The void until our mouths speak form

The void until our mouths speak form

We are the echoes you hear in dark crannies, tormenting you to turn on the lights
We are angry storms causing blackouts
Just as the sun loses its glory at night, so can our words darken a reckless heart,

We are a starless night.

We are the ones who drink unapologetically from beer bottles, unladylike, for we make words and define what they mean
We don’t drink wine from champagne flutes, bourbon with chasers? That’s uncouth!
We are the ones who hear, we listen, we know, we are aware,
Well aware, our words can rend and tear,
Mend hearts with needs dire our words tend to, our words care

We are the angels who knock on doors looking like bums,
The ones you tell to get away with a cry
So we don’t taint your false pride
We are the ones too arrogant to dwell in your circle of ignorance
We were raised to know better than sit in the assembly of fools.

We are the ones your parents warned you about, telling you we are deviants and would amount to nothing for we are art birthing art
We are the Creator’s tools
We are whichever side the coin shows when it’s flipped.
We are heads, we are tails and every other side
We fail forward, we are daring always ready to take leaps

We are shame, we are pride
We are life, we are death
We are shallow, we are depth
We are royalty, we are the peasants, we are the ones who have decreed our loyalty to kings alone.
We occupy temples preaching peace, when we take a piss you find us in fighting rings
We are disasters named after beautiful women, we are beaches walking naked in the most beautiful cities filled with bare chested men.

We are one’s amounting to tens
We are nomads living in tents
We are the devils in r3d dresses we are bound to tempt
We are the saints, you call sinners
The failures who became winners
We are the the squares that fit into triangles
We are angels you call demons
We are walking oxymorons.
We are miracles, we are oracles
We bind fools and set the wise free
We are everything we pretend to be

r3d

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Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman

Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman

One of the most used beauty brands on the continent, Dove, came under fire for their most recent advertisement.

Continue reading “Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman”

There is no standard for ‘normal’

There is no standard for ‘normal’

There is no standard for normal

Unusual, is that the word you’re looking for?

Who made you a gender marshal?

Who made you a Human Marshal?

What is with you and your gender obsession?

You’re only human,

Inquisitive by nature,

But…

You are not a judge.

Let you bother you

Stop with trying to score cheap points.

I’m not an object of entertainment

Stop with the bullying

I will no longer normalize abuse

 

Kennawo

Messages, Misogyny and Nigerian Entertainment: Part II

Messages, Misogyny and Nigerian Entertainment: Part II

Where were we?  Oh yes, gender messages from the entertainment industry that irritate me or put another way, the reason why when I’m consuming Nigerian entertainment, I’m usually either  angry or pretending not to be a feminist.

 

  1. The enlightened artist poking light fun at women. These are the kind of artists that I usually could listen to and watch all day – clever, funny, enlightened young men, banging beats, trendy hip outfits, cool dance moves, interesting lyrics…until the topic turns to women. Then they turn into finger wagging, self-righteous turds with indulgent grins on their faces as they tell you that they are good men but really! Aren’t women just generally unreasonable?!

I have no objection to men singing or rapping about bad experiences with women (it’s only when I realise how often female artists in Nigeria sing about how keen they are to die for a man they’ve just met that my mood turns dark) but again it’s the generalisation, the division, lack of any attempt to analyse societal reasons for this so-called unreasonable behaviour, the assumption that they can tell us what to be that ….well let’s just say it upsets me a bit. I will just add that perhaps if some of these artists had women staff above the role of receptionist, they may have a more rounded view of the female gender.

  1. Male celebrities that bemoan the fact that women of nowadays are no longer like their mothers and that the search for modern, new-fangled things like gender equality, a desire to be treated decently and some semblance of a life outside the family is what is ruining marriages. I won’t waste too much time on this one as I will be veering into the murky world of lambasting people whose view-points are the exact opposite of mine. I doubt if those people would have gotten past line 3 of this rant. I’ll just say this, what ruins marriages is bad behaviour. It could be bad behaviour of either or both spouses. However, when men behave badly and women do not put up with it, the women are ruining the marriages and/or failing to keep her toddler-king, sorry husband, from completely throwing his toys out the pram.
  2. Lyrics. So many examples but this one stands outs:  If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then according to some Nigerian songs, the way to a woman’s heart is through mild but consistent harassment. Let me illustrate:

“I say I need you girl

You say you need some time

But time e no dey girl

Answer me on time

I dey beg you say make you follow me

You tell say you no love me” (from Sade by Adekunle Gold)

Well then, I think the answer is no, mate. There is a similar (but somewhat more aggressive) sentiment in his song ‘Friendzone’.

