‘You can’t be laughing that loud!’ My aunt warned at my cousin’s ruracio. “Well, too late.” I thought to myself and ignored her amidst laughter. This wasn’t the first time I was getting criticized for laughing out loud. Probably the millionth! At some point, this strong independent babe was getting affected by it. That day after my cousin’s ruracio, my aunt called me aside before I left.
“Next time control your excitement! You cannot afford to laugh that way. It’s disrespectful!”
“People will start talking and saying we didn’t teach you well.”
I apologized and left because who wants aunty drama? Not me. While driving back home, I constantly thought to myself, “Was I too much? Did I offend my elders? Do they think of me as a rude and spoilt Nairobi girl? Should I get laughter classes?” In the end, I decided to heed my aunt’s advice and control my energy. Maybe I had gone overboard with the excitement.
When I joined campus, I learnt that girls who laugh loudly are not attractive. I also learnt all manner of things that girls did to be liked, from the clothes they wore, to the amount of make-up they applied & their mannerisms. Ladies did all sorts of stuff just to fit into the labels that had been set. During group discussions, some would not call out a lazy group member or even voice their opinions simply because they were too conflicting.
Looks always top the list when it comes to likeability factor in women. There is a certain way that a woman is expected to look. A slim waist, curvy bottom, and fair skin are among the top features you should have. If you happen to be on the other end of the spectrum then you have it worse. I am naturally petite and most times, I suffer from comments of people telling me to add more meat.
“You need to eat more and grow for people to take you seriously. When you start working, it will really be hard for you. Many African women are big. You have those genes somewhere… just get your diet right.”
The pressure got to me and so I became obsessed with adding more weight. Every week I would weigh myself and see if I had made any progress. Most times I hardly made any, my weight stagnated at the same scale. I even increased my intake of junk food. I was a regular customer of fast foods that sell those chips kuku that zunguka in town.
I believed that the more pizzas, fries and chicken I took in, the faster I would add some flesh. But it was hard because even research did not offer sufficient information. When you raise the issue, people shrug it off and tell you to appreciate the fact that you are slim. I guess they’re on diets trying to look like me. It’s not just in campus that ladies struggle to fit in set spaces. It streams to office spaces and at home too. At work you cannot afford (literally) to be assertive or express emotions such as anger. It’s disrespectful and if you dare, you are assumed to have tainted the whole fraternity of women. I was reading a study that was done on the biases that exists at work and most times many people judge women harshly unconsciously. The cultural norms and expectations of women to be more nurturing and caring sets the boundaries for speaking up. Women are expected to be nicer.
Nicer is what people say when they want to box your emotions. Whether you are agitated or exultant, they want you to have limits. To be nice. Not to be authentic in how you are feeling. Because you are nice, you can lie about issues that may affect you. There is no room to say it out loud because you don’t want to be too much, too loud, too angry or too bossy. Given this article, I think being likeable makes you an imposter. You pretend to like certain stuff while deep down you resent them. But because you have to increase your likeability bonga points, you silently condone these stuff.
Your life then becomes a constant struggle of having to worry whether what you said or how you acted affected the other person. You cannot freely express your thoughts and opinions lest you make someone uncomfortable. Worse you can never be angry. It cannot happen. You have to be perfectly nice, not too much.