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…