There have been a lot of articles both on and offline, recently, about how there is little or no diversity in superheroes – in comic and video forms. This lack of diversity shows in the limited number of women and people of different races being represented as superheroes.
Nigerians, since we nor dey carry last, have been battling to rectify this grave injustice by coming up with our own set of superheroes. Esu, Sango, Amadioha, Oya and a lot more are being represented in their superhero forms.
But we have noticed, with dismay, that a particular set of people have totally been ignored in the scramble to put our superheroes on the world stage.
Marriage is the ultimate goal for any Nigerian – living or dead, male or female, adult or child, dead broke or fantastically corruption rich.
Please do not argue!
Inventing new machines that make life easier; finding the cure for cancer, AIDS, Diabetes and other deadly diseases; making new art forms; writing codes – all these things are not as important as… wait for it – marriage!
Now these set of superheroes are the ones who help us to keep our morals intact, they keep marriages together (often till-death-do-them-part) and ensure our moral rectitude is … rectitudinal! They’re sometimes called the ‘Moral Police’ but this is a misnomer, and really it won’t sound nice as a superhero’s name –
As your friendly neighborhood aprokos, we have found a name to suit this group of people, we shall call them The Enablers! (Btw an enabler is someone who makes something possible. They create an environment for negative or self-destructive behavior to thrive. If you’re an addict – be it to drugs, cheating, lying, physical, emotional or psychological abuse – an enabler will empower you to do this better) gerrit?
The Enablers are made up of six superheroes with six different superpowers. They are as follows-
Virginato – Female, short, plump, with dimples in her shiny cheeks Superpower – ability to spot virgins from a mile off with her laser beam eyes. And if you’re no longer a virgin, do not be worried, Virginato’s powers can restore your virginity – with creams or restorative surgery. Motto: Your virginity, my business
Count Slutee – Male tall, thin, with protruding teeth Superpower – ability to detect sluts. Just one touch on your arm he can decide whether you’re a slut or …you’re a slut. He keeps track of the number of men that you’ve ever spoken to. One blast from his fingers and your body count will be reduced to zero! Motto: I help you keep and broadcast your ‘body count’
General Marital: Female, middle-aged, wears a lot of Darling Yaki Superpowers: ability to advise you to pray especially if you’re in an abusive relationship. She can smell an abused woman a mile off and she readily hands out pamphlets about entering ‘war rooms’ and conquering an abusive partner on ‘your knees’. Motto: If your partner is abusing you, then it’s your fault
Shitta the Cheater: Male, spots a goatee, dark sunshades and a beer-gut Superpowers: knows with a certainty that men are babies and needs to be cared for, they are also subject to their penis. Can also help you find out if your partner is cheating on you. Very good at stalking women on Facebook and gives them advice about their lipsticks. Motto: Men think with their dicks
Tape the Rule: Female, tall and fat, always has a tape rule with her Superpowers: Her tape rule has a life of its own, measures the depth of a woman’s blouse or the length of her skirt. She knows the exact length, or depth, of clothes, which qualifies a woman for rape. Motto: What were you wearing when you were raped?
Judgianna: Male short, thin, ascetic Superpowers: Can be found on almost all gossip websites putting his ‘two kobo’ comments on every case involving relationships, sex and sexuality. Fights other commenters over whether Tiwa Savage should stay with her husband or not. Can slut shame with a flick of his fingers Motto: Anti go an marry
We believe these people are heros and they deserve a place in the pantheon of gods. They are the ones keeping abused women with their abusers because ‘divorce is a sin’, they try to shame divorcees and ensure single women don’t remain single too long.
I was asked where I stood on abortion in Africa….here’s my response…..
I’m definitely pro-choice and hate to see men legislating on matters which they know nothing about.
Just a couple of months ago the Sierra Leonean government tried to pass a bill legalizing first term terminations and it was vetoed by male religious leaders on the basis that it’s a sin. Meanwhile that country has the highest rate of maternal deaths in Africa and since the war a steady increase in incest and rape.
It is unfair that men get to decide such matters without much consideration for the mother – who is essentially then victimized twice.
The uncomfortable truth is that even if it’s not rape or incest, a woman should have the option to say ‘I’m not ready – I cannot handle this’.
