One time I had the privilege of sitting and listening to a group of men in their thirties giving each other advice on how to find the perfect wife. After several ideas had been thrown around, one married man finally spoke up.
Man 1: Don’t listen to these guys, I am married. Do you know what you need to do to find that perfect girl?
Man 2: What?
Man 1: Test things out…Date more than one woman at the same time! Where the grass is greener you migrate there.
This was a new thing for me to hear, I honestly thought I had heard it all. An array of thoughts went bouncing into my head as I thought of what kind of man is capable of this; stringing two unknowing women along for his amusement and judgement.
The objectification of women is something I struggle with everyday. This is not only about the shallow ways in which men see women or the ideas of what an ideal woman should be. Objectification, for me, goes deeper. It is linked to social ideals and norms that place women at a disadvantage as mere property condemned to a life of abuse and devaluation.
Conversations like this have been developed, nurtured and sustained by a society that continues to reduce the value of a woman. Our culture is one that has raised men to believe that they are exempted from most moral misconduct, a privilege women can not share if they are at all to be considered marriage material.
To defend my sex has been a tumultuous path. “Adamant””stubborn” , all words I have had thrown at me simply because I choose to express my worth. A concept that has left me close to defeat when almost all responses come in the form of,
“Men are men you just need to accept that at some point we all need to behave the way we were made.”
Or my personal favorite,
“All you need to be concerned about is cooking and cleaning, if you keep trying to keep tabs on your man you will never get married.”
Its a sadder reality when similar responses come from women. It’s not rare for a fellow woman to advise you on your spouse’s infidelity with phrases such as,
“He is just being a man, forgive him, as long as at the end of the day he is yours.”
“Just make sure you create a good enough environment for him at home so he doesn’t stray. Maybe try nagging less”
I am appalled by the way we have imprinted this uniform image in our heads about how women should be and what we must accept.
Objectification continues to dehumanize and perpetuate violence against women. Sadly, even in situations where a man has been violent towards a woman society has crafted responses in favor of the man
“Oh, he must have been provoked to have done that,”
“He was a nice man, he was just having a bad day.”
“He must have been confused by your signals”.
The gender norms we have adopted scare me.It’s this type of justified thinking that has claimed the lives of many innocent women. Stories about women who died of hiv brought by heir husbands infidelities have become a broken record. So how is it, with such examples and stories, we still accept to be mere recipients of a man’s adoration.
Statement of disapproval are thrown at young girls at a very young age in the form of “With such tendencies, you will not survive when you are married.”
“How will you manage to keep your man with such behaviors.”
One of the worst fears I have is that my daughters will grow up to hear this and become brainwashed to believe that their worth is determined by a man’s view of them. They say “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” and I do not want my daughters to grow up in a world where their value has such a shallow definition. I want them to know that they are more. To know that they are not just “somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, or somebody’s sister,” but that they are women and and by that definition alone they are “somebody” with more to offer the world than what is the norm.
“We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved…The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry.”- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie