Time to stop stereotyping women as slay queens

Thursday January 11 2018

Virtually every exceptionally dressed or smart woman is characterised as a slay queen.

Virtually every exceptionally dressed or smart woman is characterised as a slay queen. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

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2017 was not a pretty year for many male chief executive officers (CEOs) in the Western World.

Dozens of them resigned for behaving badly towards women. For once, it seemed as though women would eventually get justice and stop their characterisation as sex objects. Note quite.

In some parts of the world, negative characterisation of women has gone up a notch higher.

The misapplication of the term “slay queen” is turning back the clock with virtually every exceptionally dressed or smart woman being characterised as a slay queen.


Those who have been in the trenches fighting for women’s rights will confirm that the current trend threatens the gains made thus far. Many young men have been made to believe that most women have no interest or intentions of working their way up the social ladder.

Instead, they want to depend on men for any anticipated achievements. By keeping quiet about this growing misogynous conviction by conflicted men supported by incongruous women, we wrongly continue to undermine women’s achievements.

The term slay queen wasn’t meant to be a negative word. This slang word is believed to have been used for the first time in a comic by Sarah Andersen as a noun and a verb at the same time. In the comic, a young woman supposedly said, “Slaaaaayy queen, slaayy!” to a celebrity she adored.

Other definitions simply meant someone who is exceptional. For example, you could say to a student that “you slayed everybody in Mathematics.” It never had the innuendos that we infer when using it here in Kenya.

My own survey of more than 40 young men and women, revealed that none of them exactly knew the origins of the term. But, like everyone else, they were all quick to apply the term on some lady.


Whilst some consider images of socialites as a perfect example of slay queens, others describe them as having long hair, long nails and living beyond their means (never mind no one has audit capability to know one’s sources of income).

As expected, the term is applied to mostly ambitious women. My little sample was in agreement that in some cases it might be applied wrongly by covetous men. A smart woman with high hygiene standards could in some circumstances pass for a slay queen.

In summary there isn’t a common, stable description to identify a slay queen but the tragedy is that everyone has some form of conceptualisation as to what she might be.

We should never really be looking for any form of common definition in a concept that has negative connotations. The truth is that even if this new concepts is taught in class, it runs the risk of being misused as the real meaning gets diluted the more it spreads.


The origin of the term was never intended to bring disrespect to women. Many comedians in Kenya, save for Teacher Wanjiku – who thought the term could apply to men - have in the past month abused the term and indeed taken us back to the 20th century on women issues.

Almost two decades into the 21st century, we cannot apply the double standards of 19th century behaviour towards other fellow human beings whether they are ambitious or not. Any gains that we have made thus far must be sustained as we continue to build upon them and make a better world for everyone.

It is very easy to fall into the past trap of any form of stereotyping another human being. The best strategy therefore, is never to buy into any form of stereotyping.

Nancy Kress an American science fiction writer, once said: “A stereotype may be negative or positive, but even positive stereotypes present two problems: They are clichés, and they present a human being as far more simple and uniform than any human being actually is.”

Let’s stop presenting other human beings as more than what they really are. Ambition is native to all mankind and has never been an exclusive right to men. Women have a right to be ambitious too without being second-guessed.

This article first appeared in the Business Daily.