If you type the words “Why do women gossip” into the Google search bar, at least 106,000,000 searches will appear in less than a minute. That is 50 million more than if you searched for Nelson Mandela.

It is no secret that both men and women gossip. But men would leave it at a certain point before it generated into a belittling contest. Besides, men have continuously insisted that they don’t gossip. They mostly talk about business, and other issues that they consider man talk, unlike gossip that comes with negative connotations.

Women on the other hand do it differently. And worryingly, some women do not have limits as to what they should gossip about. Some women leak secrets that undermine their families without any trace of guilt. Women don’t seem to realise that many people rejoice in the misfortunes of others.

One of the common subjects women like discussing is their men. Anthony Oketch* who works in a beauty parlour on Kimathi Street that attracts a sizable crowd of women from the upper classes is a disgruntled man.

So much so that he called Crazy Monday to complain that women are an ungrateful lot.  For the six years he has worked in the parlour, he has listened to some of the weirdest things that women say about their husbands and it has left him totally afraid of marriage.

“These people (women) are funny. They can say all the bad things about their men, who incidentally foot the expensive bills, and proceed to call them sweet nothings when they call or come to pick them,” he tells Crazy Monday.

“They will call the men all manner of names and heartlessly confess how they fleece them without any trace of guilt,” he complains, saying that the women often tell him, as he does their nails, that men are daft and that is why they do not feel any sense of remorse or guilt.

What has rankled Anthony is that the women claim to be in stable marriages. That they are pampered, the men pay the bills; take them on expensive vacations and so on. He does not understand what the men have done to deserve such contempt.

But why do they say bad things about their husbands?

‘Discussions healthy’

What is indisputable is the male capacity for foolish mistakes. In fact, talking to a number of women, there emerged some serious accusations that men cannot exonerate themselves from. The constant complaint from women given to gossip is the chronic absenteeism of their men. Drunkenness and infidelity follow in that order.

“It is men’s fault that we gossip about them. If they did everything right, paid the bills and came home early, then we would have nothing bad to say about them.  It is when they fail in meeting their obligations that we gossip about them,” says Winfrida Kendi, a high school teacher.

However, there are men who do everything right, and yet their wives still speak ill of them.  Augustus Arachi narrates his ordeal with his bad-mouthing wife.

“Before we separated, I did everything right, got her a shop to run as I was busy trying to run another business. But what does she do? She dishes out money from the shop to her relatives and worse, another man. When I confront her, she bursts out accusing me of neglect. We separated and she went telling everyone that I don’t even satisfy her in bed,” explains Arachi.

You have probably encountered women who have nothing positive to say about their husbands, despite the fact that they live in the same house and the husbands foot all the bills. What irks men like Anthony and Augustus is the claim that they don’t meet their bedroom obligations especially when things are not working at home.

“That is the last resort of a scorned woman. She says that and she knows she has hit you where it stings the most,” notes sociologist Komu Mwati.

Most women see nothing wrong with gossiping, since it teaches them about the goings-on in marriage. More so for the unmarried women like Anne Mwangi, 35, who runs a grocery shop in Dagoreti. She says that she learnt that potbellied men are lousy in bed from women who gossip.

“I have heard horror stories that such men cannot sustain you in bed. Now I avoid them. Prevention is better than cure,” says Anne.

She terms gossiping as helpful and healthy for women.

“Sometimes we relieve ourselves of stress through such conversations,” she explains.

But Sarah Weluko, 40, a civil servant opposes this, saying that such discussions are never healthy

“The healthy discussions I know of are when you discuss a problem or your own well-being. Discussing people is never healthy. It once made me abandon a salon I really loved.”

Sarah notes that after women have gotten the information they want, you become a laughing stock. It is like digging your own grave. She explains that she also abandoned a friend who would ‘talk badly’ about her husband’s family.

Apparently, her friend didn’t like her mother-in-law, and would tell anyone who cared to listen about that family.  Sarah says it is immature to dislike your mother-in-law rather than accepting her, given you can never change her. It is a fact of life that all women should learn to get along with their mother-in-laws.

Another danger of gossiping is that some women inadvertently spill juicy bits about their lives and end up exposing their husbands. Edith Nyambane once heard a rumour about her best friend’s husband. People were saying that he is well-endowed.

“At one time, we hunted him down and were willing to sleep with him to ascertain the truth. One of us volunteered to sleep with him and bring the rest the information, but sadly, it didn’t work out,” explains Edith.

Why they do it

There are many reasons why women gossip. Sociologist Komu Mwati says it mostly has to do with idleness.

“When people, and not just women, are idle, they will resort to gossiping. It is the most basic form of conversation that never taxes the mind,” he says, adding, “It is also a matter of upbringing. Some people were brought up in families that have no values. Some people don’t see the value in guarding some sensitive family secrets.”

He warns that while gossiping is inevitable, women need to be careful about the secrets they dish out because what they tell people out there might be used to undermine their union. And besides, word will always get back to the husband who will change the way he looks at his wife, putting a strain on the relationship.