I have two daughters. They observe me a lot, so I'm very conscious of what I portray as a woman. I'm mindful of my life choices, the way I carry myself, and most of all, I'm mindful about what and who I allow in my heart and soul.
In other words, I don't allow people around me who demean me in any way. I give those people space and love them from a distance. I don't go around bashing them to others. I just create my own boundaries.
I have never, and will never, stay too long around people—which includes friends and “loved ones”—who are mean in character and who demean me.
Once I identify them, their negative cycles and effects on my soul, I take steps forward in peace and move away without regret.
I love them from a distance.
My daughters have seen me do this. I have discussed with them about creating boundaries for themselves in every human relationship.
Don't let anyone walk all over you. Don't let others' sour spirits make your spirit sour. Create your own boundaries. Do it humbly, without regret and with love.
I have explained the importance of doing this.
As tough as it may be, you have to do it. We have to summon the strength to create boundaries in our own lives.
I come from a culture that in subtle ways, and in some not-so-subtle ways, demeans and demotes women. We have so many roles stamped on us, I often wonder who created these roles. Where did they originate? And some women have also joined to these beliefs.
In my culture
- Women must respect their husbands.
OK, yes, agreed. No doubt. Of course. That is true.
But can someone please add that men must respect their wives? Do we need to plead for that? And respect includes their wives’ voices, passions, hopes, careers, vitality, strength, and their life purposes.
It takes a real man to accept and respect all those parts of a woman.
- Women must cook (sometimes a fresh dish or three every day), clean, take care of the household, tend to the kids, take care of her husband emotionally, protect his ego socially, and fulfill him sexually on demand—sometimes with the added statement that if you don't, another woman will steal him away.
- Women are expected to earn a living and contribute to the upkeep of the home, sometimes even more than what the husband provides. The modern-day man wants his wife to have a career, contribute financially to the home and for the kids, and still provide all of the above.
Whoa…I get tired just typing all those expected roles.
May I ask, is there anything wrong with men doing any of these things for their wives?
That culture in the US isn’t that much different than that of my home country. No wonder there are so many unhappy, depressed, confused, intimidated wives and women.
OK. I'm confused. Men were created to have their cake and eat it too? Like the famous saying says?
I applaud men who do not adhere to the above mind-set, who value women for their true worth.
But in general, what an egotistic and unfair world.
Actually, unfair only if you sit around and accept it.
I've lived through all three unrealistic roles and demands above, and I'm no longer living through them, obviously, because I made my way out in due time.
The statement above that “another woman will steal him” is perfectly fine for me. As women, we should be more than happy to package him nicely and present him to the “another woman” if that is his attitude.
Let me use an example of something that happened recently (mind you, I’m not suggesting all men would act this way, just that some men really do accept the norms mentioned above). I attended a big gala a few months ago. Many professionals were in attendance, mostly physicians. I was standing up by our table with my friends close by, and we were dancing.
Out of the blue comes a man, dressed in a suit, and he drags my arm so hard, I almost lost my balance. I didn't know who he was. Total stranger. I resisted, obviously gave him a look, got my arm safely back, and retreated to my friends. We had a good laugh, at the same time repelled by his behavior.
Is that what it has come to? Dragging a woman for a dance?
Fast-forward to two weeks ago, I bumped into the same man while out with a business colleague and his friends. He remembered me and gave his friends a detailed account of how I dissed him on the dance floor when he pulled me. His words? "I thought you were a girl, because you looked so young." His friends, which, by the way, included a husband and wife in their 60s, agreed and echoed, "Oh yes, Iyabo, he thought you were a girl. That’s why you should have given him a chance. That is really good for you. Many girls want that. You should be very happy."
OMG…OMG. You can all feel my cringing, right? I was particularly shocked that the only other woman in the room also agreed with the guys! Iyabo, you are now a “girl!” OK. At 47 years old.
But I didn't show it. I did not.
I kept my cool, calm, sophisticated, feminine, confident, collected posture, and I smiled. That's all I did—smile. My male business colleague (a different species, obviously) did not like the way this conversation was headed.
He later apologized greatly on the behalf of his friends. He said he was disgusted by their way of thinking and their disrespect, but he was surprised and truly impressed by my reaction.
Men, here's the favor I'm asking. Could you please introspect over all this? If you have a daughter, will you expect her to have all those roles listed above?
Basically, work herself to stupor until her soul, her spirit, and her body breaks down?
Men, I'm asking you to join me in changing this mindset.
Our girls, ladies, women deserve better than this. There are many hurting, dejected, confused, depressed, emotionally and physically trapped women out there.
Women have a voice. Women have a dignity to preserve also. These are your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, neighbors
Men, be the voice to stop this unrealistic expectation on a woman's soul.
Women, you have a choice. You have an identity. God cares for and loves you dearly. Love yourself by not staying in disordered unions. There is absolutely no excuse for staying too long. Make your way out carefully and strategically. Call a friend. Call the women's abuse hotline if you're scared for your life.
We need men's voices who are respectful of women's voices. Permanent Happiness comes from mutual love, respect, honor, goodness, and kindness for everyone.