True African Woman a.k.a Being Expected To Exist Solely For (African) Men

Who is considered a true African woman? What qualities must one possess in order to be considered one? If you lack said qualities, then are you considered a “fake African woman” or perhaps “a man”? Well, your guess is as good as mine, dear reader.

I have pondered about the concept of a true African woman for a while. Perhaps it is because I have been accused on more than one occasion of not being a true African woman. I say accused because people make it sound like you are committing a crime for refusing to be shoved into their myopic boxes, where you are expected to compete for air with their misguided opinions.

It seems that for one to be considered a true African woman then every single move they make and every breath they take should be solely to appease a man. No, African ladies, no, you cannot simply do things for yourself. Your every step should be designed to make (African) men happy. In case you forget this, even for a millisecond, society is more than happy to remind you.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter on social media about the introduction of Camay, a luxury beauty product targeted to African women, into the Kenyan market. As an African woman, a Kenyan, and a person with more than a passing interest in beauty products, I was curious about Camay. I read a handful of blogs about its launch, the products in the collection, as well as the fragrances they have. The bloggers all had nothing but high praise for the products. Given that Camay is targeted to the African woman, I was interested to see how the company marketed it in their adverts. Hmmm…that is where the disappointment began. Below are the three Camay Kenya commercials that I found on YouTube.

In the first one, the lady sprays her deodorant and then twirls into the arms of her significant other. Because obviously it is impossible for her to want all day protection and the good smell just for herself. Why would a true African woman want that, hey?

In the second and third one, the lady has discovered the way to her significant other’s heart – Camay soap and lotion. The man is always in a hurry but a quick shower using Camay’s scented soap and a stop over at his job will stop him in his tracks, and enable him to realize that she is the queen of his heart. The soap is targeted to African women. African women work too! Why couldn’t it be that she took a shower and went to her workplace, and had very productive day? And still smelled good at the end of the long work day?

When the man is not in a hurry he is apparently busy. What’s the remedy to his busyness? Why, Camay lotion of course! Again, why couldn’t it have been that she had a busy day but the lotion kept her skin glowing and soft throughout? Can’t African women want soft and glowing skin for ourselves/just for the sake of/because it makes us feel good? Is that not a possibility?

Additionally, if your significant other is always in a hurry/busy such that you have to resort to such antics just to get a fraction of their time, then maybe you shouldn’t be with them. What’s going to happen when they get bored of the scents or are no longer amazed by your glowing skin? What’s going to happen when YOU get tired of the scents and want to change to scent-free products?

It’s just an advert, you say. Well, it really isn’t just that. It reinforces some of the negative and constraining attitudes with which women are viewed in society. Camay isn’t the only one either. The media is chock-full of such.

It’s about time we, as a society, let go of these notions that we cling to about a true African woman. All my African women, how many times have you heard the following: You should learn how to cook so you can find a husband, Our men like conservative women, You won’t get a man while dressed like that, Our African men will be intimidated by all your education, Wear some lipstick but not too much – you don’t want to scare the men away, and of course, You are too much of a feminist for our African men, among others. Obviously if you fail to tow the line then you are rapidly told just how much of a true African woman you are NOT!

It’s ridiculous I say!


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