Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Brother Africa: Yardstick for Africa's Progression Away from Tradition

As Big Brother draws to a long-awaited close tonight, I seek to take a moment of reflection. Of the incorrect grammar and spelling on the 24/7 channel's strap (text message board) and the interactive part of the website, I am hardly surprised. Just take a sample of YouTube comments, most of which it takes some time to decipher into standard English and you will understand. It was interesting to see comments made about each individual housemate. The public's opinions about specific behaviours and events. How most of these were similar throughout the continent and what they say of Africa's general approach to certain aspects. I shall discuss gender and class here since all housemates except one were Black.

It was clear from the beginning that all the women were, as is always done, judged according to looks. The darkskinned, skinny haute couture model types were taken out first after week 1 when the show was still streamlined according to gender. They were not labelled as one of the "hot girls" in the house and were eliminated despite Maggie's spunky personality. Well. The game continued with viewers using the same standard of comparison for the remaining women. Fast forward to the latter weeks where fewer housemates are present in the house. Scrutiny is placed on the unladylike behaviour of Mzamo from Malawi and Nkenna from Nigeria. The former is chronic drinker, chain smoker, punk-inspired and unabashed about her libidinous boy-chasing ways. While I would say "Mo power to you" in response. The majority of Africa criticised her for not representing a "true African woman". Especiall after her window punching stint which took place after Itai from Zim found it necessary to exclaim that Mzamo does not take pride in her appearance or act like a woman should. This is a clear representation of what I've come to know of traditional African beliefs. They are centred in chauvinism. Because Mzamo displayed behaviour unbecoming of a "woman", she was insulted constantly. Well what then is an African woman? A docile, submissive little dove that cooks, cleans, does not seek to have a career of her own outside the demands of housewivery, never speaks above a whisper and takes abuse from men withouts question.

So it's the virgin-whore dichotomy defining standards of female behaviour. Not suprising. But the amount of contempt shown for Nkenna introduces another form of disdain. For those that occupy of lower status of class in society. For the entire duration of the show, she was referred to as the "village girl". So that left only one female housemate to appreciate, Emma. The closest thing, the public had for an ideal African woman. Pretty (in their opinion), always taking care to look good, "sweet" and involved in a nonsexual relationship with one guy. See how predictable. We dislike the women who don't care and just do themselves. We choose to like the one who takes pride in her looks, is vain and perhaps cares too much what others think to the point of fakeness - which she did display later on. It's a common practice in the assessment of women. Be vain or get out.

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