There is never been a day where I felt like I should be a man (oh only during moments when being a woman does not favor me). Growing up in a culture where being a woman is limiting and yet having a grandmother who commanded so much respect and fought the odds to achieve everything she has ever wanted for both her children and grandchildren, I was aware of the strength of a woman from an early age. My grandmother mirrored it all and was known as “De Gaulle” (a nickname she was given because she was thought to be strong, firm and strict like General De Gaulle of France) because of the power she exudes.
I must have unconsciously picked certain characteristics from her because I always want to work hard to achieve all that I ever wanted. I wanted to earn my own money so I could spoil myself and buy what I wanted. She taught me the value of hard work, honesty and independence (but she did spoil me rotten too). I remember my first day in the boarding house, I was merely a child (in Junior High School) but I was so aware of myself and my surroundings (unlike many who looked lost and in tears) that the then headmistress said to me “you don’t need a school mother” (So I gladly never got one).
I therefore grew up depending more on myself and I have realized since finishing school and working that most people I have encountered turn to tell me I am a strong woman. That is a compliment or should be a compliment but for some funny reason I become a bit uncomfortable and turn to ask the giver of such compliment to further explain what they mean by “strong woman”. This might stem from the fact that I have come to believe (I say this because it might not be a widely accepted belief) that statement has some negative undertones. When people say you are a strong woman in this part of the world I think they mean one or the following;
- That the woman is somehow difficult to deal with
- She is ruthless in speech and in dealing with others
- domineering in her dealings with others
- The “I know my right” kind of woman
- The “odindin” (woman of steel) type of woman
Don’t get me wrong I am proud of being called a strong woman and I wear that compliment around most of the time but I can’t help but think of the negative connotations and undertones that might sometimes accompany that phrase “STRONG WOMAN”.