DRIFTING ON MY SCREEN: MY NAME IS NOT MY FEMINISM

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.”

a.

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 Jumoke Verissimomarriages 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.

b.

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.

c.

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.

d.

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 nameAlexander Chukwuedo 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.’

e.

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—

f.

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.

e.

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.

f.

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.

g.

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.

My name is an identity, not my ideology.

My Abortion Story – Eniitan

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.

pregnancy-maternoty-photography-hertfordshire
Photography – Hertfordshire

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.

You’re bleeding.

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.

Dame Patience Jonathan and her “kitchen” women – by Abimbola Adelakun

Lately, the Nigerian first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, while campaigning for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan, urged women to vote massively for her husband since he has done the most good for them. I would have had no problem with her solicitation of the women voting bloc but she did not stop there. To boost the president’s feminist inclined credentials, Dame Jonathan added that her husband’s continuity in office was important because, “Nigerian women should no longer go back to the kitchen. It is not our portion to go back to the kitchen.” Having been a personal witness to the labor and enterprise of women, I have to ask, “But where are those women who are in the kitchen”?

Original artwork by Kehinde AwofesoFrom rural areas where women work side by side with men on the farms, to urban centers where women are co-breadwinners with men, I wonder why anyone still talks about women going back to the kitchen when it is obvious we have never been stuck in that space.

The imagery of women and “kitchen” has roots in Victorian ideals and the manner it represses women. When we talk of women and kitchen, we conjure a mental image of a repressed woman whose fate is to cook for the men in her life. We picture a virtuous woman who is wedded to the kitchen space so much that she gets an orgasm merely by stirring the shiny cooking pots. The kitchen, as it is used to describe a female space, connotes marriage-enabled domesticity. Mind you, divorcees and single women hardly fit into this frame.

There is also a class factor undergirding the “kitchen” imagery. We think of middle-class women who are at home virtually all day, studying recipes and mixing ingredients like an alchemist. When they open their boiling pots, they sniff the aroma and glower with accomplishment. With the whole house sizzling with the wonderful aroma of their cooking, their dreams are realized. These “kitchen” women can afford not to work because their husbands do. Their cooking prowess notwithstanding, they are fragile and need the marriage to protect them from the indignities of the labor market. The kitchen, therefore, becomes a safe space for them, with their dignity and existence tied to their husbands. Their kitchen occupation is also a way they earn their keep.

Altogether, the kitchen evokes the image of women who have submitted to their fate, to patriarchy and to the natural order dictated by insecure men. People use the expression of women in the kitchen frequently but do they ever stop to consider if it is true or not?

Whilst working on my Master’s degree in the University of Ibadan, I used to have a 9am class on Tuesdays. I was living in Surulere, Lagos then and also working a full time job so I had to juggle both. I would leave home by 5am so that I could make it to school before the Lagos-Ibadan expressway truncated my plans for the day. It was still usually dark and for most part of walking from the house to the bus stop where I would take a bus to Ojuelegba, I would be praying against marauders who needed the blanket of the night to cover their misdeeds.

One persistent observation, in my regular ride from Masha-Kilo to Ojuelegba, was that most of my co-passengers wereOriginal Art by Kehinde Awofeso women. The women, mostly petty traders, usually had some wares on their knees, tightly wrapped in multiple layers of Ankara wrappers and kept close to their chest. Some of the women had babies strapped on their backs. They way they artfully balanced their enterprise with motherhood tempted me to romanticize the poverty that placed them in those conditions but I know better. While I believe in the virtues of hard work, I also see the women straining to make a livelihood.

When I see some of the women disembark at Ojuelegba motor-park and begin to set their wares in spaces considered as culturally “male”, spaces that can be hostile to women, I mentally salute their efforts. I sometimes wondered what their private lives might be like: should they not be beside their husbands at that time of the day when sex between couples, animated by the cold chill of a day yet unbroken, was supposedly the sweetest? Do they permit themselves some fanciful feminine fantasies or they are too busy earning a living to be bothered by such encumbrances? From the distance of my own life – a professional pursuing an academic degree- I try to look beyond seeing them as women whose feminity have been bleached by the roughness of their existence. I see hard work, I see dignity and I also see women who cannot afford to be in the kitchen.

While I am in agreement with Mrs. Jonathan that Nigerian women deserve better, I must say that the flippant association of women with “kitchen” is patently false and capable of eroding the many ways women enterprise contribute to the task of nation building. Nigerian women do not have to worry about returning to the kitchen because they are not stuck there in the first place. Women transcend kitchen and its patronizing connotations. If we don’t see enough women in key leadership positions and in high political offices like their male counterparts, it is not because they are hiding in the kitchen.

PM Kooda: Child Bride, Mother, Divorcee … Hero!

Editor’s Note: Recently the rumor that the erstwhile Governor of the CBN now Emir of Kano – Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – made headlines across Cybersphere, with much argument about whether it is right for a fifty something years old man had the right to marry a 17year old girl … as his fourth wife.

MaryAnne Kooda
PM Kooda

Our opinion? Should this be up for discussion in 2014, should it be even conceivable? What about the girl? Her dreams, hopes and aspirations, isn’t she supposed to have any? Shouldn’t she be the one deciding who she wants to marry and not forced to marry for economic reasons? But … we held our peace because Nigerian cybersphere cannot be totally relied on.

The truth is that just last year, a sitting senator, Ahmed Yerima, who caused a furore when he married a 13year old girl a few years ago and got away with it! Divorced his 17 year old Egyptian bride in order to marry … a fifteen years old girl.

Maryanne Kooda is a friend of the house, one of the online warriors pushing feminism and equality as the one thing that would save our country, Nigeria from the brink of the abyss it seems determined to plunge itself into.

We got in touch with her and asked that she be one of our contributors, she graciously acceded to our request only for us to discover that she had barely escaped being a child bride and ended up becoming a ‘baby carrying baby’.

