Changing Times, Shifting Values And A New Reality
By Oluwatosin Akintayo
Less than a century ago, young women were supposedly more chaste, more homely and reserved. Fast forward to today, it seems to be a different story altogether.
What happened in between? Were the damsels of those times a special breed or in a different class from their 21st-century counterparts? Or did they possess something the latter currently lack?
The average early-mid 20th-century African girl grew up tied to her mother’s helm. She received life lessons and had her world view shaped by her mother’s experience. She had little to aspire to beyond the kitchen, ‘za oza room’, and maybe the community women forum. This was somewhat similar to her pre-industrial revolution English counterpart. Professionally, she trains to be a craftswoman and/or a merchant. And the summit of her education is tailored to her future husband’s home and her place amongst other women in the community.
At the early stage of blossoming, she was set to switch familial allegiance, before she’s able to fully grasp the chemistry and dynamics of adulthood. She got betrothed to her ‘life-long’ master, usually around age 15-18. Her pride was in her ability to withstand the ‘little temptations’ of the few ‘cunning poachers’ interested only in ‘tasting her cherry’ and present herself as a pure and chaste bride to her suitor. Anything short of this was a dent on her PR and a blow to her family ego.
The cycle of change
As time went by, western civilisation began to distort our social space, and the roles of men and women became almost indistinct. Parents became more occupied outside the home. Children also found parenting outside the home. The girl-child had more learning to do outside the core traditional values. She aspired to be more and this took her farther away from her parents and also introduced to her a new age of spinsterhood — a state of minimal or no supervision, independence actually.
The pop culture introduced to her a new reality, and she had to swim with the prevailing tide: soothing her itching taste bud and adventurous mind. Her icon of social values was too far from reach. Hence, she had no one to guide her through the new phase. She was ‘perfectly in control’ as she swerved through the rough path. She is over 24 and still ‘single’, about 10 years older than her early 20th century married counterpart, yet society expects that things remain the same.
Soon, pregnancy became the reason (or much worse the license) for marriage, and the ‘unpregnant ones’ already had a complex s****l definition that seemed to further complicate things. Parents and society seemed to look the other way while claiming to celebrate the beauty of our culture.
Between then and now, what has changed is the absence of supervision and monitoring. The average young lady over 13 years old spends more time away from her parents or anyone who may be responsible for her, and that’s the inevitable reality of our times.
So what’s the way forward? Do we hold on to our ancient values and wish (and whine) that things remain the way they were? Or do we just move on and accept the new reality?
If you ask me, I’ll say we need to redefine our parenting and inculcate s*x education into our curriculum with the right blend of our core social values. Or what do you say we do?