Growing up, I was told there are just certain things girls should not do, say or even think about.
I remember back in the day, a simple thing like a girl wearing an anklet meant she had no manners at all. If you had more than one piercing on your ears, you were believed not to have self-respect. If you dared to have a nose piercing, God forbid, you were the child all parents used as an example for their children to illustrate how uncultured children look like. Wearing short or tight shorts, skirts, pants or dresses was an abomination. If you did, you had no respect for yourself and were as good as…well…a prostitute! Until today I do not understand the correlations of these events.
Girls…girls just could not walk on the road by themselves. Especially, not with the things I just mentioned above, because you would be inviting trouble into the house. I used to think it was only “forbidden” to walk by yourself at night but slowly I learned that it was just in general. You always had to have like a watchdog just in case something happened.
There was this one time I remember driving with a family member and of course, I was arguing about some ethical thing as always. Then I asked him “If I got raped by a guy friend of mine, would it be my fault?” Bruh! Tell me why this MALE family member opened his mouth to say “OF COURSE”? Instead of being angry, I got scared. I asked him why and he said, “Well, why would you be in a room alone with a guy?” I asked him what if he forced me into his room and he said, “Well, you are not supposed to be having guy friends anyway” and went on to say, “It would probably be because of what you are wearing or how you talk to him.” Basically, there had to be something that I had done. Sometimes, I felt sorry for some men. In making excuses for rapists by saying the girl was wearing provocatively, all men are put in a box where they are labeled not to have control over when they get hard (get an erection). I just never understood the logic behind how we had these creatures that were supposedly so strong and machos, who could not do a simple thing like control their hormones. I mean, why are girls the only ones taught to suppress their hormonal instincts? If they can, so can the men. When you hear people say “its just guys…” what do you mean it is just guys? By you saying that, it makes all men vultures of sexual experiences. They are always looking for whom to fuck! By you saying that, you suppress the sexual desires of womyn and condemn those that express them. Womyn have needs just like men. So it makes no sense (not to mention a lie) to say its just guys because girls, too, want that pleasure. It is not in your position to take it away from them.
Growing up…talking about “Sex”, especially for girls was like A SIN. You know it is so embarrassing that the first “Sex” talk I ever heard was when I went to college (BIG S/O to LSU brothers). My second year of college! Talking about sex in our communities only meant you were engaging in it. I mean why else would you want to know about having safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases unless you were having intercourse, right? You ask about seeing a gynecologist and immediately, they think you are pregnant or having sex. I just cannot go to learn how to keep my vagina healthy and sanitary, or find out about STDs and STIs that I could have and not know about? I pity elders that want to pretend that their kids are not engaging in intercourse. It is honestly selfish of them to refuse to talk to us about sex education because they believe it is morally wrong to engage in it. It is selfish because you would rather have us get pregnant or get STDs than simply EDUCATE US. Accept the obvious, that not all your children share your belief of no sex before marriage. You do not educate people about war during war, therefore, it would not kill you to educate us on sex even if we don’t have sex before marriage.
Just a few days ago, I was telling my guy friend that I want to move out the house before I get married and he laughed in my face. He went on to say “You are not moving out unless you are getting married.” I am filled with so much anger as I rewrite that phrase because it is unfair. It is unfair because what if I do not want to get married? This whole notion of I can only leave if I get married just makes me feel like I am constantly being handed from one man to another. In my parents’ house…I mean…my father’s house, everything that is in it, is his. Including me. If I move into another man’s house, I will be his property. And I know many people will disagree with this but let me tell you, every time old folks ask “uri umwana wo kwande?” (Who are your parents?), when I mention my mother’s name, they look at me like my sentence is incomplete. However, when I say my father’s name, even before I go on to say my mother’s, they have moved on to another topic. Like Chimamanda Ngozi said, it is either whose child are you or whose wife are you. You are never your own person.