In the mail accompanying her article she said something that was touching and revealing, “I wrote this yesterday in two hours, it practically wrote its self. As I read it today I burst into tears  in the part where I wrote about giving up my dreams to be a lawyer … My sister told me not to share it one FB, but it’s my story and I am not ashamed of it…i am at peace with sharing the story on your blog, I feel compelled to tell this story, child marriages need to be talked about! Somebody has got to do the talking.

Read MaryAnne’s story of how she triumphed against all odds to become an independent, thinking woman, with two children she’s so proud of.

 So recently, my fifteen year old son and my nine year son where talking about my possible marriage to the man I had been dating for three years now.

“There are many fishes in the sea mama, you don’t have to marry him” the fifteen year old said.

Then his brother replied, “Why will a fish want to marry her?”

Gosh! That sent me reeling with laughter because it made so much more sense that it made me wonder who came up with that idiom.

You see, I grew up in the middle belt of Nigeria, where girls where raised to be wives and mothers. This is of course a generalization. There must be many women from the Middle-Belt who have successful careers and financial independence. But the reality I grew up with was that I was only as good as the man who offered to marry me. The richer he was the better.

As soon as I reached adolescence, it became a prerequisite that I am prepared to be married to the most affluent of suitors.1015435_10151495660940443_778922431_o Though now as an educated woman I cringe at the very idea of trying to marry off a child. Yet that is the reality of many children in the North and Middle-Belt of Nigeria.

This preparation for child marriage, particularly the way it is carried out in the Middle-Belt, involves some revolting and barbaric practices that I would rather not go through at the moment! I can’t bear to relive those experiences. Needless to say, by the time I was eighteen, I eventually met and married a man who has able to look after me, support my education and of course, my immediate and extended family.

The ironic thing about the marriage was that, it had nothing to do with parental or extended family pressure. By seventeen as soon as I was done with secondary school, I was sick to my stomach with the way I was pressurized to marry and support my family so I ran away from home. I found a job at a video club where I worked for a few months till another job offer came to work as a sales girl in a major super market in Abuja. I had these grand delusions of going to the University of Abuja, so I took my surprisingly good WEAC and JAMB results to the university to gain admittance but was just tossed around. I will never forget bursting into tears at the Gwagwalada bus stop as I got on the bus and headed back to my spot behind the large glass showcase of designer products that I was supposed to market.

It was there, behind that glass showcase that I met my husband. It was early in 1999, when I was disillusioned with life but still had some kind of vague hope that I would go to the university and study law. My dream was to be the “voice of the voiceless”, to stand up for the disadvantaged. There was no way of achieving my goals as my polygamous family was mired in petty jealousies and plain old wickedness. The saddest part of all is that my father was not even remotely poor, though he had other wives and children and my mother was not only fairly literate but a government worker. I had uncles and aunties living in the US. Yet not a single person cared to give me any sort of support or guidance.

Back then I was squatting in a boys-quarters in Asokoro and working at Legend of Abuja in Area 11. I was not there for very long when this man came up to me and asked me, “Can you tell me what pair of glasses would suit my face?” I looked up into his face, and his eyes caught me by surprise. There was an innocence that came through those eyes which I had not seen in most of the men that lecherously hounded me. His eyes told me, “My intentions are noble!”

Though I am usually a very poor judge of character, this one time I was right. I made the bold decision to marry at 18 for the simple fact that for the first time I felt safe with someone. For once I wasn’t a commodity to be traded to the highest bidder or a nubile belle to be seduced with lustful intentions. I was a person that was loved and respected. I must admit, it felt pretty darn good! The fact that he was rich actually did not occur to me at that time.

Well we should have lived happily ever after right! The damsel has finally been rescued by the knight in shining armor. I should be so lucky!

Two years into the marriage I became frustrated and unhappy. I felt trapped! I loved him because he provided for and protected me, and I hated him because he provided for and protected me. Don’t bother trying to understand it, I don’t myself. All I know is I felt like I was in a gilded cage. I pursued a degree part time in Public Administration in the Open University of Abuja. My dreams of becoming a Lawyer went out the window with the arrival of my first son when I was nineteen.

“Baby having baby,” that’s what other pregnant women called me when I went to antenatal care. I felt so ashamed, like I had done something wrong to be pregnant at that age, but it didn’t make any sense, I was raised for this, to marry and make babies there was nothing else that I knew. After the baby was born, just a year after we had been married I got restless. I wanted more out of life, the degree I was pursuing kept me busy and I had every conceivable comfort. I should have been happy, but I was miserable.

The crux of my problems lay in the fact that I did not feel any physical attraction to this wonderful man who had taken me into his arms and made me his wife. I was grateful! My God I was so grateful, but that is all there was. A deep sense of gratitude and even affection but there was absolutely no spark. For the first time in my short life I had the luxury to kick back and relax, to just enjoy being a wife and a mother but I was hounded by discontent.

So soon after I had my second child five years later, I started working for a newspaper, the pay was crap, but then it wasn’t about money but just giving myself a sense of achievement. The job was the beginning of the end of my marriage. As I researched, wrote articles and interviewed people, my discontent increased and I wanted more than anything to be with someone I had chemistry with. Someone with whom we could hold hands and look lovingly into each other eyes, someone with whom I would be with and never wish I was anywhere or with anyone else.

10917118_10152508001605443_8425174448893758191_oSo I left the marriage. In 2008, I simply backed my bags and walked out on my marriage. With two small boys and a little savings I moved to Sri Lanka, my soon to be ex’s home country. Once again, I had even grander delusions of making it on my own. In a foreign country, with no friends or family ties, with no lucrative marketable skills or qualifications. All I knew is I wanted to be happy, I deserved to be happy. I had some vague ideas of teaching English, the research I did showed there was a demand for English teachers.

I should be delighted now right? I had walked out of an unhappy marriage and followed my heart to a beautiful remote Island country. I should be so lucky!

I was flooded with loneliness and the nightmarish reality that teachers simply don’t make enough money to have a decent quality of life. Unless they are supported by family or husbands, most female teachers in Sri Lanka can’t afford proper meals after covering rent and utilities.

So I am back to square one!

