It’s called schadenfreude, a German word that means the enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.
Within the colorful weave of womankind lies a fusion of contrasting qualities—kindness, intertwined with streaks of selfishness, a warm embrace shadowed by coldness, and the nurturing soul cloaked in envy. Women embody an artful blend of characteristics, creating their unique identities from this diverse spectrum of human traits. It’s this rich tapestry that defines the essence of who we are — an intricate journey colored by societal expectations distinct from those laid upon men.
Delving into the traditional folklore of The Gambia unravels a vivid narrative—women portrayed as emblematic figures of virtue, defined by traits like purity, loyalty, and tolerance. Meanwhile, male protagonists are often cast as courageous heroes, often positioned as the saviors, particularly through the act of marriage.
This juxtaposition perpetuates societal norms, designating men as leaders and protectors while frequently casting women as damsels in distress in dire need of rescue. These conflicting narratives leave deep imprints on women, influencing their decisions, behaviors, and societal roles in profound ways.
However, as society evolves, these established folklores are continually being disassembled. The narrative that women are in dire need of rescuing, a notion that I’ve found to be mostly unfounded, is further debunked by what I refer to as the ‘three iniquities’ traditionally assigned to women.
1. The Reproductive Role involves the duties related to childbearing, nurturing, and managing households, often perceived as the primary domain of women. It entails the care of children and the management of domestic responsibilities.
2. The Productive Role is the realm where many women not only oversee households but also contribute to the economy through paid employment, entrepreneurship, professional careers, or other income-generating activities.
3. The Community Role sees women actively engaged in community participation, volunteering, and offering social and emotional support within families and local communities. This role encompasses involvement in social causes, community events, caregiving, and maintaining social connections.
The very essence of womanhood is a rich convergence, which draws me into a journey of exploration. I find myself a participant in this road of discovery, making valued judgments about my own kind, understanding that women aren’t exclusively draped in angelic virtues nor are they the sole carriers of all things sinister. Women are good and kind, but women are evil and sometimes cheat on their husbands too. Hence, as life’s metaphorical “seatbelt signs” turn off, I feel an inherent need to charge down the aisle of womanhood, eagerly exploring the myriad complexities it presents amidst the different roles women undertake, each ripe with societal expectations.
Women are human:
Like all individuals, women are not exempt from imperfections, occasionally wrestling with dishonesty, insecurities, and competitive tendencies. In the realm of female friendships, genuine authenticity is a rarity. Despite the promise of lifelong sisterhood, these relationships often fall short of their pledged sincerity and depth. Schadenfreude, a German term encapsulating pleasure derived from others’ misfortunes, seems increasingly prevalent in my experiences, revealing trusted female counterparts as masked adversaries.
A recent discussion with my 16-year-old son, initiated by my 10-year old daughter’s wish to change schools for her friends, sparked a thought-provoking debate on the value of friendship. The conversation became unexpectedly charged, with my son advocating for maintaining fewer friendships from a more ‘macho’ standpoint, while I argued for the significance of cultivating a strong self-identity from an early age and growing into that self-assuredness by being friend-less.
My personal experiences have deeply rooted the perception of friendships, especially among women, as potential sources of future disappointments. To me, female relationships often lack sincerity and authenticity, rife with envy, leading me to approach connections cautiously. The enduring friendships I’ve maintained over the years haven’t hinged on constant communication but rather periodic check-ins, providing me with a sense of peace.
While sharing these concerns with our children for guidance, there’s a risk that our personal experiences, being subjective, might create more confusion than conviction.
Yet in the realm of human development, our diverse perspectives connect to craft a rich narrative that profoundly influences our children’s lives and their future interactions within their communities. This mosaic of differing viewpoints shapes the way they navigate the world. As parents and mentors, it’s our responsibility to instill crucial values in our children from an early age. Values such as independence, the ability to discern, and the importance of being cautious about the relationships they form are foundational to their growth.
Recent research, detailed in the November 4, 2023 edition of the Neuropsych newsletter, sheds light on a captivating aspect of human behavior. This research highlights that around 40% of individuals actively choose to overlook the consequences of their actions, a trend notably prevalent among specific groups of people.
In my professional journey spanning over two decades since I was 19, I’ve observed behaviors that align with the concept of “willful ignorance,” particularly in certain female leadership scenarios. For instance, I’ve encountered instances where female leaders imposed unnecessary demands, micromanaged their teams, causing undue stress by insisting on last-minute changes.
Additionally, there were instances where issues within teams were overlooked, despite visible signs of distress among team members. Furthermore, there were cases of unchecked bullying behavior by a male supervisor that led to high staff turnover and consistently missed targets in the organization. When I raised concerns about these issues and their impact, one leader’s response was dismissive, stating she wasn’t responsible for us as a mother would be.
Similarly, a leader recruited through positive discrimination seemed disengaged from critical matters, consistently preoccupied with their phone and neglecting work-related concerns.
These instances shed light on a behavioral trait I’ve observed in some female leaders, termed “willful ignorance.” Whether stemming from fear or a reluctance to challenge established norms or just plain lack of competence, these leaders deliberately chose to ignore information that could reveal the impact of their actions on others.
Reflecting on the influences shaping our children and prevalent behavioral patterns in professional settings underscores the critical need to cultivate a culture centered on accountability, mindfulness, and ethical leadership. It’s imperative that we guide and equip our children to navigate a world where these traits are not just valued but essential for positive interactions and leadership.
While endorsing the concept of positive discrimination to support women in leadership roles, challenges persist due to internal conflicts among women that impede progress in organizations. Certain behavioral tendencies disrupt progress, fostering resentment and insecurity. Despite encounters with a few outstanding female leaders who promote inclusive work environments, these instances are more exceptional than commonplace.
In summary, my reservations about specific female leaders stem from observed behavioral patterns prevalent in certain female social circles, such as gossip, cliques, and pettiness. Changing these societal norms necessitates a shift in generational behavior and a complete reevaluation of perceptions regarding women in general. Reconstructing these narratives involves examining socio-cultural conditioning, folklore, and personal beliefs.
These biases might be influenced more by my socialization than by education in shaping my perceptions. In the fast-paced whirlwind of modern life, the pursuit of perfection consumes many. Consequently, the certainty behind my biases remains uncertain, my dear Marie.