Slay Queens and Bad Old Men

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You learn a lot about a society from how they treat their deviants. But I bet you can learn more from how those deviants respond to society’s treatment. So, Tracey Boakye says she sleeps with multiple men and is “smart” enough to “profit” from her sexual relations. And while she was at it, she mocked Mzbel for being an “old woman”, with a “greying vagina” who was stupid for sleeping with many men but does not have anything to show for it. In response, Mzbel mocked Tracey for unveiling that the source of her wealth is sleeping with men even though she had claimed in the past that her success is by dint of hard work. The reason for these jibes? Well, they are both squabbling about “the man” they both dated, and who seems to have ditched Mzbel in favour of Tracey. We still do not know who “the man” is. A third woman suggests “the man” in question is an ex-President, but Tracey denies it. Folks, this drama sums up Ghanaian morality.

Ours is a society run on a cocktail of traditional and conservative Christian morality. And these women (not the men) are the deviants for breaking the rules about sex, chastity and the sacredness of the woman’s body. In Ghana, a woman’s body is not hers; it is sacred for the society, to be covered and adored until such time when, through ceremony and tradition, it is married off into a husband’s control for sex and childbirth. A man’s body is his own, to will and use as he pleases, for work, wealth, sex, and even for violence.

The fallout of this exposé is the entertainment value of “the man” and the moral shame of these women who broke the rules about the sacredness of marriage, sex and the woman’s body, and dared to tell us. Tracey insists her body is hers to use as she pleases and refuses to accept the shame. But even Tracey admits that her freedom of her body is legitimized by her spinster status; she’s “nobody’s wife” so she “can do what she wants with her body”. There! But “the man” in question is married, which begs the question.

Tracey’s shaming of MzBel also unveils her transactional motivations to her use of her body. For some, this does not make her any different from a sex worker, an “ashawo” in local terms, but that judgement does not seem to apply to “the man” who clearly is having sexual affairs with multiple women in a similar transactional fashion, and is at least party to the transaction. Why is he not the slut?

But aren’t all relationships, including marriages a form of exchange? Don’t we choose our partners based on certain things we benefit from them? Aren’t all relationships full of exchanges where we give and take, and therefore exit the relationship when we feel we are giving more than we get or no longer like what we are getting? Remember when the girlfriend came to cook for you, you had sex and you gave her money when she was leaving? Remember when the guy did not give you money after all that cooking and sex and you were upset? Or that time you got upset that you spent all that money on the girl and she refused to sleep with you? Aren’t even marriages officially recognised as legal contracts? Are we that much better or different?

So perhaps this forces us to rethink what are the boundaries of acceptable exchanges in a sexual relationship, and if our norms are “correct”. Perhaps, the line between our morally upright exchanges in our “normal” sexual relations and the supposedly immoral exchanges of sex workers is only as thick as our emotional investment and branding. Because I’m sure sex workers also “love” their loyal and high paying customers. And if perhaps I’m wrong, then perhaps we are all wrong or both right. But should that matter?

Tracey Boakye is not a hero. No. She is not the villain. She is just a player in a game we built and set the rules. She didn’t break the rules. She is just playing the game using rules assigned to male players and dares to say it. But she has done a lot for the game too, by reinforcing its rules. She mocks another woman for not playing by the rules for women (or men) players and losing. She mocks her for still playing the game when she was supposed to have retired from the game at age 40 as is expected of female players in the game.

Tracey Boakye is just an anti-hero. And we give her our attention—in our homes, media, music, and even Parliament—because she matters. She matters for what we are, what we are afraid of becoming, and what we pretend not to be or like. She is us. So, shame on us.