I will not bore you with all my efforts and sacrifices to make ends meet. Ok maybe I will, but in another article. For now all I can tell you is that I met another wonderful man, who held my hands in a very dark moment of my life, when I was battered by the stigma of divorce and the emotional and financial hardships of single parenting, or co-parenting as it is called these days,

He told me, “don’t ever let anyone look down on you and treat you badly”, I looked into his eyes and saw the same look, the innocence that spoke volumes, the light that shined through the window of his eyes that said, “my intentions are honorable”.

My loneliness was soothed; we had the incredible chemistry that I always desired. We had stimulating conversations, we travelled, we had dreams of a life time together. At last I should be happy, I have found my “one true love”, sparks are flying and the stars never seemed so bright! Everything should be wonderful now right? Wrong!

You see, after eight years of marriage to a man who met my every material need, and looked out for me almost like a father would after a child. I had to make some serious adjustments to my mindset in order to survive. Not every man suffers from rescue hero-complex.

Now, I had to be the independent woman I always dreamed to be, only I didn’t realize how darn hard it was to begin at 28yrs and with two children to build a life beyond poverty. Career options are limited here in Sri Lanka, if you are not a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant you had better have some family support or its curtains for you.

My present love interest is a complete opposite of my ex in every way conceivable, he is the man that my teenage son is rather reluctant I marry because he feels he is not as supportive as his own father is to his present wife, (and how supportive he once was to me).

Friends and family don’t help matters; I get reprimanded for being in love with a man who cannot support me financially. What’s worse is that now, it’s not just me, but I have two children too. Their father has never stopped being a superb provider, even after we divorced and he remarried, he never faltered even once in meeting the needs of our children. He hated me for leaving him, and still doesn’t speak to me, but he never alienated his children.

For that I am forever grateful, as I don’t have to be cornered into choosing a partner based on his willingness and ability to support me and my kids financially and emotionally. Though that is debatable!

Which is the whole point of this piece of writing; this feminism thing, e no easy oh! Not if you are living on minimum wage and have no family support. The poor woman’s version of feminism looks very different from women in more affluent positions. For us, love sometimes feels like a luxury we cannot afford. I can’t count the number of times when I am unable to meet my children’s need and then I find myself self-loathing because I walked out on a really good marriage on some whimsical pursuit of “true love” and financial independence.

Feminism for me has always being about independence and standing up for the rights of vulnerable women. Yet how to be independent on minimum wage and two children? How to speak for the vulnerable when I am part of the statistics?
Then to make things worse, I discovered that my nature is such that I crave a healthy relationship with a man who will make me his wife, not just date, or co-habitate, but take the tradition route of making me his life partner. Not because he wants to rescue me from hardship but because he needs me in his life as much as I need him.

My most naïve ideals was the belief that I could easily earn more than than minimum wage considering my qualifications and skill set, and that I would meet and marry a man who would meet my every emotional and even some financial needs.

The former is still achievable, I haven’t given up, and that’s why I launched my own company www.writestartinternational.com. The latter however, is quite clear will never happen. Reality has set in, and my hope is that by the time I am 38. 20 years from the time I ran into the arms of a knight in shining armor, I would become my own rescue hero. I would have reached a level of self love and self reliance that is just healthy enough to keep me open to the possibilities of a “happily ever after”, regardless of my status; married or single.

Editorial: 12 Yards of Wife Material for Christmas (II)

  1. Must not be too bookish: …by the time you’re done with schooling, you’re in your early twenties! Already some men consider you overage, the ideal age for marriage, in Nigeria, is between ten and twelve … but … these days some Nigerian men have become more patient, they’d still manage you in your early twenties. The trouble starts when you decide you want a postgraduate degree! Do you know what that certificate is called? It is called a Master’s Degree! You want to marry and you go and be getting something called a MASTERS do you want to be struggling that masculine title with your husband? Well, some sisters now push things further and go for a doctorate! Let’s reason this thing together, first you get a BACHELORS (mannish), then you get a MASTERS (more mannish) then you get a DOCTORATE (most mannish). My sister, your wife material has just disintegrated! The men out there with a list in their pockets, looking for wife would have no problem with all these titles if there was a way of distinguishing all these bookish things and making them more feminine, for example if the Bachelor Degree was called a SPINSTER Degree, the Masters a MISTRESS and the Doctorate a NURSERATE … our advice? Never ever disclose your age to anybody, even if you have to go to Oluwole to get a fake birth certificate and secondly, do not be ambitious, even if you have all these degrees you have to pretend you have never crossed the gates of a school before, do not think … do not breathe! Just be A WIFE MATERIAL… Dass all!
  2. Must be great in bed: Being great in bed is an art that must be mastered by all women who are keen to be wife materials (don’t worry a masters in bedmatics is alright). You have to be great in bed without being slutty or sexy (we’ve already defined being slutty in the first installment as enjoying sex). So you have to master all those porn star moves without enjoying them. All your moves are to be learnt in order to please the lord and master. The gymnastics are not for you, you must somehow learn all these things without having to practice (remember the ‘body count’ wahala), you need to get it by divine inspiration, because wife materials neither watch, nor read porn. You have to be great in bed without being great in bed so that your husband will not suspect you of cheating on him.
  3. Must be Forgiving: Have you ever seen a poem written in honour of a woman who did not forgive her man before? No,
    Original Art by Kehinde Awofeso
    Original Art by Kehinde Awofeso

