Evolution of a Superweapon (as she’s about to hit forty) – Hawa Jande Golakai

RUIN: A PHOENIX ARISES (a pictomap of womanhood)

Thou shalt not hurt or publicly display rage, pain, shame, loss, filth or any form of brokenness.

Thou shalt despise correction and never seek help.

Thou shalt keep your face in the Strong Black Woman sunshine until it burns you to a crisp.

RUIN: A WOMAN IN HER PRIME (a pictomap of womanhood)Thou shalt BE.

Be intelligent (but non-threateningly). Be sexy (but don’t show it off like a ho). Be ambitious (but not aggressive). Be curious (but don’t nag). Be firm (but not a bitch). Be a giver (but don’t cling). Be a great parent, daughter, friend, neighbor. Be a bawse. Be rich (by magic). Be a great partner by never asking for anything you want directly. Be knowledgeable of everything under God’s sun.

Be.

BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE. NEVER SHOW OR BE AWARE OF ALL YOUR POWER. Don’t be kind and good; be “humble”.

Never get tired. Ever. Always prostrate yourself to give and forgive.

RUIN: ASCENDANT (a pictomap of womanhood)

Thou shalt allow others to define how strong, sane and sapient you are.
Allow every hardship to break and reshape you. Never be proud of crafting your fears and weaknesses into strengths.

RUIN: SCION (a pictomap of womanhood)

[If thou so chooseth]: Thou shalt have a close encounter of the 4th kind with at least one of your ova. It’s worth it 💚💛💜❤🌺🌻🌺💙🏵.

PS. Make it accidental, to maximise the horror and comedic effect.

SUPERWEAPON ( a pictomap of womanhood)

(OR.)

Damn all the advice to hell. You were there alone; you built the only map out.
Assemble all your broken pieces and create anew. Be your ancestors’ wildest dreams and deepest nightmares.

I LOVE YOU, HJG. God continue to bless you and entertain your madness. 💛💚💜💙💜❤🌻🌺🏵👑

Hawa Jande Golakai was born in Germany and hails from Liberia, where she spent a lively childhood before the 1990 civil war erupted. She writes crime, speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism) and is in an unhealthy relationship with all twisted tales. A medical immunologist by training, she now works as a literary judge, creative consultant and educator. Golakai is on the Africa39 list of most promising sub-Saharan African writers under the age of 40. She is the winner of the 2017 Brittle Paper Award for nonfiction, longlisted for the 2019 NOMMO Award for speculative fiction and nominated three times for fiction. In addition to two novels, her articles and short stories have featured in BBC, Granta, Omenana, Cassava Republic, Myriad Editions and other publications. Currently, she lives in Monrovia with her son and too many chickens.

Photo Credit: Kanda V. Golakai

The Politics of Pretty IV: Fair and Lovely – Daphne Lee

First of all, I was thrilled when 9jafeminista asked me to contribute a post for this blog’s The Politics of Pretty series(here, here, and here). I was also a little apprehensive because I wasn’t sure I had anything to say that would be of interest to Nigerian women. However, 9jafeminista said that she wanted the post to reinforce the fact that body shaming and unrealistic beauty standards are part of the worldwide phenomenon that judges women’s appearances and forces us to constantly question our validity based on the way we look, primarily through the male gaze, and largely as dictated by parameters and ‘rules’ established by the American and European beauty and fashion industries. WTF, right?

Think about it for a second: Asia and Africa are two huge continents that comprise peoples that are pretty different as far as cultures and appearances go. Yet, most Asian and African women subscribe to the same beauty standards set by the West. Thank you, colonialism. And yes, although our countries have been independent of colonial rule for decades, our minds are still f****ing colonised thanks to the powerful reach of Western media.

Anyway, this post is not going to be a cultural studies lecture about the way women have been taught to think negatively about themselves. I don’t want to speak for all Asian women. I don’t think I should speak for all Malaysian women either, or even all ethnically Chinese Malaysian women. The only perspective I feel I can offer is my own, so here it is:

I am fifty-one years old and I was born in a small town in Malaysia’s southern-most state, Johor. My (late) parents were officially ethnically Chinese, although my mother also had Malay and indigenous ancestry.
I have always been fat. Definitely fatter than my three older sisters who were slender, small-breasted, narrow-hipped teenagers whereas I was a D-cup by my early teens.
Let me add that while I was considered fat by everyone I came into contact with, my fair, rosy skin was seen as my saving grace. ‘Well, at least she’s fair,’ has been a common refrain throughout my life. When I married my ex-husband in the 90s, his parents objected because I was Chinese and they were Indian. However, my skin colour meant that “At least their children will be fair.’ Anyway, I digress, although of course, skin colour is just one of the physical features for which women are judged.

