Liberia has been the only place I have lived all my life; my family and I never fled the country throughout the various civil unrests. As a result, I have witnessed many events in Liberia which I believe puts me in a position to justly comment on the flaws of our society that profoundly saddens me. Thus, I have decided to share my thoughts on the societal judgement against females in Liberia.
Every country or society has its own manner of judging people based on religious, social, professional, or cultural beliefs. The Liberian Society is no different and has its own verdict that it passes on females on a daily basis. A simple rumor, or “chichipoly” as it’s called in Liberia, is enough to have that person judged and sentenced by the society.
As a kid living in Liberia, I heard the names of many prominent people in local gossips; their lifestyles, their flaws, etcetera. Usually, these conversations are carried out in public gatherings, and people are insensitive to the facts that the information they are sharing is supposed to be private to the individual being discussed and that others could overhear or misinterpret what they say. The more disturbing part is when people talk and purport their version of the occurrences they were never a part of.
I had a defining experience during one of my English classes at the University of Liberia, Fendell Campus. I walked into the noisy room, excited to meet old and new classmates and started a chit-chat with classmates. So, I asked about the new instructor, and unexpectedly, I was bombarded with mostly negative replies. Some of the disturbing comments I heard were: “She is a retired hustler, a wicked woman, an old prostitute, and crazy American teacher.”
Little did I know that words like “prostitute” and “hustler” used to describe this lady were based on a tattoo she has on her leg and stereotypically in Liberia, people who wear tattoos are somehow either involved with Satanic worships or are sex workers.
Later during the semester, due to my performance in the class, the instructor took a liking to me and a few others. As a result, we received invitations from the instructor and her husband for church services, family dinners, holidays hangouts, etc. It was at those different extracurricular activities that I realized how she was unfairly judged, and society shouldn’t judge a lady who is God fearing, kind, intelligent, married and responsible as those students did.
Women and girls should be comfortable in their own skins and wear what they choose; they should not be denied those options because of what their family members, friends or random strangers on the street may think. I have realized that is difficult to understand because, from an early age, we have been pushed to believe things like:
- A lady who wears a chain on her legs or nose rings and toe rings is a lesbian or prostitute. While women who are mostly seen wearing long dresses or skirts are responsible and righteous.
- A woman who is barren could be considered a daughter of a family with spiritual issues or a witch herself. This could even deny her the right to get married to a man of her choice because his family wouldn’t approve such union.
I am sure we have all been witness to the judgement women are subjected to in different ways, but the point of contention here is, do we really ask ourselves “What is the outcome of the judgements our society passes on these women?”
I’ve wondered what could have been the reaction of the instructor in the situation I mentioned earlier if she heard these students making a derogatory statement about her. She could have quit the job because of her inability to handle all the negativity; these kinds of situations make a person end up with low self-esteem; get emotionally put under pressure and end up unable to do their jobs or even function properly in their regular lives. However, she remained who she is, destroyed assumptions of who she wasn’t and continued teaching superbly which led to her standing out amongst her counterparts as one of the best. But the question here is, what becomes of those people who don’t have such thick skins?
Imagine this scenario: on a Saturday, a lady wearing short pants, a crop top and a pair of flip-flops go out. Right there and then, the whispers about her being a sex worker/prostitute would start. A typical conversation might go something like this:
Person A: Ma…. ayy na easy oh. ayy look like lay one can hustle on lay big big man nen oh.
Person B: Bor you na see lay way she dress and tattoo all on her with nose ring?
Person A: Lah lay one nen where can stee lay people nen marry man nen.
Person B: Lay can use melehcin ehn all
And so, with laughter and absolute lack of care for the person they are gossiping about, they would pass judgement on her.
There’s an article I read where the author, Mr. Deepak Gupta, talked about five reasons why women wear revealing clothes. Out of his five listed reasons, number five got my attention:
You ask, “Why do men dress decently while women show cleavage and wear short dresses”? If you think about it for a moment, you will realize that it’s your biological wiring that makes you lustful about a woman’s physical appearance. If you try to remove that aspect from your mind, a cleavage is just another physical form on a human body that happens to be there (so is the butt-crack of a man wearing a low-waist jean. But you do not find that attractive, do you?) Think about it. Beyond your wiring and social conditioning, a cleavage is just another thing that JUST IS much like the stone lying on the side of the road. Hence, the perception of decency is much a trait of your thought process than anything else. It exists only in the perceiver’s mind. Hence your question does not make sense (since decency or indecency is not absolute).
I believe it is entirely wrong to render judgement on people in general and we must learn to either accept people for who they are and respect their choices or, better still, just refrain from saying unfounded and hurtful things about other people just for the sake of gossiping. This is hurting our society. Take a look around you and see how many people lives have been impacted because of an unproven rumor started by someone who was just bored with his/her own life.
I hope that people reading this article can grasp, share, and educate people on the negative impacts of brash societal judgements, especially towards women. You never know what brought a person to that stage they are in life, and you never know if that thing you’re maliciously judging them on is the one thing that keeps them sane in this crazy world. Words have power, and you never know if the one thing you say to or about them would be the thing that would push or pull them back from the brink.
Authored by Levi Hamilton Martin
Featured Picture by Vanessa de Largie