We need to stop calling grown ass women ‘cute’

Red

It’s a windy afternoon in the city of Cape Town, for the second time in my four-day trip here I have had to make the grave choice of what was more important, my dignity or may hair. Dresses are not meant for this city. I am standing just outside of one of the many entrances to the Waterfront shopping mall, a guy stops right next to me mobile device out – likely waiting on an Uber. He looks familiar, he is smiling, my current dignity/hair predicament is amusing.

“You were just in the iStore, right?” he asks me, almost daring me to deny it.
“Um, yeah,” I respond apprehensive. But understanding colours my familiarity. I had seen him in there, staring.
“Yeah, I saw you. You’re pretty cute,” he smiles. This is a compliment and I should thank him, maybe flirt a little? But I don’t, I just smile, nod and luckily my car is here so I get in hastily.

Call me whatever you like, but I feel a grown woman shouldn’t be called cute. ‘Pretty cute’ most often for women doesn’t feel like a compliment but a downgrade from pretty, beautiful, gorgeous and stunning. If you don’t feel the person you’re about to compliment is any of the four words or million other words out there then don’t. Cute just makes them feel like that they are not attractive. You sully the word pretty by tacking “cute” to it.

Cute by definition means: “attractive in a pretty or endearing way“. This word is to been likened with adorable and sweet the same words you would use to describe a baby/child, fluffy stuffed toys and puppies. When you Google the word cute the above mentioned things come up. Not quite how a grown woman wants to be seen and I highly doubt grown men want to be cute either – not after they see what Google brings up. On the other hand the word beautiful is likened to attractive, pretty, pleasing to to eyes and alluring. You can see the problem here. Men and Women are creatures of physicality. When someone you think is alluring thinks you are nothing more than an adorable puppy it’s kinda harsh, intended or not.

faceCOLLAGE

In the description of the outward beauty of an adult, their intellect is just as intimidating as their physical beauty. This leads to using lesser words to describe, that’s what one of my guy friends tells me. He doesn’t do it of course but guys do, he says. They will use “cute” so they are not that intimidated, this implies premeditation. A way to level the playing field. I can’t match your intellect but beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I will behold with edit? They will use cute when they are forced to pick what category a female friend or acquaintance falls into. This is to avoid any confusion in the relationship if they are not physically attracted to said female. This is of course mind-boggling but perhaps understandable but more likely a full of shit summation. Compliments do not come with consequences, well they shouldn’t. In today’s world of sexual harassment and political correctness, you can understand the quandary presented. Just because I think a person’s genetic make up is a spectacular work of art does not mean anything. It is simply a compliment and we shouldn’t be afraid to give them. The crucial thing here is that words mean far more than we think they do.

This is the trouble with the English language, the words that get perpetuated are the ones that pop culture finds convenient. Often these words are inadvertently chosen by gender bias. Take the titles Mr, Mrs and Miss. Somewhere in history we lost the title Master, a title used to describe a boy/man too young to be referred to Mr (someone of marriageable age). While the use of classification titles for women continue because we have to know who is Miss and who is Mrs. Someone women have begun adopting the title Ms, which can refer to married or unmarried. Yet society makes it a point that Mrs should be affirmed because history has taught us that married women should wear their title like a badge of honour while single women wear theirs with pity ( by choice or not). It’s pretty disgusting if you think about just how fucked up something as simple as this can affect the greater societal psyche.

Yes I know, the word cute is not some big societal gender conspiracy especially because women also use those words to describe men as well. True, and women also please stop describing grown ass men as cute as well. There is nothing wrong with this word, it just seems a bit less when describe the attractiveness of an adult woman or man. I think the thesis of this argument is that of all the words, the treasure trove of words out there, we choose the least flattering to describe beauty. Words are incandescent as is their beauty and the feeling they bring.

In Nigeria, an accent is a catalyst for love

yaba

I have been debating whether I should write this for days but a conversation with a friend just convinced me to do it. Please hold up on the hunt for me till you’re done reading.

