Hey! Am I the only one who takes time to read the long exhaustive hashtags on social media? There is this hashtag I saw on an Instagram post. It said #BitchesRockingTheWorld
I guess you too have seen such hashtags on posts that pop up in your phone, right? I think that women, even the world has kind of changed the meaning they attribute to this word. When I was in primary school, learning English, I learned that “a bitch” was a female dog. When I, as many other people, grew up I realized that “bitch” was a female thing, but not really the dog. As I went on learning English, I realized that it was an insult, to women/girls, but not to men. Should there be insults for men and for women? In terms of grammar, it makes sense! But otherwise…..uhm…. I know we can debate about this for hours, but let’s not do that! Instead, let’s think about the reasons why women have started using “bitch” in a positive context. Some girls say to their good friends: “Hey, I missed you bitch!” or “Thank you, I love you bitch”(and this blog post is not about the insults grammar, and it’s neither encouraging anyone to insult anybody. Thanks!)
Why is this word making a bit of a shift from being negative to being positive? Is it actually because people want to be bitches? Or because there is a constantly changing meaning of this controversial word?
In a movie I watched long ago, there was that girl who resisted to be bullied at school and when other students (her bullies) were referring to her, they said: “she talks too much, she is such a bitch!”. Even in Kinyarwanda, we have words like “Ingare” or “inshinzi”. In the comments, Kinyarwanda speakers, help me define these words! Is it a woman/girl who talks with so much confidence, maybe? A woman/girl who talks too much? A woman who speaks her mind, even in front of men? A woman who confidently says no, regardless of the pressure on her? A woman who does bad stuff? I mean there is that thing of confidence that makes women to be labeled “bitches”, “inshinzi”, or “ingare”. I never heard these words used when referring to men. Instead, a man with the above specifications is often labeled as a go-getter, a great leader, or just a real man! Isn’t it sad that when some men do not fit in this box, they are pressured and sometimes oppressed by the society to “man-up”?
Would it make a difference if men are called “bitches”, “Ingare” or “Inshinzi”? No, because that’s not what gender equality is about! It doesn’t mean oppressing the other side as a revenge, it means providing the needed support and equal opportunities to me and my brothers, to boys and girls, to women and men so they can both achieve their full potential, and build healthy and sustainably developed communities with men and women’s efforts blended together. (P.S: I guess the definition does not sound copied from Google, hahahah! Keplerians – this is not plagiarism, Ni ukuri!!).
I know people may say, “Hey, what’s about that thing of gender equality you always talk about? Hein!” or “this is 2018, girls are allowed to go to school” or “why do you always talk about it, here, in Rwanda we have more than 50% female members in the parliament.” Some people don’t understand why we still talk about gender equality, or why there are affirmative actions that focus on the promotion of girls’ education, and not boys’ education, or just education in general because many people claim the era of gender inequality ended with our parents’ and grandparents generations. I do remember the debates we had about such topics in a module, I took last month, called “Human Rights, Human Wrongs”. (I looooved that class)
Back to the topic of why people should still talk about gender equality! Let me bring a random example to the table. What would you feel if someone told you to move on, after you officially broke up with a guy/girl, but you still love that person soooo much? Think! You may say that you need time to do that, or maybe that you need emotional support, to finally move on and love another guy, right? Or on a bigger scale, what happens when people are evacuated by Red Cross after their homes were hit by a disaster, like an earthquake or Tsunami? Their life is safe, but they are given basic utilities for a reasonably long time, so that they can get back on their feet, right? This is the same thing with gender equality! We have a gender inequality historical background, we still need TIME to move on, to get on our feet, TIME to gain that social behavior change that we need. You wonder why?
Why do we need behavior change? Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, but she was once referred to as “too strong-minded for a woman” (ONE, 2016). This is one of many examples that shows the abstract barriers the society imposes on women and girls.
Gender equality still needs a push! Laws of our countries and international organizations support education. But tell me, do you think that I would go to school, or take a Math option, or any STEM option if my family, or friends, or neighbors told me that’s a boy thing? Maybe yes, but I will need to be empowered or confident enough to stand and say: “my country supports me, I can do this!” What I think is more probable is that the girl may say, “you know what!? I want to study Math, but my family says there are a lot more suitable things for girls, I think they are right!” Because we are closer to our families, and local societies than we are to higher national levels. The “I can do this” or “I can’t do this” feeling is influenced by how our very own society views the world.
Countries need to support gender equality narratives, and so far as a Rwandan, I grew up seeing various amazing efforts my country invested in this. I am a witness and beneficiary of that wonderful support. But is that enough? We also need social behaviour change. To help us, women/girls feel that when we can stand up confidently to express our ideas, speak our truth, and set higher challenges, and possess that healthy dose of ego without risking to be labelled “ingare” or “inshinzi” or “bitches” in the negative sense of the words. Investing efforts in social behavior change; don’t you think it would make this planet of ours cooler?
STEM: Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics
May you want to know the origin of “inshinzi” and “ingare” …click here (It’s in Kinyarwanda)
“Inshinzi”: an army of women that was created very long ago in Rwanda.
“Ingare”: royal assistants of the queen of “inshinzi”
ONE. (2016, March 15). 5 powerful quotes from female African leaders. Retrieved from https://www.one.org/us/2016/03/15/5-powerful-quotes-from-female-african-leaders/