Just be pretty and marry! Unlearning what they taught you

By Leana Bisa
On 22 June 2022 at 02:54

‘Sois belle et tais-toi’ is a french saying that can be roughly translated to be beautiful but shut up. I am sure most girls have heard it at some point in their lives. I am sure most women have been told the only thing they have to be, the only thing they should aspire to is to be beautiful and nothing else, which will guarantee them a nice life.

For many years, women have been taught to only fulfill two roles: a mother and a wife. The world changed and evolved and things consequently changed. During the time of industrialization, women started working the untraditional role and it made the path for a new era.

It was an era that showed women were much more than just pie bakers and caretakers, they demonstrated an era of capacity and capability since they had to talk the talk and walk the walk.

This gave birth to what we know now as women emancipation, the process by which women in general and poor women in particular are made to gain access and control of all forms of resources in a nation.

In African societies, they had their own cultures and their own ways of life. Women performed that traditional role, they cook the meals and raise the children while the men hunt, and go to war.

Colonization installed new things such as Christianity, European education and politics. It was first accessible mostly accessible to men but with relentlessness from different activists girls started going to schools in great numbers. Therefore, they could do different things with their lives, departing from their traditional roles of aspiring to be simply a wife.

It was a whole process which has led to today’s modern world and modern women, where in many parts of the world education and opportunities are given to both men and women, and where women are taking part in every field there exists.

We see women in Politics, we see them in business, we see them in healthcare, we see them in science, we see them excelling and succeeding even though the path is neither easy nor fair. What surprises me to this day is that there are still people that are teaching our young girls that the priority is finding a good husband and being a good wife.

I recently had a conversation with a young woman. She is in her early 20’s and is in business specifically in Information technology. She is thriving and hustling, she wakes up everyday with goals and great ambitions.

A woman you can clearly see is on her path for success. During our conversation, she told me the only thing her relatives want her to achieve is to find a husband and give birth to children.

Even though we claim to be in a modern world where rules have changed and women are being given a stand, there are still certain unspoken rules that women are still required to abide by and most of the time they are taught these rules by other women.

In that conversation, I was appalled. I thought to myself she is becoming what some women dream of becoming but the only thing her family wishes for her to be is a wife and a mother. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a wife and mother but is that all we ought to be?

During that conversation, I recalled another girl also in her 20’s who told me if she gets a fiancé, she would immediately stop university to get married and raise children, and my question was ‘is your education a hobby until you get knocked up?’.

It is then that I realized, it is not her fault for having had that kind of mindset. It is what women have taught her, from mothers to aunties and grandmothers. They often still live by the rule that patriarchy has set ‘a woman is only great when she has a husband and kids’.

Which is also what young men are taught by their mothers. We often hear mothers telling their sons to ‘find a wife that can cook and take care of the children, the rest does not matter’ or phrases like ‘she has a big personality. She cannot make a good wife’.

That is why some men think that when he marries a woman, she should give up her dreams and hopes to become only a wife and mother. It is understandable because they were raised to believe that a woman like that is wifey material.

This is where the saying ‘be beautiful and shut up’ comes in handy. They teach our young women that the only thing they have to do is to be beautiful in order to marry, it is not to be self-sufficient, independent, successful or impactful, it is to be beautiful.

This mindset is the reason most of these young women do not take advantage of the opportunities they have been given. They do not tap into their full potential because at the end of the day, they are required to abide by the traditional rules.

As far as I am concerned, this is a mindset or rule we should unlearn from patriarchy. Women should stop identifying themselves as women only when they have husbands and children, women should define themselves according to their own definition of who they are and who they want to be.

Do not get me wrong! We live in a world where you will not get accepted in the societies when you only have that kind of social status. It has become normalized that when a person does not have what it requires, it is not what it entails.