The Anatomy of Transmisogyny

by Tiwatope Adunni

In 2019 I was at one of my lowest after surviving a motorcycle accident which left me with a fractured limb, and hospitalized for  6 months. This period can be considered a phase of awakening because I had nothing else to do but read and reflect.

Shortly after my recovery came the unfortunate incident with the Nigerian police. I was unlawfully harassed, detained and extorted because I was a non-binary feminine of centre person. A month later, my partner of 4years called off the relationship, he was afraid I was high risk and bait for police extortion and attention.

Then came another traumatic period with members of my extended family, some of whom threatened to kill me. I was saved by my great-grandmother, who took me away from this unsafe situation. Now, my grandmother has always been supportive, she in fact raised me, and believed I am the reincarnation of a daughter that she lost when she was a young mother.

It was during this period that it became clear I wouldn’t survive through my identity and I had nowhere to run to. I had two options to either live or die.

In January 2020, I decided to live, and the only means I could live was to agree with and face my reality as a transgender woman and this led to my medical transitioning.

Before my medical transitioning, I only knew what it means to be a non-binary feminine of centre person who lived 21years of their life in an androgynous body, having to struggle daily with questions from both intimates and strangers about my gender identity and expression. The societal construct of what a man should be and what makes a woman, and also having to publicly carry the shame of my gestures, identification, behavioural and gender expression.

However, in my 3rd month of medical transitioning, I started to realize who a Nigerian woman is and what a Nigerian woman should be.

Nigerian women, what kind of women are we?

An average Nigerian woman’s idea of femininity is rooted in the ideological alignment of patriarchy and heteronormativity which unfortunately is the definition of “ideal woman” in a main-stream (men-owned) society. In the Nigeria of today, women are perceived to be second class citizens with little to no significant representation compared to men, and with forcefully ascribed provision of free domestic labour and motherhood duties backed up by social institutions and morality that strongly prioritizes ‘man-hood’.

The socialization of the girl in Nigeria is characterized by fragile femininity, subordination, dependency, prioritizing the male identified body. Most Nigerian girls indoctrinated into this oppressive system grow into women who are upholders of the system suiting the patriarchal satisfaction of what a woman should be and women who set to challenge this patriarchal order are harassed, dehumanized, molested and often criminalized.

Toxic masculinity and femininity, the offshoot of misogyny and transphobia

Toxic masculinity is the foundation of toxic femininity that birthed transphobia. In Nigeria, men are programmed to be measured, dominant and violent through which control the society, while women are programmed to be subordinate irrespective of who or what she thinks she is, she is forcefully pressured and gaslighted to be accountable to a man.

Societal norms and values are dictated by men and any form of opposition to their dominant ideology is considered a threat to society.

Toxic masculinity is the enforcement of dominant masculinity that uphold the reinforcement of patriarchal ideology as a tool for gender policing and misogyny. This means that your masculinity is toxic when you violently make your ‘Maness’ (gender) the criteria for your being by creating an institutionalized behavioural attitude and distinctive features of what a man should be. The patriarchal ideology positions what it is to be a “man” by creating gender scripts as traits that reinstate the dominant features of a man. Toxic masculinity is a tool of oppression in a patriarchal and heteronormative state like Nigeria.

Over time unending violence, harassment, exploitation and marginalization experienced by women has forced most Nigerian women into strongly believing the notion of their oppressors and not only do they believe and absorb the unending violence, but women are also used as bait tools of oppression on other women who are not in construct with the features of womanhood in a patriarchal/heteronormative society. This set of women are the dominant women “hegemonic femininity”.

Hegemonic femininity consists of characteristics defined as womanly that establish and legitimate a hierarchical and complementary relationship to hegemonic masculinity and that, by doing so, guarantee the dominant position of men and subordination of women. (Schippers, 2007: 94).

This simply refers to women who uphold the legitimacy of patriarchy and misogynistic rhetoric to instil fear in other women. A typical example would be a light-skinned woman, heterosexual, gentle, obedient, a ‘good cook’ morally virtuous, able to have kids, and able to stay at home to take care of her husband and children in order words “wife material”.

However, toxic femininity is the influential act of gender policing other women to act in accordance to the woman script, heteronormativity that deifies patriarchal power. It is an integral weapon of transphobia, it normalizes the patriarchal notion of CIS genderism, heteronormativity and so gender policing any person that does not fit into the binary.

Your femininity is toxic when you put the validation of humanness and femininity to the test in the hands of men who are ascribed as superiors. In today’s Nigeria, you are nothing if you are dark-skinned, poor, disabled and a WOMAN.

