One of the most used beauty brands on the continent, Dove, came under fire for their most recent advertisement.
There is no standard for normal
Unusual, is that the word you’re looking for?
Who made you a gender marshal?
Who made you a Human Marshal?
What is with you and your gender obsession?
You’re only human,
Inquisitive by nature,
You are not a judge.
Let you bother you
Stop with trying to score cheap points.
I’m not an object of entertainment
Stop with the bullying
I will no longer normalize abuse
Where were we? Oh yes, gender messages from the entertainment industry that irritate me or put another way, the reason why when I’m consuming Nigerian entertainment, I’m usually either angry or pretending not to be a feminist.
- The enlightened artist poking light fun at women. These are the kind of artists that I usually could listen to and watch all day – clever, funny, enlightened young men, banging beats, trendy hip outfits, cool dance moves, interesting lyrics…until the topic turns to women. Then they turn into finger wagging, self-righteous turds with indulgent grins on their faces as they tell you that they are good men but really! Aren’t women just generally unreasonable?!
I have no objection to men singing or rapping about bad experiences with women (it’s only when I realise how often female artists in Nigeria sing about how keen they are to die for a man they’ve just met that my mood turns dark) but again it’s the generalisation, the division, lack of any attempt to analyse societal reasons for this so-called unreasonable behaviour, the assumption that they can tell us what to be that ….well let’s just say it upsets me a bit. I will just add that perhaps if some of these artists had women staff above the role of receptionist, they may have a more rounded view of the female gender.
- Male celebrities that bemoan the fact that women of nowadays are no longer like their mothers and that the search for modern, new-fangled things like gender equality, a desire to be treated decently and some semblance of a life outside the family is what is ruining marriages. I won’t waste too much time on this one as I will be veering into the murky world of lambasting people whose view-points are the exact opposite of mine. I doubt if those people would have gotten past line 3 of this rant. I’ll just say this, what ruins marriages is bad behaviour. It could be bad behaviour of either or both spouses. However, when men behave badly and women do not put up with it, the women are ruining the marriages and/or failing to keep her toddler-king, sorry husband, from completely throwing his toys out the pram.
- Lyrics. So many examples but this one stands outs: If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then according to some Nigerian songs, the way to a woman’s heart is through mild but consistent harassment. Let me illustrate:
“I say I need you girl
You say you need some time
But time e no dey girl
Answer me on time
I dey beg you say make you follow me
You tell say you no love me” (from Sade by Adekunle Gold)
Well then, I think the answer is no, mate. There is a similar (but somewhat more aggressive) sentiment in his song ‘Friendzone’.
The singer (who I love and who has written many wonderful songs celebrating the humanity of women) is of course only expressing what already happens in society. Some would even say the characters in his songs are being romantic. Certainly, when I was growing up in Nigeria, a guy was expected to chase a girl and if he accepted the first (and second and third) no, he wasn’t ‘serious’. Similarly, if a girl said yes to a date at the first ask then she was ‘easy’ and the victory was not ‘sweet’. To be fair, all over the world, the chase is lauded as a sign of true romance.
However, when does no mean no? Isn’t this game dangerous in respect of the issue of consent? What happened when I was growing up was that a girl had to finally tell the guy in an aggressive, unpleasant and rude way that she wasn’t interested for him to finally get the message. Any niceness was a sign that there was still a chance.
- When a male celebrity is caught cheating and there’s the understandable and predictable backlash on social media or wherever and some pompous soul takes it upon him (or her) self to point out that no one ever said the man in question was a ‘perfect husband’
Apparently the only qualification for being a perfect husband is not cheating. A perfect wife, on the other hand, needs to be a great cook (and cook all the time), raise perfect children, have a flawless and youthful figure and face, have her own money, hand you her salary every month, NEVER question you, be humble, wash her husband’s pants by hand, cure cancer…you get the picture. Cheating doesn’t come into it. A woman who cheats is a demon. A man who cheats is ‘not perfect’. All together ladies “WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR YOU TO BE PERFECT, JUST DON’T CHEAT (and add disgrace by letting them catch your ass on camera)!!!!!”
Rant over. Soapbox under the bed. I’m just glad we’re having the conversation.
Chimamanda Adichie once said that feminism is not a cloak that she puts on and takes off as the circumstances suit. I’m afraid that when it comes to enjoying Nigerian entertainment, whether its comedy, films, music, or blogs, I often have to take that cloak right off, put it aside and cover it with another cloak, for good measure.One thing I hear a lot, in response to Nigerian feminism, is why do they have to be so angry, rude, unpleasant? My question is this: Is it possible to be a Nigerian feminist and NOT be angry. So much of Nigerian entertainment (and virtually everything else) has a gloss of the most blatant sexism that, let me tell you, unless I take off that cloak, I’m foaming at the mouth half the time.
