Shame On Us!

Shame is a soul eating emotion. – C.G. Jung

Had interactions with two different women at different places yesterday. It got me reflecting on the mixed messages and shaming that we as individuals in society subject women, in particular to. And these mixed messages and shaming are perpetrated by women as much as men. But what made these encounters which are not novel to me standout yesterday was because after spending two hours speaking to women leaders about Boardroom Readiness, the harshness of this shaming was more stark.

So we say women should share their intellect, experience, expertise and knowledge to enhance inclusive boardrooms so that we can build more successful and sustainable organisations. In the next breath, we criticise them negatively and shame them for exercising the very Gifts we say they must share.

It barely happens that my encounters with certain individuals do not conclude without a word being volunteered about my love life. So the one lady said, “Dudu it will be difficult for you to find a man who will be able to see you beyond you being opinionated.” Now I am Mrs Msomi’s daughter. The Oxford Dictionary is the first big people’s book you got as a child after your collection of Children’s Encyclopedias. And Mr Msomi was married to this woman. And he was not threatened by her. He basked in her individuality and Gifts. An incredible Man so I know such men do exist. So I advance the definition of opinionated which means to be characterised by conceited assertiveness and dogmatism. “Oh no”, she says. “That is not the right word. You know what I mean”. So I said, “Having a point of view of how I would like to live and how I would love to be loved and treated by my loved one?” “Yes”, she says. And then I say, “Which part of that desire for my life is unacceptable?” Mind you, to have a point of view means “a manner of viewing things; an attitude; a position from which something is observed or considered; a standpoint”. She says, “None”.

So when we say women are opinionated or have a point of view, and with that negative, judgemental energy we give it, are we saying that they should not have a vision for their own lives? Just go with the flow and accept whatever treatment is meeted out to them? Do we see a contradiction in there?

We use the word ‘independent woman’ with such contempt sometimes. Independent means not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct and thinking. Controlled being a key word. It is about thinking or acting for oneself. It does not mean treating other people badly. Not allowing the doors to be opened for you.That you must pick up your portion of the bill when you are out on a date. That you have to take care of all the expenses at home. Buy your own house and car. That your pay cheque must be larger than your partner’s.  No. It means you have the choice to decide how you want to be treated and what arrangements would suit you best in your relationship, whatever those are. If you want to do everything for yourself and your partner agrees, that is fine. But it doesn’t mean that if a woman chooses to have someone do all these things for her she is less independent. She has made the choice. It is not always from a place of power. But for many women it can be. We should Respect that choice.

August is coming around the corner. We will be banging on about the lack of inclusivity in society. Our numerical progress will continually be unrepresentative of the population of women because our attitudes, values and behaviours are not allowing the change to happen.

So the next time you want to shame a woman for exercising her Gifts, you must be ashamed of Yourself! We are even criticised for partaking in intellectual discussions within intellectual environments such as conferences, business schools and  workplaces. That is when the 2nd Shade was thrown yesterday. You accused of talking too much – by asking questions or responding to questions. It is acceptable to spend money and time and to leave your home to come and just sit. Not say a word. That makes you a good woman. If you cannot exercise your intellect which is your capacity to think, to use your mental capacity and acquire knowledge especially of a complex order, in such spaces, where else are we to use our faculties? Intellectual environments are supposed to be stimulating, collegial, characterised by rich conversation, creative collaboration, and debate. Where else are we supposed to partake in such pursuits? At home?

Let’s stop the mixed messages. Shaming. Using words carelessly and hurtfully. Shame on Us!


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