‘Why do boys insult their mothers instead of their fathers? ‘
‘It’s because mothers insult themselves first’.
Interacting with boys and girls of St Peter’s Technical School in Lamin during a co-ed meeting organised by Starfish International, these were some of the questions and responses that popped up. Initially, the radical feminist in me scratched the responses out as mere excuses from the boys to continue their almost-accepted saaga ndeye around town. Growing up in The Gambia, it has become ‘normal’ to hear the very (in)famous ‘Chapandeyam‘ on the streets. Excuse my language but please tolerate it for the sake of this post. To non-Wolof Linguerites, this is an insult directed at mothers, which has almost become an anthem in the streets and many homes in the country. On many occasions, I’d hear people shout it out and I would, in turn, mutter ‘and to the fathers too‘ under my breath. However, my attention today is going to be shifted to the mothers, inspired by the responses offered by the boys on that rainy Saturday. After reflecting on the validity of their claim, I tied my feminist alter-ego to a tree and watched as a mini-debate unfolded. After deep thought, I felt I had understood their stance and started looking at the problem in a new and different light.
How many times have we heard a mother, frustrated with a stubborn child, shout out words like ‘Sor emut ma nyeff sa ndeye‘? Once? Twice? Uncountable?
Now that’s exactly the point these boys were trying to make. We bemoan the situation at hand and immediately tend to judge the young men and even women who take liberty in uttering such profanities. Seldom do we take time to look at the root of the problem, as with many other problems in the country. I am not going to act all 21st century Holy Mother and shun people who have, at some point in their lives, used the phrase as an arm against a contender or otherwise. I’ll take the liberty of owning this blog to talk to my sisters, mothers, aunts and all other female folk.
In the Virgin Mary, we see an example of a pious woman. The Quran states that she is “exalted” above all women and the most righteous woman to ever walk the Earth. Of all the women of her time, she was chosen to be the mother of the Prophet Essa(Jesus). In the first verse of Surah Nisa’ or ‘the women’, The Holy Qur’an directs us all to “revere the womb that bore you”. Women have been raised to a high state in religion and I cite the example of the man who visited the Holy Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) and asked to whom his first responsibility is owed. The Prophet responded ‘Your mother’ and repeated it twice before answering ‘your father’ after the man had asked for the fourth time. How much more evidence do we need to realise the sanctity of our existence and the importance of our role in shaping our various communities as women? I could go on to state even more examples from the religious and social circles, but I choose to stick to the Virgin Mary for reasons better explained in a previous post: Mariama Linguere.
Often, we complain of the lack of respect from other people. We whine and fuss about our men ‘using,misusing or abusing us’. Often, we let out deep sighs and wish out loud that ‘he would deal with us in a bit more civilized and respectful manner’. However, do we really take time out to think about the many reasons why women are treated in some ways? I am not, in any way, trying to justify the mistreatment of women and I don’t see myself doing that ever. This time though, I wouldn’t go the all-too-familiar route of heaping blame on the male folk and on other women who insult us. I simply ask, fellow females, that we respect ourselves. In the description of this blog, I cited my desire to be respected by respecting. The latter here starts from self-respect. I strive to understand and appreciate what I am worth and respect the person that I am. Furthermore, I make it a point of duty to respect people I come across, regardless of the many (or maybe few) differences we may have. In turn, I expect to be respected in the same way, for when people see me then, they would envision a woman who respects herself and others in all she does.
A few days ago, a former classmate let out a mini-rant on Twitter, bemoaning the constant use of the word ‘bitch’ by females on public forums. Some would go further to throw out the now ‘in’ line ‘I’m a bad bitch‘. The said classmate echoed thoughts I had voiced out previously in some private space away from the public eye. How familiar is the story of that one woman who would use derogatory terms on herself and think it cool, but then flare up when the same term is used on her by someone else? Very familiar right? Is it safe, then, to conclude that I can choose to say all I want to myself but no one else dares do the same, or they’ll be served a helping of my bitter medicine? It’s quite confusing and one wouldn’t usually know where to draw the line and when to throw in the towel and just walk away from the twisted lane. I am not one to take all things on cyber space seriously. I remember arguing ‘heatedly’ with a dear friend over the use of the ‘F’ word on Twitter. He had decided to un-follow anyone who used it in their tweets. Being free to talk with him about various things and not expect an outburst of anger, I pointed out that not everyone using the ‘F’ word meant it in the way he perceived. It is true that people throw it around freely, but I am of the conviction that it is totally wrong to judge someone because they decided to use the word. Contradictory? I would think not. Anyway, I digress.
In a nutshell, I am simply asking (again) that we exude the same personalities we would want people to recognize us by at all times. Stop taking offence each time someone throws a derogatory remark your way. Sometimes, it would be wise to just take a moment and think about the possible reasons why that person would go down that lane. If you feel it wasn’t deserved, I give you the licence to strike him/her down with your latest pair of 6-inch heels. I kid; no violence around here. Seriously though, let’s be mindful of the words we utter and in what situations or surroundings. Mothers, maybe if we stopped using swear words in the presence of our kids, they wouldn’t pick up the same habit and perpetuate the cycle. Dear Fathers, you equally have that role to play. If we try to inculcate great values in our children, we might very well be on the verge of sending the all-too-famous saaga ndeye into extinction. It might be unwise to consider this a ‘one cap fits all’ kind of solution, but who knows, it just might be the stepping stone we’re looking for.
Dear woman, honor thyself for thou art truly honorable.
P.S: I’d love to know what you think about the new theme,after discussing the topic at hand of course. Feel free to share the link too, so other women might learn a thing or two from it. 🙂