By Victoria Akingbemila
Gossip; otherwise known as “Idle Women’s Talk.”
Gender oppression appears in various forms, especially in regard to women. One common form is to vilify things widely loved, or generally accepted by women. Look at it in the modern day; Zee world, fiction, makeup, feminism; basically anything that bands women together is tainted badly, viewed critically, and looked at with disdain. Why? A little history might suffice.
The word gossip is derived from the Old English terms God and sibb, to mean “Godparent.” It originated from childbirth, because at the time, childbirth was an exclusive event attended by women. These women would convene and talk to each other. Over time gossip came to mean, “a good friend, usually by a woman.” These friendships by women formed really strong bonds which women used to tackle societal issues together.
As a means of breaking down the confidence fostered by the mounds of solidarity built by women, obedience, and subservience were heavily fixated on by the church, the law, and public opinion. Women’s gatherings were demonized as witchcraft and a “war on women” was declared.
Punishment was introduced through the “scold’s bridle;” a heavy contraption made of metal and leather, to be strapped on the head and would tear the woman’s tongue if she tried to speak. As a form of deterrence to other erring women, those wearing the bridle would be paraded and humiliated; this worked effectively in planting fear, disbanding women’s groups, turning women against each other and ultimately, shutting women up.
The Scold’s Bridle was also used during slavery.
In 1547, a proclamation was made forbidding women to meet and “babble.” Husbands were cautioned to keep their wives at home.
Following so much attack, a word meant to signify the stronghold of women’s friendship and community, had been denigrated to a thing of ridicule and joblessness. Gossip today now means deriving pleasure from speaking ill of others. An action done by jobless people.
When women had gossip, they exchanged stories of abuse they endured from their husbands and banded together to tackle those abuses. In the early sixteenth century in England, women stood up to abrasive male authority, with the backing of their friends.
When women had gossip, women passed on medical remedies, advice on issues bedeviling women and understanding themselves. Women cried together, laughed together and stood up for each other. Women had their community.
What do we have in today’s society? Women are weary of other gatherings of women, because they’ve been made to believe that women only envy and fight each other. They’ve been taught to discountenance the advice of elderly women and undermine the strength of women their age. And what happens when that same society turns them in its mouth and spits them out? They crawl back to the same women gatherings they rejected.
Society would always crack down on any form of solidarity shown by minorities. Solidarity amongst black people were punished during slavery. Solidarity amongst women was punished as well. Why? Because there is strength in number and community. A community tells a person that “we are together and we have a higher chance of winning together.”
“One will chase a thousand, and two will put 10,000 to flight.” Now imagine how much a gathering of 3-5 women will chase. Imagine the eruption a gathering of 50 women will cause. This is why I’m so excited about the exclusive women programs and groups, geared towards women’s empowerment and growth. Women are discovering their strength together, and I’m here for it.
I stand strongly on the shoulders of the women who have gone before me and whose counsel I heed. I stand boldly in company of the women who stand by my side and share the same ideals of the world we intend to create and we fight for. I stand for everything women.