The average single woman in her late twenties and above is tagged “Strong and Independent,” while the man whose wife is doing well in her career or as an entrepreneur is always “Loving and Supportive.” “High Flying,” “Strong Black Women” “Big, Bold and Beautiful.” These are all labels that have become permanent features in our daily narratives. They are clichés I often find myself rolling my eyes at whenever I come across them in essays, interviews, discussions or commentaries of any kind. And most times it’s not even a question of whether these assertions are true or false; they have become tiresome simply because they have been regurgitated again and again by society to the extent that semantic satiation has set in.
We see them everywhere; as names of Facebook Groups, in fliers and all kinds of promotional materials for conferences, seminars, and meet-ups. The same tags, and labels and stamps aimed at projecting a category of people in a certain light.
This is not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with actually being a strong, independent woman, for instance. Only that sometimes, some of the female folk who are so called do not exactly live up to the billing of the tag. A woman who has been enduring domestic violence for over a decade and decides to stay put in a loveless, life-threatening marriage because of her children is by no means strong. And all that excuse about choosing to stay married because of the kids is not true most of the time. She’s probably afraid to launch out on her own, away from the “security” of a place to sleep and food to eat because she’s jobless and wonders how she’ll cope without the stipends her abusive husband gives her. Pray, tell what’s strong about such a one.
All that excuse about choosing to stay married because of the kids is not true most of the time. She’s probably afraid to launch out on her own, away from the “security” of a place to sleep and food to eat because she’s jobless and wonders how she’ll cope without the stipends her abusive husband gives her. Pray, tell what’s strong about such a one.
And the much touted loving and supportive husband? Isn’t that what husbands (and partners of any kind or gender) are supposed to be in the first place? Why do we gush about these things as though they are the supposed to be the exception rather than the norm?
I am wary of clichés of any kind, it’s why I am reluctant to join groups or causes that are centered around these labels. I don’t want to be labeled. I don’t want to be tagged by society. Why can’t I just be a single lady, without anyone burdening me with powerful, or strong or independent, even if I was? Better still why can’t I just be Lolade? No foisted titles or tags that are designed to box me into an audience’s perception of me.
Why do plus size women always have to be called”Big and Bold?” or “Bold and Beautiful?”, especially since their opposite numbers aren’t tagged on the basis of their size. Think about it, no one calls a slim lady “Slim and beautiful”, she’s just beautiful…if she’s beautiful. I dare say that the tag “Bold and Beautiful” is borne out of the notion that plus size people have to be made to feel good about their size. If a person is good to look at, they are good to look at. It really doesn’t matter if they are black or white, tall or short, fat or slim.
It’s the same issue with the “Black is Beautiful” mantra. Our constant need to reiterate and chant it suggests that we are perhaps not quite convinced that we are indeed beautiful. I can relate to the prejudice against Blacks from time immemorial and all the racism and discrimination the race has had to contend with (after all, I am Black too), and the need to instill a sense of self-worth into the much maligned black skin. However, if every picture, narrative, and conversation is punctuated with “Black is Beautiful” then there just might be some semblance of inferiority lurking somewhere.
The problem with clichés when overly repeated is that they become unoriginal, trite and lose their essence with time. Labels are also extremely limiting. One begins to see them self as that one thing society has carved them to be, and more often than not are subtly compelled to act out that script as they attempt to live up to societal expectations.
I may be single and have a good career going and all, and NOT be strong or independent, contrary to what society imagines. A married woman may rise to the pinnacle of her career without the love and support of her husband. There’s also the issue of preference; an eligible bachelor who lives in the choicest part of town and has all the trappings of the modern day “Big Boy,” may loathe being tagged as one. He just wants to live his life as quietly as possible and not flaunt his possessions on Instagram, yet we tag him “Lagos Big Boy” every time we talk or write about him.
I now yawn and move on to something else when I come across hackneyed labels, especially the “Strong Independent Women” (I think it’s the most overused) one. Even if it were true, it’s a basic rule that words have a tendency to lose impact when they are repeated too often.
And for those who are quick to appropriate these tags to themselves, it’s instructive to note that more often than not people will see you in a certain way if you truly represent it, as opposed to you “shouting it from the rooftop” in a bid to get them to pay attention.
Overused tags are annoying and boring all at once, we really should start doing better.