The open air brand new underwear traders in Tudu, Accra often engage in loud risqué banter and sexual innuendo; it is their stock in trade, literally.
On Monday, I found myself under a lady’s umbrella as the rains poured down on Accra.
Conversations got very personal and it became necessary to announce my journalistic credentials.
Still she did not mind giving personal details except that once in a while she asked, “Are you Anas?”.
Anas has become a pseudonym in Ghana for undercover journalism. She soon confirmed my details through a bank transaction I made, and she became more relaxed and friendly.
She then invited me to accompany her to Tudu, an international market/lorry station in Accra.
My experience of Ghanaians is that when they are cozy with you, off color language is often used to lighten up conversation.
Such was my experience at Tudu, Accra, an international imports market. It is the “branded” place for brand new or “tear rubber” clothes imported through the Lome port in nearby Republic of Togo.
As my lady acquaintance selected boxer shorts, she asked for my input.
“Who are you buying for,” I asked.
“My brothers,” she answered.
I gave my preferences, and as she ushered me about under her umbrella, some thought we were suitors.
A lady trader then asked me to buy panties for my mother.
“Mothers buy boxers for their sons up to age 19, but not for sons above 20,” the trader said. “Sons in their 40s also buy panties and bras for their mothers.” Explicit details were given. Louder more depraved and risqué language was all around us.
A very interesting discussion about measurement occurred at another spot when my acquaintance tried on a “tear rubber” skirt in the open. As I watched, she deftly measured the waist to her neck and judged it to be okay. She then wore it over her head, pulling it down her neck and belly to her waist. It was a shade too big for her slim frame.
Then a lady trader asked my acquaintance to buy a bra.
“Can you tell her cup size,” I asked.
“34, maximum 36,” came the reply.
My acquaintance tried to deny it, but older women traders volunteered advice and challenged her that she cannot tell them they do not know her bra size.
“32,” she volunteered finally.
Then a more elderly woman came in, “My dear, your breast is not for size 32”.
The old lady explained how a cup size 32 will be too small, squeezing her breasts in folds of skin falling out of the bra.
The explanation was very convincing, leaving my acquaintance with no where to hide.
“It is true, isn’t it?,” I turned to her.
“I don’t know my bra size,” she finally confessed.
Men buying panties and bras for their mothers and wives used the sellers waists, hips and breasts to estimate the appropriate sizes, I was told.
“You mean men are able to give vivid descriptions of their mothers’ breasts?,” I had wondered. In return, the traders offered very detailed exposés of Mothers’ Day sales experiences.
“And they do not return these items with excuses of wrong measurement?”, I had followed up.
“No,” was every seller’s response as they kept wiping rain showers from their stock and smiling at my surprise.
There were also women who just spontaneously entertained the traders with off color remarks and gestures, and everyone cheered in response.
The sexual innuendos came thick and fast.
As far as I could tell this was a daily party, a rave, a jam session.
Depravity is a legal offence enshrined in many legal systems. It is also immoral when it corrupts the ears of children.
Thankfully, there were no children in sight or within ear shot at Tudu in the perimeter of the Accra-Lome-Cotonou-Lagos station where we were.
It is interesting that since the 1970s chronological research on language, gender and sex has established that what happens in Tudu in fact shows power relationships.
There are differences in female and male vocabularies and patterns of speaking in non-European languages, explained Lal Zimal and Kira Hall in an article published on oxfordbiographies.com on 16 June 2016.
They added that “close analysis of gender in interaction [demonstrates] its intersectionality with other social categories, such as social class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexuality”.
A field study of the women clothing traders of Tudu could help us explain sexual innuendos at our workplaces, in music and online from the perspective of multiculturalism, gender and hierarchical power; it may well help us to sustain our moral values.
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