Just for the heck of it, I’ll take a deep breath and try to narrow down the things that make my blood boil into a tidy list.
1. The gold-digging narrative. Comedy and comedic music are especially guilty of this. Apparently, a woman will be the most appalling bitch until you ‘show her the money’ at which point she will turn into the sweetest thing who will forgive you and give you anything. When I say woman, I don’t mean ‘good woman’, of course. A good woman, upon setting eyes on you, will apparently sell her siblings to put you through school so you can reward her by marrying her and keeping her in the background for the rest of her life, but that’s another topic.My thoughts on this? If there is a high incident of gold-digging among Nigerian women (and I’d like to see the statistics please), it’s for 2 reasons – the Nigerian economy has been messed up for a long time and pussy is easy to sell. You better believe that if dick was as easy to sell in Nigeria, these men would be balancing it on their heads like Olajumoke the bread seller.What makes me so bitter is not that very few people acknowledge the role men play in these transactions. It’s the fact that if a young woman decides to work hard at university and her job to make her money, there’s a high chance that she will be subjected to so much sexual harassment (what’s the penalty for that, in Nigeria, I wonder) from her lecturers, employers and company clients that she might be left wondering whether it wasn’t just easier to sleep with that rich married man in the first place.
2. The use of hoe/slut/pom/karashika/Jezebel (the born-again version) and other variations. Those words have become meaningless nouns to describe a range of women from a paid sex worker to a woman who annoyed you at the bus stop to a woman who has exactly the same morals as the man calling her a hoe. It’s an age-old tactic to demonise women, justify bad treatment of women, keep the ‘Madonnas’ separate from the ‘whores’ and to get other women to buy into the division, as long as they get to be the Madonnas . It started with witches in the Middle Ages and got down to bitches. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Eldee, in a recent twitter rant, called Amber Rose and Kim Kardiashian hoes (actually he said ‘hoe ambassador’ which I thought was rather clever) but in reality they are just women that seem to have normal sex/relationship lives but like to, for some reason, put their naked bodies on blast. Lesson: It doesn’t mean anything, those words are just used to scare women into ‘behaving’.
3. Don’t get it twisted. Some women will act the damn fool for no apparent reason. In Nigeria, when a woman acts crazy, not only is she labelled for life, society immediately identifies an imaginary pack of women, who all apparently behave the same way, and labels them accordingly. The woman isn’t just a bitch – she’s one of them ‘bitches’. When a man behaves terribly, he’s a ‘work in progress’ and ‘God is still working on him’ because you know ‘anything is possible with Jesus’.
4. Male celebrities who loudly and repeatedly insist they want a hard working woman, how they can’t stand “laziness in a woman” and how she should bring something (usually money) to the table. For a while, I couldn’t really figure out what irritated me so much about these statements. I don’t actually buy into the whole idea that the man is the main ‘provider’ in a marriage or relationship.Apart from the implication that women are naturally lazy gold-diggers (see above), what bugs me about this statement? Reading an interview with a popular Kenyan actor who has made similar statements, the light bulb suddenly flicked on. He was asked if he could cook and he said no. No. Without apology or explanation. So what does he expect to be doing so while his wife is out there hustling for her half of the moolah and she calls him. “Honey, I have a late meeting, could you give the kids their tea and put them in bed” – “Ah, but you know, I can’t cut onion without you…..”There are 2 things going on here. Firstly domestic work, usually the domain of women in Nigeria and the rest of the world, is being devalued. It doesn’t matter how well she keeps your home and your children and how much that enables you to be the successful person you are, if she isn’t earning, she’s a leech. Secondly, you want her to continue her traditional female role (I mean you may help out but the home is her ‘responsibility’), and then somehow go out and have the same earning power as you have. Bonus point: You want her to be financially independent while you remain domestically dependent.Some (must always remember to say ‘some’) of the guys have a really good gig here. They get to shame women for being poor or gold diggers while ignoring the factors that keep women from making money – less job opportunities, getting paid less for the same job, sexual harassment or coercion at work, hours spent on doing all the domestic work. And also! They’ve decided that domestic work isn’t worth anything while carefully avoiding it themselves! Hurrah!
