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Don’t Put Me In A Box! It’s Perfectly Okay to Just Be Me

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These days, everyone has to be grouped into some sort of category or another. Society has mandated that you need to belong somewhere. You just can’t be a person with the ability to be what you want to be without any attachments, any more. Every little action you take has to be over-analysed and translated into something deeper; something more meaningful. If you are a female who prefers your natural hair and not a weave on your head, you’re ‘Team Natural’, if you are not overly concerned about your single status at 29 years old, you’re ‘Miss Independent’, if you’re a guy who does not behave in a typical masculine way, you’re ‘Gay’ or if you’re a naturally friendly person who enjoys meeting and interacting with new people, that makes you a straight up ‘Famzer’. You need to fit in somewhere.

While studying Psychology a few years ago, I learnt about the Schema. It is a mental structure of preconceived ideas; a system in the mind of organizing and perceiving new information. In other words, it is the way us humans attempt to understand people around us and the world we live in; and categorising things and people helps us make sense of things – in our own twisted ways. In essence, in our minds, we have the need to place people in a given box so as to ‘understand’ them.

So while about learning this Schema, it occurred to me that this could be a viable explanation for the labels society places on us. So as to make sense of the different types of people we come across – and mostly because they are different from us or the act differently – we place labels on them. It keeps us sane. And it also happens to keep us ignorant.

A friend of mine is a strong feminist. Unashamedly so, in fact. Which might I add, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. However, – and even though she is not likely to ever admit it – she can’t understand women who are not. I mean, in the 21st Century, us gals have to take a stand! Which is definitely true. But recently, I came to the conclusion that I’m not exactly the world’s definition of Feminist. I’m not quite the ‘I don’t need a man‘ advocate, I don’t hate men, and I’m not likely to be chosen as the face of the Girl Power movement. For a while, I was apprehensive about sharing my thoughts; not because I’m afraid of conflict (frankly, I almost attract it) but because it seemed particularly unusual for a young lady in this day and age to actually voice it out. It doesn’t mean that I believe in maintaining a Patriarchal society; I believe in gender equality as much as the next (wo)man. However, I just realised that my beliefs do not have to be defined by a set of rules set by an impossible-to-please, faceless society. And that is perfectly okay. I simply came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to box myself in and live up to certain impossible standards. I do not have to be THIS or THAT. I can just be me; a bucket of my own beliefs, ideas and opinions.

So I would encourage you to do the same. It’s perfectly understandable if you disagree, but I believe there is a certain degree of freedom which comes with knowing that you don’t have to squeeze yourself into a box constructed by society or accept unwanted labels. You can be unapologetically you. Full stop.

Photo Credit: realbeauty.com

Kunmi Omisore is a non-award-winning opinionist, currently living the life of a nomad. She believes in the power of words and the importance of people being able to express themselves. She is presently trying to make sure she doesn't end up penniless. Follow her on Twitter @Kunmi_O for more stimulating conversation and high levels of weistfulness.

27 Comments

  1. Obongawan

    June 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    nice writeup

  2. nomad

    June 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    oh gosh, being a feminist does not equate to hating men. Let me repeat that so it can enter people’s head again. ONE CAN BE FEMINIST AND LOVE MEN, WANT TO BE WITH MEN. I think it’s part of the patriarchy to demean and attach negative meanings to feminism. If I hear people again say that they believe in gender equality BUT they are not feminists, I will scream. A feminist can be someone who sits her ass down at home 24/7 to watch over her kids and cook for her family AS long as it’s her CHOICE to do so and she wasn’t COMPELLED to do it. The whole idea of feminism is that women should have a CHOICE to pursue their life ambitions as they see fit and not to be demeaned/discriminated/underpaid/disrespected for their choices. Many women have fought long and hard for these choices that you women today now enjoy (school/job/stay at home) PLUS other dreams that are yet to be actualized. Please don’t demean their efforts.

    • Tiki

      June 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Don’t mind her. Everybody just jumps on the ‘feminism’ train in order to show how knowledgeable they are, WITHOUT EVEN BOTHERING TO KNOW THE DEFINITION OF THE WORD FIRST! Urrgh. Just turned the whole article into a load of stank steaming **** for me.

    • ballerina

      June 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Thank you for this.

