It was one of those days while I was on my stalking quest after the gorgeous and intelligent African writer, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, that I saw a quote from her. Some of it read…
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important
Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love
and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men.
I will not underestimate the value and power of marriage and family in our lives. I absolutely love and adore family and for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to make one of my own and, as I always say to myself, “see how I would do raising a family and playing a big part in making tiny tomorrow people grow into wonderful adults.” It’s one project (lol) I can’t wait to start. Marriage is one of the most basic basis upon which families are built.
So again, I will not underestimate the value of marriage but as a woman who has grown up in an African society, I do strongly agree with Chimamanda’s words and the truth in these words make it quite difficult for a young girl or woman to aspire for and put anything else above marriage. And my question is whether this kind of training is absolutely okay. For instance, Cousin’s wedding brings almost all of the family down home. My uncle asks, “Are you done with your current programme now?” I answer, “Almost Uncle, I will be done very soon.” Uncle responds, “Ok, hurry it up now. And concentrate on the marriage from now on. What are you waiting for? Make sure you don’t go in for a PhD oo? A woman doesn’t need too much education because too much of it scares the men away, do you hear? Leave the rest of it to the men, my sweet girl. We want it to happen this year. Our next call should be an invitation to your wedding” All my uncles nod in agreement while my aunties look at me with both admiration and pity in their eyes. Wow, how supportive family can be of their little girl’s education ambitions, right? This is only one example out of the sort of constant support a woman can get if she dares aspire for more than marriage. But is that ok?
So the truth is that we do not speak of something we know nothing of- we speak of our experiences- our disappointments and our opinions about those experiences.
An African girl is taught all the things that prepare her to become a good mother and a submissive wife. I think that this kind of training is actually priceless as far as our futures as mothers and wives are concerned, but the truth is that marriage and family are not all that an African woman’s life is made of. What happened to the kind of training or conscientization that prepares them for their educational uphill or for the dynamics and business of their professions or the politics of their nations, the leaderships and service of their churches and ministries, among many other endeavors that are not tagged under the umbrella of marriage?
While the woman’s marriage is celebrated, her many other endeavors get brows raised and fingers snapped in disgust, pity and uncertainty. After a certain point, she is not expected to celebrate any of her successes and conquests if she doesn’t have a husband and children to boast of. Everyone claps or smiles for a minute and remembers that there is a but in the whole show. When did we get to this place where society chooses marriage for her, whether she is meant for it or not? When did we get here, where she is othered for being more excellent and genius at other things more than what society has chosen for her? And is it absolutely ok?
So in the end, the advice from well-meaning family and friends is that, “You don’t need to be so choosy. If the next man comes and he is not a madman, just take him like that” and only because that is what they had to do themselves and as long as it keeps people’s mouths shut, what more can one ask for? After all, no one can see the secret of my pain. But is that absolutely ok?