To be continued…
Dearest Friend and Feminist,
Feminism is not for perfect people. Come with your flaws. Come with your quirks. Come with your peculiarities. Come with your religious beliefs and come with everything you have, and as you are. Don’t be roped into thinking that you need be perfect or fit into ‘one of a kind’ mould before you can identify with this movement/ideology. This is not that place.
Be spurred by injustice. Be spurred by inequality. Be spurred by a broken heart and be spurred by love. Whatever your reason for identifying with feminism, embrace it. It is valid.
This idea of who a ‘good feminist’ is or who a ‘bad one’ is, simply muddles the irrefutable diversity of human differences and experiences and you know what else, it attempts at equating your feminism with some behavioural codes. I’m not a good feminist and I am not a bad feminist. I’m simply a feminist, one influenced by my environment, personal character and inherent quirks. I will be good somedays and I will be very bad some other days. We cannot all be the same and there is no one shade of this ideology.
And something else, when you’re called a Facebook(Twitter) Feminist, accept that tag proudly. There is something called Digital Activism and social media is as valid as any other mode of activism. The digital world is as real as the offline world. The work you do online is valuable as the offline work. This is our reality. Digital conversations are making much impact as non-digital conversations. Anyone who undermines the influence of this space is living in the rocks. Social media is real and it’s influence is real. And whether your advocacy is just online, that is valid.
You need nothing else except the drive for fairness and equality of all persons. You will make mistakes because you’re human and don’t think it will subtract from your right to identify with feminism.
Your existence is larger than one ideology you identify with. There is more to you. You contain multitudes.
You’re allowed to be flawed, contradictory, messy and confused. Don’t ever submit yourself to some purity test of what qualifies or disqualifies your feminism. There is no appointed feminist police to scrutinise your authenticity. Own that label and stumble around, make your mistakes and learn from them. And don’t be too concerned with the superficiality of your preferences; whether you love or hate men, or whether you like or detest make up, or whether you dress as a tomboy or a Madonna, or whether you enjoy erotic or Shakespearean books.
Never attempt to organise your entire life into ‘feminist acts’ or ootherwise. Your life is fluid. And don’t be too concerned about the people who have an entire script of what you should be doing or how you should live as a Feminist when they are doing none of that. If they were genuine, they will lead the way and show you ‘the right way’ but their true intentions is that they are here to discredit you. Keep doing your thing. And if you’re bad, well half a loaf is better than no loaf.
In conclusion, acknowledge that you’re making a change, nothing else matters. Go eat some ice-cream or baileys and if you’re a Nigerian, indulge yourself this very long weekend/holiday starting now! Go and prosper or see a movie.
All the love in my heart.
Two weeks ago, in Ikoyi, Lagos, a bunch of schoolgirls sat for their finals and took to the streets in celebration. A bunch of boys from a school next door, (who had just finished their finals too) also took to the streets and started harassing these school girls They tore their clothes, stole their phones and money, and then attempted to rape these girls, in broad daylight.
This week, in South-Africa, one girl was beaten to death and then burnt beyond recognition by her ex-boyfriend Another was kidnapped and brutalized as she tried to escape from the car of her kidnapper.
In order to draw attention to the manner in which girls and women are being brutalized by the society, to examine the different ways that the entitlement mentality, with which men and boys are raised, contributes to the high rate of violence against women, and highlight the different ways that men can help mitigate other men’s terrible attitude towards women, the #menarescum/#menaretrash movement was trended on social media by gender activists and feminists from all over Africa.
It has become the norm on social media that whenever feminists or gender activists are advocating for the rights of the woman, men (and women) barge into the threads and try to trivialise the issues
(by personalising it), this usually descends into a troll-fest with the activists accused of misandry and warnings issued to non-feminist women to stay off the threads because they run the risk of not being seen as ‘good girls’ and ‘wife-materials’.
The #notallmen hashtag is an example of the defences raised by men to tackle what is perceived as an attack by feminists on the institute of ‘manhood’.
However, this latest hashtag has gotten more backlash from both men and women, even those previously seen as allies to the gender equality movement. The tag #menarescum/#menaretrash is seen as being unnecessarily harsh, demeaning and off-putting. Unlike previous times when the voices of feminists and gender activists gain a lot of traction during activism on social media, the voices of people protesting against the hashtag is louder and angrier.
Although gender activists pointed out that the hashtag is not directed at men in particular, but at the structures/systems that brought about inequalities and lately, spates of brutalization against women, a lot of people are not buying it.
According to @Mr Boro, a Twitter user:
“The same way you feel the need to say all men are trash is the same way I feel the need to always disagree. You can’t gag me.”
He goes further:
“You can advocate for women’s rights without putting men down. They are not mutually exclusive.”
