Today’s post is a rant for readers my age, a word of advice to readers slightly younger and hopefully a word of enlightenment to readers much older.
The subject: uncles
It’s an unfortunate reality many young girls face- not one that I believe requires any form of legal action in most cases, but one that is too greatly overlooked and is currently causing me much distress.
As I started writing this, my mind was cast back to a post I read many months ago, I urge you to read it in order to fully understand the type of uncle I mean: read here. Grace Ajilore, a vlogger, also posted a video discussing this same topic: watch here.
In summary, these uncles I will be speaking on today are simply older men, both relatives and non-relatives that are awarded the title as a sign of respect, most commonly in African culture.
So hopefully now you get the gist.
Before I begin my rant, let it be made clear that I am not suggesting that all uncles behave in this manner. Neither am I ignorant to the fact that some young girls are simply outchea in these streets chasing older men. These things happen. But I think men as a whole need to take more responsibility for the majority of situations, exercise more self-control and behave!
My rant may be one-sided. I am a victim. Bias should be expected. Sue me if you like.
Abeg, I’m a poor student who is in her feelings right now, nobody should sue me, I have no money for you.
My problem is with these uncles that aren’t actually related to you and feel entitled regardless of your age.
This is due to many factors: predominantly their cultural background and the customs to which they relate. As has been explained in the sources provided, in many cultures throughout history, it was not unheard of for a man of 30 to marry a young girl of 13. Such is not the norm anymore in most parts of the world, but it isn’t much of a rarity either once you leave the ways of the West. This cultural mentality has migrated along with these ‘men’ and left young girls feeling like helpless prey in environments such as church and family functions where they should feel most safe.
Another contributing factor (in my opinion) that has led to this issue being so prevalent in African culture is the matter of boundaries (which clearly aren’t strict enough) and the emphasis that is placed on respecting elders. I understand that our elders are wiser and deserve respect and I partially agree. But problems arise when that elder is in the wrong and you are not in the position to correct them. If this were a guy closer to your own age, you would find no difficulty in telling him where to shove the ‘friendship’ he is so forcefully offering. But how does one draw the line without crossing over into the realms of disrespect with someone that doesn’t understand the meaning of the word no and chooses to disregard the massive age gap that you mean to emphasise when continuously reiterating the fact that he is an uncle???
This doesn’t only apply to uncles, I have been in situations where aunties in the church have forcefully tried to play cupid. Aunty please, I do not wish to marry your brother, your cousin, your inlaw or even your son. Let me be!
Side note: these so-called wise elders are really giving the church a bad name *le sigh*
These individuals who hold no blood relation to you are placed on a pedestal where respect is demanded and not earned meaning that his/her 50 years of existence may have amounted to 50 years of foolishness but he/she is warranted your respect and obedience nonetheless. So whether they are trying to marry you or be your ‘friend’, you are placed in an awkward position where you aren’t given the chance to speak up for yourself! When you do, your words are dismissed because now you are simply a rude child. You could be 13 or 21, but for defending yourself or your body: you are now a rude child.
Please take note- when they were trying to court you, you were an adult, now that you have refused or opened your mouth to say no, you are a child. Ignorance is the work of the enemy dear friends, do not let it consume you.
Society is the REAL problem
As credible as this order of respect is, it is only a minor factor. Ultimately, reprimanding such offenders (in either a respectful or disrespectful manner) can only occur after the matter. Some of us are fortunate to have parents that understand that this respect boundary is not simply black or white and will fight for us in cases where we have been silenced. Unfortunately, some people do not have such support. But regardless of where the victim stands, the root cause is not that you cannot say no, rather it is that these uncles feel it is okay in the first place.
#MenAreTrash… yeah I said it!*
*I know that not all men are trash- I’ll be discussing this is another post. Please do not bite my head off
Our patriarchal, misogynistic society is to blame. I have a habit of leaving disclaimers, but I won’t apologise for stating facts. No means no in ALL instances. I’m in no way trying to liken the behaviour of uncles to rape culture where this phrase is frequently used. However, the fundamental principles are the same! Dress it up all you want, these are the facts! Ultimately, if men didn’t feel as though they were superior to their female counterparts, they wouldn’t feel justified in approaching (harassing) young girls in the street in the way in which they do.
If women were given the same power, freedom and respect for their bodies that men are, young girls wouldn’t have to worry about the uncle that was waiting for them at the bus stop. They wouldn’t end up discussing it in passing with their friends as a topic they could all relate to and brush off as the norm. They wouldn’t feel that they didn’t need to tell their parents about the old man that was harassing them because they wouldn’t have heard similar stories from their friends that made them think it was simply a part of growing up. They wouldn’t fake smiles and offer kind greetings to these same strangers that made them squirm on the inside all for the sake of trying to maintain respect.
Let us not forget our young boys…
I for one have never heard of a young boy experiencing such from an older woman… This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen, but it certainly isn’t nearly as common.
When a friend of mine wrote that post that I shared earlier, so many in my circle could relate. We knew exactly what she was going to say before she said it because we had all experienced it. We all grew up and moved on and simply marked it down as a part of growing up.
A Message for the Parents:
Aunty, Uncle, please: be mindful of who is around your children!!! Please pay close attention to the relatives and friends that you expose to your children, most especially your young daughters.
More importantly, develop a close relationship with your children! If your child is too afraid to speak up about the terrible things that might be going on right under your nose, then you are part of the problem! You should have a closeness that allows you to discuss ANYTHING with your child in order to prevent things like this or put them to a stop if need be.
A Final Word for the Young Girls:
I came back here in frustration, after an occurrence with an uncle that after 8 years does not understand the meaning of no, to tell my younger readers that it is not okay! You shouldn’t be able to relate and none of this is your fault. We just live in a messed up world where you are unfortunately seen as a sexual object to a proportion of ‘men’ that is far too great.
Never shy away from confiding in anyone you trust and tell your parents! You are not alone in this fight!
Do not be afraid to tell that uncle to piss off, and if they label you as rude, tell them (with a schmile) that Tisha taught you!
I’m sure many reading can relate and if you wish to share your stories in the comments below please do. More importantly, if you have any tips for the younger generation that is reading- PLEASE SHARE!