Femininity in Nigeria at the present date is still deemed as less to masculinity. As a result of the unequal gender binary constructed by the state, women are stereotypically perceived as weak, hypersexual, subhuman and objectified as subservient to men. It is believed that women are incapable to be women when they are not at par with the gender script roles instilled in them by the malestream system. The gender roles of a woman in Nigeria are dictated by men just so women can remain incapable, lesser and weak and not be compared to men who are ‘strong’. The patriarchal tool of oppression has kept women in a cocoon that is in turn giving men more power, recognition and dominance leading to continual gender inequality.

MISOGYNY in the cis-heteronormative binary is a way to measure masculine power’.

As an indigenous Nigerian transgender woman that is living her reality, my experiences with transmisogyny is usually deliberate act/actions from people towards me make me feel less of myself and less of a “woman” such as misgendering with pronouns, hypersexualized because I am a transgender woman in Nigeria whose identity is only determined by my genitalia and an uncommon fantasy that CIS heterosexual men and women want to explore, I experienced deliberate molestation, abuse, gender and body policing by random Nigerians and a lot more that makes question my safety in both public and private spaces.

We cannot fail to acknowledge the presence of transmisogyny in the LGBTQI+ community as trans and femme bodies are isolated from the benefit of this union.

Tiwatope Adunni is queer, a writer , feminist , ijogbon , advocate for gender diverse and sexual minorities. She is currently the programs director at Queercity Media and Productions

Kindly donate to her gofundme, thanks!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-t-survive?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

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.

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

crafts.

 

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

shame.

When a girl discovers she’s dressed in disgrace—

wearing a blemish no foundation

power

can hide—she moves away from

herself.

 

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

folly.

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

home

to cover a sister, a mother, or a

partner

shame them with another

performance

a poor showman of his market

failing

How to join the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Pick-Me’s!

It’s the New Year! Yipee! A New Us! A NEW EVERYTHING! YAY! (AIR KISSES!) Sorry we were yelling, but it’s so exciting to start the New Year with a brilliant new topic on how to join the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Pick-Me’s.

Now we are so excited to lay our hands on this manual because it’s so exclusive, and so expensive and soo classy, (even if we are saying so ourselves). But this is a new 9jafeminista and we will do anything and everything to please you, (we are also hustling for more readers, but that’s by the way). As you well know we are feminist and intersectional and everything but we get all excited when we find new ways to help our fellow sisters.

There’s a whole movement on all social media platforms of the ‘pick-me’ sisters and they do the mostest to get the notice of all the men, (both hot and cold) on Social Media. And we totally understand and damn it the pick-me movement is VALID! (Damn we’re yelling again). This is due to the fact that finding a ‘man’ is so hard, harder than the unpaid labour women put in on the daily. But even harder than that KEEPING the man, phew! That’s close to an impossibility, like pushing a needle through a camel’s toe, or something like that.

Anyway, these special Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Pick-Me’s have discovered something that has never been heard of before, FEMINISTS (spelt s-a-t-a-n) and these people are trying to ruin the market by demanding for absurdities like equity, and equality and educating men to stop raping and assaulting anyone they deem weaker than them, and better governance and bringing an end to domestic, mental and emotional violence… the list of demands goes on and on, but that’s not why we are here. To counter all these narratives that will alienate the better sex (spelt m-e-n) and protect a system(spelt p-a-t-r-i-a-r-c-h-y) the sisters have developed a strategy which we will share with you as soon as we finish jumping for joy.

Get a professionally taken profile picture: The struggle is real sisters, to join the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Pick-Me’s you need a well taken photograph, by a professional, showing your best angles, because before you start creating a social media persona for yourself you need to ensure that your profile pic is popping. Who knows? That brother who will come and change your destiny might decide to zoom in and see the person behind all the brilliant shit you’ll soon be spouting.

Follow feminists: On all your social media handles make sure you follow as many feminists as you can find, because how do you pick their arguments apart if you don’t even see their tweets, facebook posts, Instagram protest photos, snapchat… umm… snapchats?

Make it clear that you are NOT a feminist: Now this here point is EXTREMELY important. From the get-go make it clear that you are NOT a feminist. Yes you are educated, and you might even have a job, and maybe, you even own a car (all of which feminists fought for so you can enjoy but that’s unimportant). Now don’t get it twisted, there are some women who although don’t like the feminist tag (which is totally valid) still believe in equality and equity and all those outrageous demands, you don’t want to get mixed up with those ones either… nah. Make it clear you do not believe in equality, or equity, tell them about your willingness to be a ‘traditional’ wife. Show them!

Display your dexterity at cooking: We all know that feminists don’t (also known as can’t) cook, so you need to display the beauty of your wife material by showing people on social media, that you can cook. Take pictures of yourself in the kitchen, or in the village blowing fire, or handwashing your clothes. In your updates add how hard working you are and how you wake up early in the morning to cook for yourself and all the men in your neighbourhood. We are emphasizing cooking and cleaning since it is a well-known fact that a lot of Nigerian men are looking for unpaid housemaids and they are always hungry.

