Living in a male-dominated society can be challenging for women, at least it is for me. This is especially true in the Liberian society, where men tend to objectify women on a daily basis, ranging from the streets to our places of work.
Walking on the streets of Monrovia as a female has been one of the most horrible experiences ever because most men take catcalling to a whole different level. For some reason every man thinks he has the right to touch or caress you and as soon as you reject them, they resort to insults, making snide remarks like, “but what’s this aye, she really thinks she’s something oh.”
In fact, this has become so normalized that most Liberian men can almost never hold a conversation with a lady without trying to physically touch her body. It’s infuriating, abhorrent, and exasperating all at the same time.
Now, in the workplace, one will think that this whole phenomenon would not occur or at least be lessened because the workplace is supposed to host a more reserved/polite version of humanity, but sometimes this is where even worse violations of one occur.
Imagine waking up on a good day with the intent of actually making an impact; you get dressed and feel great! So, you walk into a room and feel just as deserving as everybody else there. You’re ready to do something meaningful and before even fulfilling that purpose, some guy walks past you and makes it a point to suggestively let you know that he recognizes your existence. It would all start so subtly, with the man in question sadly not even realizing that he’s objectifying a lady. First, they would start by complimenting you, “nice hair oh… I like this blouse you got on mehn. You really fine oh, ma.” And sometimes they don’t even try to be modest, “this skirt really showing your shape, ma. Your legs need to be shown ma, it’s good you wore something to show it.” These unnecessary and unwanted things they say, and the way they look at you as if they’re undressing you with their eyes, all serve to belittle a woman.
Then comes into play the little reminders that you’re a woman, and you should know your “place” and stay in it. I once heard a guy tell a lady, against whom he was running for a position in the office, that he does not argue with girls. In other words, she was making valid points and he could not compete so he resulted in belittling her. Almost like there’s blood in the water for the sharks, and you are the blood.
In addition ladies, don’t even make the mistake of being the only or one of the only women in the room because fragile men will remind you of that ever so often, all with the intent of emphasizing that there really isn’t any other seat at the table and you should be careful not to overstep your bounds. In most cases, these sexist utterances are made subconsciously. One can almost pity those men who objectify women.
The thing is, we all have these tendencies. We all do these subtle and seemingly innocuous little acts of sexism every day. From making a woman feel as though she’s somewhere she shouldn’t be, to provide the unnecessary detail that her gender has never dared to soar as high as she wants to, to reduce her to her looks; from making her feel incapable, simple and shallow, therefore stealing her intellect and her ability to produce long before she even starts.
See, this is one of the best ways to stop someone in their tracks and humble them before they realize their power. In all cases of oppression and marginalization, this is the most common practice, people fear what they don’t know or understand. But here’s the problem, women are not the “unknown.” Everybody knows a woman’s power! I believe it’s more that marginalizing this particular group of humans has become so sweet on the lips of those who do, that they cannot even fathom where or how to stop.