Ghanaian actress, Lydia Forson turns university lecturer–read her thesis on Moesha Budoung’s controversial interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
This has been an extremely difficult piece to write; because there are so many layers to this conversation, so many people I want to give a voice to and others I don’t want to offend.
But try as I may there’s not enough room to cover all the topics surrounding this subject and I concluded afraid that once again I’d be misunderstood.
By now I’m sure many of you have watched the short clip of Moesha on why she chooses to date married men.
For many of you, your immediate reaction was that of anger and disgust at the things she had to say, which is understandable if it’s a lifestyle that you’re unfamiliar with.
But for others there were no surprises there, she just exposed an ugly truth that we’ve tried so hard to hide.
And of course the outrage was felt all through social media, especially from hardworking women who felt her comments tainted their hard work. To be fair I do believe she spoke her truth, and even though it did come off as a generalization I wasn’t moved to anger because I didn’t think her reality reflected mine.
It was also an opportunity for those who’ve always attributed a woman’s success to the men in her life to reaffirm this position; and once again people called out any woman whose success they believed wasn’t through hard work.
It became a battle of – the women who worked hard for their money, and those who depended on men for it. The irony however was that up until then, I’d never heard so many people as vocal about hardworking women in Ghana, even though they always existed. So many names of women, who many had accused in the past for doing the very thing Moesha does, we’re suddenly being praised and used as the example to emulate.
Truth is, what Moesha did was open up a can of worms and force us to eat its contents- for years we’ve tip toed around this topic because it’s an uncomfortable one, mostly for the men and women engaged in it. But her interview had many people feeling exposed.
So now that the noise has come down, and we’re hopefully not in our feelings anymore, can we have an honest conversation about the realities Ghanaian women face?
And this reality isn’t limited to only Ghana, it’s something that happens in other parts of the world- which is why I can’t seem to get over the hypocritical snarl from Amanpour at some of the things Moesha had to say.
Websites like sugardaddy.com, meetrichsugardaddies.com, sugarbabes.com and a long list of matchmaking services for older rich men and young attractive young women have been in existence for years all over the world.
So I’d be a little surprised if Amanpour wanted us to believe she’d never heard of this type of arrangement.
In fact, seekingarrangement.com has been featured on CNN.
The only difference between the women in these situations is that, whereas some do it to afford a luxurious lifestyle; there are some who do this more out of necessity rather than desire.
Because where there’s an imbalance in the social structure, there are bound to be those at the bottom of the food chain who get taken advantage of.
And those at a disadvantage aren’t limited by race, gender, age or even religion; there will always be an imbalance wherever one group has more power over the other due to how the society is structured.
Now in a developing country like Ghana, where poverty is prevalent, people have to work twice as hard to afford the basic necessities let alone luxuries, and with non-existent jobs and opportunities, people out of desperation turn to extremes to survive.
It’s why so many young men engage in internet fraud (419) and for many young girls, exchange sex for money because it seemingly requires very little effort and hustle.
And this is what I want us to have an open conversation about.
Lets not pretend that sex hasn’t gradually become a transaction currency used to purchase goods and services; because it has.
For many young girls who don’t have the luxury of a financially stable home and support, they’re forced to see this as a viable way to get ahead in life.
Even the few from good homes aren’t immune to this in workplaces and other areas of their lives either.
Now before I continue it’s important to note that this piece isn’t about the very sexually liberated women who willingly trade sex for favours, the women who choose to live this way to support a certain luxurious lifestyle or those who chose this because it’s “fun”.
This is about those who can’t share their stories because they do this more out of the feeling of necessity than want, those who feel trapped because it seems like the only way to survive; they’re the ones who I want to give a voice.
For many it’s a dark part of their life they’d rather pretend doesn’t exist, apart they wish hadn’t/doesn’t happen, the shame associated with succumbing to the pressure to exchange sex for money, secure a job and get a promotion is one only a few will admit.
Even for those who’ve never gone down this path, they’ve at some point toyed with the idea, struggled to say no and sometimes almost given in because at nearly every phase in their lives, what I call a “conditional advancement (“This is when conditions are put in place of hardwork for advancement of any kind, be it grades, jobs etc. )has been proposition to give them fast track to all their needs.
For these women, their conditions are often set by men; and for the hardworking woman unwilling to cave in to this pressures, it becomes unnecessarily harder to achieve your goals.
So for many of these women, the outrage over Moesha’s comments is because she’s wearing a part of their lives that they’re mostly ashamed of and pretend doesn’t exist on her chest like a badge of honour.
Especially to the single mother who’s stuck in a relationship because she’s not financially independent and needs to feed her child, or the university graduate who slept with her boss for the job because he was the 10th person demanding that, and being drained from job searching, cash strapped and exhausted she just decide to give in, or even the woman who traded her body in exchange for basic necessities like food and clothes.
And this his why Oprah’s Golden Globe speech was so important when she highlighted the many women who’re silent about sexual harassment because they have mouths to feed.
“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. – Oprah’s Golden Globe Speech 2018.
But realistically that choice comes with its own consequences and doesn’t guarantee anything – for instance, how many cases of sexual harassment go unpunished each year, how many lecturers on campuses get suspended, how many brilliant students are failed each year because they didn’t “give in” ?
The #metoo campaign in Hollywood exposed the real dangers women go through when they say NO.
Harvey Weinstein the top Hollywood executive accused of sexual harassment used his position to kill many careers, intimidate and manipulate so women that a majority just gave in because it was much easier to deal with than put up a fight. He had the money, power and influence to get away with this for many years.
So in Ghana, like it or not the system doesn’t necessarily favour women in this respect; and Joy FM’s expose on the subject revealed that many women, much like those in Hollywood struggle through this. Read HERE
And yes, there are women who’ve chosen the hard way and their efforts must be commended; but it doesn’t change the FACT that their road to success was met with these conditions at almost every turn.
It doesn’t change the FACT that turning down theses prepositions meant they had to work twice as hard to make it.
It doesn’t change the FACT that they had to face all manner of toxic work environments and abuse because of their refusal.
It doesn’t change the FACT that this problem of conditional advancement exists.
It doesn’t change the FACT that some women don’t always have the strength, sense of security and worth, courage and believe in themselves to walk away from these propositions.
Moesha is what happens when we pretend that there isn’t a problem with equality, when we limit young girls to their “place in society”, when we avoid the topic of sex-for-job, when we don’t want to have the real conversations about what life’s like for a young woman in Ghana.
So this conversation isn’t black and white, they’re many grey areas and it’s not as simple as picking the hard or easy way.
For many women they try to navigate the murky waters, hoping to make it without compromising themselves but understanding that at every point a game has to be played to survive.
They understand that they’re sometimes going to have to play the dangerous game of being cordial to a man they don’t like, allow the casual flirting to keep his interest to get what they want and still manage not compromise their integrity in the process.
It’s a tough and exhausting game, but many women feel trapped in it; because when the system puts them at the disadvantage, their hard work, qualifications etc don’t usually guarantee much.
So how about we’re outraged enough to want to make sure young girls don’t have to make these decisions, that young girls don’t accept this a way of life, that women don’t have to be scared each time they sit down for a job interview or ask a man for a favour.
How about we work on creating a level playing field were a woman’s hard work is enough to get her the keys to the door.