My little sister and I sat down and tried to figure out if there were any women that we knew that left the house before getting married and believe me, we are still looking through our aunties and cousins trying to find any. But men just leave; in fact, in my opinion men are encouraged and supported to leave the house. They are escorted with statements such as “you need a house to bring your wife into” or “no man stays in his father’s house”.
I think I fantasize too much because not only did I think it is okay to want to leave the house as soon as I am financially able to but I always said, if I fall in love with a man and he has no house, he could always move into MY house. Can you imagine the laughs I got? Yeah, more than Kevin Hart and Trevor Noah get on sold out shows. I am told all the time that I will emasculate the men in my life. I am told that it is no woman’s responsibility to get a house. Basically, add, “moving out the housing before marriage” to the list of abominations that are given to girls. If you do, you are leaving to have a life that is indecent for womyn (as in leaving to engage in “improper” behaviors).
Let me tell you about the bad news, I started to educate myself on gender and everything that comes with it. From womyn’s rights, womyn’s history, womyn’s struggles, gender expectations and roles and so on. Every time, a gender professor said some sort of gender expectation, I felt stubbed in the heart. Every time, they talked about what gender does to both men and womyn in putting us all in cages, a tear crawled down the cheeks of my soul. It was there and then, in those classrooms that I got to ask the questions I had always wanted to ask. I read and read and educated myself. Talked to sexual assault survivors and girls that were once in abusive relationships and other womyn. It was such a freeing experience. It was beautiful and painful at the same time.
Now that I am home for the summer, there is not a day that goes by that someone does not tell me how I have to remember my culture and respect it. Honestly, I love my culture. In my opinion, it is probably one of the most beautiful cultures in the world. This opinion, however, is not an excuse for me to ignore the things that need to be changed in the culture. So often we think cultures make us but I have learned that people make culture. I…YOU…WE make culture! There is nothing wrong in challenging already existing cultures. Challenging the norm is creating a platform for the betterment of society.
I loved that my best friend could finish my social justice runts sometimes. Whenever I forgot and said “Man up”, she reminded me to “Womyn up”. It was beautiful that we were both learning to be unapologetic walking XX chromosomes. That we celebrated everything that came with being a womyn, from tits to vaginas to motherhood and being fierce. We helped each other unlearn the ideology that we are to be ashamed for being XX chromosomes. We learned that:
There is no problem with having as many piercings as we want or painting our bodies with tattoos.
Wearing a tight pencil skirt and a crop top is not a sign of anything other than a sign of my fashion taste.
We’re in school, so we can do something with our life and hopefully with that make money and not die poor. We are not in school in hopes that we find husbands. Therefore, do not reduce us just to men.
It is not our fault that you can see our curves through our clothes. And just because you can see them does not mean, we WANT sex. It simply means that we are beautiful, thick Black womyn.
Stop telling us that we are such girls when we do not do things correctly and telling us to be men when saying we should be strong. I don’t need to be a man to be strong. My momma, grandma and aunties are the strongest people I know and they are no men.
Do not correct us when we say, “grow some TITS” instead of “grow some balls”. We meant what we said and said what we meant.
Do not tell us to watch our mouths because we do not censor the word “vagina”. Why should we? We all come out of one. In fact, I do not understand why it does not have an honorary space in vocabulary and in dictionaries.
Do not call us weird because we do not share your belief that “pussy” means weak. We simply think VAGINAS ARE BADDASS! You probably don’t know cause you don’t have one. If you do and don’t know, then you have been socialized to believe it is rather disgusting.
We are not immoral because we simply know what sex is. …because we have no interest in men who think sex is solely for their pleasure and believe womyn are as entitled to sexual pleasure as men.
And please, I would appreciate it if you did not try to convince us that your opinions on our bodies matter. Because they really don’t!
I am a girl. I am not your property. I am not your blame wall. I am not your prey. I am not your sexual object. I am mine before I am anyone else’s. And we refuse to apologize for simply being born with XX chromosomes and just being beautiful and awesome.
Lastly, I am not uncultured just because I wrote this post. In fact, if this post makes you uncomfortable then this was meant specifically for you.