What's progressive about a failed black woman?
When I was a young girl in Somalia, I would listen to the grown-ups around me ask my brother: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” No one ever asked me this.
But I always interrupted. I shouted over him to say things like “When I grow up, I will be a doctor”, or “Maybe I’ll go into engineering”, or “I will be President!”. I fantasised about becoming an army general so I could set my father free from prison, where he was being held as a political prisoner. Every time I saw a plane fly overhead (which was not as frequent back in those days), I would declare that I would grow up to be a pilot. I thought I had limitless options. I was a dreamer.
The response from most adults, both men and women, was always the same: “If God wanted you to be anything other than a wife and mother, he would have created you a man.” My kinder relatives would at least attempt to base their prejudice against women on something more than “God’s will”. They would say that women were not designed to do certain jobs, that it went against the natural order. My uncles and cousins would explain that every woman they knew who attempted to take a man’s job had failed. They insisted that it was actually a blessing to be a female and I should be happy since they had to work.