|Culled from Black Women Leaders|
I relate with many women from all walks of life. This is because I believe the humanity of each person is their most defining factor. As a result, I have acquaintances who are business women, stay-at-home-mums, independent single ladies, cheating wives and/or girlfriends, nymphomaniacs, frigid lovers, women activists, submissive women, educated women, uneducated women, women who support their families, women who are supported by their men, women who have drive, women who are just coasting through life, corporate workers, ‘runs girls’ etc. Knowing these women gives me fodder for most of my work, so in most cases (and I say most cases because sometimes I get really crazy), I don’t judge them based on their life choices. I won’t lie by saying I don’t wish they could be more like me but I have come to the realization that everyone has a path to follow; and that feminism is accepting the conscious choices that women (and men) make about the direction of their lives.
Having said that, here is why I have to share this story with you.
A while back, I was chatting with a ‘friend’ whom I know is, for lack of a better word, a ‘runs girl’. She is beautiful for days and would be the first to tell you that she likes being taken care of by men. She is open about loving sex and profiting from it, as is evidenced from her lavish lifestyle, state-of-the-art car and latest iPhones; among others.
I have been asked many times why we are friends since we are so vastly different and my response has always been the same; I will not be discriminating on anybody who has made a choice to live their lives the way they are living it. And as long as their lifestyle doesn’t affect another person’s basic human rights, all is fair in love and life.
Anyway, back to my story.
We were talking about business women and one name came up clearly in the conversation; Linda Ikeji, the millionaire blogger.
My ‘friend’ switched from the business stuff to seriously shading Linda for (allegedly) buying a set of fake Hermés Bags. She noticed I didn’t get into the conversation and after a while, asked why I was quiet. I told her I couldn’t waste my time talking about a woman who has made so much money when I have none. I mentioned the fact that Linda works hard to earn the life she lives and if she could buy a house in one of the choicest neighborhoods in the country, why were we talking about fake bags? That was where the gist got interesting.
My ‘friend’ said and I quote. ‘She did not buy that house herself. Money launderers funneled the money for that house or she has some mega rich sugar daddy.’
Now, I don’t know Linda anywhere nor have I a relationship with her but I got absolutely mad! Why?! Why would you put down a hard working woman like that?!
I told her off, telling her that there are very few people/corporations who wouldn’t want to make just half the revenue she is making from ads on her blog. I asked her how much she thought Linda’s whole page cost to host an ad, how much even the small box ad cost and how many she had on her blog per day. She had no answer when I explained how advertisement was the backbone of many media companies’ survival. I kept going at it so much that my ‘friend’ asked if Linda was paying me. That was when I piped down.
Here is the issue.
My ire was not about Linda or directed at my ‘friend’. It was directed more at society than it was at this lady.
This was not the first time I had seen a hardworking woman being put down by a society that keeps refusing to accept that a woman can be successful on her own. This is especially so when that woman is unmarried. It seems society cannot wrap its head around an independent single woman. Society seems more willing to accept a woman who is dependent on one man or the other; her father, her brother, and her husband (ultimately). When she gets old, she is supposed to depend on her son(s). In some ways, society also seems to be more accepting when a woman makes her money by being a prostitute. With this, a woman is still dependent on a man; or in 50 Cent’s voice, many men. With this equation, society is content, society is happy.
When there is that small change where a woman proves she can be successful without depending on any of these men, people get mad; stark raving mad. This is the question that bugs me to eternity: what is so wrong with having a single, hardworking woman who isn’t dependent on any man for her success? Could it be that the thought of a woman making it on her own threatens the very fabric of power that society has woven? Or, being that it is a man’s world, does the presence of a hardworking woman emasculate the man?
I really want answers to these questions.
I grew up knowing that women should work. My mum is a single, hardworking and independent woman. She brought me up to be dependent on me. She started working when she was 16 and except when she is sick, she rarely takes a day off to just relax. She started off a kitchen cleaner in a hotel, and then rose to waiter, then room cleaner, then house keeper, then floor manager, then food and beverage manager; a position she held for many years. Now she runs her own guest house and she is still working! Every day, she leaves her house at 5:30am and starts work at 6:30am. She never leaves the office before 9:30pm. She takes care of us her children, is her family’s bread winner and she still takes up people who are less privileged into her home. Thatis the woman who has taught me to work! For a little over 15 years, she has not asked any man for one kobo. She works hard for everything she has and everythingshe wants!
She is not the only woman I know who is successful based on their sweat. I am also like that. Many of my friends laugh at me when I say I am broke. They always give me variations of ‘Ramat, you are a fine girl. Why should you be broke when there are men that should be taking care of you?’ I used to get angry at that question and give my well-rehearsed feminist speech but I realized it was a waste of time. Now, I just smile.
I believe in making my own money. I believe in working hard for my money. I don’t believe in having sex with a man for money. I don’t fight the girls who do because like I said earlier, the older I get the less judgmental I am of people’s choices. I am just stating what works for me. I have taken an 8-4 job that paid me ₦6000/month (yes you read that right!) rather than having to ask my father for money for sanitary pad. In truth, most of the money went into my transportation but it gave me joy do the job! He is my father. There is nothing wrong in taking money from him but I didn’t want to. I wanted the freedom that came from making and spending my own money!Trust me, sometimes it is very hard to get what I want or even what I need but I don’t break my principles for nothing. I have lots of friends who have their own houses and cars and can buy human hair worth ₦160,000 and when I think of my hard work, principles and independence and the fact that I am still jumping buses with people with horrible breaths and body odor, I feel bad. But I want to look back tomorrow and say that I was able to stay true to myself and my beliefs and my ethics. That is me!
I am glad that my closest buds think that way too, which makes it easier to stay on my path. And because of these women – my sisters, my best friends, my mum, my mentors, and my role models – I know that it can be done. I know that there are lots of hardworking women in Nigeria and Africa who are not runs girls.
So it brings me back to my question. What is so wrong about being a single, hardworking woman who doesn’t depend on a man? And why is it so easy to believe that a woman cannot possibly have anything of her own unless it was provided for her by a man?
Recently, I wrote a post questioning President Buhari about his lack of inclusion of women in his cabinet and one guy came for my jugular. This guy basically called me a trick who had the backing of ‘your rich father or sugar daddy that is why you think you can talk anyhow’. The guy poured out enough bile that I wondered whether I was still on LinkedIn where I posted the article. So even though I have been working for me, this guy felt I couldn’t be brave or have an opinion unless I had a fall back man behind me.
It annoys me that even when we work hard, we are still easily dismissed as runs girls.
What do we have to do to ensure that we are accorded respect for our work?
I know these are my musings but it really gets to me knowing that women have to work twice as hard as men to make the same impact and even at that, we cannot count on society accepting and respectingus.
I won’t lie; this unequal beam balance hurts me.
So what do need to do to earn society’s respect?