By Victoria Akingbemila
“For girls, our bodies, our choices, our thoughts are all policed by shame”
– Do Revenge (2022)
The shame of this world is reserved for women. Women are shamed for everything; being boisterous, getting raped, being single, being childless, having too much children, growing a career, being jobless, everything.
Brown in his piece, “I thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making The Journey From ‘What People Think’ to ‘I am Enough,’” explained that “Women’s experience of shame relates to who they should be, how they should be and what they should be.” Women define themselves through the lens of what society expects of them and when they act in ways that fall short, although are inherently human, they are attacked for it.
Society understands that just forcing women to keep quiet wouldn’t work, as with the scold’s bridle, hence the instrument of shame. With shame, women question and negatively evaluate themselves till it impedes on their self-worth and their confidence takes a beating. With their non-existent confidence and zero sense of self, it becomes easy to tame and control women. Thus, shaming is a tool that prevents women from protesting against injustices and systemic inequalities.
If a woman finds out she’s being cheated on, society somehow tries to convince her that it was her fault, she was being neglectful. A child is raped and society blames the child for being “fast”; no consequence for the pedophile. A woman talks about the dangers of pregnancy and society descends on her, calls her weak and accuses her of threatening to destroy the sanctity of motherhood. A woman talks about her predatory boss and society blames her for it; “she must have worn short skirts to work” or “she’s trying to seduce him for a promotion.” And when there is evidence beyond doubt that the man is at fault, society turns it into a life lesson as to why women should stay in the kitchen and not try to “compete” with men by working.
What does this culture of shaming women’s every action do? It shuts Women up.
“If you are silent about your pain, the world will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” You hear them romanticize the days of our mothers and how they were “strong women” who held the home together at all cost. Our mothers never complained, they did their bit in silence, suffered in silence, and society applauds them for it.
The patriarchy thrives on women’s silence. As long as women are quiet, there is no room for resistance. When women are quiet, there’s no way to form alliances against exploitation. There’s also no way to grow, because a problem shared is one half solved. When women don’t share, they suffer in silence. The patriarchy is interested in the division and isolation of women. Almost like the divide and conquer technique used during colonialism.
A couple of weeks ago, I explained why it was important for women to gossip. To learn from the experiences and struggles of other women, exchange ideas, and to use that to carve a better society for themselves.
This is why I am a militant crusader of women loosening themselves from the shackles of what people think or would say. Not only to share their struggles but to share success stories, and ignore society’s attempts to minimize it. This is because one woman’s story is a beacon of light on a thousand women’s paths.