The prudent writer and her conversations with great Ghanaian women writers
The prudent blogger: That’s what I call myself these days. I am hoping it will be the last time. I started to blog in 2012 when I have tucked away in Turkey; away from family, friends, and newly single. There was a lot to see and a lot to think about and writing came easily to me. Yet there are many memories there that remain unwritten. I knew blogging had become been a hot thing for a time but i was hesitant to get on board. Partly because it mattered to me if I was going to be a horrible writer and how ready i was for the judgement I'd receive and partly because... well that’s what i am writing about today.
Although I find writing extremely liberating, yet (for me at least) it compels a certain level of intimacy for me to do so. Personal and Intimate. I always put myself into my writing; whether it's the fictional or not. There is always a piece of me in there. And here, I lay bare my struggle.
How much of me am I ready to let people see?
As a person who considers writing part of my life-long career, I have already figured out that I am letting my ‘struggle’ become an all too important block to excel at this.
How do I know this? Because of all the things I haven’t written yet.
Why is this so? Because of who I identify as;
As much as i am proud of all these attributes, I know now that I have made the mistake of arranging my identity in this order and my perception of these three things affects me negatively.
Being Ghanaian, I have let the prejudices that come from my cultural and national orientation impose limitations on what is generally agreed as un-conventional.Particluarly issues that remove women from the role assigned her by her society.
Being a Woman, I know how antagonistic feedback can be to a WOMAN who is opinionated or probes discussions that are widely accepted but obviously flawed.
Being a Writer, I am cursed with overthinking everything iwrite. The next post must reflect all these attributes and MUST be my best post yet. So how do i channel what i want to say and still hold on to “accepted” perception i want people to have of me.
Hell, i even think hard about the pictures i post on social media.Why? Because it must be appropriate. Appropriate : the invisible block that stampedes the insane possibilities, boundaries, a woman, a female writer, a ghanaian female writer could attain, break, just @^R&*%T* all over the place.
Have I been wrong? Instead of drawing strength from all these unique tags,arbitrarily, am i making one more important than the other?
Am I more ghanaian, than i am a writer? Or more conventionally WOMAN than I am a writer?
The great news is i have stopped beating myself up too much these days because this all stems from how i was raised;To be confident but demure, comported, lady-like, soft-spoken (or written while we are on the subject) in my ability to stay quiet when it matters most that i don’t. Basically all the things that make me an ideal GHANAIAN woman. A proud PRUDE.
When this dawned on me (a year ago) i decided to reach out to other Ghanaian female writers that i admire greatly. I wanted to find out whether they had had similar experiences like i had as well help me answer some bugging questions.
1.Do you think Ghanaian girls are brought up to be prudes? And do you think it would affect those that choose to be writers?
" YES. Our society requires us to be silent and demure, to be ladylike, it's not everything you can share about yourself. No one even speaks to young girls about sex and boys deeply as we grow up. It's all hush-hush. And that's the conditioning by our culture and religion.” -Nana Ama Agyeman Asante,https://nnyamewaa.com/ (@justNanaAma)
"I do firmly believe that Ghanaian girls are brought up to be judgmental of other women and to fear freedom to choice. A side effect of that is prudishness, certainly…but I’m not convinced that it is a true reflection of the average Ghanaian girl’s true nature. Privately, I know these women and girls are curious and yearn for liberation. However, a patriarchal society that informs and has convinced women that they must agree to their own objectification and avoid sex AT ALL COSTS until it is “proper” to do so compels them to hypocrisy. They talk the talk, even if they don’t believe it wholeheartedly. It’s groupthink. It’s programming. It’s sheep mentality.” - Malaka Grant, https://mindofmalaka.com/ (@abenagyekye)
"Short answer is yes, I believe that Ghanaian women who are classed are molded after colonial British Victorian era notions of "lady" are prudish. This lady image of womanhood is controlled,it's powerless, it follows arbitrary norms of acceptability and it does not challenge men (or anyone) for that matter. A "lady" has a long list of rules to follow. She is told how to sit, how to speak, to drink, to laugh, so she does not offend anyone with her presence." - Obaa Bone, ghanafeminism.com (@obaa_boni)
This certainly resounds with my struggles as a writer. But this is not the same for everyone.
"On being raised to be prude, as far as I can remember, my upbringing was similar to that of my brothers. We all did housework and had similar conversations. I don’t think I was expected to be quiet on certain issues more than any of them. I think we were all quite quiet on relatively similar issues, sex being one of them.” - Akosua Sakyiwaa Mensah, http://akosuasakyiwaa.blogspot.com/ (@sakyiwaamensah)
2.Have you ever hesitated at writing because you felt society would judge for being too opinionated as a woman?