    seriously, how many songs have you listened to sung by a man in honour of a woman who kicked out his drunken, cheating, wife-beating ass? How many times have you seen a man, all dressed up in his best suit, taking his ex out for dinner to thank her for ending her relationship with him? When you’re out and about, exchanging gossips with your friends, how many times have you heard somebody praise a woman who said ‘rather than give myself heartache/regular black eyes/ drag home a perpetual drunk, I’d stick with being alone’. You’ll note that most poets write for their mothers who ‘suffered’ to raise them, the operative word here is suffer. You’ll be a gem only if you had to sell firewood by the roadside to send your children to school, no child has ever written a poem for a single parent who has enough money to pay school fees, or enough left over to give her children the good life, only the suffering wife and mother gets all the eulogies. Therefore, for your wife material to be complete, you must, of necessity be forgiving and ready to suffer. You must always have an ‘I’ve forgiven you’ placard hidden somewhere about your person in case you need to forgive your man, at any point. Your man lied to you about his income? Forgive him. He’s just a man with a fragile ego, and it’s your fault for not noticing that he borrowed those Louboutins, and that the car he used to take you out on all those dates belonged to his older sister. Your man cheats on you regularly? Forgive him. Those ones are the side-chicks, you’re the main chick, you’ve won the lottery of cooking and caring for him, and when you get uncontrollably jealous, fight the side chicks, whip them well-well, cuss them out on Facebook, sub them on Twitter, but always, always forgive your man. After all how else can he prove his manhood except by dashing preek to every pretty girl(or boy) that passes by?

  4. Must be the neck: The neck, is the most important part of the body … well, except that the head is more important. But to be a wife material, you cannot, must not, even consider the possibility of becoming the head … of anything! Why? Because your husband must be the head and you the neck, silly! You know that prayer they say in church, the one about being the ‘head and not the tail’ , the next time you’re in church or in any public space where prayers are (necessarily or unnecessarily) being offered up, just say, ‘I’m the neck and not the head’ at top volume and watch proposals pour in by the bucketful. The neck is the most important part of the body because it tells the head where to turn, except that the head contains the brain which gives the neck the direction it should go. Clear ehn? Leave the thinking to the head, remember you’re there for the cooking, the bearing of children, the satisfaction of celebrating your golden/silver/ diamond wedding anniversary and most importantly for those children to call you blessed. You do want to be that crumpled looking old woman, in that sepia picture, with that slightly sad smile on your face.
  5. Must make sacrifices: Now this is very important for anybody seeking husband. To be wife material, you have to understand that men are ‘inherently selfish’, they can’t help it, it’s their nature, just as it’s in their nature not to cry. Real men shouldn’t be called to make sacrifices so that you don’t turn them into ‘women’. Your man thinks you’re too educated? Drop out of school. Your man thinks you’re dangerously earning more than he is? Resign from your job. You are the one who was made to be nailed to the cross, the sacrificial lamb. You must be ready to give up everything you are to satisfy ‘your man’, even if he’s a lot of other ladies’ man, remember, you are the ‘main chick’.
  6. Must be prayerful: According to non-existent statistics Nigeria is the holiest nation on the face of the earth, everybody is either a Christian or a Muslim, anybody who is not a member of a church or a mosque is a member of the illuminati. Truth. So as a wife material you must be prayerful, there are so many books out there for women (yes you may read religious books but not any other immoral literature) with titles such as Praying Wives, Praying Mothers, Preying Mantis, sorry … Praying Church. You must be ready to lead preyer … sorry … prayers at the drop of a hat, especially when travelling by public transportation, in an office meeting, at book launchings etcetera. The longer and louder you can pray, the longer your wife material becomes. Be the first to volunteer to bring tea for the men whenever there’s an office meeting, even if you’re a manager, always have your writing pad ready whenever you’re to attend important meetings in case the secretary is not around. Make sure you type ‘amen’ under all those weird pictures on Facebook showing mutilated bodies, ‘like’ all posts that have prayers on them and says that anybody that likes the post will get all their prayers answered. Retweet every post by every demented preacher on twitter, especially ones titled ‘Letter to Jeel’.
  7. Must be Certain: You must be absolutely convinced that we are all not equals, that men and women are not first and most importantly human beings, beings who are flawed and perfect at the same time. You must be certain that everybody with a pair of breasts and a vagina is a woman and everybody with a penis is a man. You must not question beliefs, you must not dare entertain the thought that single people can be deliriously happy, or that there are men out there who don’t have this list. You must be absolutely convinced that every person who is not ‘wife material’ will be miserable and only those who do live happily ever after. You must be sure of your generalizations and stereotyping… you must receive your 12yards of wife material this Christmas, by faya by force, IJN (type ‘Amen’ in the comments section to receive this impartation).

 

Editorial: 12 yards of Wife Material for Christmas (I)

A friend of ours and her twin sister are quite accomplished in their chosen fields, fierce, strong, independent women in their early thirties, living fulfilled lives… but their mother is worried, emm, they are not married and worse still, they are not wife material at all!

IMG_0204
culled from myweddingnigeria.com

One of them read engineering and is a fantastic money manager, she’s already started acquiring properties and she’s  good at fixing things like furniture, fixtures, generators, cars … did we mention generators? And oh, she has this unfortunate propensity for not wearing skirts and gowns, she’d rather wear trousers, because she finds them comfortable and she wears her hair in a low cut, because … it is easier to maintain.

Nope! Not wife material at all!

Her twin sister is her complete opposite, quiet, reserved, loves keeping house and cooking, all soft curves and elegant gowns and dangling earrings. She wears gorgeous make-up and soft scenting perfumes that reminds you of the woman placed on a pedestal by the patriarchy … BUT she told her mother, quite frankly, that having children is not something she owes her, and as far as she’s concerned, if her mother wanted more grandchildren, she might as well go and adopt them.

Nope! Not wife material at all!

Being wife material is quite simple – Nigerian men have had this list since… oh well, since we left our proverbial cave and stopped grunting.

As we at 9jafeminista, want all you Nigerian girls out there to find husband, we are kindly listing twelve of these ‘qualities’ so that you can, well, grab yourself a husband… now!

Here it goes.

