So, who else thinks girls just grow magically overnight into women, with no hassle? A perfect, rosy transition, eh?
Well, that is some fairytale; to think that the becoming of a woman is not accompanied with its fair share of hitches, both from nature and the society. So, what does it entail, this becoming?
First, let us set things straight: No two women grow and develop in the same way or pattern (if there is any defined pattern). Growth is unique and largely individual in most areas. There are personal perspectives, motives, preferences, even environment to factor in. Biologically, women may possess the same physiognomy, that clock turns differently too.
But, here is a story which a lot of women out there (not all women, but a lot!) can relate to: my becoming.
Growing up was nothing close to smooth. It could have happened to anyone — girl or boy — but, it happened to me; an African girl.
I was unsure if it was being the third female child amidst four children, or if it was the fact that my parents have three girls that made most people stare at me in an awkward way. Either way, there was always a stare when I would mention, “I’m the third girl”. And there’s the brief but unequivocal silence that would often follow my third-girl addendum. It was a respectful way of pitying my parents for almost having an all-female child. When I interject with, “I have a younger brother”, they would go, “Oh! Thank God,” as though my sisters and I are not worth the gratitude to God. Whatever happened to, ‘In all things, give thanks?’
I slowly grew to accept the silent stigma that comes with being a female child.
Moving on. How many know that the global prevalence of child sexual abuse is estimated at 19.7% for females and that most of the offenders are somewhat acquainted with their victims? Thanks to Wikipedia, you now know that relatives molest many female kids, who have to live with the silent trauma for a long time. Within that 19.7%, I was factored in.
At age five, the fear of speaking out froze my vocal cords as a man who could as well have been my father continuously used me for sexual stimulation. Healing took thirteen years to arrive at my door in the arms of a kind organization.
Yes, boys are also sexually abused, and no less demand attention. Figures however prove that female children fall into the higher percentage of this despicable vice. So, dear guardians, do not be kind enough to trust every one.
That is one scary word!
But hey! We cannot skip it (except there is some cool machine which could make us skip this stage — Scientists! Get in here!)
What is the one word girls do not like to say out loud? Menstruation. There, I said it out loud, MENSTRUATION.
It became difficult to talk to anyone about my period especially when I had just began. On the day I saw my first flow, I did not freak out (luckily). I had been watching this commercial where a girl would hold a pack of sanitary pad and smile (they showed instructions on how to use it). However, I could see the awkward look on mom’s face when she had the big conversation with me. Let us outline it together, shall we?
- Be careful of being too close with male friends. You are now really “sensitive”.
- You need to take more care of your body so you do not smell.
And that was it! Just a hint to stay away from men. I wish mothers would know that there is nothing weird about telling their daughters a bit more about their bodies like:
- There is nothing to be scared about when blood flows down your vagina (yes the V word! Get over it)
- Do not ever feel ashamed when you talk about your period
- You are not merely sensitive to men now, you are simply in a biological position and stage where any consented sexual activity can lead to pregnancy.
Basically, inform them than just caution them. It might be hard to communicate these things but, you will find a way, no doubt. Teach girls to love their bodies and not be ashamed of the growth and changes they are experiencing at this stage.
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, I REALLY HATE THE WAY I LOOK!!!
Need I tell you, I was not Beyoncé in high school neither was I Tiwa Savage. Those two count when it comes to defining what hot, sexy and every other thing, by society’s standards, that beautiful is. Although I wasn’t asking too much from my young self, but you know, you have to tick it somewhere. Me, I tick it nowhere.
I was a short, chubby girl on a low haircut who did not mind wearing baggy trousers all her life.
Things changed when a group of girls made jest of me at school. I got back home thinking in front of the mirror:
“Who am I kidding?! I am chubby, ugly and I have a terrible judgment of fashion!”
From there it transitioned to: “No guy will ever ask me out with the way I look”.
I did try to switch things up a bit but, it was a disaster. It didn’t make me feel any better. It took me years to realise that no one has the right to define beautiful for me, for you, except you. As attractive as many ladies out there are, no one is the standard that defines beauty: what it should look like, walk like, or dress like. How about what size, height and colour beauty should be? No one makes that call too. Alessia Cara was right when she sang, “No better you than the you that you are….” However, there is always so much room to take care of oneself. If at some point you feel like you do not like the way you dress, try something new, but do not do anything because some other lady is doing it. Just keep “self- care” in mind and everything will fall in place.
So, I thought to myself, “Who cares if I am a lady who hates seeing movies, loves her bed, books, a bag of chips, fizzy drinks, rap music, a laptop to write and feminism?”
Apparently, College kids care!
I got mocked for having an American accent in class, mocked for spending so much time reading, mocked for my religion and detested for advocating for the removal of barriers to equality. On the bus once, a guy friend asked a couple of co-passengers to talk to me about feminism because, according to him, it is not right for an African lady to embrace such ideals, essentially because they are meant to get married someday (awkward ideals!).
Once, a guy I so much wanted to spend this fantasy world of forever with, mocked me for being a female. He basically said, “Can you ever have money?” (or something like that) with the sarcasm that, women rely on men for monetary needs. Wherever you are dear, note that there are women out there working to never have to ask men like you to give them money (Not a personal vendetta).
So, yeah, it gets hard to fit into this expanding world of hate, male-up-female-down based prejudice and discrimination. A world where being a woman comes with an imaginary stench only sexists and misogynists can perceive. However, it is high time we realise that women are not fading away anytime soon. And, there is no fault with being a woman. So, get comfortable in that body of yours, in that skin of yours and live!
We celebrate every woman out there!
Cheers to your becoming.