Women, Poverty and ‘Slay Queens’.

Moesha Boduong is a 30-year old Ghanaian actress, model and social media influencer. Moesha likes to serenade her 2.3m followers on Instagram with pictures of her lavish lifestyle. From fancy holiday trips to luxury cars and always showing off the latest fashion trends, the party never seems to stop with Moesha.

The era of social media has highlighted a new phenomenon of ‘slay queens’, a phrase whose meaning has varied over time; from the positive – women “killing it” in their careers and lifestyles to the negative – women dating rich, often married, men to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Moesha was for a long time tagged by bloggers as a slay queen. Many believed this was confirmed after she admitted in an interview in 2018 with CNN’s Christine Amanpour to dating a married man who took care of her because of the harsh economic conditions in Ghana. Another woman in that interview admitted to dating in exchange for being taken care of, although her beau was a single man. Slay queens’ take-over of social media, though met with a lot of condemnation, raises a fundamental question as to why one gender [male] irrespective of the level of their wealth can acquire sexual and domestic services from the other gender [ women] who for the lack of capital must exchange these services for capital or its benefits.

The bottom line is that it is evident women have no capital and no access to it as wealth is concentrated in the hands of men. According to Oxfam, the poorest gender is female, with women earning 24% less than men globally. This gap, Oxfam says, will take 170 years to close (see Why Majority of the World’s Poor are Women).

Women have for so many years been and continue to be aggravated by the oppression of patriarchy and capitalism (Lerner, 1986). Patriarchy’s systematic domination of women begins through the family unit which cunningly divides labour in such terms to exploit women for the sole benefit of men. The division of labour on the basis of sex or ‘gender roles (see Gendered Identities: Women and Household Work) supposedly instructed by god, is carefully constructed by the patriarchal machine to keep women in its cycle of oppression and exploitation for men’s endless benefit. Men as providers or breadwinners have automatic value on their labour which is remunerated while women’s natural talent of birth, childcare and other domestic work is given no value [monetarily] besides worthless accolades.

Women who offer their labour outside the home for payment be it in trade or corporations must figure out a way to balance that with the unpaid domestic work whether for their husband’s parents or extended families’ gain. The working woman is even more strained by the adaptability of patriarchy and its certainty of maintaining male supremacy through the never-ending exploitation and oppression of women. Women continue to be excluded from economic power even with their inclusion in paid labour. Women, even in modern times continue to suffer from structured and deliberate gender-based inequalities through unpaid work, unequal pay and/or lower earnings. “In no country have women achieved economic equality with men, and women are still more likely than men to live in poverty”, (Why Majority of the World’s Poor are Women.)

The intentional exclusion of women from capital, from economic power, has created a global underclass of women, whose continuous existence in the patriarchal order cannot be without any form of dependence on men.  The imbalance of capital creates a relationship of negotiation and exchange between men who have the capital and women who have it not yet need it in the capitalist world. Capital thus creates an unfair dependence of women on men who have power because they have capital. In this situation of dependence, women’s way out has been through negotiation; giving men what they want, i.e. sex [birthing and domestic labour] in exchange for some capital or the benefit of capital. This would have been either through marriage or prostitution. This negotiation between men and women for capital/its benefit and sexual and domestic services, I’d like to call the Global Sex Exchange.[1] It comes in variations: prostitution, marriage, cohabitation or side relationships (sugar daddy, side chick and slay queen affairs).

Let’s put morality aside and have a dispassionate conversation about what women can learn from slay queens when it comes to the acquisition of capital or simply put money. Since the dawn of patriarchy and its corollary unequal distribution of capital to the neverending benefit of men, women have sought a way out of poverty through the exchange of with men [the holders of capital] through marriage, prostitution, ‘sugar daddyism’, cohabitation and lately ‘slay queenism’.

The feminization of poverty is a threat to women and it is heavily perpetuated by the systematic inequality orchestrated by the patriarchal world order through exploitation and oppression of the female population (see How Patriarchy & Capitalism Combine to Aggravate the Oppression of Women). A cursory look at the slay queen phenomenon reveals economic as well as social reasons for which women date wealthy men to get out of poverty. ‘Slay queenism’ might just be another version of the sugar daddy concept where younger women date rich older men and are financially taken care of in exchange. This is how women are financing their education, family care, careers, holidays and other economic and social needs. You need capital to live well or comfortably. And in the capitalist patriarchy where wealth and power are concentrated within and controlled by the male class, you need a man, and a wealthy man at that.

Slay queens know very well it is a man’s world and understand how this world works. They want the ‘paper’, they know the wealth is concentrated in men’s hands and they know what men want and understand the barter between what men want and they want, the Global Sex Exchange. With this understanding, they set off by first mirroring the wealthy men they seek and, after gaining their attention, they secure the bag and acquire property (since in many societies women don’t inherit property from their fathers). It is pure skill and talent to devise such a plan, carefully carry it through and achieve it successfully – secure wealth – without an MBA or any formal education but mere intuition and genuine need to survive in a world of capital. It is pure genius!

