiishe.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
What are your thoughts and/or experiences around this topic? Do you think bAw are unnecessarily silenced? Have you struggled as an opinionated bAw? Do you believe bAw should know their place and not speak up unless asked to? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share below!