When I decided to spend 30 days in Lagos, I intended to just work and go back home but many people told me that would be a loss. Lagos is one of Africa’s most vibrant cities with something exciting each week. Its people are dynamic and energetic. I am yet to be in an African city that makes being African so cool and sexy and just darn fun. Yes, there are some challenges here, most of them deal-breakers but that is a different conversation.

As I come to the end of my trip, many people have asked me if I met any nice guys here (I hope my father doesn’t read this). I didn’t go looking for guys, and to be honest I had no interest but I did meet a lot of people and a number of them were guys. The dating scene in Lagos has mixed reviews from residents, some who love it and others who despise it. For most women, that I spoke to, it seems that Nigerian men are not much loved, some of them. “Nigerian men deceive with intent, it’s almost as though they set out to be evil and hurt you,” someone recounts to me. The creepy thing is this perspective is held by both men and women. My male friends warned me to not be alone with guys I just met or have only known a few days, and to watch everything I drink while out. It paints a rather terrifying picture of men in Las Gidi.

While men are deceiving with intent they also seem to be existing in a faux conservative world. More than one 20-something confessed their undying love to me after only an interaction of less than 15min, maybe I got mad game maybe not. When I relayed this to a friend he responded “it’s that tinge of British in your accent”. Nigerian men and women seem to fall for people by their accent, at least that is what I understood from his response. Here an accent is a catalyst for love, marriage and the world because Nollywood. The movies say when you fall you should fall hard and it should be a forever kind of thing – real or not. I would be flattered if I didn’t feel quite ridiculous every time it happened.

No one here ever tells you they just want to have sex, the conservative nature of the country makes that a fake taboo. It’s not like people aren’t doing it they just rather pretend. Goodness me, Nigerians can lie. Men lie about their physical desires and what they want from women, women do it too it would appear. Is there a law that says you must lie for survival? Nigerians believe in love at first sight, or at least they think they do. The way it plays out it seems Nigerians need to grab love by the collar and make it theirs immediately. They see a girl and they fall hard within 10mins. They will pledge their lives to these women, send flowers and even offer to buy lingerie. Nigerian girls must know the rules and signs of this game by now, so why are people still playing it?

No one asks you for a date, they ask you for a lifetime as though those are easy to give away. People throw the L word around like its going out of fashion, it’s rather perplexing. Why? It’s been an interesting 30 days learning and watching. The politics of love, dating and sex is weaved into the fabric of this city. Here it seems people are paying for sex one way or another, with the promise of love, marriage or money (security). In some cases all three. Quite the costly exchange for the promised.

Cages of construct: the African reality and dream

An African city

Africa loves to adore its women as long as they fit perfectly in their cages of construct. African men love their women, as long as that woman is African enough. African women love their men as long as he can provide and take care of them. These women expect certain things from their men within certain constructs. We dream up these perfect gender roles that make no sense in reality.

I started watching a show called an African City on YouTube, it is about five African women, re-pats, trying to navigate their way through life in a bustling West African metropolis. The stories are interesting and characters have a certain charm about them. Kudos to the creator of the show for giving us five engaging women with enigmatic lexicon that often incite a giggle.

I told a friend about it and he hated the first 10mins, he didn’t like that all the women had done so far was rag on Africa. He kept watching though, and as I write this he is still watching. He is hooked he says, he loves the way the women talk. The show got us talking about being single in 21st century Africa. The rules of engagement on a continent that is supposedly rising. Issues that should command great presence in the national conversation but still finds its way to the bottom of the agenda in most African cities. Things like safe sex and finding a job based on merit.

You hear the crazy made up stats that it is easier to be killed by a terrorist than to get married or date after a certain age as a woman. I love those stats mostly because they get crazier everyday. This show tries to navigate this world of single and ready to mingle in Africa. A world where causal sex is great and abstinence is encouraged as well, a place that people talk about great loves and great lovers. A friend of mine once told me that when you are single in Africa, you get used to being invisible — these women beg to differ.

