19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Seven Shades of Women

Men, marriage, society and culture have a way of conditioning and taming the woman.

Determining how she presents herself or lives her life. On the one hand, that is. While on the other hand, education, modernity, westernisation and feministic notions, theories and movements have a way of also influencing the woman. The interplay between the traditional and contemporary factors influencing the state and status of the woman, have resulted in today's women coming in a continuum of varieties.

While many women, at one end of the continuum, will allow a man to take a controlling stake in their lives, not all women buy into that dominated existence. At the other end of the continuum is another breed of woman. The type of woman who defines herself for herself and does not believe she needs a man to be complete. The rest of the women fall somewhere in between.

Pull or push factors vary. Differences in value systems? Degree of grounding in tradition and culture? Extent of modernisation, westernisation or feminisation? Degree of malleability? An expression of freedom or lack thereof? Background and role models perhaps? A state of the mind maybe? Whatever and however the determinants, there are many types of women and below are just seven different shades of them. While some women may be true to type, many of us exhibit a combination of characteristics from a mix of the shades. Yet others may exhibit none of the characteristics below.

Mandipasa manyemwe: Valued, respected and adored. This is a woman who is in a great relationship with a man who values, respects and adores her. This woman is treated like a partner and her husband cares about and seeks her opinion and input on matters. Whether she works or not her husband understands she is a partner in the union and what she thinks, feels and says matters. As such most of their decisions are a result of mutual consultations. Normally this woman, though strong, slf-valuing and unapologetic, is full of respect and honour for her husband, whom she gives pride of place as head of the house. Mutual respect is key here. This is an ideal relationship and, sadly, is not too common. For many women this kind of relationship remains a dream, a wish and a fantasy.

Mandizvidza: Under, controlled and without a voice. This is a woman who depends on her husband for everything, which would not be too much of a problem if he valued her and her opinions, but he doesn't. He treats her like furniture or one of the children. She has no mind of her own and over the years has ceased to exist as her own person becoming only a very poor, diluted and very weakened extension of the husband. He thinks for her, decides for her and runs her life. He decides what she wears, who she is friends with and whether or not she will visit her relatives. Over the years she has lost her self-belief as he repeatedly puts her down and humiliates her. What's more is that she walks around him as if she were walking on eggshells and her fear, not respect, of him is so apparent even a blind person can see it. When he says jump once, she jumps twice desperately seeking his approval. More often than not this sister is beaten up and abused in any number of ways. She may depend on him for her very existence economically, but she may also be a working woman but one who has been subdued by the husband over time to become a sorry being apologetic even for her own existence. When she complains to her mother or tete, the few times she does, she is advised to bear it like a good woman akabva kuvanhu. Akarayirwa. And so she will bear it and put up with this so long as she stays married. She cannot imagine life without the husband, yes even abusive as he is. In such a diminished state, he may value his car or dog more than you! This has become a normal life for her and she treats her larger than life husband like a mini-god.

Mandibweza: In command and without mercy. This sister somehow turned the traditional tables and is the man of the house. She bullies her husband and has him cowering at her iron hands. The husband cannot stand up to her and hands over his pay or bank cards leaving him with no cent even to help his own mother and younger siblings needing help with school fees. In this house what she says stands and the husband might as well be the one who was married. Mr Wife,maybe?

Mandiona: Happily independent and takes no prisoners:This sister answers to herself and, usually not married, has relationships on her own terms. She does not believe that she needs a man to complete her. Her independence is accompanied by a very liberated mind whether through education, strong women role models before and around her, a different kind of enlightment, westernization or feminism. More often than not she has a thriving career with a plushy job and hefty salary. If she is not formally employed, she somehow has her own means of existence, some business or viable income-generating project/s. She may be an urban dweller or even stays in the remote rurals doing her own thing, with her own hands and mind.

Wherever she is planted, her strong character and self value is apparent. She may or may not have been married before and gotten disappointed, disillusioned, fed-up, or all three. Whatever the case she has decided she will not expose herself to or put up with the nonsense, disrespect and stress that some men bring with them. She will only have a relationship that she feels honours her and holds her as a true equal partner and if the brother behaves badly or dishonours her in any which way, she will not hesitate to give him the red card and show him the door or the window whichever is closer. Or she may prefer to be without a man, by choice! She has an otherwise full life with plenty of female friends to hang out with, do coffee, vacation getaways, discuss life, challenge the mind and have plenty free fun without answering to any man. She may have a child, two or three which she raises singlehandedly and successfully so.

Mandida: Independent from within. This woman, though married, has somehow managed to carve out some independence for herself. She has independent thought and makes her own decisions. She may run them through her husband - not necessarily for approval but for his information. She has some semblance of wifedom, some shadow of submitting herself to the marriage but by and large if she begs to differ will not hesitate to make her own position stand including if she doesn't' agree with his church. She will go to her own church. She may have some fundamental reservations about her marriage or her husband and navigates the union, holding her peace until such a time as she gets some effective counselling and her relationship with hubby improves; BP or stress gets the better of her; finds something better; finally convinces herself she is not "doing this for the kids anymore"; or simply gathers enough courage to just leave. While many women in this category may strive on alone, a few in this category may take a lover and have an extra-marital relationship. Some, not all.

Mandishorei: Single and desperately seeking. This woman is fast approaching or has fast approached and passed her "sell by" date. Usually some ways north of 30 she will do anything to land a man. She prays for and thinks day and night of a husband of her own. Why it hasn't happened yet, she has no idea and is searching high and low for some man, any man, who she can make claim to. Married or not married, any man who will give her the time of day will do. She may or may not have children; and she may or not have been married before.

Mandigadzirireishe: Single and waiting upon the Lord. This sister is not yet married but patiently waiting for what will be to be. She is anywhere from 25 years of age going up. She knows it will happen one day and when it does happen, she will be ready and she hopes the mate will be deserving of her.

Disclaimer: This is by no means a product of scientific research but of informal observations made over the years.

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