Shedding Culture

How do we go about doing away with aspects of culture that have and will never be beneficial to us, individually as well as in our different communities? This is especially difficult amongst African communities since “culture” is the invisible cloth that we are reluctant to take off. We cling to culture and constantly use it as justification for carrying out violations, especially against women.

One of Uganda’s daily newspapers, New Vision, published this interview with an upcoming female musician who was also the runner’s up in a Coca Cola sponsored singing competition in 2013.  It is evident from the initial questions that the young lady is a go-getter and has accomplished a lot as a result.  However, the interview took a turn for the sad when questions about relationships were asked. The lady’s responses were disturbing and heartbreaking. It is scary to know that there are many more African women who share  her sentiments.

When asked  whether she would leave if her man hit her: “If he hit me for the right reason, I would stay, but if he hit me over something flimsy, I would leave. I admit sometimes we do things that make our better halves angry. They are human too. When people get angry, they do things they can regret. I would still forgive him. My parents hit me since I was young, but do I hate them? No.” And what would this right reason be: “Maybe if I went out all night and didn’t pick his calls and then I was rude to him (which I am never), I would take the beating.”

Eh! Is there ever a (right) reason to hit a woman? The correct answer is NO, NEVER.  The fact that someone has somehow found a “right reason” is baffling to me. Equating being disciplined by one’s parents to being hit by a man is startling and an indicator of some of the negative aspects of culture that we need to rid ourselves of.

People are still steeped in the women should be “disciplined” belief. This is something that has been accepted and even considered part of many African cultures for years. It is considered normal, you know, just like breathing. Men have historically been taught that, as the authority in the home , it is up to them to ensure that people in the house toe the line, especially their wives/girlfriends/partner. A woman is considered a minor who has no business pursuing any of her interests without her husband’s/ man’s consent.

Despite all the progress that women’s rights movements across Africa have made over the years, this particular aspect of our collective culture stays the same. The opinion of the Ugandan lady in the interview above is just one example. How many of you have, or know a young African woman who has, been told that attaining higher education will make her intimidating to men? Will result in her not finding a husband? Because African men are not interested in women who are more educated than them or earn more than they do. “You can’t be too independent, no African man will want you,” is a statement that I have heard.

African women today are still expected/taught to bend over backwards and work overtime to appease the men in their lives. If the relationship fails then it’s your fault young African woman. You should dress to impress your man, keep him interested…pull out all the stops so that he doesn’t stray. You can aspire to be anything you want as long as your ambitions leave room for the man to be the head/leader. You should always cook…it’s a woman’s job…the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach after all. You can’t go out all night with your friends and not pick up his calls…how else do you expect him to show he cares if he can’t keep tabs on you? Oh, he hit you? Well, he was just “disciplining” you…your ways need to be corrected from time to time…you know how we women can get. He hits you because he loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself…yeah, sure, as long as that best version stays under his thumb and learns to respond to his every whim. So what if he is unfaithful?…you know how men are…they get tempted easily…forgive and move on. You can’t leave because he is cheating or hits you every now and then…good men are hard to find my dear.

It’s all very disturbing especially when you hear/read about a young lady buying into these notions. It’s sad to know that such beliefs are being, and by the looks of it will continue to be, passed on from generation to generation. How then will we enact societal change? How will we, once and for all, do away with this cultural bondage?

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