The singer (who I love and who has written many wonderful songs celebrating the humanity of women) is of course only expressing what already happens in society.   Some would even say the characters in his songs are being romantic. Certainly, when I was growing up in Nigeria, a guy was expected to chase a girl and if he accepted the first (and second and third) no, he wasn’t ‘serious’. Similarly, if a girl said yes to a date at the first ask then she was ‘easy’ and the victory was not ‘sweet’. To be fair, all over the world, the chase is lauded as a sign of true romance.

However, when does no mean no? Isn’t this game dangerous in respect of the issue of consent? What happened when I was growing up was that a girl had to finally tell the guy in an aggressive, unpleasant and rude way that she wasn’t interested for him to finally get the message. Any niceness was a sign that there was still a chance.

 

  1. When a male celebrity is caught cheating and there’s the understandable and predictable backlash on social media or wherever and some pompous soul takes it upon him (or her) self to point out that no one ever said the man in question was a ‘perfect husband’

Apparently the only qualification for being a perfect husband is not cheating. A perfect wife, on the other hand, needs to be a great cook (and cook all the time), raise perfect children, have a flawless and youthful figure and face, have her own money, hand you her salary every month, NEVER question you, be humble, wash her husband’s pants by hand, cure cancer…you get the picture. Cheating doesn’t come into it. A woman who cheats is a demon. A man who cheats is ‘not perfect’. All together ladies “WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR YOU TO BE PERFECT, JUST DON’T CHEAT (and add disgrace by letting them catch your ass on camera)!!!!!”

Rant over. Soapbox under the bed. I’m just glad we’re having the conversation.

 

Tracy Ofarn

 

Messages, Misogyny and Nigerian Entertainment: Part 1

Messages, Misogyny and Nigerian Entertainment: Part 1

 Chimamanda Adichie once said that feminism is not a cloak that she puts on and takes off as the circumstances suit. I’m afraid that when it comes to enjoying Nigerian entertainment, whether its comedy, films, music, or blogs, I often have to take that cloak right off, put it aside and cover it with another cloak, for good measure.One thing I hear a lot, in response to Nigerian feminism, is why do they have to be so angry, rude, unpleasant? My question is this: Is it possible to be a Nigerian feminist and NOT be angry.  So much of Nigerian entertainment (and virtually everything else) has a gloss of the most blatant sexism that, let me tell you, unless I take off that cloak, I’m foaming at the mouth half the time.
Just for the heck of it, I’ll take a deep breath and try to narrow down the things that make my blood boil into a tidy list.
1. The gold-digging narrative. Comedy and comedic music are especially guilty of this. Apparently, a woman will be the most appalling bitch until you ‘show her the money’ at which point she will turn into the sweetest thing who will forgive you and give you anything. When I say woman, I don’t mean ‘good woman’, of course. A good woman, upon setting eyes on you, will apparently sell her siblings to put you through school so you can reward her by marrying her and keeping her in the background for the rest of her life, but that’s another topic.My thoughts on this? If there is a high incident of gold-digging among Nigerian women (and I’d like to see the statistics please), it’s for 2 reasons – the Nigerian economy has been messed up for a long time and pussy is easy to sell. You better believe that if dick was as easy to sell in Nigeria, these men would be balancing it on their heads like Olajumoke the bread seller.What makes me so bitter is not that very few people acknowledge the role men play in these transactions. It’s the fact that if a young woman decides to work hard at university and her job to make her money, there’s a high chance that she will be subjected to so much sexual harassment (what’s the penalty for that, in Nigeria, I wonder) from her lecturers, employers and company clients that she might be left wondering whether it wasn’t just easier to sleep with that rich married man in the first place.

2. The use of hoe/slut/pom/karashika/Jezebel (the born-again version) and other variations. Those words have become meaningless nouns to describe a range of women from a paid sex worker to a woman who annoyed you at the bus stop to a woman who has exactly the same morals as the man calling her a hoe. It’s an age-old tactic to demonise women, justify bad treatment of women, keep the ‘Madonnas’ separate from the ‘whores’ and to get other women to buy into the division, as long as they get to be the Madonnas . It started with witches in the Middle Ages and got down to bitches. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Eldee, in a recent twitter rant, called Amber Rose and Kim Kardiashian hoes (actually he said ‘hoe ambassador’ which I thought was rather clever) but in reality they are just women that seem to have normal sex/relationship lives but like to, for some reason, put their naked bodies on blast. Lesson: It doesn’t mean anything, those words are just used to scare women into ‘behaving’.

