Classism is the bane of Nigerian society, and it has crept into a feminist movement that’s still grappling with issues as basic as gender roles, the perfect victim syndrome, sex-work and LGBTQI rights.
During protests and discourses that have taken place since this new wave of feminism, which gained traction on social media over the past five years or so (a renaissance led by the LGBTQI community), there has been an ongoing battle to establish respectability politics especially amongst younger feminists.
There is always more outrage when ‘virgins’ are raped than when sex-workers are sexually assaulted by the police, the rights of women to safe abortions is glossed over, and the silence is usually resounding when LGBTQI rights are mentioned.
This attitude stems from the Nigerian middle-class obsession with sex- sex not as pleasure but as an act performed on the feminine, sex as a value judgement on who has been ‘good’ or ‘bad’, who’s deserving, who’s not.
Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise that a lot of Nigerian feminists (in the wake of a transphobic tweet made by a popular white feminist writer) have been twisting themselves into pretzels to define who a woman is in order to invalidate the existence of trans persons (trans-women in particular as trans-men are still being erased).
Gender is a capitalist/patriarchal construct and there’s no greater illustration of this than the existence of the intersex, trans-persons and gender queer persons.
Trans-persons in particular have been at the vanguard of LGBTQI rights movement which in it’s recent history has been incorporating feminist values into it’s narratives.
Unfortunately these online attacks on trans-persons always translate into real time attacks on real or perceived queer people, and feminists, of all people, should understand that ‘its not just the internet’ because most of the street protests and gains in policy making around gender equality started online, and if these impacts can be made through the use of social media, how much more discriminatory speeches directed at people who have already been made vulnerable by laws designed by the government for that exact purpose.
When feminists theorise and advocate for the dismantling of the patriarchy, it is a call for dismantling gender and all it’s accoutrements. We are saying the feminine deserve respect and equal treatment, that we are not slaves or chattels created for the use of a sex that has been set up as ‘better’. We are insisting that these so called biological differences are not so different if the medical field is not so misogynist. Above all we insist on empathy and that the rights of all human beings, irrespective of their race, sex or identities, should be respected.
Transphobia is homophobia, it is misogynist and violent. Your ‘innocent’ remarks online can and in most cases, would lead to the assault of a person who doesn’t fit into gender stereotypes. And most of the people that come under attack are poor Nigerians who don’t have access to the opportunities that makes you privileged.
These human beings, more often than not do not have access to the opportunities that enable you to own phones and make internet subscriptions. They can’t call anyone when arrested by the police, their parents are too poor to afford bail. They are everyday people who suffer in silence because your feminism is too classist to take note of them, and even when you deign to, you’re in your ‘saviour’ mode.
Who is a woman? A woman is the feminine, she is whoever she says she is, and as long as this woman is in no way harming you, then you have absolutely no right to cause her harm.
Ayodele Olofintuade – Writer/Journalist/Researcher.
Lakiriboto Chronicles: A History of Badly Behaved Women https://g.co/kgs/JWxHky