Letters: The stereotypes we reinforce about women


Dear editor,

A while back, I followed a Facebook back and forth between two people who are very passionate about their political parties. It’s a bit confounding that in The Gambia, many party militants (whatever that means), spend more time trying to diminish other opposition parties as opposed to focusing on that which they actually oppose or promoting their own. President Barrow gave an interview bragging about classrooms and roads he supposedly magically built and I’ve not seen any coherent response to these misleading statements. I should extend my communications consultancy to some of these political parties. But I digress. I saw one of the individuals tell the other “…you need to get a ‘wrapper’ (Faano, malaan) around your waist..”, because to them, the other person was behaving like a “woman”. I know we all have stereotypes about the “others”, but these “stereotypes” about “behaving like a woman” had me thinking: When we tell someone you’re behaving like a woman; do we unconsciously make an exception for our own mothers? I ask because I don’t know anyone who thinks their mother’s behavior is not worthy of emulation.



You may also hear someone tell you, you “defanteh” like a girl/woman! Or that, someone gossips like a “woman”. Or, be brave like a “man” , as if us men are the bravest of all. Or you’ll hear us say “you’ll know that I’m a man…” , in some misplaced expression of wayward bravado! Do women actually gossip anymore than men? What is considered gossip and how do we know who gossips more?


Are men braver than women? Mind you, us men constituted the majority that minded our business in the face of evil because we have a “family” to feed. I harken back to the Kalama revolution and my sister Sukai Dahaba and her overalls, which came to be emblematic of the resistance. The fearlessness they exhibited in the face of Yahya Jammeh’s evil machinery is the ultimate bravery. A lot of us howling about today were quiet then because we were either in bed with evil Yahya Jammeh government or we didn’t care enough, or we simply went into self-preservation mode.


Even if one wraps these stereotypes in some historical social context, do they still hold true to this day? Do women really gossip anymore than men? Are men braver than women? And what does it mean to be behaving like a woman? Being weak? Being talkative? Wont to gossip? What does being a man mean today?


I think of my mothers and I don’t think they’re talkative (I know their grandkids disagree). I don’t think my mommies are gossip mongers! And my mommies are stronger than many a man I know. So when we use certain descriptions to describe women, are we talking about all other women except our own mothers, given that most of us don’t think our mothers fit the stereotypes? If we all think our mothers don’t fit the stereotypes, then who do we refer to? The mothers without children to think highly of them? I think of my mother and I certainly see no other mortal being that is more worthy of emulation for me. I’ll hate to see anyone associate her with gossip, with being weak, with being anything order than what she is to me: The strongest, most disciplined and most caring person I know. I’d assume it’s the same for everyone that has a mother.


And it is not just men that push these stereotypes, I’ve seen some women do it too. I’m not sure what it means to be a man but if it means being silent and minding your business while evil thrived all around you, I’d rather be a woman like Sukai and many others who refused to bow down to evil, than be like the loudmouthed “men” who cheered and stood by evil!



Alagie Saidy-Barrow