Anyway, when I look at pictures of myself as a child and also a teenager, I am amazed to see that I was not what I would now consider fat. I am aware that the way I think is problematic because I am implying that being ‘fat’ is undesirable. Well, I am still struggling not to think of ‘fat’ as a negative adjective and, back when I was a teen and tween, I felt (and was made to feel) that my size was a problem. I was teased by other children as small child. I was taunted by strange boys and men as a tween and into my late teens. Someone I considered my ‘best friend’ told me, when I was fifteen, that I should not consider performing at a school concert because I would be laughed at for being fat.

This idea that I was abnormally large was reinforced by the fact that, as a teen, I could not find ready-to-wear clothes that fit me. I wore my mother’s dresses instead, and was encouraged to seek out and hide my bulk in baggy t-shirts. (Thinking about that now, I am filled with rage and also sadness. Hide your body as it may be an agent of sin. Hide your body because it is not attractive enough to be an agent of sin. Either way, it’s f***ed up.)
When I was sixteen I was 159 cm (5’3”) and 54 kg (about 123 lbs). Let’s put the word ‘fat’ aside for now. Was I ‘too large’? I’ll let you be the judge, but I know I felt as big as a house.

When I lived in the UK (in my early twenties), I enjoyed five years of never having to worry about finding clothes that fit. I didn’t feel ‘too large’ because, although there were lots of people much smaller and lighter than me, there were also those who were much larger and heavier. Still, years of being told I was fat resulted in me going to see a ‘doctor’ about my weight. I was put on what I quickly realised were amphetamines. I lost my appetite and got lighter, but, thankfully, my student budget and love for pork pies and macaroni cheese meant that I didn’t continue with the treatment for very long.

In my thirties, I got married and had kids. It was OK to be ‘fat’ because I was wrapped up in motherhood and had no social life to speak of. When my marriage broke up, I lost a hell of a lot of weight. While it sucked being miserable, losing weight seemed to be the silver lining around the big, fat grey cloud of my divorce. I won’t deny that I liked the way I looked then. For the first time in twenty years I was below 60 kg, but I put it back on as I got over the breakup and started putting my life back together.

It’s interesting that losing weight was a result of things going wrong. A friend, commiserating about my husband’s infidelity, said, ‘Well, at least you’ve lost weight and look great.’ That made me so angry — probably partly because I secretly felt the same.

What would the average woman rather be? Slim and sad or fat and happy? Most would claim to prefer the latter state, but I think many identify being slim as the remedy to all woes. Obviously, being thin doesn’t automatically make you more content. Neither does it ensure good health. In fact, there are lots of people who say they want to lose weight for health reasons when they are really only interested in the effect it has on their appearance. For example, they diet and exercise, but also smoke and drink. If it was suddenly confirmed that being massively overweight was good for our health, I wonder how many of us would start trying to become fatter!

In my forties, I started dating African men as there are now, in Malaysia, many students from that continent. African men didn’t think of me as fat. ‘Fat? You don’t know what being fat is,’ said one of them.

I’ve also been told by my African dates that they don’t like thin women. They like their women curvy. Some even specify (on dating sites) that they are looking for BBW (big beautiful women) to date.

On the one hand, it makes a change from Malaysian men preferring very slim women, but on the other hand, I think to myself, ‘Why does it even matter what men think?’

Whether men like their women slim or thick, it’s still about their preference, their say. A man’s opinion of what a woman looks like should not signify, but, in reality, few heterosexual cis women are unaffected by the opinions of men.

