"Where are the nasty women in the house?”
In Sojourner Truth’s speech titled “Ain’t I a woman?” She said, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”
On Friday, I had the opportunity to attend a Women’s Leadership Conference and I must say that it was the most empowering atmosphere that I have ever been for the cause of transforming women’s lives. It is sometimes scarce to see a gathering where hundreds of women come because they have an intention to emulate themselves. Besides the speakers who shared their stories of how and why they started a journey of empowering women, I knew that the congregation of women in the audience had their stories too.
The women who spoke answered questions about situations whereby someone they know or they were the only woman in a room filled with men. The best response I heard was “you will always be the only something in the room and that should not restrict your voice from being heard. Introduce yourself ahead so that a comeback will be easy when discussions start on that table.”
There was another question about how these women have managed their roles as mothers, wives and at the same time, bosses. I was so happy to see that they never denied their intention of catering for the ones they loved and they made that clear. A woman mentioned how she had to state the hours she would be available to work during her job interview and how having a family was no excuse to not become the best that she could. The other women mentioned that if they had to take their baby carriers into conference rooms, they would. In other words, they said, “make what everybody thinks should be your limitation become your inspiration to get out of that bed every morning.”
These women also mentioned how important it is that women should surround themselves with other successful women and how it is true that “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” (Madeleine Albright) Helping other women could be starting a voice for women whose tone have been lost in the shadows of domestic violence, injustice and inequality in our societies.
One of the speakers who is a survivor of sexual harassment at her work place told her story of how in the late 90’s her boss made sexist comments and advances towards her. She said that she had worn her long hair to the interview and cut it short on her first day of the work (because it was easier to groom in the morning) and he had passed a comment about how she looked sexier with long hair. She explained how she wore long skirts and each time he would touch her to show her the length of short skirts he would prefer. She stated that one time, he had chased her around the office with a pair of scissor when she did not heed to his advances about her long skirts. She mentioned how he will unclip her bra strap when she walked past him and how she told her husband she was done, then filled a lawsuit when he poured water on her head and her shirt as a game to see her body's curves. She said she was not the only woman who was treated this way by this man but the other women had refuse to speak. They were bound by fear and shame that the society imposed on women who had the audacity to fight such patriarchy.
One of my best moments was when another brave woman, a lawyer, started her speech with “Where are the nasty women in the house?” If being nasty means getting things done and putting patriarchy in jail, then we must be nasty and even nastier. She mentioned how women-led companies have historically outperformed the companies led by their male counterparts and how our countries will be better off if women had better chances to lead. Her words reminded me of the conclusion in Sojourner Truth’s speech titled “Ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner truth said “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”
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© Oyindamola Shoola 2020