    • hil

      June 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      True

    • Turayo Tijani

      June 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you so much. Feminism is all about choice. It’s like saying all Nigerians should be doctors. There is no choice there. Feminism is about having a choice whether to stay home or to work or to do whatever.

    • Iretidayo

      June 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      God bless you jare.I have been given a “negative form” of feminist just because I have a voice and I refuse for it to be subdued.I have even been tagged as a man-hater,for real!I love REAL men so much it’s almost embarrassing

  3. ebony

    June 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Nice piece

  4. 5'5

    June 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Schema also explains stereotypes, the need to think a group of people act a certain way because it lets us quickly explain their pattern of behaviour. If you apply it well, Schema explains all behaviours and thought processes.

    Being unapologetically you, is another type of box. why dont we do this instead… not think about it at all and just be.. 🙂
    I like the piece though and I agree with it.

  5. madam

    June 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    i totally agree with thee piece, if you dont, get the next flight to a volcanic eruption, thats where you will find peace.

  6. jamilah

    June 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    so true!!! I as a person enjoy weaving my hair…am not really into hair extensions or braids..I don’t really like ear rings..am JUST ME and then someone says I am SU…In CHRIST JESUS am UNAPOLOGETICALLY me and you should be true to yourself always….never mind the pressures of society.

  7. jamilah

    June 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Isn’t it ironical …how the media, magazines etc…..try to give a “standard” of what or who you should be….CAREFUL to stay TRUE to your INNER BEING….you don’t have to do it because others are doing so….as ALWAYS my manual in life is the HOLY BIBLE!!!
    No matter how small or big…be YOURSELF ALWAYS!!!

  8. eunde

    June 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Am so loving your response Nomad – you are very on point and I think saying you believe in gender equality but you are not a feminist is also putting yourself in the box people have put women who have fought for the female folks worldwide (and trying to dissociate yourself from human rights – cos feminism is simply fighting for the right of the woman to freely express herself and be what she wants to be). It can’t be over emphasized plssssss let’s not demean their efforts, we female are enjoying the hard fought years of generations past.

  9. Nkechi

    June 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks Nomad. I think people just need to understand clearly what certain terms are. You have said it all. Feminism is not about hating men – “ONE CAN BE FEMINIST AND LOVE MEN, WANT TO BE WITH MEN. I think it’s part of the patriarchy to demean and attach negative meanings to feminism. If I hear people again say that they believe in gender equality BUT they are not feminists, I will scream. A feminist can be someone who sits her ass down at home 24/7 to watch over her kids and cook for her family AS long as it’s her CHOICE to do so and she wasn’t COMPELLED to do it. The whole idea of feminism is that women should have a CHOICE to pursue their life ambitions as they see fit and not to be demeaned/discriminated/underpaid/disrespected for their choices.” Case closed.

    • Turayo Tijani

      June 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      That last part is crucial, “…not to be demeaned, discriminated, underpaid or disrespected for their choices”

  10. Jag

    June 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    I believe the main point of your article is to encourage the reader to ignore labels but the problem here is you aren’t yourself actually ignoring labels by saying you are not part of a particular one i.e. Feminist

    I also found it amusing that your ur photograph of a woman with a big afro is credited to a website called REALbeauty. Another label n’est pas?

  11. Myne Whitman

    June 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    But it seems you’re apologising for not being feminist with this article? Surely there are other labels and you did not even raise any other one in this post? FYI, Read Nomad’s comments.

    BTW, we only try to escape labels we feel deep down we have to apologize for. Are you a Christian? Is that not a label? As for me, I am a woman, black, Nigerian, Asaba, romantic, optimist, feminist, married, infertile, christian, and I am still me. Even people who share all these labels can never be me.

    So what you need to do is learn to love and live with yourself, labels and all.

    • Ninja

      June 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Please don’t label yourself as infertile for goodness sake and I am not talking from a point of religion but your mental psyche, the power of thoughts and the spoken word. Be careful what you repeat to yourself and tag yourself because you are telling yourself that, that is what you are. I know to you it may seem like you have come to a place of acceptance, which is great but don’t label yourself as such nevertheless. I don’t know your case, but that word is just damning and you have condemned yourself already. It is like the word disabled or insane. Not just for political correctness but Physically challenged doesn’t condemn the person it lets you know that in other ways they are still capable but physically they are challenged. So, from one sister to another who is on the journey too, please Myne you are not infertile but fertility challenged. I hope by using the diabled comparison you will see that I was not talking from a religious perspective. but in the spirit of this article about labels. Some labels are good, and they are uplifting. So, label away. Some labels are bad and they drag you down. Choose a label that uplifts you dear. I have read your story and I salute your courage. All the best.

