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Growing up female and black!

Michelle May 

Growing up a girl in the black community comes with a lot of rules, expectations and pressure. We are expected to act a certain way, to do certain things and even sit in a particular manner. When curiosity piqued as to why things were so, the only response I received was “because girls don’t do that” or simply “because you are a girl”.

Home was made up of my mother, myself, 2 older sisters and my cousin (boy). I could always see that we (as girls) were treated differently. Eventually me being “a girl” was not a good enough answer. The more I asked the more I got yelled at. The more I challenged the more I heard “It’s our culture”. My grandmother would blame modernisation for my lack of respect for our culture, my questions were considered disrespectful and the conversation would end with me getting a lecture on respect.

I had a “curfew” and my cousin didn’t. My mother would tell me I had to be inside the house before the street lights are on reason being, “Intombazana alitshoni ilanga iphandle” Girls should not be outside after the lights are on. I was not allowed to let my leg hang on the armrest of a chair because “girls don’t sit like that”. That never made sense to me.

When the marriage topic was introduced to me, everything made sense. I could understand why there were things I was subjected to but it still baffled me as to what it had to do with marriage. At this point I was considered too “woke” because I understood the patriarchal, oppressing and unaccepting society we live in and the questions I asked represented that. It was never in doubt that as a girl, I would marry a man because –

heterosexuality is what was accepted. This is when I realised that we are not groomed to be , but to be wives. Everything we are taught growing up is the foundation that is used to construct a representative of what a “good wife” should be.

I couldn’t be out in the streets for as long as my cousin could because wives are not supposed to be galivanting at night. They should be home cooking and cleaning because they can’t expect their husbands to do that for them. Undoubtedly, a lot of the values that were instilled in me played a role in shaping the woman that I am today. But I must wonder what constitutes as part of my transition from a girl to a woman. Is it the physical changes? My education? Being independent? Or is it being married?

As a little girl, I have always dreamt of getting married, that hasn’t changed. But a ring on my finger and change to my title should not define who I am in society. I am a woman, married or not.

 

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