Qualities of wife material

  1. Must be soft: Yup, all you butch ladies out there who love jogging, weightlifting, boxing, footballing etceteraetceteraetcetera! Must stop it now! Please I beg of you, stop going around with your bulging muscles, it is quite threatening. Let your stomachs be rounded, your hips flare, let that your bumbum that the good Lord gave you jiggle and wiggle, so that anytime Timaya comes and sing, ‘shake your bum-bum’ your bumbum will actually wiggle and not do that stiff ‘useless bottom shaken by force’ thing. And if you don’t have it, fake it! There are fake bumbums out there ladies, all you need to do is spend a few thousand naira to buy a strap-on … sorry to buy a fake bum. This advise applies to slender ladies with boy-like hips too. Your husband must come this year IJN! Soft can also apply to your brain … you know … as in ‘soft-in-the-head’.
  2. Must be tough: Wife materials are tough, hardworking disciplinarians, able to carry a baby in one arm, a mortar and pestle in the other hand, and the troubles of the world on her head! How you’ll manage to do all these without developing muscles is no concern of the men, just do it! A wife material is Superwoman! You don’t know who she is? Google is your answer. This woman is strong (note: without muscles or moustache or bea-bea) she can cook a meal for a family of five or six (or seven) with five hundred naira, she must know how to stare down peppersellers and butchers (without looking like a man) and deal with her family with a firm hand. The thing is you must not be tough … like a man. Only men can be tough … like a man, women are to be tough … like a … umm … brb
  3. Must know how to cook/clean: Let your inner housemaids out ladies, do not hold it back. Some girls claim they’d
    nigerian-traditional-engagement-ceremony-of-barbie-ken-by-photography-by-obi-10
    audrina1759.wordpress.com

    rather cook than clean while others claim they’d rather clean than cook. To be a wife material, you do not have a choice in this matter. Hold your mops, brooms and ironing board in one hand, and the cooking stove in the other. Luckily for you the federal government of Nigeria has decided to help you out in this by deciding to buy every woman cooking stoves! Yayest! So what are you waiting for? And when we say cooking, we don’t mean those noodles cooking girls o! We are talking REAL food for REAL men. Food like – Pounded Yam (don’t go and cheat by cooking that fake poundo! You need a proper pestle and mortar for this), amala, eba, edika-ikong, starch, okro, fish stew and lots of beef! Your man needs good food to be able to perform his manly duties! Abeg don’t go and hire a housemaid o! The under-aged ones are totally useless and the young ladies will just snatch the husband that you have worked so hard for … this will not be your portion IJN!

  4. Must be sexy: Presently sexy means curvy – big yansh, flat stomach, big breast, perfectly made up face. None of those sloppy skirt wearing thing. If you want to wear jeans do the tight ones that show your hips to an advantage, no dressing like boys. Being sexy in a ‘responsible’ way will get you a husband with the snap of a finger. You must be sexy in a kind of way that is not seductive… classy sexy… sexily unalluring, baring your breasts without baring it, emphasizing your big yansh in a discreet way, you do not want to give the impression that you are being sexy while you are being sexy, you do not want to wear clothes that will ‘tempt’ men all the while ‘tempting’ them. You don’t understand? Neither do we…
  5. Must be ‘not slutty’: A wife material cannot afford to be slutty. Being slutty is the beginning of the tearing of your wife material into pieces. Being slutty means you’re no longer a virgin, it means your ‘body count’ is higher than… umm … one. It means you enjoy sex (oin?). You must be demure, you cannot afford to enjoy sex, asking for an orgasm is the undoing of you. A wife material does not like sex, she is frigid, she allows her man to have sex with her for one reason only – to bear children. As a woman, your totality is your womb, and to guarantee that your womb is in perfect working order so that the Great Black Man with a Huge Dick can impregnate you … your womb must remain unsullied, your ovaries must jump with joy, your monthly period must flow and that is the reason why you must remain a virgin, so that you will not come and be going to spoil your womb. But … the good news sisters, is that if your body count is higher than two, as long as you ‘confess’ your sins to your ‘man’ and reduce your body count, you can still have your 12yards of wife material. Which means, if you have a body count of like say … 10, you can ‘confess’ two, to your man so … you can thank us by sending us a piece of your wedding cake.
  6. Must not be too bookish: The problem with women who read too much is that, they have a big problem. Their problems are quite many. Some of them read so much they go and acquire second and third degrees, the ones that are quite stark raving mad are those who acquire PhD’s … I mean who in the world, planning to have that happily ever after marriage that has eluded so many people – does that? The worse ones are the ones that acquire their PhD’s while still single! Let’s do the maths together. You spend four to five years (from birth) in a nursery school, you spend the next six years in primary school, another six years in secondary school(sixteen whole years wasted already!) Then you go and do a first degree for four plus x years (the Nigerian university system is weird, you spend nothing less than six years plus to read a four year course) and that’s not adding the three years or so you spent resitting JAMB and GCE …(to be continued)

When does one become a woman? – Temitayo Olofinlua

I have been wondering, asking myself a couple of questions these past days. The crux of my wanderings: what makes me a woman? When does one become a woman?

temi3Is it when she is when she is conceived? When the X cells of the woman merges with the X of the man; and voila the new being becomes a blood clot, or something like that, with the potentials of becoming a being? If at that point something happens and she is not grown into full existence; accidental or planned, is she a human being? Is she a female human? Or is it when her Mum or whoever carried to full term gives birth to her? When the doctor looks between her thighs and layers of flaps covering a small hole and not a tiny stick, sees a vagina and not a penis, then declares that it’s a girl?

Then, she begins to grow. At a younger age, unaware of whether she is male or female. She wants to do things that everyone does; to climb the trees, to play the football, and also to tend to her doll. Sometimes, she does not care about the doll. When that happens, does it make her less female? Does it mean she can be for instance more male, a tomboy? This stage of potential, of inertia, of everything just lying there with the possibility to be molded or shrunk like the cursed tree; does it count?

Truly when does a girl become a woman? Is it at puberty, when she notices hair under her arms and on her vagina? When she sees all these changes that make her look more like her mother? When she wakes up and begin to notice that her breasts ache even as they grow? When they become magnetic force that pulls the men’s hands to it, to be groped, even when she does not want? When her butts seems to have an extra layer that shakes left and right, rolls up and down as she walks? Or is it when her panties are now so small that they are strapped between the middle line of the butts, like a catapult? Or when they become the objects of slaps from moving bike men? Or when their eyes follow its movements, left and right? Is it when her own mother says; don’t wear that cloth, don’t you know you are becoming a woman? Unsaid in that statement is the talk that she is a woman and being a woman brings responsibilities, like how your dress, and how it has the power to trigger an erection in a man?

