Be successful – but not too successful: every women’s challenge 

On my way to the train station, I was chatting to my taxi driver – as you do. He was lovely, telling me about his family and such – as they do. The conversation was going great until he said “Women are not made to be earning too much money. They can’t handle it. When they become too successful they change.”

Now my company have been drilling professionalism into me over the last two weeks. So surprisingly my first reaction was not to go off on one. Instead I forced a chuckle and said “let’s agree to disagree” and gently got him to understand that it most probably the man who is seeing things that are not there, feeling insecure and how this is all part of patriarchal society which forces men to believe that a women’s success is a sign of their own weakness.
This whole topic came up because we were talking about how the more and more successful a women gets, the harder it is to find a viable partner. Men feel very threatened by successful women. At 23, with a Masters from a globally leading university, and on a very cosy salary (thanks to my employment in a corporate company – leading in it’s field, alhamdulliah), I know I’m very much more successful than many men my age – or even a few years older than me.

And that’s terrifying.

Just because I am smart and determined, I’ve already knocked out a whole section of men who won’t even consider me. The already small pool of men already shrinking. And to be honest, I know that’s a blessing because who wants to be with someone who’s manhood is that fickle.

But it’s still terrifying. I am very comfortable being independent and even though I’d like a partner, marriage is something I aspire to because I know if I don’t then my mum and siblings will face a load of crap. And so I worry about growing old and being single.

I wonder how I would grow my daughter up. At what age would you remind your daughter that setting her up not to fail may be the very thing that makes her fail? Fail in finding a partner that is – which apparently is the only sign of success. Because you could have stopped studying after GCSEs and got married and never worked a day of your life (and good for you if that’s what makes you happy) – and in many people’s eyes you’ll be more successful than I am. You’re a mother, a wife – a proper women. And then you get the super women, those who have studied – even become a doctor perhaps – but have now given that up to look after their husband and children (and again, good for you if that makes you happy). She maintains the house and her husband, and that makes her a success. Look at what she sacrificed to be a proper women! 

We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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