Like, right now, I can tell myself that being this shape, this size, this weight is fine so long as I’m healthy, but I also find myself ‘warning’ guys I meet on Tinder that I am not slim. I want to pre-empt any disappointment my appearance may cause, but why should I care if they are disappointed? I tell myself I care about my own feelings and want to avoid being told that ‘I don’t date fat women’ or ‘I would ask you to be my girlfriend if you were thinner’, but wouldn’t it be great if I ceased to care that they might say that? Wouldn’t it be great if I could respond with ‘F*** you, your loss’ and not feel hurt and humiliated by their judgement? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I didn’t want to lose 10 kg, if I didn’t desire a flatter stomach, less ‘bumpy’ hips, longer legs wobbly underarm flesh?

It annoys me that I feel this way. It annoys me that I think about going on a diet. It also annoys me when I encounter women discussing dieting and losing weight, and talking about ‘sinful’ foods and being ‘naughty’ when savouring a delicious meal. It especially annoys me that I feel a twinge of envy when friends lose weight and look fabulous in photographs on social media.
It annoys me even more when people tell me that I don’t look fifty-one. It annoys me that they feel they are complimenting me by saying I don’t look my age. I know they mean well, but I dislike the assumption that a woman would rather look (and even be) forty or thirty-five than fifty-one.

I am thankful though that, in this matter of age, I am not struggling in the same way I seem to be when it comes to my weight and size. Wrinkles and white hair do not cause the anxiety that flab and fat do. I don’t know why that’s so.

What I do know and acknowledge is that the way I feel about my appearance is complicated and that it’s OK that it’s complicated. Most days I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle against the popular belief that women should be as slim as possible. I am battling my own desire to be thin, but at least this desire isn’t tied to the idea that being thinner would make me better or happier or more successful. I know I am a product of my environment and of a culture shaped by industries that thrive on women hating the way we look.

Being aware of this is vital for my mental well-being and survival. Knowing that my appearance (the appearance of women) has no value except what the media has chosen to bestow on it, takes away its power to break me, like it has broken better women than myself.

When I turned fifty last year, I realised that I had spent more than forty years being low-key unhappy with my appearance and trying to change it. It struck me as such an incredible waste of time and I told myself that even if I couldn’t totally stop wanting to be thinner (it’s hard to overcome a lifetime of brainwashing), I should simply just tell myself that I didn’t want to be thinner. In other words, I should fake it til I made it. The battle continues.

Wish me luck!

Daphne Lee is an Editor, writer, intersectional feminist and an atheist.

The Politics of Pretty II: Womanhood as a Performance

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 yearIt is expected to reach €10 billion in 2017Nigeria, 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.

UnTitLed

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” ,
Protruding Belly,
Inconspicuous Buttocks and Breasts,
Round, puffy Cheeks.

Dissecting my Body,
Wondering if I should ditch Antidepressants,
I heard they make you Fat.
Loathing myself,
My skin,
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’m Temmie Ovwasa,
21 year old post-human Artist.

The Politics of Pretty I: Feminity as performance – Susan Obehioye

Editorial: In the next few issues the platform will be featuring powerful feminists who will be discussing the politics of pretty from personal and economic angles. The politicisation and commercialisation of beauty has been the bane of women worldwide. We will be examining the topic through prose, poetry and photography. Our first guest is Susan Obehioye.
women are constantly judged based on how they look, statistics have shown an increase in plastic surgeries, and this is happening because we do not feel secure in our bodies. we have been fed negative information of ourselves and our bodies which is having an effect on the younger generation and this needs to stop. the body of a woman is beautiful, and changes should be embraced.

i got into makeup and photography as a way to express myself. as someone who has battled with anxiety and depression, of which most is from self loathing, i wanted to do something about how i felt on the inside. i wanted to not only photograph myself but other people as i found the features of black people beautiful.

i personally feel all shades of black is beautiful, however darker skinned women represent not only history but the future. the beauty of a dark skinned woman is everything. her features, her expression and her passion can be captured in photographs. putting more dark skinned women out there is inspiring and it makes us visible.

as a young girl i hardly saw dark skinned women in magazines, it made me conclude that i was ugly and unwanted. i used to look in the mirror and ask myself why i was so dark.. this was my life for over 30 years. i had to go through a healing process to accept myself. i think back in regret because of the time wasted.

colourism is a terrible thing and remains a problem in the black community. the blame lies with slavery and colonialism where people of lighter skin tones were more accepted that their darker skinned peers.