3. Don’t get it twisted. Some women will act the damn fool for no apparent reason. In Nigeria,  when a woman acts  crazy, not only is she labelled for life, society immediately identifies an imaginary pack of women, who all apparently behave the same way, and labels them accordingly. The woman isn’t just a bitch – she’s one of them ‘bitches’. When a man behaves terribly, he’s a ‘work in progress’ and ‘God is still working on him’ because you know ‘anything is possible with Jesus’.

4. Male celebrities who loudly and repeatedly insist they want a hard working woman, how they can’t stand “laziness in a woman” and how she should bring something (usually money) to the table. For a while, I couldn’t really figure out what irritated me so much about these statements. I don’t actually buy into the whole idea that the man is the main ‘provider’ in a marriage or relationship.Apart from the implication that women are naturally lazy gold-diggers (see above), what bugs me about this statement? Reading an interview with a popular Kenyan actor who has made similar statements, the light bulb suddenly flicked on. He was asked if he could cook and he said no. No. Without apology or explanation. So what does he expect to be doing so while his wife is out there hustling for her half of the moolah and she calls him. “Honey, I have a late meeting, could you give the kids their tea and put them in bed” – “Ah, but you know, I can’t cut onion without you…..”There are 2 things going on here. Firstly domestic work, usually the domain of women in Nigeria and the rest of the world, is being devalued. It doesn’t matter how well she keeps your home and your children and how much that enables you to be the successful person you are, if she isn’t earning, she’s a leech. Secondly, you want her to continue her traditional female role (I mean you may help out but the home is her ‘responsibility’), and then somehow go out and have the same earning power as you have. Bonus point: You want her to be financially independent while you remain domestically dependent.Some (must always remember to say ‘some’) of the guys have a really good gig here. They get to shame women for being poor or gold diggers while ignoring the factors that keep women from making money – less job opportunities, getting paid less for the same job, sexual harassment or coercion at work, hours spent on doing all the domestic work. And also! They’ve decided that domestic work isn’t worth anything while carefully avoiding it themselves! Hurrah!

To be continued…

 

Tracy Ofarn

 

Feminism is not for perfect people

Feminism is not for perfect people

Dearest Friend and Feminist, ‎

Feminism is not for perfect people. Come with your flaws. Come with your quirks. Come with your peculiarities. Come with your religious beliefs and come with everything you have, and as you are. Don’t be roped into thinking that you need be perfect or fit into ‘one of a kind’ mould before you can identify with this movement/ideology. This is not that place.

Be spurred by injustice. Be spurred by inequality. Be spurred by a broken heart and be spurred by love. Whatever your reason for identifying with feminism, embrace it. It is valid.‎

This idea of who a ‘good feminist’ is or who a ‘bad one’ is, simply muddles the irrefutable diversity of human differences and experiences and you know what else, it attempts at equating your feminism with some behavioural codes. I’m not a good feminist and I am not a bad feminist. I’m simply a feminist, one influenced by my environment, personal character and inherent quirks. I will be good somedays and I will be very bad some other days. We cannot all be the same and there is no one shade of this ideology.‎

And something else, when you’re called a Facebook(Twitter) Feminist, accept that tag proudly. There is something called Digital Activism and social media is as valid as any other mode of activism. The digital world is as real as the offline world. The work you do online is valuable as the offline work. This is our reality. Digital conversations are making much impact as non-digital conversations. Anyone who undermines the influence of this space is living in the rocks. Social media is real and it’s influence is real. And whether your advocacy is just online, that is valid.‎

You need nothing else except the drive for fairness and equality of all persons. You will make mistakes because you’re human and don’t think it will subtract from your right to identify with feminism.

Your existence is larger than one ideology you identify with. There is more to you. You contain multitudes.‎

You’re allowed to be flawed, contradictory, messy and confused. Don’t ever submit yourself to some purity test of what qualifies or disqualifies your feminism. There is no appointed feminist police to scrutinise your authenticity. Own that label and stumble around, make your mistakes and learn from them. And don’t be too concerned with the superficiality of your preferences; whether you love or hate men, or whether you like or detest make up, or whether you dress as a tomboy or a Madonna, or whether you enjoy erotic or Shakespearean books. 

Never attempt to organise your entire life into ‘feminist acts’ or ootherwise. Your life is fluid. And don’t be too concerned about the people who have an entire script of what you should be doing or how you should live as a Feminist when they are doing none of that. If they were genuine, they will lead the way and show you ‘the right way’ but their true intentions is that they are here to discredit you. Keep doing your thing. And if you’re bad, well half a loaf is better than no loaf.‎

In conclusion, acknowledge that you’re making a change, nothing else matters. Go eat some ice-cream or baileys and if you’re a Nigerian, indulge yourself this very long weekend/holiday starting now! Go and prosper or see a movie.

All the love in my heart.‎