Rudy Omisore finds out what it’s like to be a woman on the edge of gangland.
It’s not just guys who get involved in the darker side urban life. Having interviewed a young woman who wishes to remain anonymous, it is clear that many females also get caught up in it.
According to my interviewee, who we will call Jocie, most women who come from the hood will know what’s going down, even if they are not actively involved it. For women like Jocie news of stabbings and shootings, or of someone being sent to prison, are part of daily life.
This female involvement on the fringes of hood life is inevitable, especially if the women, as so many of them do, start out by dating ‘mandem,’ which is the common name used to describe boys from the hood. However, as these relationships bring a lot of stress with them, more often than not the women will eventually try and find another type of guy to date – that is unless they get knocked up and become – as so often happens – someone’s ‘baby momma’ – which can leave them feeling trapped on the edges of a street culture that they don’t want to be part of.
Jocie’s high school sweetheart was mandem. Although she got pregnant by him, because she was in a proper relationship with him she was not just his ‘baby momma.’ But seeing the fast money that he could make tempted her early on to become involved in his criminal activities, after which she was no longer the female spectator, she was part of that lifestyle.
This meant she didn’t just have to worry about whether or not her partner would end up dead or in prison, she also had to worry about the same thing happening to her. In the end something took place that could have ended up with her six feet under. She did not want to tell me what it was, but it was the catalyst that made her pull away from this lifestyle.
Jocie could not pull away from the the father of her child though, which meant there was still a of of stress in her life. But she did manage to break free just enough to get a variety of qualifications. She wanted to change her life for the sake of her daughter. This had an increasingly negative impact on their relationship and the pair split up. Jocie admitted to missing the fast money and excitement, but knew it was not worth it.
Jocie said that back in her day women were not as violent as they are now. She claimed that it is now not uncommon to hear about girls smashing bottles and using them as weapons to slash or stab girls who they have problems with. She also said that there are women out on the streets now who are willing to buy a knife, or take one from the kitchen, to stab a man or a woman with no remorse. She gave one specific example of when a girl acted as a honey trap in an incident that led to someone being murdered. This happened outside the school where her mother works.
Jocie also talked about the ‘screw face’ that a lot of women walk around with, and their aggressive behaviour. The reason, she argued, was that now it’s not only men who are in constant competition, women are too. So if a girl sees another girl who they think is more attractive, they will make an aggressive face at them, and then try to stare them out. One reason for this could be that they’re so insecure in their own lives that they have to take it out on anyone who they envy. Or maybe they are just mirroring the mandem around them.
Jocie ended the interview by saying that when you come from the hood it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, if you’re pushed to the limit, you react. As she put it succinctly: “it is what it is!”