I belonged to my dad. I belonged to my family. I was worth a herd of cows. Maybe not even that, just a few cows. Just one cow. I could be bought. Perhaps some people think I still can be.
I had a flashback recently when I was scrolling through Facebook. There was a photo of a young black girl standing staring at the camera and the headline was “My father sold me for 12 cows” , I instantly felt repulsed by this idea that women are possessions and can be bought for marriage. I started to feel annoyed about society and how women are treated. How we are objectified, how we have so much work to do to gain equality. And then I had this flash, a flash from another life. This happened to me. People tried to buy me on a regular basis. I suddenly remembered the fear of people trying to buy me. That horrible feeling that I am a possession. That I am something that can be bought like a cow, that could be treated like a cow, disrespected like a cow and slaughtered like a cow.
I lived in Burkina Faso when I was aged 6 to 10. We lived in what was referred to as “the bush”, the middle of nowhere, where most people had never come across a white person, where there were no tarmac roads, where there was no electricity.
I didn’t have my ears pierced. My parents didn’t agree with it, unsure why exactly, perhaps they objected to this one tiny part of how society encourages girls to look pretty and act girly, be womanly. They didn’t seem to object to encouraging me to do other traditional women things though as I grew up.
Not having my ears pierced game me a strange view on the world. Locals would come up to talk to my dad, they would stare at my sister and me. They would talk, then they would ask if we were girls or boys, they couldn’t tell because we didn’t have our ears pierced. My dad would smile and say we are girls. As soon as they found out they changed. They wanted to own us. They asked my dad if they could buy his daughters. I wish I could remember my dads face clearly, but I remember he would turn serious and say no you can’t, they are not for sale! They would insist, they would offer not two cows but a herd of cows, two herds of cows! Still my dad would shake his head, take our hands and walk us away to safety. They would follow, the offer would go higher. Soon we were in the car, a thin piece of glass separated me from those who wanted to make me their wife, make me their slave, make me their objet of fascination with that white skin that they had never seen before, make me theirs.They wanted to take a 6 year old away from their family. Possess me. That is disturbing, very disturbing.
Given that, I am shocked that my parents allowed me out of the compound alone with my friends. Perhaps that I didn’t have my ears pierced protected me. I was of that age when children are almost genderless looking. Yes, my hair was long and I wore somewhat girly clothes, but still I could have been a boy. It upsets me that I needed that protection, the protection of seemingly being another gender, but this is reality. I have read stories from trans men, who have told of how they see the difference in how they are treated since they have become the gender that they were meant to be. They see how people speak to them differently as men, how they are treated differently as men and how they have more freedom as men.
From a very young age, I felt that I was owned. The people wanting to buy me asked my dad if they could buy me. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to be bought or if I wanted to change my life. It was like my feelings were invisible. My existence as a separate sentient being was irrelevant. Instead, I was just a body that moved, that was there to be possessed, I lived and breathed, but I was not an entity that was independent of others, I belonged to the men of the world. Is this what the cows feel like but are unable to express? Untold horrors are inflicted on kind, beautiful, sentient beings every day. No one stops to wonder how the animals feel. They have no voice to express themselves. I have a voice but men keep trying to take it away.
Women and girls in this world are frankly treated like animals in every society. They are traded, they are enslaved, they are raped, they are killed, they are tortured, they are forced to carry unwanted children, they are cut, they are silenced, they are ignored, they are overlooked, they are told what to do, they are told what to wear, they are told how to live, they are judged constantly no matter what they do and this is a major tragedy of humanity. The major tragedy of humanity is mistreating sentient beings with unkindness. Every time a woman experiences misogyny and sexism, she is being aggressed by a society that does not value them as equals, as beings that have value on this earth.
Thankfully I had a family that didn’t allow me to be bought, but so many girls are not so lucky. I didn’t want to look into it further it was so repulsive, but there was once an app that allowed you to measure how much your daughters and wives are worth, in money and in livestock.
I hope that before I die, I see progress in how the world treats women.