Thoughts # 1, 2 and 3
This week my thinking is disjointed and incomplete. It’s what happens when all my brain energy is taken up by work. The blog gets the left-over ramblings. I have three different thoughts that I’d love to get your feedback on. They emanate from recent interactions and really have no reason for being on the same blog post. Seriously, don’t bother looking for a missing link, there isn’t one. Also I have made plenty of foot-in-my-mouth generalisations, don’t take them too seriously. For instance, not all city women are privileged or rural women disadvantaged. Neither are all tailors in Dakar as ‘creative’ as the one I describe below.
Thought #1 –Dakar Tailors Rule the World
My Dakar tailor stories can fill a book. I recently gave something to a neighborhood tailor for repair, along with extra matching fabric to patch it up properly. He is on my street so I passed there 3 to 4 times a week, and always got the same story, “come tomorrow, come tomorrow.” So on Saturday as I am leaving my apartment building, I see the lady next door putting out her baby’s clothes to dry. Lo and behold, one of them looks exactly like my fabric!! I go to the tailor and after a few threats, he admits that he used ‘a little’ of my fabric to make a baby’s outfit!!!! SMH-Shaking my head, what else can I do, take the baby’s clothing away? You can see why Dakar never ceases to amaze me.
Thought #2 – The cute factor, womanly wiles or privilege of beauty
It’s referred to as the cute factor, womanly wiles or even the privilege of beauty. Whatever you call it, I am convinced that every professional woman has mastered it; when to bring it on and when to turn it off. Let me explain what i mean because they don’t teach us this in school.
I think I come across as pretty assertive. No, not abrasive or aggressive but confident and capable. And I think there’s lots of situations where being ‘compelling’ gets the job done. Other-times, assertion is a huge roadblock, and lowering my chin or giggling while smiling sweetly is way more effective.
I also think that people are more likely to help if you express interest in their lives…in a feminine way. (breaking lots of gender rules here). The way that you chat to a colleague – about their out of office life, children, interests – just expressing interest in them as a person as ‘caring, feminine women’ are supposed to works wonders. It never helps to act like ‘I want you to do what I want you to because I say so’. This is especially true of my west-african experience.
Or let’s say I have a tyre puncture and don’t really want to get myself dirty and sweaty changing it. Please note that I am born into a family of girls who can all change a wheel faster than you can blink. So anyway what do I do? Although I do not pose a picture of your typical damsel in distress, I will bow my shoulders, smile sweetly and look helplessly clueless. And without a doubt, some male passerby will stop and offer to help me change it.
I think being feminine is an advantage in almost any environment or situation. However, am I wrong for knowingly using my femininity to manipulate a situation, am I perpetuating the perception of women as fragile, or am I just taking advantage of the privileges that God gave me?
Thought #3 – Affirmative Action
A friend recently declared that she is sick and tired of all this affirmative action mambo-jambo. Tired of always feeling like the ‘token 30%‘, only selected for gender balance, to keep the numbers equal rather than for her superior knowledge and skills. I get where she is coming from. We’ve gone to school and worked hard to get where we are. It’s dis-affirming to be informed that it is our skirt and not our intelligence that got us here.
On the other hand, we are city girls. Privileged to have gone to good schools and been exposed to the same opportunities that our brothers did. Many rural women don’t get the same chances. If they do go to school, they are strapped with domestic responsibilities and social expectations that obstruct their access to benefits that come with an education. No matter how deserving we are, majority of the world’s women still don’t have the advantages that men do. Affirmative action must persist if we are to tilt the balance in the opposite direction. I was going to define affirmative action, but if you are reading this you probably also know how to use google :-).
So there are my three thoughts. Do weigh in and tell me what you think. If you hit the comment button, I promise to respond.
Song of the Week
The song of the week is a ramble in itself. Kenya is at war. I don’t know that it’s a religious war, at least on the Kenyan government side, it definitely is for the Alshabaab. So here is Anthony David’s controversial song, “Don’t put the blame on me, I’m just doing what God said”. For those that want some background, you can see Anthony David’s comments here.