    • B!

      June 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Methinks you kind of missed Myne’s point.

    • Mariaah

      June 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Aww I love you mine.. No one can be another you.. 🙂

  12. nomad

    June 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the comment folks. I think that honestly it’s sad that people do not try to read a bit, widen their horizon before making knee jerk criticisms. There is no one monolithic feminist point of view and there are wide disagreements among feminist over several issues (pornography comes to mind for one and the whole “sexual liberation” movement). Read a book, Wikipedia has a fairly decent article with tons of links to ponder over.

    This is a country where it is ok for a man to pass on terrible diseases to his wife while catting around. Where young educated women are pressured to sleep with their bosses and clients to get ahead. Where if you report to the police about being beaten senseless by your husband, you get ridiculed by the very persons sworn to protect. Where a husband can throw his wife out to the streets without regard or repercussions. Where women have little rights on divorce or spousal deaths. Where in some parts, girls young as 12 can be forced to marry. If I’m accused of being a feminist in saying that our society needs to evolve, that stronger societies have evolved to where women can have a say in their future, can walk into an interview without fear of being asked to perform disgusting acts on disgusting men, can hold high positions without being called a slut who slept her way up, then that’s a box that I will happily crawl in and a label I will slap on my chest.

    • Truth

      June 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Bellanaija needs a “like” button. You’ve said it all!

      Although unintentional, the writer has reinforced her own stereotypes! We can’t live without definitions and labels. As Myne Whitman said, even with all the labels, we’re still unique and different!

    • hmm

      June 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      YOU Have said it all!……women today can freely sleep around, go to school, go to work , do whatever and yet they want to ridicule the fight of feminism……….Beyonce is a well known feminist and she is happily married, so are the likes of Oprah, michelle etc do they hate men? no……with the rate of rape and abuse on women in Nigeria…its a shame …and bella naija is not helping with this articles that seem to label feminist as man haters…………my mum is a feminist and she is happily married …my dad is one too and his a man(he grew up as the only son in his family so he cherishes womens rights)

  13. imagine

    June 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    mcheew please how does this help to build world class hospitals in nigerian states??or how does it elp little primary school children from sitting on the dirty floor in ogun state?? smh

  14. Anonymous

    June 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Andrea Dworkin once said that the unofficial story of [radical] feminism is that intercourse itself is oppressive as it divides the woman internally into two. We need to understand WHAT feminism we speak of. Feminists indeed are pro-choice for the woman, but they also assert many claims that one might feel pressured to support, and feel boxed [as the writer asserts]. Some feminists believe there is no difference between consensual intercourse and rape. [Katherine Mackinnon]. Essentially, you CAN be for gender equality and also not want to be labelled as feminists. Feminism asserts MANY claims that cant be summed up as ONLY pro choice.
    I agree with the writers views on humans needing to categorize events, people, objects. It helps us survive. The ‘victims’ of our categories on the other hand might feel otherwise.

    • nomad

      June 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Katherine McKinnon, Dworkin, Camille Paglia, Naomi Wolf and Gail Dines are examples of mainstream American self-identified feminists that have views that many self-identified feminists have problems with. I have problems with a lot of feminist discourse in the sense that it is led by generally white, upper-middle class females from a privileged over-“academic” background that fails to account for the realities of women globally.

      My problem is that the word feminism in the sense has been loaded with so many negative connotations that women who 1. enjoy the privileges 2. agree with the basic tenets then turn around to disparage and reject the “label”. bell hooks writes that women should acknowledge their differences while still accepting each other. My comments were to demystify the unnecessarily-loaded word that feminism is today as I don’t see it as interchangable with gender equality. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a feminist as “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”. Why say gender equality then is OK and feminism isn’t?

  15. NNENNE

    June 6, 2013 at 4:44 am

    I found that out years back and I don’t give a rat’s a**.

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