For a while now, I’ve pondered the standard social expectation of women not to be fight, but to remain gentle, sweet and submissive in all situations. So that a woman who gets physical for any reason is socially unacceptable. This was even more so in the Nigerian culture in which I grew up.
I remember growing up in a house full of girls and being discouraged from confronting our male relatives so as not to fail the standard expectation of girls or women. One particular one who didn’t fit, was from an early age, identified as the Black sheep of the family. She was constantly berated and criticized for her ‘jaguda’ ways.
‘Jaguda’ (jah-goo-dah) is a Southwestern Nigerian term used to describe ‘rough’ people. People who could pick a fight at whim. Men who constantly got in trouble. But it was also a term that was reserved for women who went head-to-head with men. Women who were not afraid to take on and confront men despite the acknowledged so-called superior physical prowess of men. It was a term that was applied to women who didn’t lay down and let men beat on them.
While in secondary (high) school, I remember the characteristics of some of these girls. They were the ones who threatened to ‘get even’ with boys who had crossed them and who wore ‘knickers’ (shorts) underneath their dress school uniforms because they were prepared to fight a boy to the death and ‘knickers’ allowed them fight without fear of being embarrassed by accidental or deliberate nakedness.
Everybody (boys and girls, men and women) feared jaguda girls and jaguda women because they could not be messed around with. Not in the same way you could mess with socially acceptable women. I remember my one sister being clear about her boundaries and being described as ‘someone’ who didn’t take nonsense because she’s the one who would ‘answer’ men back, unafraid of their physical prowess. She’s also the one who would not be afraid to get in their faces. But she was also labeled a jugada.
Anytime any woman confronted a man, whether brother, uncle or brother, she was classified derogatively. I remember hearing one of my younger sisters described as ‘jaguda’ when she was eleven years old, simply because she was not afraid to ‘play rough with boys’ (in my opinion, she’s one of the ones who ended up with the most healthy relationships with the opposite sex, with the added bonus of understanding men better and having as many friends in both camps). But if you ask anyone (including myself at one time), she’s one of the ones who was a typical jaguda girl and woman!
Jaguda women were considered socially unacceptable and un-ladylike and this brings me to the issue I have pondered for quite a while…why don’t women ‘fight’ (physically)?. More importantly, why is it ‘socially unacceptable’ for women to fight, but not so for men???
Why does society expect and respect men who fight but reject and disrespect women who do???
As I’ve tried to answer this question, I’ve paid a bit more attention to the way men relate with other men and observed that men typically have a healthy regard for other men because they know the other man has the potential to go head-to-head with them, both verbally and physically if they overstep their bounds.
On the other hand, such men are condescending in their interactions with women for the same reason: they are aware women will NOT match both their verbal and physical transgressions!
But as I considered this disparity in men-men vs. men-women relationships, I realized the problem is not that women CAN’T match men. Rather, it’s that women have been conditioned NOT to match men’s craziness or even respond to men’s verbal, physical and social breach of women’s boundaries.
The regard men have for one another is not based on one man physically overpowering the other. Rather it simply the mutual knowledge that another man would call their bluff and return tit-for-tat! As a result, one would see men who have just engaged in a physical brawl laughing and drinking beer together after a confrontation.
As I consider the issue of women being victims of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse, I realize that women would be less victims if society didn’t hold this absurd cultural expectation of ‘ladylikeness’ over women, but just allowed them to be human beings who responded naturally to the transgression of their verbal, mental, emotional and sexual boundaries.
Men would hold women to the same high level of regard men accord each other if they knew all women are ‘free’ to be jagudas.
Men yell at and threaten women and society tells women to be silent and or walk away, but society doesn’t say that to men. Society expects men to ‘stand up’ for themselves when confronted by other men, but expect women to ‘cower’ and submit when affronted by men.
I do not believe women are incapable of ‘matching’ men’s physical prowesses. I think women have instead being encouraged NOT to be physical, whilst men have been encouraged to be, thereby making women victims of men’s trespasses.
Everyone (men and women) should know how to fight. Fight is one of the human body’s healthy responses to threat. However, their entire lives, women are constantly being disempowered, numbed and conditioned to NOT protect themselves, in order to perpetuate the falsehood that women need to be protected BY men. Women have been de-conditioned and disarmed from being able to protect themselves by denying them an essential part of what it means to be human!
No, women do not NEED to be protected BY men. Other men are not protected BY men, but rather they protect themselves FROM each other whenever one crosses the boundaries. In the same way, all women, Christian and non-Christian need to be allowed to exert their inbuilt, God-designed ability to protect themselves FROM men and other dangers by honoring and affirming their right to fight (men and or women).
Women need to be allowed to engage in this God-in-built design by allowing them from when they are young to be as physical as boys are without derogatively labeling them as tomboys and socially unacceptable. Women should be encouraged to engage in rigorous physical training and physical sports without arguing it would negatively impact their ability to bear children or socially rejecting women who do.
Men would not find a reason to see or consider women as unequal to them, if they knew any woman at any time would take them on, regardless of whether she wins the fight or not. Winning is not the issue. The issue is confronting the transgression of boundaries and society, by derogatively labeling reactive women, encourages women to ignore the breach of their boundaries, thereby making them easy prey and repeat victims of abuse from men.