I have this friend, a single mother, who is asked the oddest questions when she is conducting interviews for house girls? “Kwa nini huna mzee?” “If there is no man, who will pay me?” and then this one, “I can’t work for a woman that doesn’t have a man. They are too angry.”
This one, the comparing of how opinionated or feisty she is with her relationship status, has always left her tongue tied. Just another day, in an informal meeting, the name of a certain a Kenyan woman, one who is quite opinionated, came up
Out of the blue, one of the gentlemen present asked, “Is she married?’
When I said ‘no’ he said, “That explains it. No wonder she is so mouthy.”
“She just needs a man to mellow her out,” another added amidst chuckles.
I am not sure of the origin of this assumption that if a woman is assertive, then she doesn’t have a man or that she needs one.
Before you start throwing stones, let me just say that I am not trying to undermine the importance of intimate relationships. In fact, on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs chart, belongingness and intimate relationships are right next to the need for food, water and warmth. So yes, intimate relationships are important.
Still, people should stop expecting that a woman should stop speaking out or being passionate about issues as soon as there is a man in her life.
Sadly, this weapon is so easy to use because when thrown at her, it is embarrassing to a woman. If someone asks you whether you are so angry because there is no man at home when you are in the middle of making an important argument , it will throw you off balance. It is intended to quieten her so the embarrassment it evokes makes it an effective weapon.
It’ a double standard and it’s annoying. Let’s not confuse a woman’s aggression and passion for fighting the issues she feels are unfair, with her sexual frustration. When we do, the conversation then moves from the important arguments and issues at hand, the issues that she is angry or passionate about, to her private life. Does she have a man? Who is her husband? Is she divorced?
The truth is that there are a ton of things out here that a woman can be, and should be, annoyed about. There is the uncertainty regarding her safety both in her home and out on the streets, there is the unfairness that often happens at the workplace, then there is the worry about the plight of the coming generation. When we ask about her sex life, or lack thereof, then we are belittling both her and these issues.
The next time you find yourself in the midst of a passionate discussion with a woman, resist the urge to steer the conversation to her love life. Just hear her out.