What got me interested in this show, wasn’t just the lexicon, or the delightful characters. It actually troubled me because it made me painfully aware the constructs around genders in Africa. In Europe it is alright to go dutch (these women say) on a date but in Africa men as expected to pay for everything. We joke about it all the time about these women who expect things from the men they date. His intellect is optional, thinking is optional so long as his wallet is available and the cards are platinum. Really?

Then there are the men. Who expect the women to be erotically beautiful and dutifully domesticated. The men who are happy to treat women both as goddesses to be adored, as well as sexual playthings. These women are mutually exclusive it seems. They will marry the goddess but not the playthings. The construct is quite laughable really. On my last trip to Nigeria an older gentleman told me: “in Africa we love our women, all kinds of ways. From the front to the back and sometimes on her knees.” It was disgusting and I pitied him, he is married and has three daughters. I worry for his daughters.

Modern African men don’t wear wedding bands apparently. When navigating dating in Africa, a friend gave me some sound advice, “assume everyone he is married until they prove you otherwise”. According to her, if you begin this way then it is a pleasant surprise when they are not — mostly they are she says. Men lie is the lesson apparently, something the women of An African City drive home.

These African gender constructs are so schizophrenic and complex that trying to meander your way through leads to questions and frustrations. What does it mean to be a man in Africa today? What does it mean to be a woman in Africa today?

Is there some maniacal genius to these constructs? If we imagine that they have one solitary architect. The creator watches as African men and women struggle with the confines of their constructs while fastening the locks on the cages with smiles and inconsequential remarks. Must be nice – not.

Who teaches the young boy to be a good man?

woods cellophane

A few weeks ago, I was invited to talk to young girls about the consequences of “naked selfies” and putting too much of themselves online. When I was asked to do this talk, it was explained to me that the internet is a hard place to for women and it was best to prepare young girls for those harsh realities now rather than later. Young girls the world over are having their sexuality used as a weapon against them — this is tragic. 

Though I agree that the internet is not fair to women, what we keep failing to teach young girls is that the world is not fair to women or any minority. Preparing people for the consequences of what some may deem as “not great choices” is one thing, but why don’t we teach people to change their world. 

In recent years revenge porn has become the norm, break up with someone and in a moment of anger and haste said person posts a “naked selfie” once shared in confidence, to the world. I have heard many arguments on this issue. On one side of the fence, people say young girls today are degrading themselves by taking these pictures and sending them to these young boys. On the other hand of the issue people say these young women have the right to do with their bodies what they want. What I haven’t heard is the role of the young boys. 

Young boys seem to be given a free pass in this situation. There is a fence, and on that fence there are women on either side, women who should be ashamed and women who should own it. Women discuss this issue of how young girls are behaving. Women and men talk about how young girls need to stop behaving. Who is talking about how the young boy behaves? While we are all busy worrying about how our young girls behave, what they post on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, has someone asked what the young boys are doing?

When a young boy slut shames a 13 year old girl, who sits him down and discusses the consequences of what he has done? Who talks to him about betrayal and the cost of ‘shame’? Who explains that he has taken advantage and that someone is suffering for it? Better yet, who makes sure this actually never happens?

No matter how far we seem to come, how many campaigns go viral and voices rise up for equality on all fronts, society still puts the young boy above the young girl. I see school teachers making pleas on Facebook for people re-share posts so the young girls in their classes can see the viral nature of the internet. They do this because they hope it will stop them from sharing pictures in their bras or suggestive images on social media. I want to see the teacher that says “share this so the young boys in my class can see how hurtful it is to betray someone to the world”. So they can see how far their act of revenge can easily destroy a person’s life. How a joke can cost someone their future. 

Revenge porn is the norm and many women are having their lives ruined by men who once promised to love and protect them. We see it everyday and as women, we want to change it, we want to correct behave. We accept our sexuality so no one can use it as a weapon against us. 

But, how did these young boys grow up to be men that behave like this? While we so busy teaching young girls to be good girls, who teaches the young boy to be a good man?