Catcalls – Jumoke Verissimo

Each girl eats her own eyeballs,

floating heels,

confidence-padded into breasts,

kettle-mouth lips

blow off the steam of male gaze;

in a market world women are



Her designer labels with absolute names

the reason for her aching ankles

becomes the shame,

beauty the reason for the spare time

becomes the shame.


The horde’s hoot hang to her feet

as she flees from a body being stripped

of a dress that homes


When a girl discovers she’s dressed in disgrace—

wearing a blemish no foundation


can hide—she moves away from



The market stalls are no shelter for men,

trading in leers that rush after short skirts

teeth spaced for the

tongue to wag;

there’s no signpost to read their


Here are men who once

bargained with brains

now they trade their hearts

as ignorance wares.


And when tongues rip the cloth

off the girl

the shredding men’s eyes will go


to cover a sister, a mother, or a


shame them with another


a poor showman of his market



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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.’


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—


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.


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.


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.


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.