as much as i would hope for an end to it, it is present and the only way to put an end would be for us to appreciate ourselves and the beautiful shades of black we are blessed with.

as someone who is dark skinned, i have had my share of being treated differently. when i was a teenager, i was passed over by boys for my lighter skinned friends and as much as that hurt, i learnt to accept myself.

the media has also not been fair to people of darker skin tones, we are hardly visible and when we are it is stereotyped and negative.

fat shaming is also one of the issues that i am concerned about because the society has completely forgotten how important it is on the inside, instead have focused on the outside.

i have struggled with my weight for many years and though i have lost some weight, i am still aware of the fact that i will always be judged based on how i look. this is because of the unrealistic expectations placed on women by society.

people are told that fat people are lazy and are prone to illnesses of all sorts, many are described as the “walking dead” because of their size. it truly is very disturbing because the size of a person should not be a thing of judgement. people come in different shapes and sizes and whilst some factors might be determinants for illnesses, it is not completely the cause. slim people do have the same illnesses fat people have, life is what it is and we are here to live and die. whatever we decide to do with the time between those periods matter and i personally do not think judging people based on how they look is a best way to spend your time.

i have worn the shoes of “obesity” as they call it and the pain caused didn’t come from my size, it came from people who appointed themselves as medical experts. i feel people should love their bodies regardless of what size it is. living up to man made standards is not a life. i also agree that people should be healthy.

the standards of beauty these days are unrealistic. curvier women are not represented in the media, they are shamed into hiding because some people are uncomfortable.

as much as i love social media, it has played a very negative part when it comes to self appreciation. we are bombarded with pictures of people with so called “perfect bodies”. descriptions such as “body goals” and the praise given to certain features has caused alot of insecurity.

i must add that all is not lost, i am pleased to see so many campaigns out there promoting body positivity. this gives me hope that women would learn to love and accept themselves.

Susan Obehioye is an Environmental Health Officer and professional makeup artist, photographer and retoucher based in London. She has had experience working with clients of different ethnicities. She is an advocate for body positivity, Human rights, particularly LGBTQ issues. In the future her aim to make an impact in the beauty industry by promoting dark skin models and also lend her voice and support to the LGBTQ community in Nigeria.

There are men who walk daintily , there are men who walk like antelopes

Dear Humans
There are men who walk daintily , there are men who walk like antelopes, there are men who walk like turkeys/chickens , there are also men who walk like lions. There is no particular way men walk.
There are men who are slim and there are men who are fat. There are men who have beautiful shapes, there are men who are shaped like an amoeba. There are men who have protruding asses and there are still others who have flat asses.
Men have breasts and men have nipples. Men’s breasts are sensitive and are responsive.
There is no particular way a man should be. Every human comes in a particular way, shape and size that is unique to them.
Dear police men, stop arresting men for allegedly looking like women. Nonsense!
We are not arresting you for been thieves or extorting or blackmailing.

Laraba Oiboh is self described as a non-feminist who believes in and works towards gender equality

PEACE – Adeola Olagunju

I have lived a tortuous life
And since I made 30
I’ve finally found a glimpse of hope

My life has been plagued by various traumatizing experiences since “childhood”
Childhood?
No, I didn’t have any

Being left vulnerable as a child threw
me in the hands of the beasts
The beasts who abused me
The beasts who silenced me
The beasts who normalized danger

It was my fault
wasn’t it?
What was I looking for walking the
streets by myself?
But, wasn’t I just a child?

I have embodied this guilt all my life
I blamed myself for everything
For being abused
For my parent’s failed marriage
For being an “Olodo”

I live my life in perpetual fear
I carried this baggage of worthlessness everywhere I went
My life has been about self sacrificing
Over giving
Being a doormat
Serving
Taking responsibility for what is not my “issh”
Jumping into battles not my own
People pleasing
Playing Messiah
Getting busy
Fixing everything/everyone around
As it is easier to look at the other; rather than the self

Plenty toxic friendships and one sided relationships Abi…why shouldn’t I thank my maker when crumbs is thrown my way? after all love is work…

Biko, Who needs a doormat?

They took everything from me
Gave me this rage that consumes
me day and night…Anger became my only fortress

Fight, flight or freeze
Hiding and avoidant
I wanted to end this suffering by keeping my inner child in a deep place inside, and staying as far away as possible. But, running away doesn’t end this suffering; it only prolongs it.

