The Danger In Ignoring Other Women’s Stories About Men

One of my favorite African feminist novels is Everything Good Will Come, which was written by Sefi Atta, a Nigerian writer and playwright.

It follows the lives of two friends as they navigate issues like infertility, family dynamics, rape and speaking as a woman against oppressive governments.

The novel also explored the relationship between mothers, daughters and fathers in a way that was very instructive. To illustrate this, the main character Enitan, was very close to her father and often neglected her mother’s warnings. 

Her parents were divorced and her mother often said that the way a man treated the mother of his children will reflect on his daughter after a while.

Now, that was indeed true in the case of Enitan as she fell out with her father. This happened when she discovered that he had a son outside of marriage but raised her with the belief that she was his only living child.

The relationship between Enitan and her mother may be one within the confines of family and the home. That said, observing their relationship remains a reminder to women anywhere on the importance and necessity of never ignoring when other women speak on their experiences in the hands of men.

There is incredible danger that can come to a woman when she fails to listen to the women who have walked a path she wants to go and who come warning her about it.

There are several ways that other women warn us that we must pay attention to it. There are women who come online to speak about their experiences and health challenges with certain forms of birth control. When we listen, it helps us know not to use those types of contraceptives but to insist on our partners also bearing equal responsibility in preventing a pregnancy.

Asides health challenges, there are women who are widows or divorcees who come online to speak to young girls on the importance of having our own money no matter what. It is highly important that these women are not shamed as “bitter” by younger women because a failure to listen can very easily turn us into women who scavenge after the death of a rich husband.

More often than not, some women say “can’t be me”. I don’t believe in shaming women when they express an awareness that it won’t be them. I also do not believe in using “can’t be me” to shame the women who are courageous enough to share how a man scammed them for instance. This is because it can very easily be us in other instances. 

We may be self aware enough not to cook for a man, but a refusal to listen to other women, may see us staying with a man who makes misogynistic jokes and does not support us careerwise.

Speaking with Oke, she says listening to women provides comfort and removes shame.

In her words: “I will say that it is very important to listen to women when they speak about their sexist experiences because first, you make them feel heard and second, listening brings some semblance of comfort. 

Also when people share their experiences, others are encouraged to talk about it, taking away the shame that is usually associated with said experiences. And knowing that others have been through the same thing or that they understand can be very helpful.”

She went on to say: “Also I have been saved by just listening to women’s experiences and warnings. These things keep you on your guard and help you to know what to do. 

The solution for people who shame others for speaking up is to drown out their voices with massive support for the person speaking. It’s sad that we can’t throw such people away but we can ignore them and focus on the person speaking up.”

For Lorna, she told me that listening to a woman saved her from dating a man who had multiple children.

To quote her: “I was about to date a guy back then in the university, and a lady called me. She must have been 23 and I, a 20 year old. She told me that the guy I was about to date always got his girlfriends pregnant. 

I was shocked because the guy and I had been talking for weeks and he never mentioned that he had kids. Not 1, but 3 kids! And this man was already reeling me in to agree to sex without condoms.

I could say she saved me from a sort of teenage pregnancy, because I was already falling from his manipulations.”

Lorna concluded by saying: “I think those who want to listen, will listen. Women should always speak up, they should not be discouraged. Your words could save a young girl.

So, we should all speak up. Someone is always listening.”

Truly, your words as a woman can save a young girl. We must always speak truth to power and we must always provide safe spaces where we can discuss our truth without fear of reproach.

Even more, we must never shame the women who share but we must always celebrate them for their courage.

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