13 June 2012

Uganda: Isn't Womanhood Meant to Be Dignified?


Even if we are to agree that women and men are equal and share in privileges and responsibilities, let's not fool ourselves: Certain things were never meant for women to 'enjoy'. One item in that set is the 'privilege' of living a carefree, shabby existence. Look at it this way: If the world has failed to accustom itself to a man who will not take care of himself - hygiene, dress code and all - how much less a woman?

I guess that just like bravado was first dished out to men before the remainder was given to a few women, the potential for feeling shame was initially meant for women. For that matter, women were meant to mind the way they dress, sit and walk.

That is why it comes as a shock when a corporate woman walks like a charging buffalo or a chameleon in courtship. While there is no universal code on gaits for walking women, there are certain modes of walking, which are totally unacceptable for the average woman.

The same goes for dressing. No, not the fashion, for this has been the theme of all articles on women's dressing over the ages. I mean things like when she has a nasty gash on her blouse, enough to let the nipple to peep through, but still wears it on to office or church. She has a stain (whether red or not) on her dress, but will still visit her in-laws in it.

The seams are beginning to let go, because this shirt has been hers since her last teen year, 22 years ago, but she still goes shopping in it, reasoning that this is only shopping, not a party. No ma'am, shopping might not mind it, but human society does.

Dress aside, if you are not in labour, why sit like you are hiding a stolen melon under your skirt? Decent women don't sit like that. For shame, your legs can actually come together and give you a womanly image.

I once lived in a community where women on semi-detached houses used to sit at their respective doorsteps, preparing meals. It was there that I learnt the bare lesson that not all women dread exposing their flesh.

A woman would spend the day in a long skirt she would lift to just below her bust, with only the bra holding the boobs from indecent exposure. Another would go about the entire morning in a slip, which looked like it was made of animal fat, with strings for sleeves, until after breakfast when she would change into decent clothes. All the time, they would be chatting like nothing was wrong.

Strangely, these women shouted at their children: "You Nalumansi! Go put on your panties! What sort of girl are you?" Or: "You ka-boy, do you call those shorts, with all your unmentionables showing?" Luckily, African children of those days were brought up to be seen and not heard; else they would have had some interesting questions for those mothers.

It could be just me, but there is something unfairly uncomfortable about looking at an indecently dressed, stained or filthy woman. You end up feeling her shame. It is a reflex reaction.

If she is seated badly (Kampala-Masaka style), you quickly turn away, a burning sensation searing your skin. If she talks like a lorry turn-boy, you tone down on your own volume, like to shut out the incredulity of her ill manners.

I would like to assume that it is not even a case of liberation or the hideous emancipation monster; this refusing to acknowledge that womanhood was meant to be dignified. It is just a case of growing up unaided, period.

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