Some time ago, I wrote an essay called “obedient girls are easy victims.” It was about girls who from early age are taught to obey and not question, even if they feel that something they are told to do doesn’t feel right. There is an expression that goes like this: You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It is used to say that in a specific situation a person can be blamed or considered wrong no matter what he or she does. We can certainly apply that expression on our girls, because it doesn’t matter what they do or say in a specific situation – they will still be blamed.
The situation I am refering to is when it comes to lust and desire, and why men think it is okay to look at girls in a certain way, to touch them or to lure them into a room pretending they need to speak.
Why I began to ponder this problem is because I read an article in The Standard Newspaper about a college lecturer who is accused of abduction and assault causing actual bodily harm to a female student known as FJ. The lecturer detained the young lady against her will in his office at the Gambia College campus in Brikama with intent to have sex with her. The indictment also alleged that he unlawfully assaulted FJ by grabbing her on the neck causing her injuries.
This is not the first time we hear about a teacher or a lecturer who is misusing his power over girls. The man might be promising her better grades if she is willing to do him a ”favour”. Sometimes she is asked to do him a favour, other times the man takes what he wants and is not bothered by the consequences it will have for her. People, who are brought up with the same kind of rules – obey and don’t ask questions – have a great respect for those who have some kind of position. They hesitate to question the person, especially if he is older than thems. It is against the social rules to tell someone who is older than yourself that he is wrong, that he is lying, even if that is apparent.
This social rule is very old, but as with many other things in life; they can change. If we find a rule oldfashioned and backwards, we need to change it gradually. We must not allow ourselves or others to be restrained by some rules from the past if these rules are harmfull. A girl, who is brought up with demands on obedience, is taught to never trust her instinct as it is considered rubbish. She is taught to do as she is told, so when a person who is her superior tells her to do something, she will obey. She is not taught to trust her instinct, to say no or to get away from the situation. No, she is taught to do as she is told, no matter what.
”Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t .”
No matter what, it is always the girl who will bear the blame. If she doesn’t obey, she will be blamed for that. If she obeys, and something bad happens to her, she will be blamed for that too. She is not taught to protect herself, to trust her instinct, but still this instinct is what has saved the lives of humans since creation. The smallest and oldest part of the human brain, the amygdala, is responsible for controling these instincts. The fight, flight and flee response kicks in without a thought and has saved us humans for millions of years. It has saved human lives when we lived in the wild and didn’t know if the new and unknown person we met was a friend or foe.
We observed all the small details in that person’s behaviour and voice. We were undisturbed by all the influences of the modern times. We had to trust our instincts to save our own lives. Why should we not allow ourselves to trust our instincts anymore? Do we believe that we are not a part of nature, that we are some kind of higher spirit just because we have smartphones and TV-sets? It doesn’t matter how many gadgets we have that is somehow making our lives easier, we are still part of nature and our human bodies haven’t changed a lot if we compare with our forefathers. The largest change is the size of the human brain and that has grown through evolution because we need more functions.
I teach my pupils that when we write something by hand, it gives traces in our brains. That is making it easier for us to remember what we wrote, and it is never the same thing with writing on a computer. We are created to work with our hands, to repeat our chores to learn them so well that we don’t have to think about them anymore. We learn something ”by heart” which is an interesting expression. We refer to our hearts when we speak about something that matters a lot to us. Learning something ”by heart” must then mean that our knowledge is so important that we will keep that close to us, we cherish it in our hearts.
When we look at the matter of our girls learning to protect themselves, instead of blind obedience, we suddenly will realize that the girls matter so much to us that we will protect them and keep them close to our hearts.
In these times, when things seem to change in a pace that is taking our breath away, we might think that we must protect all the ”good, old values”, no matter the cost. We hold on to what we know and try to fight every new influence our young ones are getting from the outside world. It is about time to begin to consider what the fight for the ”good, old values” will cost us, because we can never walk backwards into the future. I don’t mean that we should throw away everything our parents taught us, but we should question the parts that didn’t feel okay when we grew up.
My own parents were brought up with corporal punishment, that was the norm back then. They were taught that this was how you raised your kids and that it was normal. When I grew up, the pattern from the past was repeated. The pain, fear and humiliation was like a black cloud always hanging over my head and made my life miserable. I promised myself to never treat my children as I was treated. By the grace of God I managed to keep my promise to myself, I didn’t have to make new mistakes, I had learned from the mistakes of my forefathers. I taught my children self-respect, which is just as important as to respect one’s parents. The parents will never be with their child in every given situation, but if the kids are taught to respect themselves they will rarely end up in situations they are unable to handle.
I feel sorry for the girl, refered to as FJ. She was brave enough to report her lecturer, even if she knew that she was going to be the one to bear the blame. It is not easy for a girl to know what to do when one of her superiors is misusing his power. Should she report? Should she not? She took the fight, not only for herself, but for her sisters. Don’t blame her, instead blame yourself for blaming her. She was brave! Would you be that brave?