I remember M.I.A from my university days when her first album, Arular, dropped. She came to my first university and did a set which is know almost 5+ years ago. I just knew that I was going to be hearing about her again because she had the X Factor from the moment she stepped on the stage. I have followed her career on and off since Arular and Kala, which is my favourite album of hers. Now her appearance on the US Superbowl and her new video have inspired a lot of harsh criticism – she is 36, I am sure she can handle it – but it made me think, why are societies across the world frightened of a woman who speaks her mind?
‘You want me to be somebody who I’m really not’
In her song XXXO from her third album, /\/\ /\ Y /\, she sings about how someone wants her to be someone she is really not. This really applies to women who are ballsy, aggressive and are fortified in life, and especially in business. I think society expects women not to be aggressive and going to get what they want. When a man goes out there and closes on a deal, he is a killer, a wolf, handling business. If a woman tries to show the same kind of concentrated aggression in business, (some) people get intimidated by this.
I don’t think women in business should try and be like men – we should just use the focus required to succeed in the same way without worrying about gender labels. We are separate and equal: the analysis advantages women have can be used in business to qualify leads for cold calling and writing proposals to increase sales. In developing countries though such as Tanzania, I believe people do not take businesswomen seriously when it comes to closing deals. This sounds like a massive generalisation but it is one that I think is true, most male business owners here want to close deals with men – imagine a focused woman turning up to a deal signing – it’s like someone has crashed the party – and this is the impression that I get in my trials & tribulations to be taken seriously here.
Excess Sex Oh: A case study
The other day, I was at a family wedding event and Laura, my friend from London and I were waiting in the car park. I was joking around and messing with her. A military guard came over and tried to assert his brand of masculinity on me barking orders at us to leave the car park immediately, that he could see we were having a ”party” in the car park (we were standing joking + laughing). He was incredibly rude and authoritative in such an inappropriate way – we are civilians, this was not the army barracks and it was a wedding event. I let him know in no uncertain terms that he could not speak to me like that and if he wanted to get his point across, he did not have to be rude because I was not going to accept that.
It put me in a foul mood but then it reminded me of the consistent bullying that occurs against women here by some men. If you show a hint of strength or aggression in standing up for yourself, you are going to be put in your place whether you like it or not, that is the impression I got from others. This is why I think M.I.A’s song XXXO makes total sense to me – women are accepted for sex and whether that is in excess terms, that’s great but once you are seen as someone who is going to stand up for themselves, the male-oriented society of Tanzania wants to remind me that I am not as important.
‘If you like what you see, you can download install’
Ultimately, going out there and getting what you want is the only way to build a successful life where you call the shots. Since I have been living in Tanzania now for almost 2 years, I always think every day about how I want to be the one who is controlling my own life. M.I.A chants that you can download/install if you like what you see in her electro-pop track: this applies to women who are trying to do their own thing. If people like what you symbolises, they can download what you are about, if clients like the products and services you are offering, they are paying to install them into their business. If your family does not support what you are about or the society at large does not want you to be the woman you are, tell them you love them with XOXO.