Why do women shame each other…it’s definitely something I’d like to know.
I was on the phone with my cousin over the weekend, and she told me of a close friend of hers, who has been TTC for a few years, but whose husband just had a baby with another woman. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that the man is not even contrite. According to my cousin, the man told his wife that “it is God that gives children.”
Eeeehn! So it is his wife that God has chosen to withhold this gift from, abi?
I was livid and beside myself, and raved and ranted about the kind of insensitive monster that would do that to his wife at a time they were meant to be united as a team…but that wasn’t even the story. My cousin said her friend had initially chosen to leave the man, but had gotten incredible backlash from her friends, and even family, with almost all of them warning her not to try that kind of mistake. Some even tried to justify what the man did, with a few even insinuating that, at her age, she couldn’t do better…especially considering her fertility predicament.
And all of these ‘wise sages’ were women…every one of them!
A few days ago, I got into a heated argument on my Facebook page, concerning Toke Makinwa’s new book, On Becoming. Prior to about mid last year, Toke really wasn’t one of my favourite people. To me, she was just another Lagos social climber with a fake accent. But for the most part, I was indifferent to her. And then news broke about her husband’s infidelity…and my heart broke for her. Like her or hate her, nobody deserved to be heartbroken on such a public stage. I found myself warming to her, and silently cheered her on. I cheered on the brave face she was putting and her attempt to get a brand new lease on life. I felt sorry for the public humiliation she had endured and prayed for her to find herself back on her feet. But like everyone else, I soon forgot all about her story…until she released her memoir, On Becoming, which, for the most part, was about her volatile relationship with her ex-husband. I didn’t set out to read the book. It literally just landed on my laps. I opened it, with the intent to only read a few lines, but I found myself still reading into the wee hours of the morning. I hadn’t expected such a candid narration from her. I cried in parts, especially where she pretty much stripped herself naked, telling her story like it was.
I was stunned beyond belief when I saw the kind of reaction her story brought forth. The venom, the condemnation, the name calling, the irrational justification (never before have I seen a side chick glorified at the expense of the one who is legally married, but that’s a story for another day). I was floored! And 99% of all these were from…you guessed it. Women.
I was like haba! No matter how little regard you have for another woman, the least you can do is empathise with her. The sad part is that some of those screaming the loudest have gone through way, way, way worse than the Toke! Waaaay worse!
I have heard men say women bash each other because we are in constant competition…and I can’t help but think there is some truth to this theory. Because why else are we the first to shame other women who might not be married yet…or who might not have kids yet…or whom we just think we are better than? Why?
You ask a woman how old another woman is, and rather than just give you the number, the information provider feels the need to add, “And she’s not yet married o!”. Who asked you?!
You see a woman rising fast on the career ladder, and you whisper, “She doesn’t even have time for her family.” “I won’t be surprised if her husband leaves her!”. “I’m sure its Nannies that are raising her kids!” Madam Pocknoser, did anyone complain to you?
A woman gives birth to a set of twins or triplets, and even before you finish sharing that piece of good news, you quickly add, “She had IVF o!”. Eku ishe oh, Aunty CNN!
A woman is struggling to lose weight after childbirth, and you find the need to tell her to “Quickly reduce oh! You don’t your husband to start looking at these Lagos girls!” Gee, thanks! She really needed to hear that!
And God bless the woman if she hasn’t even had a baby yet. “How can you be carrying all this fat around? Don’t you want to get married?!” Actually, she doesn’t (*side eye*).
In my case, almost all the people that harass me about having only girls are women. “Ah, Nicole. You haven’t finished yet o!”, “You need to drop twin boys to complete this equation.” Or the female doctor who reminded me that I most surely have to, not only have another cycle of IVF, but one with sex-selection, especially because I am “married to an Ibo man”. Interesting!
I have a friend who ALWAYS has something to say to anyone she sees. If it’s not how you’ve added weight, it’s how you’ve lost weight, or how you’ve gone darker, or how you’re looking tired. Never a compliment from this lady oh! When you see her, be rest assured you will leave there feeling worse off. I thought it was only to me, but I soon found out she does it to all her friends…and it makes me wonder if she isn’t just trying to deflect her own personal insecurities to everyone else.
But as they say with finger pointing, when you point one at another, four point right back at you. Some of us might be nodding right now, thinking about the one or two people we know who constantly shame other women, but the truth is, we all have done so, in some shape or form.
A few weeks ago, I had cause to see one of my daughters’ teachers. She wasn’t yet in school when I dropped my girls, so I decided to wait for her. Sitting on a chair by her door, I was watching all the kids as they trooped in through the school gates. I suddenly found myself scrutinizing every one.
“Na wa oh, is this micro mini?” I thought, as a young girl walked past me with her uniform so short, it was literally riding up her thigh.
“You always know the kids Nannies dress up!” I thought as I saw a girl whose hair didn’t appear to have been brushed, and another boy who wasn’t wearing a belt.
And then I caught myself…and I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed for sitting there on my high horse, judging the mothers of these kids. Mothers who might have been trying their best, just like I was. What if the parents of the girl with the short uniform couldn’t afford to buy a new set this session? Or what if they had, and she was just fast outgrowing them, as these kids are prone to do? And what if the mother of the girl with the unruly hair had tried everything she could to tame her daughter’s mane, but to no effect? And so what, if Nannies helped dress up these kids? What if their parents had to be out of the house as early as 6am, to get to work. What if their bosses were not as understanding as mine, who has given me the luxury of getting to work a bit later, just so that I can do the morning drop-off?
So many what ifs!
The bottom line is, we need to understand the other person’s story before we go ahead and open our mouths. If you haven’t walked in that person’s shoes, nothing gives you the moral ground to spew things from your mouth. And even if you have walked in the person’s shoes, understand that the ways people react to situations are as different and diverse as we are as human beings.
So what’s the morale to this story? Empathy…support…care…these are some of the very many words I implore us to have for our fellow womenfolk. If one less woman embarks on publicly, or even privately, shaming another woman…the world will be a much better place!
Let’s love each other!