by Samuel Chiaba
Yesterday, I stumbled on an interesting quote that aroused my interest. This quote, credited to a woman, addressed what women should do or aspire to. It stressed the implications of not pushing for greatness and self–empowerment. Initially, I thought this quote was brilliant and perhaps, on some other day, I would have heaped praise on the writer. But I found it rather disturbing and somewhat pedantic. Let me share the quote with you.
“Woman, if you do not strive for greatness and empower yourself, you will be relevant only in the kitchen, the living room and ‘the other room’. You will never get to the board room!”
You see, in a society where we take it upon ourselves to define what people should be and how they should go about on becoming that thing, I wasn’t surprised with the reaction of most people. In a world characterised by lazy thinking, and a meticulous adherence to banal conjectures and conventional wisdom, everything that sounds believable is taken at face value. Who are you to define greatness, to determine what the next man or woman should strive for?
This idea of what a woman should be is not only baseless and trite, but a reminder of the patriarchal society in which we live. A society in which people, especially women, are lectured daily on the ingredients that makes for a complete woman. Where our misogynistic proclivities are embraced and seen as commonplace. And where it is twice as tough for the female to be her full self; a complete self, living an authentic life, without the weight of gender expectations.
It is wrong to think that a woman must be in the boardroom. That quote is no more than halseny; a misguided speculation driven by an overbearing need to remind the woman of the glass ceiling above her which, as the writer predicted, will restrict her to the confines of her kitchen and all of its paraphernalia, if she does not strive for greatness. It merely reminds us, for the millionth time, that women are naturally seen as having limitations, limitations which they must surmount by striving for something bigger than whatever their dreams may be. It inadvertently labeled the woman as weak, a weakness that can only be overcome or aggrandised by refusing to be limited to or defined by the happenings in the ‘other room’.
It is wrong to think that being a member of a board is the definition of greatness. What if a woman’s greatness is to be found within the confines of her kitchen? We’re always quick to join the bandwagon of misguided clichés that says a woman must be this or that before she’s inducted into the “Halls of Amazing Career Women”. How easy it would be, however, if we could be a bit more a bit reasonable and apply an ounce of commonsense when we jump into the topic of what defines greatness.
We forget that not everybody shares our idea of what constitutes excellence. That excellence is not defined within the structures of multi–national corporations, but on the extent to which we have been able to live our dreams, no matter how insignificant it may appear to whoever is intent on drawing us a blueprint for success. We forget that, sometimes, we are derailed by weaknesses and left to nurse failed ambitions.
Nigeria, being what it is – an engine fueled by male chauvinism – fails to recognise, especially for women, how different we are and how that influences our choices and truisms. This need to want to twist the woman into shapes, to define her by the standards conceived by a society that has failed to embrace the idea of our equal humanity, continues to breed an army of bigots’ intent on stripping us of every fibre of self–awareness and self–consciousness.
We’re quick to attack feminist housewives as pretenders who promote an idea that they do not fully believe in. We question the very essence of their existence because they do not hold CEO positions and membership on the boards of corporate entities. We wonder what kind of feminism she practices. Why she sits at home tending to her kids rather than breaking glass ceilings and tearing down limits she is expected to overcome. We wonder, almost to the point of incredulity, how this woman and her feminist ideas are content to be a sit–at–home mom or a petty trader or a lowly–paid teacher at some down–at–the–heel school.
But the real question is this – who are we to impose our own idea of greatness on a woman who has accepted that her greatness is to be found in a marketplace or in being a housewife intent on tending to her home and raising wonderful children?
We must understand that the most successful people are not necessarily those who have an innate ability or a talent to succeed, but people who are conditioned by a mastery of their strengths and weaknesses. People who have accepted that they are restricted to swimming in the river rather than get drowned swimming an ocean. Whose ambitions may have been curtailed by their weaknesses but are still blazing the trail in their own little corner.
It is not enough to simply want to be in a board room; you must ask yourself if you have what it takes. You must ask yourself whether your definition of happiness and fulfillment accommodates analysing financial statements and planning the acquisition of smaller entities or facilitating corporate mergers.
Some women will perform better as working housewives than they would if they held board membership and had to grapple with its attendant demands. Her greatness is to be found in her kitchen or in some other vocation or in raising well–groomed children that society will someday be grateful for. Yes, it is okay to be a tailor or a caterer or a teacher as long as you are the best version of you.
So strive for excellence. But it mustn’t be in the board room.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija