Editorial: According to L’Oreal one of the foremost beauty brands worldwide, “African beauty and personal care market was estimated at €6.93 billion in 2012 and it currently increases between 8% and 10% per year… It is expected to reach €10 billion in 2017…Nigeria, the beauty and personal care market could reach €2.5 billion by 2017…”
As we all know, the ‘beauty and personal care’ industry thrives on colorism, fat shaming, hair and unrealistic beauty standards.
Temmie Ovwasa, visual artist, multi-instrumentalist, contributes this poem.
When I was Thirteen,
I wasn’t like the other Girls in my Class,
The ones who seemed to have matured a lot faster than their Age,
Breasts were a symbol of maturity at that stage,
Big Buttocks emphasized by tight School Uniforms.
I was the early Bloomer who suddenly stopped blooming,
I could never seem to put on any Weight despite how hard I tried,
And trust me, I tried.
I was skinny, lanky and so very awkward.
I wanted to look like a Woman.
I’m twenty One,
Standing in front of the Mirror,
Staring at my wounded Reflection,
Wondering how and why I gained so much Weight so fast,
A size Ten,
Still considered “too Fat” ,
Inconspicuous Buttocks and Breasts,
Round, puffy Cheeks.
Dissecting my Body,
Wondering if I should ditch Antidepressants,
I heard they make you Fat.
For being exactly the way I wished to be Eight years ago,
It’s almost like the Standards are never the same,
They get more unattainable, the Older you grow.
They sell Insecurities disguised as Self-love and Healthy living,
The Teas, The Pills,
I’ve had One too many,
The quick fix for your depressing Flaws.
Nobody wants to run out of business,
Your Misery feeds their Children,
Your Misery fuels their Cars,
Your Misery credits their Accounts.
So do not Love yourself Darling,
You can always look better,
You can get that Nose you’ve always wanted,
Buy Your Hair,
Buy a new Face.
Buy a new Race.
But your Misery will never Fade.
They will keep Feeding you lies,
You will need to keep up this life,
As your Body begins to twist and turn,
New dents formed,
More needles, More needles,
But this Misery still doesn’t bend.
In one part of the world you are too Fat,
In another, too Skinny,
It’s almost like,
Your programmed to force your Body into the mold of the Capitalist,
So if he sells Black today,
Then Black is in,
And if Tomorrow,
Beauty means peeling your skin,
Then you will.
I was asked where I stood on abortion in Africa….here’s my response…..
I’m definitely pro-choice and hate to see men legislating on matters which they know nothing about.
Just a couple of months ago the Sierra Leonean government tried to pass a bill legalizing first term terminations and it was vetoed by male religious leaders on the basis that it’s a sin. Meanwhile that country has the highest rate of maternal deaths in Africa and since the war a steady increase in incest and rape.
It is unfair that men get to decide such matters without much consideration for the mother – who is essentially then victimized twice.
The uncomfortable truth is that even if it’s not rape or incest, a woman should have the option to say ‘I’m not ready – I cannot handle this’.
A woman having unwanted babies is the fastest path to poverty and misery.
The other day I saw a video of 2 men “fishing” a baby out of a river. It had been abandoned by its mother.
When we force people, who are not ready to be mothers, into motherhood we sentence the child to a lifetime of neglect at best and outright abuse at worse.
Its unwanted children that become victims of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Its unwanted children that become thieves, murderers and rapists.
During the first term, the fetus is barely a fetus and if i was a fetus I’d rather be terminated than condemned to a life of misery.
There is a reason China had its one child policy and African governments should be embracing terminations en masse to stop poverty if nothing else.
I don’t understand how you can care so much about some cells the size of a grape in a woman’s body but you can’t bring yourself to care about the abject poverty and the miserable life a huge chunk of your population is condemned to.
My Welcome note to marriage was (when paraphrased):
“You’re now married. Stop behaving any-how. Start acting like a married woman and it starts from your dressing and of course your name! All this feminist nonsense (said with a snort) you people do, abegi! go and change your name and dress like a married woman? It is not African.”
I get to hear statements like the above now after which I am chided on my unAfricanness and how apart my marriage can become without the name change. Of course, I do not always get into how apart many marriages are, with name changes. I listen, and get the other accusation, which is that I have Oyinbo mentality. Like you can guess already, I do not bear my husband’s last name as ‘tradition’ expects.
A random man even told me of how—if he were my husband, he would make sure I not only bear his name, but to teach me a lesson for even daring, he would have a child outside the marriage. And to which I reply, ‘that won’t be my problem. The child would be yours—and hers not mine.’ To which, he smiles and says, ‘your man try o.’
And I leave with a parting note: ‘I’ve never, in my history of dating small-minded men, who are intelligent in the true sense of it.’
I am baffled at how much people need to help you understand why you need to be grateful your husband accepted you to bear your name. I think most marriages will fail and continue to fail, because most men believe in the ‘when you get her inside, change her to fit your mould.’
Note to such: people adjust to situations, they don’t change.
Statistically, even a liberal society like America still has issues with the wife retaining her name after marriage. I have had rather ‘nice persons’ offering options that still move into the protocol—why don’t you change your name with a hyphen; turn it into a compound name? It will make you united with your husband. ‘United, hun?’ How does a name unite me and my husband? If we are far apart, we are far apart.
I do not mention that the problem of name-change, on documents is itself an exercise of psychological tyranny, so, much more, a compound name.
I would like to know those marriages that have stood purely on the basis of a wife changing her name to her husband’s. I want to know those marriages without fights, without friendship without frustrations—sometimes, all because the wife was sensible enough to change her name.
I do understand that most husbands don’t go about calling their wives—‘Mrs Bla Bla,’ in the course of everyday conversation. There might be of course, exceptions, and please I will like to know them.
If a name change becomes an identity initiator of marital status, well, good for you. The law recognises two distinct individuals making a decision to live together. That is marriage.
The good thing about being married to a confident man, is that he does not care, has never cared, does not need the society to express how the woman he marries need to identify herself with him. He is not concerned about her ambition, because he ‘sees’ her. An insecure man needs a woman to tell her she belongs to him (which would be funny, because a woman living in your house might belong to several others outside *giggle*)
Also, he obviously has more social responsibilities than arguing over name change.
Quite recently, I needed to get a NHIS registration at the clinic, and they ‘protocolly’ changed the name to Mrs. Adeduntan, as against what my husband wrote: Jumoke Verissimo (no ms., no miss, just the name). He was as furious as I was. He decided he would go and sort it out and give them a piece of his mind. It didn’t seem much of a problem until there was a need to use the clinic, and the clerk insisted I needed to call myself Mrs. Adeduntan before he would attend to me. I told him, the only one whom I could have that conversation of a name-change compromise with is my husband, not him. It ended in an altercation, with me taking his parting line of how ‘we women with book-problem always give trouble and change African tradition.’
I got home and shared the experience with husband. We discussed how much the protocol becomes the accepted without question. What really is African about a name change after marriage? Here was a blatant display of an orthodox western influence, enjoying the dominion of patriarchal adoptions which the society has immersed itself in, and we claim that as African.
Mental note: I could research this. Maybe, maybe not—
I am finding out, though, the African identity is a marriage of convenience in recent time. It is a political statement on the palate of global enthusiasts. It is a social institution in the convenience of art and a cultural platform for the anthropological fancier. At first, there is nothing to being African—that’s who we are, the diversity informs our closeness and helps, in some way to unite the continent against the multi-nations who see nothing on our single nationhood. The united we are—as a collective (African)—the better. Now, the African feminist.
The African states are such that the urban is a street away from the rural. Side by side they share the burden of cultural ideologies and interpret them into the convenience of circumstance. Thanks to government across African countries, the idea of structural developing is eaten by it’s-my-turn-to-eat leaders, has made this possible.
Isn’t marriage itself a compromise of feminist ideology?
The idea of isolation and dispossession of the man appears to be a growing understanding of what feminism is. I do know how much we are misunderstood. I beg to defer—with three brothers, a father, a husband I cannot afford to hate men. I do hate men who however subdue, subjugate, devalue and implement a patriarchy that denies women a respectable place in the society.
I dislike women who feel that marriage decides for them. Perhaps, without marriage and a child, I would have had to deal with new issues. For those who insist on calling me Mrs – (to which I answer to baffle them more, as a name means little less to me than it means to them), I still get broached on why I should sit down and mind my child(ren), for children trained at home end up better.
People talk balderdash. Their lives—so vacant of excitement most times—find fillings in the pursuit of the creation of cultural nuances.
I like Fela’s music. But I am not the ‘Lady’ in his song. I am African. I am today’s woman. I am a feminist. I believe a woman can be successful in her career, have children, keep a home (not at the detriment of her happiness) and should be seen in her own cloak, not her husband’s.
