I RECENTLY travelled to the beautiful city of Masvingo, which is and should be a dear place to every Zimbabwean because of its historical background. The name Zimbabwe itself, comes from the term Dzimbadzamabwe, which was the name for the ruins, now popularly known as the Great Zimbabwe.
I put up at a lodge called The Ancient City where the experience with original, ancient and traditional scenery and artifacts is real. It is there that I saw a sculpture, and was able to connect with it on a different level. To most, this was a sculpting beauty but to me, this was a presentation of the pains of a woman.
The kneeling position
This struck me as a sign of submission. Women are always expected to submit to systems that donot serve them. In this context, looking at how women have always had to remain submissive to the stance of men, who often are misogynistic and centered on advancing selfish needs that do not recognise women.
Women have also been pre-historically required to submit to societal norms that taught them to believe they were created as second-class citizens who are unequal to their male counterparts.
It is this notion that led to gender inequalities in our systems; always placing males at an advantage. In our social, civic and political spaces, gender inequality is undeniable. Strides towards equality are constantly frustrated by the very idea that women were created to submit.
Even in the workspace, women are often sidelined to menial jobs that submit to a senior party, and to perform duties that can be deemed degrading should they be done by a male.
The waist beads
For those who are well read, this signifies that the woman has gone some form of sexual training and qualifies as a “real woman”. This means at birth, the girl child is viewed as not enough, she needs further enhancements that will make her live up to the standards.
On the other hand, the pressure placed on her counterpart is less in comparison.
Feminists have often complained that the girl child is expected to retain her virginity until marriage, and viewed as wayward, a prostitute and less valuable should she lose her virginity for any reason.
Even in cases of rape, or sexual violations of any nature, the woman is at fault and treated with ruthless tones.
The men on the other are celebrated for multiple sexual counters before marriage. The pains of a women lie within the sexual inequality that even force the world to believe that it is taboo for a woman to initiate sex, attaching negative connotations.
Multiple cases of gender-based violence have been recorded as women tried to spice up the bedroom, only to be bashed after the “who taught you that”.
As I looked at the tattoos on the sculpture, I could feel the pressure that my kind is always under, just to look good for the other gender.
Socialisation taught the woman that she has to go to all lengths to enhance her beauty, to look lighter, to look plumper, to dress a certain way, to walk a certain way and constantly seek for artificial ways that make them more beautiful.
Basically, this reinforces in the female mindset that her original form is not good enough. She is not good enough.
I cannot move on to the next item without mentioning the breasts. Regardless of biology, and natural factors, there is always an expectation attached to the appearance of a woman’s breast.
We are constantly made to feel bad, guilty or a certain type of way because at some point our girls decide to face downwards. We breastfeed, we gain and lose weight in pregnancy, we inherited flesh dropping genes, and we are crucified for it. These are elements that we cannot change and yet we are victimised for them.
Being a woman is pain.
The raised hands.
This is a sign of surrender. All of our lives we have to surrender ourselves, making sacrifices for others. We give up our bodies, wombs, breasts, goldmines get deformed as we bring forth new life into the world, the precious male child at that.
Not just that, we have to give up our time ensuring that all the unpaid care work is tended to.
Women are meant to be selfless and are not allowed to be selfish. Whatever income she gets, whatever initiative she embarks on is expected to benefit more than herself. She cooks, she cleans, she makes sure that the household has a certain type of order and she still has to bring her best foot forward.
A woman has no time to rest; that is a luxury she cannot afford, unless on her death-bed. She needs to rise with each new sunrise and give more of herself.
The weight on her head
This resembles the burdens a woman has to bear. The debt, that is contracted on her behalf, that she has to payback even when she did not enjoy its benefits.
Typical example of situations in which the man would go and borrow money to buy rounds of beer for himself and his friends, and leave the woman to figure out how that will be paid as the demands are made at home in her presence.
If the marriage bed does not bear fruit, it is the woman’s fault, she has to bear the burden of being called all sorts of unholy names for something she has no jurisdiction over.
She is told that she is worthless. Then the sister wives come into the picture, but even before then, a promiscuous husband is accepted by society, leaving the woman to shoulder the emotional burden of feeling unwanted, the cognitive burden of seeing no other alternative and the physical burden of being the primary caregiver even in instances of sexually related illnesses surfacing.
This to me signified how women are generally exposed, inequalities, abuse, illnesses to inhumane living conditions, to slavery. Women are the primary victims in most situations, even looking at the national fiscal situation, they are affected the most.
Corruption, illicit financial flows, tax injustices, women suffer the most as they remain overworked, overtaxed and underpaid.
Poor social service delivery systems also tend to affect them the most, when there is no water, they have to spend more time at the alternative water sources so that their families have access to the life-giving resource.
They are also affected the most because they generally use more water than men, looking at biological aspects. The same exposure extends to health, education and food security as well.
I realise that this article can be somewhat controversial in some parts, but this is by no means an academic paper but an opinion piece based on my observation. What remains undisputable, however, is the fact that being a woman is not easy, especially as we are presented with social and economic injustices from the time of our conception.
It should take multiple stakeholders to address this and ensure that the woman is presented with opportunity to participate equally and eradicating elements that leave her exposed, bruised and feeling less important, because she is worthy.
Where there are no women, life as we know it ceases to exist. Pains of a woman need to be addressed.
- Millin is a social and economic justice ambassador