Does she become a woman when the cramps below her belly prepare the way for her monthly flow? Shy drops initially, then daring enough, as sure as the day, as sure as every cycle? That blood that her mother calls menses. That blood that when she noticed it her mother said that “she has now become a woman, and that if any man touches her, she will get pregnant?” That blood that says so many things without speaking a word. That they say is a sign of fertility. That blood that when you see it, you are not so happy but you are happy to see it anyway. It is the guest that you don’t quite feel like seeing yet, you pound yam for it and cook the sweetest of vegetable, then serve ‘it’ in your best plates. That visitor is one that women have for a great part of their lives. My eleven year old cousin anticipating her period asked me: “for how long will it go on?” “For thirty years or more,” I replied. She exclaimed: “thirty what?” In fact, it is a marker for the way her life runs many ways. Pre-menstruation termed as the “non-reproductive” days; the menstrual days are the reproductive days, days when if she perchance has sex with a man, she may get pregnant; and then there is menopause, when she is dry, when the blood stops flowing. You know, I’ve been wondering, is she more womanly in any of these phases?

Wait a moment, I am beginning to think; is it when she starts to wear makeup? When she trades all her tennis shoes andTemitayo1 slippers for high heels? When she makes hair that announces her arrival, making heads turn and men feel a bulge down there? Is that when she becomes a woman? When she makes something tick in them? Does that ticking affirm her womanhood? What is the difference between a lady and a woman? Between a lady and an African woman? Fela Anikulapo Kuti, famous Nigerian singer sings in Pidgin English:

If you call am woman, African woman no go gree, she go say: I be lady. She go say market woman na woman. She go say I be lady. She go say him equal to man. She go say him get power like man. She go say everything she do, him sef fit do. She go wan take cigar before anybody? She go wan make you open door for am. She go want make man wash plate for am for kitchen. She wan salute man, she go sit down for chair. She wan sit down for table before anybody. She wan take piece of meat before anybody. Call am for dance, she go dance lady dance. African woman go dance, she go dance the fire dance. She no him man na master. She go cook for am. She go do everything she says. But lady nor be so. Lady na master?

Is there a difference between a lady and a woman? Fela thinks there is. And it is not a function of age but a question of how the woman behaves, a social definition. A lady according to Fela is the one who does her things her own style, refusing to fit into the stereotypical cage that the society hewn for her. For the lady, the cage does not exist. But the woman, lives according to the societal codes already written for her by the society.

When does a woman become a woman? When she is first pierced by a steel rod called a penis, pain and pleasure so well mixed she cannot tell which she feels? At a time in history, that was a big deal. The woman’s blood or lack of it could cause a small war between two families or a bloody war between two communities. Is that when she becomes a woman? These days, it does not quite matter whether the man who deflowered her ends up as her husband. Does she become a “better” woman when it is her husband who broke the hymen? Better here means, preserved, pure, and other such terms that have to do with purity. Is it when she gets married and becomes a Mrs. Somebody … perhaps. It is at that time that she is the “found” rib that has been missing from birth returned to position, in the man’s rib cage. She trades off her father’s name for a ring and a new name; it does not matter if she does not like the sound, spelling or meaning of the name. Now, she has an appendage attached to her name, a dangling limb hanging from a severed socket. If she does not bear her husband’s name, she is not a complete woman, she is a woman who still holds on to her girlhood, her eyes at the back of her head casting glances at a past that should be forgotten. It is also marriage that makes the society think of her as responsible because she is taking care of a family.

temi2So, tell me when does a woman become a woman? When she gives birth to a child and become Iya Lagbaja*, Mummy Tamedo*; when she becomes the mother of a child and is addressed by the name of her first child? When she starts attending Parents-Teachers’ meetings, when she starts cleaning up after the children or when she starts packing lunch boxes? Does she become a woman when she can attend to the needs of her children and husband at once yet unruffled? Is that when? Responsibility is a key characteristic of women; they are the burden bearers, the ones that carry the troubles of the world on their heads and drag theirs with their hands, that’s for those who remember to take theirs with them. Some others, just get weary with the burden on the head, and drop theirs along the way, is that what makes a woman, her sacrifices? Is womanhood about a life of sacrifices, when she gives up her own existence for her family? When she dies gradually so that she can nurse their dreams to life; becoming a womb for their dreams yet with no space for hers?

In some places, she is not even a woman until she has a boy, a son for her husband, to carry on his name, his legacy. Only then does her leg get fixed enough in her husband’s house, only then does she have any rights to any property. Girls are not children, they believe in such communities, they may be “issues,” with serious issues; they don’t even keep the family line going. In these climes, it’s only the birth of boys that make a woman a woman, that roots her legs in her husband’s family unswayable by whatever winds. Till then, she has one leg in, one leg out and the coming of another woman with a son, can automatically push her away, of her position as wife, and as woman.

When does she become a woman? When she is silent, just seen, not saying a word. When she is bent by the troubles of the world? When she says “thank you” even when she is hurt in her? When turns her ear the other way when her husband moans away with another woman? When she stays in a marriage “till death do us part” even if she is battered to that death? Is it when she gives her body to her husband totally, yielding herself to him, as a log in the hands of a carpenter? Or as the pot in the hands of the potter, being shaped, molded to the taste of the potter?

When does she become a woman? When the muscles around her eyes weaken? When the muscles around her womb lose strength, when the eggs return to where they came from? When her waist loses its shape after many children have passed through? When her voice trembles losing its alluring sound? Is it when her grandchildren gather around her, she–the mother hen, they–the chicks, and listen to stories trapped in a past, stories of a glorious past, that she only passed through but never passed through her? Now, the weight of her gait leans on a stick, her back is bent, bowed as she no longer has the strength to bear any more troubles. Her hairs starts to grey and soon start to drop, strand after strand, leaving a pore empty, never to be refilled. Is that when she is a woman? When all that is left in her eyes are faint glitters that never were?