From the Editor: In an article titled The Case for Legal Abortion in Nigeria, Temi Giwa presented facts, figures, and strong reasons for legalizing abortion in Nigeria. One of the reasons she presented is that in spite of the fact that abortions are illegal in Nigeria, over 500,000 abortions are carried out annually. This figure was presented by Dr Obasanjo-Bello, the chairman of the Nigerian Senate Committee on health, but The Guttmacher Institute claims that the figure is higher, conservatively putting it at 610,000 abortions per year.
In this same article, Temi Giwa said that 142,000 women are treated for complications arising from abortions every year.
In 2013, women advocates all over Nigeria, jubilated when the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, signed into law a bill titled “Imo State Law of Nigeria Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) law No. 12”. on the surface this law prohibited all forms of violence, but embedded within it was a proviso authorizing abortion on demand.
There was an outcry from ‘Christians’ within the state, who have always promoted ‘abstinence’ and ‘morals’ as a way of curbing pregnancies outside of wedlock and within a few days the governor asked the State’s House of Assembly to repeal the law.
Our contributor, who wishes to remain anonymous, talks about her experience, her abortion.
Read on :-
I was pregnant, I was in my early twenties. I was broke.
The father? He’s not important in this story because this is the story of a foetus and I.
A young Nigerian girl of my age was supposed to be a virgin, the soul of purity. While you were growing up your first introduction to your yearnings for someone’s touch, for sex, was shame, you were NOT supposed to have those feelings, wanting to have sex was a thing of shame. So you rightly learn to associate sex with shame.
You were raised to be asexual, to be a sex object, desired by men. Men decide whether you are desirable or not, they decide your worth as a woman. The prettier you are, the higher the pedestal you are placed on. The prettier you are, the more unavailable you are, the more men want you.
As an object you have no right to feelings, you are supposed to meet one man, preferably the type described in Mills and Boons stories – the tall, dark, handsome and of course, rich man. You are supposed to FALL in LOVE with this man, the man is supposed to rescue you from a potential life of loneliness, of permanent singlehood and marry you.
You are NOT supposed to have sex. Even in the dark of the night when loneliness grips you and you instinctively reach out to feel a body next to you.
Your vagina is to be kept clean AT ALL TIMES, even if it means cleaning it with lime. You are not supposed to get wet at the mere sight of the object of your desire. The only time you are expected to have any kind of feeling is when a MAN, preferably your husband, is there beside you, when He wants to put his penis inside of you. Getting that dampness between your thighs is a SIN a mortal sin which is equal to DEATH.
So I broke all these taboos and slept with a man, who was not my HUSBAND. Not only did I become a slut, I also became pregnant!
Pregnancy is another thing entirely. Not only is it illegal in Nigeria, it is also considered a form of punishment by the society.
You’ve been a bad girl, you deserve to be pregnant, you deserve to have babies you cannot care for. You deserve to have your life ruined.
Women are bred to be carriers of babies. They are supposed to be receptacles of a man’s sperm. In biology classes, when you are being taught, along with about thirty other girls, about your body. You are taught about your REPRODUCTIVE organs. They are not called pleasure organs, these organs are supposed to be strictly for reproduction! Your breasts, nipples, vulva, your fallopian tubes… Nobody tells you about your nipples, the way they rise to attention when touched or kissed. Nobody ever mentions that the clitoris is the ultimate orgasm giver.
Even when the sexual act is being described, the biology teacher talks about how a man’s penis will rise, how he will ejaculate his spermatozoa into your tract so that those little devils can swim up to your eggs. The lecture is delivered in a voice that implies that this act is shameful, something to be done with a man in the dark recesses of the night, preferably under bedclothes, with your eyes averted in shame.
The man, ejaculates, the woman is laid out flat and bears it. You’re not supposed to enjoy sex, you’re not supposed to have orgasms.
And you daren’t ask your parents about sex! You’ll probably earn yourself a couple of slaps and lectures on how you should stay a virgin until marriage, because virgins are more valuable than non-virgins in the marriage market. You’re a thing, an object. You’ve been objectified from the moment the doctor looked between your thighs, spotted your vagina and announced to the world ‘it’s a girl!’
So there I was with this foetus inside me and the knowledge that I don’t want this foetus turning into a child, I cannot afford to have the foetus grow into a child because I can barely afford to feed myself. Do I actually want children?
