Do you remember the tales that were told to children just to scare them enough to stay close and not wander off into real danger?
Or the stories that were meant to teach them acceptable behaviours. Like telling them about ‘the ghost that kidnaps children that tell lies‘. Other times, it could be a response to a question that one feels that the person asking isn’t ready to know yet. Just like telling a 5 year old that babies enter mummy’s womb from the sky.
One way or the other, you’ve heard a myth before.
According to the English dictionary and for the purpose of this write up, a myth is “a commonly-held but false belief, a common misconception;a popular conception about a real person or event which exaggerates or idealizes reality.”
I take out four keywords from this definition ;
- FALSE : a mistaken belief, a wrong idea
- POPULAR: Common among the general public
- MISCONCEPTION: Untrue, not factual, factually incorrect.
- EXAGGERATE: To overstate, to describe more than is fact.
Many of us have fallen into the error of judging based on myths. Who can blame us right? “They are just so popular that everyone accepts them, plus it’s too much work to search for the truth”.
However, without your research, many myths are debunked with time. A good example is the myth that “if you swallow orange seeds, it will grow in your stomach up to the top of your head” (I actually believed this one😭) . You just realise its not true when you see that the seeds are not growing as you grow.
However, some others do not go away that easily. People grow with these myths and hold on to it so tight that it becomes their truth and they go ahead to fix it at the centre of their values and goals. The first example I could think of as I was writing this piece is this; “if you’re a smart lady or an ambitious one, all men will be intimidated by you and they won’t want to be around or with you”. I just paraphrased this, I cannot recall it verbatim but this is basically the summary of what is usually said.
I have met amazing ladies that are careful not to speak or show their goals and ambitions around men. After a while for some, they let go of speaking or thinking about those goals. It has been a privilege to have elderly women tell me this myth too. I say privilege because they indirectly gave me content for this blog post, hehe. Thankfully, I did not grow up in an environnement that was biased based on gender. Hence, I did not know how not to put in my all back then, and with God’s help, even now. From “food” to “file”,what was worth doing was worth doing well and gender had no place in it.
These ‘harmless’ heresay [Information that was heard by one person about another that cannot be adequately substantiated] we help to spread can cause more harm than we know.
These Stereotypes [“A conventional, formulaic, and often oversimplified or exaggerated conception, opinion, or image of (a person)”] and prejudice [An irrational hostile attitude, fear or hatred towards a particular group, race or religion] keep multiplying day by day.
“Black women are always angry” . Are they really? You’ve spoken to all of them? Is that why you disregard whatever is said by every black woman because it is just “women’s talk”?
“law students are arrogant” . How many have you approached? Oh, some were rude to you? So that justifies your harassment of the ones that do not even know who you are?
“Yoruba guys are players or demons”. How many are you acquainted with? Many? So your hatred and marginalisation to those who never hurt you in anyway is not undeserved?
“Men are scum”. Oh, you have met all men? The one that hurt you did not do well but is that an acceptable reason to raise your hand and slap any man at will?
“Calabar girls are prostitutes”. I take it that you have patronised all of them? Which is why people will look down on a girl that says she is from or lives in Calabar. It becomes a justification to call her a prostitute right?
I could go on and on, it’s endless. It is fact that though some of these statements of myths are passed on as a joke, some people take them to heart and it becomes their truth. This in turn affects the way they’ll relate with certain groups. Putting forth a hostile attitude based on a myth.
Delving a little into my personal experience as a law student. In my first year, I always felt uncomfortable in the black and white (the mandatory uniform for all law students in Nigerian Universities) for the singular reason that it made me feel like I had a negative spotlight on me. Verbal harassment from people while walking inside and even outside the university. One time a group of four were walking behind me and they kept shouting “the bar”, “the law” and it took every patience in me to not turn around. You’ll think they’d stop but they didn’t, the only girl in the group caught up to me and blocked my path to get my attention.
All I could come up with was “excuse me” and she did but not before laughing alongside the other guys. One made a comment about how arrogant all law students are and how “this one(me) head will swell and burst one day”. I just walked away in silence trying very hard not to respond. Note that this was just my first week in the university, consider it my warm welcome.
I got to have conversations with some of my senior colleagues and they told me how it is “normal” and that I would “get used to it” as time goes on. So I told myself that I would need to put in more work in strengthening my patience and tolerance because these prejudice has not stopped, it’s still ongoing and honestly looks like it will go on for a very long while.
Another time I almost lost it was one calm afternoon when I was walking to class. These two girls walking behind me were having a conversation that I was not interested in, not until they started talking about the “empty head in black and white” (Really what’s their problem with my head? It is always the first part of me they call out) . Initially, I thought it was about someone else they both knew, not until the description was seeming more and more like me. They described and insulted my hair, my skirt, the way I walked, everything. I couldn’t help it, I had to turn back and look at the girls, oh the things I wanted to say! However, all I did was stare intensely before continuing my walk to class. As much as I wanted to give a retort, I really did not want my white shirt to get stained in a squabble and of course it is not what Jesus would do. They should thank Jesus😁.
My question now is, what exactly was my wrong? Why did they pick on me? Well the answer is simple, a myth has placed a target on my back.
“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”John 7:51
The latin phrase, Audi alterem partem (listen to the other side, or let the other side be heard as well) is the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them(wiki) . This sums it up. If indeed you must assume the position of a judge in people’s personal lives (which I do not think anyone has the authority to do so) then you should do it the right way at least. Hear both sides. How? Do your research! You don’t want to? Then leave it be! Do not pass on what you do not know to be true.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.Proverbs 18:13
Hearing sometimes is making use of your search engines, having conversations where you get to ask and answer questions. If you do not know the facts and you are not willing to find out, just let it be. Say nothing rather than say that myth.
The myth often appears with boldness, allure and an air of faux prettiness.Lesodina Favour
The truth is more calm,collected, confident and aware that it should be accepted. But it doesn’t force one to.
It’s up to us.
Guilty or not guilty? Whatever we plead does not really matter, so long as we all get it right from now onwards.
Thank you for reading💕. Don’t forget to drop your comments and personal experience here too!