There’s something to be said about social conditioning. The young human mind is very impressionable and malleable and as such parents and guardians try very hard to mold the child into the desired form from a very early age. Guided by religious and cultural beliefs, parents lay out the appropriate way of behavior and that which is fitting. In some cases, the child is rewarded when he tows the path of straight and narrow; other times, the child is reprimanded for leaving the already laid out path.
There’s another set of parents, the ‘cool’ parents. They are not particular about structure or rules. They have their own baggage and they’re not focused solely on the demarcation between what is “good” and “bad”. They don’t have specific things that their children are not allowed to do and so they wing situations as they arise. The children of these parents pick up social nuances by interaction with classmates, neighbors and teachers. At this point, they’re very much left to chance.
As we grow older and we are thrown into bigger waters of social interaction, we begin to learn that some things are good, others are bad and some others are well… unfamiliar and so we steer away from them. This is how I have tried to rationalize the reaction of some people to certain things which they term “social vices”. Body piercings, body tattoos, smoking of cigarettes, and dreadlocks… to name a few.
Last week, I met up with a friend of mine who had been single for a long time but recently met this beautiful girl. According to him, Nneka was the girl of his dreams. She was pretty, smart, kind, warm and her parents were nice people. He said “she’s really a great girl but she has tattoos and she’s got a nose ring.” I asked if it was a deal breaker for him and he said he wasn’t quite sure how he felt knowing that his “good girl” had tattoos and a nose ring. Because I’m naturally argumentative and I’m always looking to understand social behaviour, I asked him why her tattoos defined her as a “bad girl”. He then quoted a passage in the scripture backing it up and I asked him if it was normal for him to assume that Nneka shared his beliefs in the same scripture. At this point, I stopped the conversation because I realized my people have the tendency to assume that everybody reads and upholds the same religious belief.
The conversation reminded me of how it’s been said that “bad girls” are the ones who smoke cigarettes. Not because of their health, not because their kissing partners find it repulsive, but simply because they’re girls and they simply shouldn’t be seen smoking. I’ve heard of this gender demarcation for what is good and what is bad and it has always made me curious. For instance, some people associate men who braid their hair or wear jewelry with bad behavior or gang culture. I believe that the media has helped to foster this stereotype. You’re watching a Nollywood movie and the person playing the role of the prodigal son is Hank Anuku or Jim Iyke, with hair braided and a gazillion metal hoops around his neck. Then you also have the sinister tales told to us by our parents – that aunty who wears and anklet and smokes on her courtyard has 3 baby daddies. Stay away from cigarettes.
And the cycle goes on. The girl in the long dowdy skirt and a scarf is the one who looks like she has home training and as such she’s “good” and the girl with the snug pants is nothing but a man magnet…seeking whom to snag.
So what do you guys think? Who determines what is a social vice and what vice is restricted to certain genders. Are you averse to being with a man whose hair is neatly and nicely braided? He wears a suit, drives a nice car but he chooses to wear his hair in braids – would you date/marry him? Guys,would having a nose ring or a tattoo be a deal breaker for you?
Do you believe that a lot of our social conditioning is based on what has been ingrained in us from youth? Right or wrong, do you think there’s any possibility of shaking off stereotypes? Or, like everything which we have no explanation for, do we just blame it on the infiltration of the West?
Photo Credit: smokernewsworld.com