Does she become a woman when the earth covers her up? When the grave is tagged “Mrs. Lagbaja; 1945-2000”? When her children show their respect for her by throwing up the biggest party in the world? There are numerous adverts in the papers, that she lived a glorious life, her face splashed all over, a smile photo-shopped on the image; there are words that would be missed sorely by a committee of friends. Is it when they say “Sun re o”? When they bid her to sleep well or eat what they eat in heaven, wherever that is? Tell me; is that when?

Or am I just rambling? Is the word “woman” overrated? An antithesis of man? Of everything that he is not, of all that she is? Of all that she can become, or of all that she may never be? Maybe there is more to a woman than the trapping of the word “woman,” that word so affiliated with “man.”

*Lagbaja and Tamedo: are Yoruba words for Anonymous.

Michaela Moye: On Career, Love, Sex and Orgasms

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Michaela at work

9jafeminista: Let’s talk about your job(s) then, what you’re doing presently what you’ve done in the past… That big dream you chase after…

Michaela Moye: Ooookaaay!!! My jobs…They’ve been many! I remember someone told me to cut out some of my jobs so my CV doesn’t make me look like a flake. (Laughs) I love every job I’ve had. Right now, I’m a producer and a show host (I hate that OAP acronym), anyway, I’m a producer and host on We 106.3 FM, I recently moved from producing Love Talk to working on Morning Mojo – I like that. Even though I loved working on romance and sex stories, I like the fact that on Morning Mojo we handle more gritty topics (not that love cannot be gritty) but my feminist agenda can really soar here, I think.

I am living my career dream, as far as the type of work I would like to do is concerned. Ever since I was a teen, I wanted to be involved in radio. A few years ago, I joined an awesome team to script a radio drama and now, I’m producing and hosting. It’s great!

Before this, I had a temporary communications position at ActionAid Nigeria, another great experience.

My first job was at Leadership newspaper. I was at university – there was a long break and I needed a job. While discussing my love for writing with Kareem Baba Aminu (he’s now the editor of Sunday Trust), he said, “Why don’t you write for Leadership?” And that was it…my sister helped me get the ball rolling and I was hired. My first day of work, the newsroom door was opened, I was shoved in and told, “find something to do.” So I did. I read copy until I convinced my boss to let me have a column. My first article was on Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding!

After that I ran a column there for a few years, until I graduated university. By then I had a few pages to my credit. I skipped law school to continue working there and it was a great year – I went on a short tour with some Naija music acts and reported the whole thing. It was amazing

9jafeminista: In the course of doing your job have you met with any kind of sexism? Maybe not as extreme as the one that happened between you and Marang Motlaleng, but sexism all the same

Michaela Moye: Yes. I had a co-worker at leadership who would refer to me as ‘baby’. When I told him I didn’t like it, he apologized. But guess what, my nickname became baby! I laugh about it now because I know he didn’t have bad intentions. To be honest, I find newsrooms to be rather sexually charged. So sometimes, a comment might be sexist, but sometimes it’s flirting or banter with sexual undertones.

One colleague kept harassing me to date him. My then boss thought it was funny that I kept refusing the guy – we were both single, why not give it whirl? I kept saying NO! That’s not the point! Just because we’re single doesn’t mean I want to date the guy. The last straw was when the colleague went to our boss to have a heart-to-heart about his feelings for me and could our boss talk to me? I was so mad. After I had my say, he stopped asking me out.

But that’s about it…my competence has never been questioned or anything like that

9jafeminista: What’s your take on love?

Michaela Moye: I believe that true love is not romantic, romance is deceptive. A person can be romantic with several people at the same time. As for as my thoughts on marriage… I don’t think it’s for everybody… at least, not in the conventional way… a couple living together all the time etc. I’m not big on long distance but God knows that when I get married, I will maintain a place for myself where I can just chill sometimes and be by myself

9jafeminista9jafeminista: So how do you measure the love which is not romantic?

Michaela Moye: let’s take my relationship with one of my nephews – it’s definitely not romantic, but that is true love right there! Here’s the thing, a couple can be together for three months and the romance is beginning to fade. What is left is their commitment, not even the friendship sef. Committing to making the relationship work, and accepting that if it doesn’t work, they will both walk away without trying to damage the other… that is love to me.

9jafeminista: That sounds like hard work

Michaela Moye: (laughs) But Relationships are hard!!!! I’m probably single right now because I’ve been too lazy to work at one I’ve never been romantic about marriage so i never felt bad when anyone implied that my single status was a problem or made me less than… maybe it’s just my inherent strong headedness. However, it’s important to add that I am interested in getting married – in so far as we can agree on the terms and conditions of our marriage contract!

9jafeminista: Since we are talking about love, what’s your take on sex? A man once said he believed pre-marital sex was a sin, and this view appears to be the prevailing opinion right now in Nigeria… I use the word ‘opinion’ because it’s actually not what is happening.

Michaela Moye: I pay no mind to hypocrites. I knew ever since I was a teen that I would not be married as a virgin. However, I9jafeminista made up my mind that I would wait until I was ready. I was 20 when I “lost my virginity” and even though I would have preferred a different partner, I was ready and chose to have sex then.

Sex should be enjoyable. And in my opinion, is not the right place to seek emotional attachment – that’s just a distraction from the physical pleasure one could be enjoying. Women should take their orgasms into their own hands and that includes giving themselves permission to enjoy sex. When it’s a physical ailment, then, of course, that’s a different matter and requires medical attention

9jafeminista: Why do you think women have this idea that they are not supposed to enjoy sex or have orgasms?

Michaela Moye: It’s the repression that has been sown in generations of women. Sex is bad. Sex is for men to enjoy. Sex before marriage is a sin. Masturbation will lead you to hell, etc

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Michaela Moye

And you know, many women have one issue or the other with our bodies. Maybe focusing on the wrong things, distract from the pleasure. Or we’re not as cognizant with our bodies and don’t even know what would do the trick.