A woman having unwanted babies is the fastest path to poverty and misery.
The other day I saw a video of 2 men “fishing” a baby out of a river. It had been abandoned by its mother.
When we force people, who are not ready to be mothers, into motherhood we sentence the child to a lifetime of neglect at best and outright abuse at worse.
Its unwanted children that become victims of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Its unwanted children that become thieves, murderers and rapists.
During the first term, the fetus is barely a fetus and if i was a fetus I’d rather be terminated than condemned to a life of misery.
There is a reason China had its one child policy and African governments should be embracing terminations en masse to stop poverty if nothing else.
I don’t understand how you can care so much about some cells the size of a grape in a woman’s body but you can’t bring yourself to care about the abject poverty and the miserable life a huge chunk of your population is condemned to.
This is for you… Yes you on those high, high heels. Your bright red lipstick, your body fitting clothes showing plump backsides, bouncy breasts, you’re enough your dreams are valid
For you trawling the streets of Ayilara, Ikeja, Mokola, Agbani Market in the dead of night, turning tricks… You are human, your dreams are valid
This is for you on Teevee, twerking to the beats of violence, your Brazilian weaves, 12inches of lashes of nails, you’re enough, your dreams are valid
This is for you, yes you of the dark desires, BDSM, fantasies, role plays, you that like them plenty, like them rough, like them period. You’re human you’re real, your dreams are valid
This for you that don’t fit in, you don’t like sex, you don’t like kisses, orgasm is just not your thing, you’re enough your dreams are valid
This is for you who loves other women, you like them wild you like them pretty you love to wipe their lipsticks off with tender kisses, you’re human, your dreams are valid
This is for you my beauty queen, named as one sex but you know it’s not true, toss your weaves my wo-man my pretty you’re human your dreams are valid
This is for you my warrior princess your kombat boots, your low cut hair, your swagger, bow-tie, skinny jeans, you’re human your dreams are valid
This is for all my girls that walk on the dark side, the edgy, the non-conformists, the girls wearing tats, piercings, nose rings…
you’re enough your dreams are valid…
Rita Onwurah: I’ve always been fascinated with film and wanted to be a screenwriter.
9jafeminista: How did you chase this dream down? It couldn’t have been easy.
Rita Onwurah: I had heard about Emem Isong from 2002/03 and had been a part of one of her productions then. So I’d always wanted to meet her, but then, she was out of the country so I couldn’t meet her. Fast-forward to 2004 and I finally got to meet her through my friend Uduak who happens to be her sister. So when I met her and told her I was interested in writing for film. She said she’ll call me up when something comes up. But then I had to travel for NYSC and then came back to work for Farafina, I was there for 4yrs. Then I quit and decided to face screenwriting fully. The opportunity came when Emem needed to shoot a movie and needed a story. I had a story Id been working on, I presented it to her and the rest, like they say, is history
9jafeminista: Would you say your gender has in any way affected your rise in the industry?
Rita: I don’t think it has. I’m good at what I do and I get referrals because I’m good at my job.
9jafeminista: We know that Nollywood has taken a lot of flak for badly written, badly acted movies, and I know you’re one of the few who have worked at writing world class films. In which ways have you tried to change things from the way they are?
Rita: I guess everyone tries in their own little way. The genesis of every film is a story/ script, the story telling is important and it falls on the screenwriter to make a good story happen.
9jafeminista: From what you said earlier women helped you gain traction in the movie industry so what do you think of this narrative that women are usually jealous of one another?
Rita: Well I wouldn’t term it as exclusive though. If there are women jealous of each other, there are women supporting each other, in my journey in Nollywood, women have been most helpful and supportive
9jafeminista: In what ways have you been instrumental in helping other women?
Rita: Well I give advice to upcoming female screenwriters who are starting out in the industry. Sometimes, I refer them to producers who are looking for scripts and my hands are full. I do recommendations for them as well. The sky is big enough one can’t feel threatened by the presence of another writer. There’ll always be demand for content and truth be told, no one person can meet them all.
9jafeminista: You’re young intelligent, hip and pushing frontiers in nollywood with your skills. Would you say you’re also a feminist?
Rita: I don’t like being typecast. I’m not struggling for a man’s position with him.
