Sunday, March 3, 2024

You Will Never Be “One of The Guys” As A Woman

One of my favourite works of feminist fiction is Zikora by the Nigerian writer, speaker and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is a work that explores the themes of single motherhood, polygamy, marital rape and mother-daughter relationships.

In Zikora, one sees through the characters of Mmiliaku and Zikora that the only path to survival for women is by forming strong bonds of solidarity with other women. In essence, women must develop and build a sense of protection, sisterhood and love for the rights of even the women we may not like.

One theme that was also explored in Zikora was the theme of women being understanding and kinder to the choices made by their mothers.

The protagonist in Zikora was your archetypal “daddy’s girl”. This was such that she often disregarded her mother’s decisions where her father was concerned. For instance, her father married a second wife so he could get a son and moved in with the second wife. This was even when Zikora’s mother had only agreed to him marrying a second wife so long as he didn’t move in with the second wife.

Zikora’s mother asked her not to go to the birthday party of the second wife as a way of showing her support and Zikora went regardless. Now, what I find interesting, is that when Zikora got pregnant and had her lover jilt her, it was that same mother who she more or less betrayed that came to America and took care of her. 

Her father who she often prioritised promised to come but failed to do so.

In reading Zikora, one gets the sense that aligning yourself to men will often not get you support even from them. Zikora did not get the support she needed from her father. It may have been her father in her case but some women think that running down feminism will see them get long term support and protection from men. There is nothing farther from the truth than that.

More women need to understand that no matter how much you dance to the tunes of sexism as a woman, in the eyes of men, so long as you are a woman, you already are an automatic being to be hated and denied opportunities.

That is why the same man who goes about insulting feminists when we speak on women not been forced to cook, will still beat and cheat on a wife who is a chef and who may even join him to run down feminists.

That is why even if an anti feminist woman joins men in the human resource department in an office to deride a female boss as “harsh for a woman” and “lacking a female touch”, the same men will deny her a promotion and give it to a man who is very much junior to her in terms of experience and status.

Her deriding the female boss with them will not stop them from giving opportunities to a man and it will definitely not stop them from advocating that she be fired if they get irritated by her presence.

That is why a babe in a university can join men to body shame other girls and call them names. She may join them to play sports and laugh at girls who are “too fat”. She may even laugh at the need for female only sports. That said, these same men will mock her as “too masculine” should her nude pictures or sex tapes get leaked.

Why then do women continually believe that pandering to men will offer us some sort of protection? Why do we behave as though a man’s ring is the greatest achievement foisted upon our sense of dignity? 

Why do some women act as though another woman in an office or even in an extended family is a competition to be squashed? Why do some supposedly feminist women forgive their male friends who call women bitches and cunts under the guise of “boys will be boys” but will cancel a woman who previously held problematic views even as she seeks to change?

Speaking with OB*, she shared how she once tried to be “one of the guys” and how it did not end well.

In her words: “I have tried being one of the guys. I was very young then. Easily led away by the ‘You are not like other girls comment’. 

Until I realized being one of the boys was suffocating your needs in terms of respect, value and regard to say the least and all for degrading conversations with these men about fellow women. 

It also meant I got to be invisible in my femininity and seen as an emotional validation for these men. And at the end of the day, I watched them pursue/lose sleep over women that stood their ground and didn’t take their rubbish. 

And I was told by these same men indirectly that I had no boundaries and needed to work on myself. 

It was a lesson that no one can take from me. A wake-up call I needed to experience for myself, however painful.”

OB went on to say: “You are never one of the boys. If you think it will grant you “freedom” (whatever that may be), I promise you are simply manifesting some internal issues (lack of self-esteem, need for acceptance and validation, etc).

You are never one of the boys, and trust me, you don’t want to be.”

For Dinma, she believes that experience is often the best teacher in situations like this.

To quote her: “Men only care about themselves. They are incredibly selfish. I’ve seen and heard a lot of men say that they can’t have genuine friendships with women unless they’ve slept together or are attracted to them. 

A man would always choose his male friends over you, they literally live and breathe male validation. Women who crave to be “one of the guys” can’t be helped unfortunately, they would definitely learn their lesson eventually.”

The reality is that so long as we live in a sexist world that prioritises men, women who try to fit in and be “one of the guys” will learn painfully that even that will not save them.

While it is okay to have male friends as a woman, it must not be said that avoiding women as a woman is a quality that women must have.

For the truth is that women are often protected and helped without strings attached by mostly other women.

*Name changed to protect identity

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