Don’t get it twisted, yes, women have a place in the corporate world and engage in paid work but that never frees them from the oppression and exploitation of patriarchy, not just through economic means but through religion, language, family, culture and stereotypes. Wherever women find themselves, men due to their socialized entitled nature over women are constantly offering women something; capital or its benefit, in exchange for women’s sexual and or domestic labour [when they are not taking by force i.e. rape]. Think about sex for jobs or grades demands that women are confronted with all through their life, from school to church to the workplace. The oppression of the female gender persists as patriarchy adapts. Women once again will have to choose, to be a pathetic victim or the ‘bad’ woman who turns her oppression into.

While many people voice out their anger towards slay queens they might want to once in a while stop and ask themselves, what’s the way forward? Is it gender equality? If yes, what will that mean? Gender equality if achieved would mean the loss of domestic and sexual services that men have been enjoying from women, often and which supports their capacity to thrive in their paid work outside the home. Will men empathize with the other half of the global population and undo the evil scheme of patriarchy?

Are we ready for that?

[1] The objective is neither to endorse sex work nor condemn it but rather to spark a broader dispassionate and intellectual conversation about an unpopular avenue for escaping women’s poverty.

About the author

Francisca Kakra Forson

Francisca Kakra Forson is an award-winning Ghanaian journalist and communications consultant. She has worked in radio, television and print (online) journalism reporting for the leading English news organization in Ghana, the Multimedia Group (JOY FM). She has worked as a freelancer for West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR), VOA News, AFP, ITN and CBC Network.
Francisca has worked in corporate communications in consultancy for organizations namely the Institute of Social, Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER) and Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) where she currently holds the role of Corporate Affairs Manager and PR consultant to the CEO.
She collaborated with UNICEF Ghana as an influencer in the “Let’s be fair” and child poverty campaigns
Ms. Forson was a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders award in June 2016 for her social media advocacy (#kaykasa) on women's and children’s rights and social justice.
She spends some of her time off work mentoring and speaking with young people, especially girls.

1 Comment

  • This piece is a beauty to read. It is intellectually stimulating and full of substance I must admit. Notwithstanding it depths of content and informativeness, I was particularly drawn to the last paragraph which emphasised the need for dispassionate discussions on the subject. At a point I find that statement contradicted by the writer’s choice of words such as ‘deliberate’ which provided clarity of some sort to the angle of the story. I find the angle passionate wrapped in typical feministic garment, which is fine except that it pain a picture of deliberate marginalisation of women.

    While the angle helped me to assess the issues affecting women through the lenses of another woman, the piece presented a picture of a “delibrate” attempt by men to keep women downward on the social ladder. The idea of deliberate marginalisation resonated throughout the piece. It did not leave a bad taste in my mouth anyways; the article was so sweet to my taste. Yet, I think we need to engage the issue of ‘deliberate marginalization’ further.

    I am asking myself the question, “Can one exercise power over another without their conscious support?”; in fact I think looking at the issue of gender and development from a constructivist perspective may be a starting point. I think the issue of gender disparity is more systemic than a deliberate act of marginalization. The Moesha example gives us two lenses view this phenomenon; one, the prevailing gender inequalities perpetuated by the system and two, the conscious attempt by some women to re-enforce the rhetoric of male supremacy by sexualizing their own bodies for material gains.

    Chatacterizing such systemic gender inequalities as deliberate marginalization is not charitable, making the argument about gender a passionate one in this case. Moreover, there are numerous examples of women who defied the system and advanced the ladder. Additionally, the idea of patriarchy remains prominent in our culture and history however cultural liberalization in recent times, thanks to many humanitarian efforts, is redefining male domination, which the system perpetuates, by giving more opportunities to women. Many more women, in the Ghanaian context for instance, are excelling at what they do are more powerful than some men. Did the act of deliberate marginalization fail? Or it is case of self-actualization and self-development regardless of one’s gender?

    Well, I do think that, sometimes the attempt to ‘liberate’ women from their oppressors, the system, should be directed meaningfully. If men, per the patriarchal orientation, deliberately marginalise women, it often confuses me why gender activists focus on women empowerment by targeting women more than they target men. The logic of the targeting, therefore, tells me that, women are responsible for their greatness and the idea of marginalization of women may excused by the inactions of women themselves because men are marginalised too. But, before you pull the card on numbers, let me say that, regardless of percentage of male marginalization recorded, the crux of our argument is equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, if a single woman, Moesha, in the context of the article, is worthy of redemption, then a marginalized, by his fellow male or by woman, male is worthy of same intervention.

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