I can hear some women saying stuff like, so why did you open your legs when you knew you weren’t ready? Like the Yoruba will say, “why did you r’edi (why did you do the grind) when you’re not ready.” The next question is ‘why didn’t you use a condom?’ but … nobody told you about condoms in those days, condoms are dirty. Good girls don’t carry condoms around, good girls don’t enter a pharmacy or a supermarket and looks into the eyes of the sales person and say ‘I want to buy a condom’ in those days. So you panic! Who would you tell? You daren’t tell your mother because you know she’d first strip you off with her tongue or any handy broom or stick – she might insist you have the baby, to ‘punish’ you.
So you start putting out feelers.
There’s always somebody who knows ‘somebody’ who’s had an abortion before. These people are without names or faces, because abortions are shameful things, abortions are like STDs … nobody ever admits to having one.
Then one of your friends comes to you with a slip of paper. On it is an address and the amount of money you need for the abortion. Not a single word is exchanged, not even a ‘thank you’ because you’re doing this to help out a friend in need, you are a good girl, good girls don’t get pregnant ‘outside of wedlock’.
The ‘doctor’ is a young man. He lives in a dingy building, there’s no light in this building. The doctor takes you into a semi-darkened room. He first asks for his money, after you give it to him and he counts it, he asks you the last time you’d ‘seen’ your period.
You tell him.
He asks if you’re absolutely sure because he needs to know the ‘exact’ date, so he can determine the ‘exact’ month of the baby.
He talks in a dead voice, a voice devoid of emotions. You’re a stupid girl who got pregnant.
You think about the last time you’d seen your period. You think about the fact that the ‘doctor’ was giving you some peculiar looks. You look straight back at him and say ‘yes I’m sure’ all the while wondering if you can trust him not to kill you.
You arrive at the conclusion that it will be a win-win situation, he kills you, you’re dead, who cares? You won’t be here to be shamed (yes, I was depressed, suicidal even).
Then you remember horror stories of girls who got infected and had their wombs removed, girls who can never have children again – another win-win … (I didn’t examine that feeling too closely).
He asks you again about your last period.
Yes, you’re sure that was your last period.
Then you remember HIV. You make a mental note to go for the test… but first things first…
The young man takes you to an even darker, dank room, the odour of something you can’t place your finger on, teasing your nose. He asks you to take off your jeans and panties, no don’t take off your t-shirt.
He asks you to lay on a long wooden table after laying a filthy, green wrapper on it. He asks you to lie on it, and spread your legs.
As you look into his immobile face and spread your legs, the self-hate nearly chokes you. Maybe it’s even better you die.
He spent some time mining for gold as he waited patiently for you to spread them wide enough. He palpates your stomach.
He’s not even fucking wearing gloves! You die inside, tears of humiliation, of shame roll down your face.
The tears stop as you feel something cold slide inside your vagina.
Please don’t make noise o! You don’t want the neighbours hearing you, he says as you feel something tearing your insides apart.
You open your mouth but nothing comes out. The pain is beyond anything you’ve ever felt before. It tears you apart. The pain goes on and on.
Don’t close your legs. His voice pierces your pain. Your head is bursting, you are sure you would die, you know this pain will kill you.
The pain goes on and on and on…
The pain is worse than closing a door on your index finger, worse than slicing your thumb with a sharp knife, worse than somebody punching you in the face…
At some point you must have fainted because the next time you open your eyes, he was standing in front of a basin you hadn’t noticed when you first entered the room, he was washing his hands. He was washing blood off his hands, your blood.
He asks if you brought a pad. You shake your head numbly, it threatened to blow apart, so you stop shaking it.
He pulls an old toilet roll out of a drawer. He asks you to get dressed, he gives you the toilet roll, take as much as you want, he added generously.
You touch yourself, the blood is still gushing.
The bleeding will stop, please get up, you have to leave now. He unceremoniously pulls you off the table.
The pain clutched at your stomach as you tried to straighten up. But you refuse to make a sound, you absorb the pain, the pain is your punishment.
You unfold the toilet paper and roll it up, inserted the makeshift pad between your thighs. You pull on your underpants your trousers.
He gives you some pills and asks you to take them … when you get home.
You can’t remember how you left that dark space, you walk in a haze of pain. You board a taxi to your house. You half crawled into your room, on to your bed.
You find some water, swallow the pills, was about to roll back into bed when you realise your clothes are soaked with blood. Your blue jeans were now dark red, the edge of your yellow t-shirt spotting a thin line of red.
You pull off your clothes, half-crawled to your bathroom, pour water on yourself while leaning against the bathroom wall. You are crying, but nobody hears you. Nobody cares. You brought this on yourself, this pain.