So much weight my soul is weary

25 years after, 2 days ago
I took a cathartic journey back in time
to where I grew up in Ibadan
I went by every freaking house I was abused
To pick up the bits of me I buried there.
To reclaim my life
To find the cure for this disease
I’ve had to live with it

The hardest part; to forgive
To forgive all you “mofos”

So I can finally stop clinging to everything
that abuses, torture and drains me
So I can finally stop running
away from healthy love
( as I always find it strange)

I am breaking away!!!
Now I know I deserve better than a sick life
I am worthy
It was never my fault
And I am lovable 💚

Hey, Adéọlá, I am so so sorry.
I am coming back home to you.

It’s closure time.

26166793_10215062681904389_345533380904293351_nAdeola Olagunju is an artist and photographer. She lives and works in the universe.

Personhood and Bodily Autonomy: aka Who owns the breast? The man or the Baby?

One of the funniest jokes in the whole wide world, and one of the most serious question is … who owns the breast? Man or baby.

Now you might think we are exaggerating but we dare you go to any gathering where alcohol and food is flowing in abundance, and a lady with an amazing posterior, aka breast, passes by, and come back with that claim of exaggeration.

This topic has been discussed for years, accompanied by titters and uncomfortable avoidance of one another’s eyes, but it never loses it’s freshness … who owns the breast?

Ownership is the operative word here.

A sitting senator, Shehu Sanni, last year did a brave thing, something that most Nigerian politicians shy away from. He declared his assets.

This honest and forthright deed broke more than the taboo of asset declaration and Nigerian politicians, it also broke the silence on what an average Nigerian man considers his property.

Senator Sani Jibril
Senator Shehu Sanni – Hero of our democracrazy

Senator Sani Jibril listed his wives and children in the asset declaration form. And instead of being outraged, Nigerian journals praised him for this heroic deed with the blazing headline Meet The Senator That Declared His Wives Among His Assets….Right Or Wrong?

Actually, the headline was clickbait for those nosey feminists and gender rights activists, because the content of the article did not question the rightness or wrongness of his declaration. It simply went on about his ‘bravery’ and ‘heroism’.

Let’s be candid, we know that a lot of Nigerian men consider their wives and children as their property. And post-birth, women are ‘allowed’ by their husbands to ‘breastfeed’ the baby, with the ‘understanding’ that the breasts actually, really, truly belongs to him.

Don’t get us wrong, women also discuss this ‘important’ issue with a lot of tittering.

Wikipedia defines bodily integrity[autonomy] as the inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies. It considers the violation of bodily integrity as an unethical infringement, intrusive, and possibly criminal.

In simple English, Wikipedia is saying that your body belongs to you, to do with as you like. Bodily autonomy is your right, as backed up by Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The question is why do Nigerian men believe they OWN a woman’s body?

Culture: They believe that once they pay ‘bride price’ this means they have bought their wives. Actually any man who thinks this way is recognized under the law as a criminal, because in a sense, you’re admitting that you’ve partaken in human trafficking.

Religion: Many clerics, both in Nigeria and other parts of the world are fond of misquoting and taking things stated in their different holy books out of context.

quote

Sexism: The sexism prevalent in the country, due to the fact that a lot more value has been placed on a male child, gives men the impression that they have the right to the body of any woman they meet. That’s why the boys at Yaba, or any large market, would grab at any girl they see, sexual harassment is rampant in both schools and offices, unchecked. Because men have been taught that women are less, that they are the head, women are … sidekicks.

And why do women take it? Because of the above listed, and a lot of us don’t know that we have the power to sue harassers … and win! Check this out … Former Microsoft Nigeria Employee gets N39m for unlawful Sack after Sexual Harassment and this Supreme Court – Female Child can Inherit Property in Igboland.

Yes we understand how utterly outrageous it is that we are celebrating these victories in 2016! But it’s a start and we know we are not alone, or helpless, or have to submit to dehumanization because culture or religion or the patriarchy says so.

Now back to the question – who owns the breast? Man or the baby?

Please answer the question with the fear of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights… who owns the breast?

…You give away your power the moment you start to believe that you have none…