“Shouting men are scum on Twitter won’t stop Titi, 28 in Iganmu from getting slapped by her husband tomorrow.”
A lot of activists disagree with Mr, Boro, because they believe that with more push women will come to know and recognize their rights and men will be forced to examine their sense of entitlement and privileges afforded them by the patriarchal system presently at work on the continent.
@ChineEzeks a well-known activist and advocate for gender equality;
“You’re not trash, but you feel more displeasure about being called trash than about women experiencing displeasure from trash. Ok.”
Also calling out people about examining their reasons for being up-at-arms against the hashtag was @Aninoritse, gender and LGBTQ rights activist;
“And correct the scum among you. No o. You’re crying and claiming we are making noise.”
“This is why the narrative will never change. Men are scum/trash. Instead of you men to band together and weed out your scum.”
The narrative emerging from these engagements seems to be that advocates should not be so ‘hostile’ in highlighting the ways inequalities have put everyone at a disadvantage. That the engagements should be less confrontational/militant.
The question is, has the less militant activism worked? In all these years of gender rights activism in Africa what has really worked? Can the answer be gotten from our history? Particularly the activism carried out by women pre- and during colonialism. Were there other tools of engagement used by women before getting to the point of ‘sitting-on-a-man’(a tool used by Eastern women to correct power imbalances) and the topless protests carried out by women in the Western part of Nigeria to protest injustices by government authorities.
On the other hand, post-independence, women advocates all over Africa have been lobbying their various governments for change in policies for over 30years, the advocacies are slowly, but surely, changing the landscape of women’s rights. Case in point the Violence Against Person’s bill which has been passed into law and the Child right’s act, which has gained traction in several states of the federation.
The way and manner through which feminists have engaged the issues of activism worldwide is vastly different, the end result has always been highlighting and correction of gender imbalances, can we then say that the #menarescum/#menaretrash movement has been able to achieve its aim?
Pounded every word
Into her pale, yellow, skin.
Yellow turned blood red.
Ashawo na bastard!
Rending the universe apart
Chase after one another
Through her eyes
Do mi pay!
The good old boys club
For hitting her
He had no shame
For getting caught with her
He blushed with pain
Ashawo na bastard!
Against her fate
Her man-made fate
She called down
The wrath of the gods
Esu is my witness
Ogun my machete
Na thunder go fire you!
Your children shall know pain!
With no name
Gather her shattered bits
Into her dignity
She would show no weakness
She would no longer
Be a victim
She looked me in the eye
“I will like some privacy now.”
This made me wonder
Made me muse
Who’s really the bastard
Who’s the fool?
– Ayodele Olofintuade
Having a marginalised identity does not automatically amount to expertise on any or all marginalisations.
I learned this the hard way.
Equality will always feel like oppression to the privileged.
At moments like this I’m reminded it’s crucial to listen more and speak less. The worst thing about being loud and wrong is the loudness.
In a way, the knee-jerk reaction of cis-women to vehemently deny trans-womanhood as womanhood, reminds me of the reactions that survivors of (violent) penetrative rape had to my assertion last year that any absence of consent in sexual activity is in fact rape.
It’s this idea that validating experiences not our own (or not those that are historically mainstream) ‘diminishes’ the value of a thing.
An idea which is of course, patently false.
Drawing borders around the validity of experiences doesn’t actually make the experiences of those outside the borders go away. It just makes it okay to gaslight the fuck out of them.
But people KNOW what they’ve been through & who they are. Gatekeepers force madness on folks by insisting that things they know to be true are lies, then turn around & call them mad.
You’re already inside the circle. Nobody is pushing you out. We’re just saying that you drew the line at the wrong point & it needs to move.
Now comes the real question: Whether you want to stand inside a circle where you have to be next to people you don’t see as fully human.
That’s what drives pushback against inclusion really: people who have something thinking people who are less human than them will get it too.
Transphobic cis women act as if the category ‘woman’ is so valuable that ‘men’ will want to steal it from them. How laughable is that??
Men KNOW how trash it is to be a woman in this world. That’s why they’re always on about not wanting/being afraid for their daughters followers.
Even cis-women don’t want to be ‘women’ as it is constructed within the gender binary. That’s why feminism exists in the first place.
So why would anyone with any kind of real ‘male privilege’ want to give that up…to ‘become’ a woman?
Nigerians will defend gender essentialist transphobia as if we don’t culturallly call men ‘woman wrapper’ or ‘woman’ as an insult.
If we really care about people, we need to stop defending borders that attempt to invalidate their lives (and eventually, simply kill them).