Trifle (ings)

Frank chats with African fathers

“Women leaders are even more corrupt than men”

That is the throwaway statement that my Dad said, whilst we sat watching Al Jazeera news on the telly and a VT regarding the calls for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment popped up.

“Well no. She’s a woman yes,” I pointed at Rousseff on the TV, rallying in portuguese about something I didn’t understand “but I don’t think she’s more corrupt than any other male politician ever” What the hell does that even MEAN? I said that italics part in my head, and probably expressed it on my face, because i’m still talking to my Dad here and trying to remember my place in the propriety of being a child of African descent.

I hasten to add, at this point, that I am 29, still living at home in central London but grateful for everything I have. Though my age or gender should not have an impact on how I respond to a statement as asinine as this, the fact that I am a woman of a certain age means that I justifiably offended.

What happened next is still raging through me — because I type this in real time — no joke I just had this heated discussion moments ago. My Dad is still sitting next to me, and my brother is trying to avoid my frustrated huffs and puffs.

“Yes they [women]are, Alex.”

“No — they’re not — first of all people are people, regardless of their gender they make poor decisions, they do bad things — you can’t just say ‘women are more corrupt’ ”

“Yes, they are, even more than the men. She is more corrupt than the male politicians before her”

OK. So right here — I was annoyed, and I couldn’t hide the fact. He was making two different arguments one of which is categorically wrong and offensive; the other which may or may not have been true — I don’t know anything about Brazilian Presidential history — maybe Rousseff is the most corrupt President Brazil has had, either way it was not an argument I could enter in.

When I get passionate (note: not angry, passionate) I become animated. I gesture a lot — probably because I am trying to give momentum to the things I want to say, and not lose attention from those I’m talking to. So the hands go, in order to make sure people look at me when I talk. It doesn’t always work and is most definitely not a prerequisite to getting someone's attention or to engage in a coherent conversation, but I find it helpful to use my hands when I’m explaining things from my point of view.

My Dad picks this up as something else “Why are you being aggressive, remember you are talking to your Father”

“That has nothing to do with it — you’re saying something in front of your daughter and son, it’s offensive and I don’t think it’s fair. Women are no more or less”

“Why are you arguing with me?”

“Im not arguing” admittedly I’m annoyed, “ — we’re having a discussion that you were not ready to have, because now you’re making it personal” Well he was, he brought up the “you’re-so-aggressive” argument that’s been set to derail many women over time, and as a woman of African descent— the connotations are so deep set and purposefully mean that this hits a nerve. But it’s a statement that doesn’t wash with me, and always tells me I’ve probably caught the other person off guard — and that they are unequipped to back up what they’ve said. Before I can retaliate he does the next thing he knows how to do, when he doesn’t like his daughters talking back to him: he mocked my movements, then he looked at my brother and tried to cut me off completely by attempting to steer the discussion into an attack on me not what I was saying, but the fact I was saying it and saying it with the incredulity that he is not accustomed to, didn’t sit well…

Well actually, that’s not entirely true — my elder sister is also a passionate speaker and tends not to suffer any fools — especially me, but she is mostly a fair debater — so I learned from the best.

“I don’t care if my hands are flailing, you’re detracting from what I’m saying”

The most arbitrary and annoying argument that any African father or parent likes to bestow on their western-born child during such a “discussion” or in the face of that childs defiance is: “I wish you were born in Africa, because you wouldn’t speak to me in this way if you were”

“I’m sure if I was, I would — but I wasn’t and I’m not saying anything wrong, but what you’re saying I take umbridge with and I’m just explaining you why” — I wasn’t entirely sure how that was going to play. I may not have been writing to you as I am now (my Dad’s not a violent man, but I wasn’t raised to talk back or rather say things that would probably make him feel bad, or even small)

“You know I’m a good Father remember that”

These are the frustrating round-a-bout ways that my Dad likes to diffuse a discussion that’s probably escalated into an argument usually because he can’t explain himself as well as his children can. That’s not easy for me to say out loud, let alone type. I love my father and I am extremely privileged to have him around, I tell him I love him at least once a day, and he’s in my prayers every single night. But he didn’t raise no fool — and I hope when he’s done stewing next to me, that he realises that and he’s proud.