The oddest of experiences will most likely unfold in a taxi. Mine began with a driver who continuously cast glances at me through the review mirror until curiosity pushed him to ask,
“Where is your man?”
I was tempted to question what he meant but he went onto say,
“He shouldn’t be letting you travel on your own like this.”
I looked around to confirm that the other passengers had heard the same thing. That I had not imagined a man addressing me as a lost pet that needed to be monitored, if not escorted everywhere. I must admit that it was an unnerving statement but I confidently told him,
“I don’t need a man or his permission. I can take care of myself.”
He laughed and I believed it to be the end of the discussion, hoping that he had meant it as a joke. However, he threw me a judgemental look before he declared me to be one of those ‘independent types of women’. I knew he had sparked the interest of his passengers as all chatter in the taxi fell silent. He was fuelled by their attention and became determined to keep it.
“I will never like them.” The driver arrogantly went on, “Always so headstrong, loud and impossible to be with. They never show a man the respect he deserves, always doing as they wish. If you are not careful, you may never get yourself a man.”
A few men hummed in agreement as women gasped in outrage. I just blinked in disbelief.
“She doesn’t need one! Especially, a man who wants to be controlling like you!” An elderly woman shouted beside me, wagging her finger at him, “Do not poison this girl into thinking that she has to grow into a man’s puppet to be loved. Rather, admit that you are intimidated by her ability to fend for herself.”
Tension came over the passengers and hung heavily in the air, as though a battle line had been drawn. The focus quickly shifted away from the driver, old lady and myself. Instead, a heated debate erupted between men and women. They argued over the idea of woman’s independence, driven by the disbelief that women could function without a man. I listened as women advocated for themselves, raising their voices to be heard and fighting to have a final say in the matter. When my stop finally came, the old lady reached for my hand and whispered,
“You are not the generation of timid or quiet women. Keep telling them until they understand.”
After slamming the door shut, I watched the taxi speed away, carrying the noise of a raging battle. I may never know how it ended but I can appreciate that it was centred on independence. That which, can be understood as the ability to live without control, influence or help from others. An existence whereby, a person is free to live the way they choose and make their own decisions. Something woman are still fighting to have without being shamed for it.
In that taxi, I witnessed a change interrupting the interaction of two groups of people. A change brought by women’s awareness of their ability to stand on their own. Women who refuse to be considered as objects to be processed, controlled or offered permission. Screaming at the top of their lungs in a moving vehicle, was their small rebellion against the notion that they can only be ‘seen but not heard’.
The driver’s opinion betrayed the discomfort that some men have towards a woman’s independence and their refusal to acknowledge it. It is enough to make him question why a young women would be in a taxi on her own. It is enough to make them categorise ‘independent woman’ and reject them with the excuse of being disrespectful (or loud). Finally, it is enough to make them savagely fight to return to the old ways. Either way, nobody in that taxi could ignore or deny the changing nature of women.
Although I do not want to experience that level of insanity again, I am glad each side had a mouthful to share in that taxi. Hopefully, that could lead to a re-negotiation about the roles men and women have, or how they want to interact with one another moving forward. Better yet, no one will ever ask me why I am doing things on my own again.
Read about one writer’s opinion on society’s expectations for women here.
Tell us: What do you think about independent women?