African Aunties - Terror or Trauma?
My sister took this picture in Ghana. It was Boxing Day and we are sitting outside my Grandpa's packed church. Surreal. Ghana is home authentically. It just feels good being there.
Growing up in an African family should be considered an extreme sport. Judgement and assumptions are never too far away, especially from the aunties. The black woman is often regarded to have super strength and the ability to contain all. Perhaps this ideology dates back to slavery - it would not be the first issue to do so. Strength when given to others is a compliment and for us, it is often a silencing tool. Whilst I do consider myself to be strong, I recognise I am not infallible. Things hurt. The women that surround me are strong in every sense of the word, so much so to a fault I feel at times.
Some may consider it "diaspora or 2nd generation privilege" that I am able to turn around and say that I think women back home put up with things they shouldn't have. It is WILD to me how normalised cheating and abuse is in Africa. The man is the pinnacle of the family and so what he says and does goes. Even things like the children are from where the dad is from is rattling to me, almost as if to erase the mother's whole existence (the one who actually CARRIED the children! the cheek). There is this godlike air that exempts them from fault - and so the African woman has no choice but to accept it. This of course is not the norm for every home, but I do think there is an overwhelming amount of aunties with really damaging ideologies because of what they were told growing up.
TW: I have many aunties around me I love and cherish but I realised that what they have been taught in many instances is not only unfair to them but incredibly manipulative. When I was 16 I was involved in an incident which led to me losing my virginity against my wishes. When confiding in an aunty I loved, she told me women shouldn't be going to men's houses and it was my fault. I hated her at the time. Older, I now understand that that is a learnt response - to excuse the behaviour of the male because he simply can't help himself.
I titled this trauma or terror because I have had to forgive many painful remarks made by aunties I love and have come to a place where I understand that it is bigger than me. They speak from a place of trauma, not to incite terror - no matter how annoying it is to receive.
I have this one aunty, I love to death now but only since having my son. I couldn't really stand her before. Every time she saw me she would comment on my weight and how fat she thought I was. In public was the worst. Something shifted when she found out I was pregnant. Of course I got the comments about having to marry blah blah blah and an uncle very kindly told me that I was silly for giving the milk for free why would somebody want the cow, as if he wasn't having sex before marriage too but go off sir. But my cold, offensive aunty melted before me. She phoned me for the first time in my life and for over an hour told me how men had hurt her and how difficult she found being a mother. My heart broke for her. I got it.
Life had forced her to be bitter and she was projecting it onto me. Why me, I'm not sure. Perhaps she identified with something within me that reminded her of her painful past. This could just of be "Therapist Precious" speaking from an analytical place but I think it's so important to ask yourself, "Where is this coming from?"
I now have an amazing relationship with a woman I had written off, simply because I didn't understand why she chose to offend me the way she did. Whilst I truly believe being older is not a pass for disrespect, I can accept that sometimes you have to bite your tongue and I was at my boiling point before she broke down to me. Trauma.
Perhaps this can be generalised to all black women or even asian women or just WOMXN period but I think it's important to speak on my experiences rather than anyone else's. I am teaching myself to be kind. To accept that some of the remarks aren't as personal as they feel. An aunty will ask when will you marry but is still at the alter every Sunday praying for a husband herself - make it make sense.
I truly believe there are a lot of damaging ideologies (if only we had £1000 for every time I have said ideologies..) taught back home to keep the man the centre of the family but I am glad that our generation is challenging that. When an elder offends you next, ask yourself what that's about or where it comes from - it may not be as personalized as you think.
Maame Presh x