Ayodele Olofintuade: In a survey carried out recently by a condom manufacturer they found out that a lot more women cheat on their husbands than previously imagined, do you have any theories as per the repression of women?

Michaela Moye: I think men and women are more alike than we care to admit. Men cheat. Women cheat. It has always been that way. What is different is that women have been considered graceful, beyond-sexual reproach etc and so even they would not be so open to admitting to an affair besides one could be repressed with a husband, or expected to be a good girl… and with a lover one can be as free as one wants.

Yes to Domestic Violence: Why we should all give up and give in (I)

From the Editor: At 9jafeminista, one of our aims is to document the experiences of Nigerian women from all walks of life. We are particularly interested in examining why Nigerians believe we do not need equality, that things are just fine the way they are .

Marriage is a big deal in Nigeria. Domestic violence is a common occurrence. In actual fact, the Penal Code endorses violence against women, as long as there’s no ‘bodily’ harm caused (for more on laws that shows Nigerian women as second class citizens you can check out this link).

In spite of the fact that people know how damaging domestic violence can be and how it has often led to death, over 90% of women in Nigeria believe that there is nothing wrong with a man beating a woman.

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Ayomikun

Meet Ayomikun, a 30years old woman who, besides running second-hand clothing shop, is a printer at Mokola (Ibadan). Ayomikun has been separated from her husband of 6years for the past five months, she has tried everything within her powers to bring about reconciliation between them.

She told us her story in an interview which we’ve transcribed below. The unedited audio version is here . The transcription was edited for easy reading.

9jafeminista: What’s your name?

Ayomikun: Oluwadamilola Ayomikun

9jafeminista: What do you do?

Ayomikun: I’m into buying and selling

9jafeminista: Do you own a shop?

Ayomikun: Yes.

9jafeminista: Where’s your shop located?

Ayomikun: At Mokola market (Ibadan)

9jafeminista: What are your educational qualifications?

Ayomikun: I attended Command Primary School and St Louis Girls Grammar School, here in Ibadan. For my tertiary education I attended Federal Polytechnic, Ede

9jafeminista: So what course did you read?

Ayomikun: Marketing

9jafeminista: What kind of things have you ‘marketed’ before?

Ayomikun: I’ve marketed some banks, like Intercontinental Bank, now Access Bank, then one microfinance bank, Easylink Intercontinental, then Cadbury… But now I’m marketing myself

9jafeminista: You’re building a brand

Ayomikun: Yes

9jafeminista: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Ayomikun: In a higher place, to become a higher person. I see myself going to Dubai and even the UK to buy stuff, instead of these second hand clothes.

9jafeminista: Would you mind sharing your story with us?

Ayomikun: Before I got married I was once a gospel artiste, I write, and sing. I was writing for a newspaper called Daily News for Celestians, I had a page there. After that I worked at a Law firm in Ikorodu. Then I met my husband. We met in 2002, at Mokola (Ibadan). We courted for about eight years, I was preparing to go into a tertiary institution.

9jafeminista: Are you saying that when you met him you were still in secondary school?

Graphic1.Ayomikun: No, I’d left secondary school, I was applying for admission into a tertiary institution. When we started dating, then I was even a virgin, but due to all these Mokola stuffs he didn’t believe that he can still find someone like that. After some years he requested for sex, which I decided not to give him because in my heart I’d decided that whosoever I got married to, that was the person that will deflower me. So the guy was like ‘don’t worry, we’re getting married very soon.’ Then I later accepted my fate, we had it. The first time I had it, it was so painful, but then it was a pride to me, because we were getting married. After I gained admission into Federal Poly Ede, we continued the relationship. We eventually got married on February 21, 2009.

After we got married he asked me not to work, but I told him I can’t be a housewife, we dragged the issue until we decided that I’m going to work.

9jafeminista: What was he doing?

Ayomikun: He was into interior decor. He then helped me to get a job at a microfinance bank, three months later, after coming back home from work, that night, he had already written a letter that I should withdraw, that he doesn’t have any interest in the job any longer, that I should stay at home. And then we’ve been having a minor problem about the issue of baby. That day when I returned from work, he had already written a letter which he asked me to drop at my office. I didn’t even know he had helped me to write a resignation letter.

9jafeminista: You mean he wrote a resignation letter for you.

Ayomikun: Yes. I didn’t even bother to go through it. The next morning I went to drop the letter, my Oga now said ‘sit down,1 what happened? What kind of letter is this?’ I said ‘my husband asked me to give it to you.’ He didn’t even tell me what was written in the letter. My boss was shocked and asked me ‘Mrs Ogunbiyi what happened? Why are you leaving the job?’

I was considered the best marketer in the company back then, they were about to increase my salary.

In order not to ruin my home, I decided to pretend that I knew about the letter. I left the job and stayed at home for another three months, I became uncomfortable because I’m not the kind of woman who stays at home, I’m a very hard-working person. My husband and I started quarrelling again, because I can’t stay at home, we finally agreed that I should find a job. So I went to my brother (my blood brother) who helped me to find a job at Intercontinental Bank (Ijebu-Ode), I was shuttling between Ijebu-Ode and Ibadan, I would leave for Ijebu-Ode on Monday morning, come back on Friday night, everything was going on smoothly, but after three months my husband started grumbling, ‘I can’t condone it anymore, we said we’re looking for a baby and we’re living apart, we are in a far distant relationship. I can’t have you anytime I want you, I eat jungle food, etc’

I was finally able to persuade him that instead of resigning I should ask for a transfer, but the bank refused, because I was new and I am not even allowed to have a child until I’ve worked with them for three years, so I was like, I will not wait until this thing will ruin my marriage, so I decided to quit. I returned to Ibadan and started sitting down at home again. Later on one of my husband’s sisters called me and said ‘instead of sitting down at home, I have a shop at Alesinloye,’ she was working at a printing press at Bodija then, that I should assist her. My husband accepted that I should work with her.

9jafeminista: Let’s pause here.