"Well yea. I used to write Erotica. I would write nasty stories with explicit sexual imagery that reflected my own desires. LOL I deleted it all because even though I am fearless often I am not fearless always.Also I was afraid for its impact on my career as a lawyer. I don't mind backlash for my socio-political beliefs, but backlash for my sexual literature.....no thanks. In terms of my feminist beliefs I don't hesitate about writing. Perhaps if my actions implicate someone directly I hesitate greatly and think about it. AN example is when I wrote about XO Senavoe's rape allegations, I hesitated a lot.” - Obaa Bone
"I’ve never hesitated writing, but I HAVE hesitated to reveal my true identity. My background is very religious. My husband is a pastor. My father is an African man. (Not so typical, thankfully.) When I released my first book, I was terrified of what my father would think…but he LOVES my racy romance novels. In my younger years, I think I was more concerned about society’s reaction to me and my opinions, but thank God for the gift of progression and age. I don’t care much now. . “ - Malaka Grant.
No, i never hesitated at writing. i started really early in priamry school.My mum's version of the story will be that i started writing poetry at 4 years old. I was actually encouraged my parents (who are heavy readers, my dad a writer himself) and my teachers who had a way of rewarding good writing. - Akosua Hanson, http://darkmosaic.blogspot.com/ (@AkosuaHanson)
"I pause all the time even though I don't write much about my life. Mostly, it's how much trouble will this bring me when I write about politics and other issues. I don't write much about myself because, I'm deeply private, so I want to control how much people know and who knows what about me. I'm not uncomfortable writing about sex or any of the taboo issues, but you can't write these things all the time from other people's perspective.
But I always wonder how foreign writers are able to dig into their lives and write moving pieces I enjoy” - Nana Ama Agyemang Asante.
3.How do measure privacy as a blogger? How should that affect you as a writer?
In the initial days of blogging, I had no concept of the importance of privacy. I had no idea how wide and diverse my audience was so I was just out here telling ALL my business. Now I know better. I have an internal barometer with which I use to measure privacy. If I wouldn’t want my kids reading what I write in 15 years, I don’t write it. I’m a humorous observer and social commentator, so I’m a pretty open book, however. I think every writer has to determine for him/herself how much of themselves they want to give the world access too. It’s important to reserve some portion of yourself, because writing – and blogging in particular – is an exercise in consistent giving. “ - Malaka Grant
"On privacy, there are times I feel like writing certain things but I create characters for them. The characters help me to be a lot more expressive and not have people attribute whatever to me. We have a society where two people merely acting as husband and wife in a movie are expected to be husband and wife in real life. Two people seemingly kissing in a 1990 Ghanaian movie are seen as actual couples, else they are seen as promiscuous. We do not have a good sense of character appreciation and role playing as a society. This will take decades to change. On this background, writers are always seen as talking about themselves even if they are talking through a character. I find my way round some of these accusations by telling people that I only wrote about a character, not me. Again, this isn’t because I am female. Society reacts to such in much the same way from where I sit.
Granted, society reacts differently to some issues depending on whether a male or female is involved.”- Sakyiwaa Mensah
"Privacy is tricky. My privacy is really important to me. Particularly because in AMerica everything is digitized, so you can find my address if you try hard enough. And there have been feminists who have been stalked and attacked for their opinions. A person on twitter once revealed my entire legal name and it caused me a great amount of psychological anguish. Other than that, I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot be anonymous online. I take it in strides.”- Obaa Bone
As a blogger i use that space to open up some parts of the very private me. But i get to control it; Also largely through using peotry and ficiton as a medium. I belive that the private affects what i write to put out into the public. As a writer, the private usually affects what i write, experiences around me or mine, or the experiences of people that affect me. But this is not the status-quo for all writers. Many writers come to their truth in different ways. However if a writer decides to publish a peice, it is a conscious decision to move frm private to public thus writers can control what they want out there - Akosua Hanson.
Is there still one thing you really want to write you haven't yet? Why would that be?
"There’s a book about the slave trade and Fort St. Anthony that I haven’t written yet. The real reason is because I’m afraid too. Not because I don’t have time, or the equipment, or even lack the will…I’m just afraid. Fear is a writer’s kryptonite. You’ll never do your best work if you operate in fear. Fear and too much compassion.
I also started a novel 2 years ago that is incomplete because I have to kill one of the characters. I can’t bring myself to do it, so the work is unfinished and unpublished. This is one of the reasons I both admire and loathe the writers on Game of Thrones. They are both fearless and compassionless and that’s what makes their work memorable! Ama Ata Aidoo is also a fearless writer. She spins words and bends them to her will. It's amazing.” - Malaka Grant
These conversations were invaluable to me because the core thing i learned from these great women was to WRITE regardless; to explode if i am bursting at the seams with creativity and SOMETHING to say. The thing is society will judge you no matter what. It cannot be your validation benchmark, it cannot be the thing that tells you how to think,behave, act or WRITE. Because the contortions of my emotions in my gut and in my heart will be far more painful for not writing than the criticisms i will recieve for being myself.
RIP to the PRUDE in ME.