9jafeminista: What’s a man’s position?
Rita: I just want to be respected for who I am & what I can do.
9jafeminista: We know that … But what’s a man’s position?
Rita: Maybe I didn’t phrase it correctly. Let the men do them. And let us women do us.
9jafeminista: What do men do? what do women do?
Rita: All that ‘weaker’ sex thing is annoying. Let me be respected for what I can do. Not necessarily my gender
9jafeminista: You do understand gender stereotypes though … Men change tyres, can’t cook, don’t cry kind of thing…
Rita: That gender matter can be very restrictive sometimes and annoying. If a woman can do it, by all means let her. Don’t say she’s a woman therefore she can’t
9jafeminista: Do you in any way challenge these stereotypes in your writing or you’re letting things be?
Rita: I challenge them. But I do it wisely. There are ways one can pass the message across without awakening the ire of people
9jafeminista: Can you give me an example of how you negotiate gender norms in your writing?
Rita: In most male written scripts in Nigeria, there’s a certain stereotype thats given to a woman. She’s either dumb, a gold digger, indecisive, weak…I like to write my female characters as human but strong. She’s the strong mother, the hustling wife, the corporate exec calling shots in the office. Even if she’s in a position of weakness, she’s still strong. Not easily bossed around, can hold her own
9jafeminista: So in a quiet way you’ve been changing things and perspectives. What are your sentiments about mass produced videos that seem to follow the same pattern … Of justifying the abuse of women, women as witches and bitches, stigmatization of women who don’t have children… These are recurrent themes in Nollywood and from all indications it seems that things won’t change anytime soon
Rita: I’m not a fan of those things at all. These guys have no idea about the power of the media, and how they’re feeding a stereotype. For them, the average Nigerian woman is a witch, a bitch or a prostitute and that’s so wrong. Those mass production guys don’t care about the message they’re passing. For them, it’s all about the money. But I’ll take Achebe’s advice when he said “If you do not like the story that is told, write your own.” So I’ll continue to write and eventually produce scripts and stories that edify women and not vilify them.
I have long wondered if I would be this ‘strong and very opinionated’ woman had I stayed and schooled in Nigeria. You see for me feminism was a Western concept started by the Suffragettes who I studied about as part of my history lessons of a British education system so you’ll have to forgive my misguided beliefs as I only found out about the likes of Queen Sheba, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and many others just over a decade ago.
So when I was asked to contribute to 9jafeminista it got me thinking about the things that have shaped me into this modern day British-Nigerian unapologetic feminist that I am.
Firstly I’ll need to pay homage to my mother – despite becoming a widow at a young age of 33 with 4 young children all under five and me her youngest at just six months, growing up I always heard my mum say she never remarried because she didn’t want her children to suffer in the home of a new husband. The significance of this never really resonated with me until my late teens/early twenties when I started to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of marriage in the African context. And for this and many more reasons I am eternally grateful for her as showed me first-hand what it means to have feminist values and how to be strong and resilient.
My feminism was shaped by the books I read by authors such as Maya Angelou, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie, Zora Neale Hurston, and countless others. Books in which strong Black women were a common feature even with their flawed but unapologetic ways.
It is shaped by the song ‘Superwoman’ in which Karyn White lambasts her husband when he starts to take her for granted by crooning
‘ I’m not your superwoman
I’m not the kind of girl
That you can let down
And think that everything is okay
Boy I am only human
This girl needs more than occasional hugs
As a token of love from you to me…’
My feminism is shaped by the friendships I have cultivated with other strong, confident and amazing women I have met across three continents.
It is shaped by the men who allowed me to be both strong and feminine in equal measures.
Lately my feminism has been redefined and further shaped by the many modern day African women feminists I have encountered both in the Diaspora but also on the home continent. Women like the Ogwuegbu sisters who are fearless not just because of their numbers but mainly because of their unapologetic feminist stance. Women like Wana Udobang, Saratu Abiola, Olabukunola Williams, Chika Unigwe, Funmi Iyanda, Abena Gyekye and so many others have shown me that feminism is not a Western construct thus reassuring me I would still be the same unapologetic feminist I am today had I been born and raised in Ojuelegba and not Camden Town.
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.
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?
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?
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
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?
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, 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.