A fun quiz was posted o social media recently.
It went like this: Moses has Sh5, 000 in his pocket, Lucy smiles at him. How much does Moses have in his pocket now?
The response on the comment section was an almost unanimous; “Nothing, Moses has no money left in his pocket.”
Although hilarious, the answers are not a far-cry from the assumptions society has when it comes to women and money.
It is believed that by the virtue of being female, she has unlimited opportunities to cash in and have her finances sorted out instantly.
Some of her assets are listed as good looks, being curvaceous, aligned dental formula and of course, the ultimate resource; her vagina. Woe unto you dear woman if you are caught lamenting about your financial constraints especially in the presence of men.
“How can a beautiful girl like you suffer from poverty,” Michael will inquire with feigned concern.
Even before you reply, Richard will be on you like flies on fresh dung, “A girl of your class cannot be broke. Please, leave that useless boyfriend of yours and let me take care of you. A woman like you deserves fine things,” he will quip and go ahead to rub your back affectionately.
The tactless David will go right ahead and blurt out what all the rest of the men are probably thinking but are too modest to say, “With that nice behind? You are here whining about cash when your well-rounded bottom can make a man give you access to both his ATM and Mpesa accounts? Girl, you are underutilising your assets!”
Most surprisingly, the perpetrators of this assumption are not entirely male. There are women who believe, without a single doubt, that being female automatically strikes them off the “broke” list.
You must have heard tales of mothers who send out their blossoming daughters to go forth and ‘make use of their beauty’ to earn a living. Many of these girls end up becoming commercial sex workers.
In her book, I’m Too Pretty to be Broke, Joan Thatiah explores this very narrative that alludes that being a woman—a beautiful woman for that matter—guarantees one financial success. She exposes this mind-set for the fallacy it is:
“A woman who thinks that beauty is synonymous with success is misguided, maybe even delusional. To attain financial success you will need to put in the work…If you are one of those women who think that beauty equals financial success not necessarily in the career world but also in the form of a rich and powerful husband, look around. ..A quick glance at Margaret Kenyatta, Janet Kagame and even Janet Museveni will show you that these women’s explicit focus isn’t how they look. What they have is likeable personalities and overtly impressive CVs.”
The assumption that women cannot be broke is closely chased by the other lie of modern day society; women get money from men and are incapable to create wealth on their own merit.
It purports that for every successful woman you see sashaying about in fine linen, there is a male financier behind the scenes. Again, this reflects on why the society perceives the idea of a broke woman as being ridiculously surreal. Why would a woman be broke when there are so many men around, laden with money and waiting to spend it on women?
Meg Mwende, 30, is a teacher by profession. In 2018, she decided to resign from her job after the work pressure started to threaten her health and well-being.
Although she had a child and a parent to fend for, she opted out of the job without a plan of how she would pay her bills and soon enough, she got broke.
“Have I ever been given money simply because I was a woman? Yes. One mzee actually gave me some money and said that woman should always have something stored for a rainy day. It was a one-time offer though.
But then there are men who promise to ‘take care of me.’ I have had offers made to me in the streets, at social events and even in restaurants by men old enough to be my father.
They claim that a ‘woman like me’ should not suffer want, whatever that means. Trading myself for money has never been a viable option for me because I know that although one may gain some temporary riches, it makes you poorer in so many ways starting from your self-worth and peace of mind.”
BROKE BUT FREE
An 18-year-old female student who wished not to be identified shares similar sentiments as Meg;
“If you start receiving money from a guy, you automatically surrender yourself to them. You may try to regain your voice and pretend that you are still in control but you will only be fooling yourself.
Can you imagine trying to assert your opinion as you sit in his car in a dress and shoes he bought, pointing him with a finger whose manicure he paid for and shaking a wig he financed?
He will walk all over you, it will be suffocating and embarrassing and by the time reality hits you, you will be already hooked to the highlife and afraid of losing it all. It is hopeless; I would rather be broke but free.”
Evidently, the claims that women cannot be broke because they have assets to ‘cash in’ should be taken with a grain of salt reasons being there are strings attached.
The cost of those strings is high and many women are opting to skip that route all together and instead work with their hands to be financially secure.
As entrepreneurs and career professionals, women are not exempted from the usual highs and lows of economic pursuits, including being broke occasionally.
The notion that a woman cannot be broke is misguided and as Joan Thatiah puts it, an easy way out for indolent women who believe that being easy on the eye is enough to make them successful.