Take sides with the right side: There are times that arguments will show up on your timeline about these ‘social media feminists’ that come online to advise women to leave their husbands while they are, in real life, cooking, cleaning and blah, blah, blah… make sure you go on that thread and support whoever made that post. Make snide remarks about ‘feminists’ and the fact that they are all bitter aunties and yahdahyah.

Honestly this is getting boring but we never give up do we?

Emphasize traditional values: Why should boys wear yellow? Why should girls wear blue? Boys are boys girls are girls, all these homo-woke people should just go and take several seats! Our mothers lived in the kitchen and see how well we have all turned out, see how Nigeria is the most well-adjusted, corruption free nation on the earth because we are all so perfect, all due to our ‘mothers’ who stayed in the kitchen!

Participate in campaigns: in order to show your ‘human’ side, anytime handles like STER (Stand to End Rape) starts online campaigns to end rape, please join in the thread, especially telling ‘sisters’ to stop clubbing and dancing and wearing short dresses. Give them examples of how women’s dressing can cause ‘temptation’. Make snide remarks about how ‘moral standards’ have been lowered and how ‘good girls get all the attention’.

This shit can go on and on, but it is boring. We hope the above has been useful though… yawn.

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.

Reproductive Health and Rights: A series of interview with women living in low-income communities(III)

After a lot of outcry, both on social media and in traditional news outlets, by feminists and human rights activists about the manner in which the proposed #GEO Bill was thrown off the floor of the National Assembly, the senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki, agreed to re-introduce the bill. It passed a second-reading, and was stalled pending a public hearing which was postponed due to the absence of the members of the senate committee in charge of the hearing.
It is important to note that on June 13,1985 Nigeria ratified, with no exceptions, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which is also considered the international bill of rights for women, but since its ratification, the convention has not been domesticated. The #GEO Bill actually incorporates a large part of the CEDAW.
In this interview, Jolomi* who trained as a ‘chemist’ (drug dispenser) discusses issues bordering on sexual autonomy, the high rate of abortions amongst women in her community, women’s lack of knowledge about their anatomy and inability to take reproductive health decisions due to this ignorance. She also discusses the state of primary health care facilities and the impact poor reproductive health decisions on the population.

Interview with Jolomi

My name is Jolomi, I went through primary school and got my SSCE before venturing into business. I sell medicine and run a chemist [patent medicine store]. It is common amongst women of my age that there’s a lot of ignorance about their bodies and how it works, particularly as it pertains to their reproductive health seeking behaviour. For example, most of the common cases women bring to me are about pregnancies. Like some of them they might be nursing a 2 months old baby and then they’ll come and tell me that they are pregnant. Meanwhile, this same woman might have had four or five children. This goes to show that we, women, need to know the period we should share intimacy with a man. So these women come to me asking me for a solution because they really don’t want to be pregnant yet, or some of them will say they are already pregnant and want to use something to terminate the pregnancy.

Audio excerpt 1

As you well know, prevention is better than cure, so its really important that we know our menstrual cycle so that we’ll know when we should have sex and when we shouldn’t.

I usually carry out a pregnancy test to confirm whether they are actually pregnant or not, it is important to first test for pregnancy. Because some women panic when they don’t see their period two months after delivery, so it’s important to carry out a test, if it’s positive, but if it’s negative then one will confirm that the person is not pregnant.

Usually after the first abortion and I’m able to tell them about their menstrual cycle, and their ‘safe period’, they are usually able to maintain the cycle and will stop making that kind of mistake. Once they learn about it and know it, they never return to me with the same error. And they even go ahead and teach other people about their bodies and their safe periods.

Men don’t experience the kinds of problems women have. It’s god that will have mercy on us women. It is only women that they tell about how to avoid getting pregnant, and the period they have to use condom. This is because its only women that can get pregnant, men don’t get pregnant. On the other hand, men don’t need any kind of warnings or education because they are free. For example when some women are pregnant they won’t feel like having sex again, because of this, such men knowing that if they ask their wives for sex they will get turned down, the man will prefer to have sex with other women.

Audio excerpt 2

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of men lack self-control when it comes to the matter of sex. Even medically it’s difficult for men to control themselves. When men abstain from sex it gives them stomach upset, and this is due to the way their anatomies are made. The stomach upset is caused by the fact that their semen is inside them and they need to release it, so that they’ll become lighter.

A lot of women don’t think about the impact having many children has on the population. For example, let’s say the government did a census last year and counted ten people, whatever plans they have in mind will be for those ten, but if on their return they find out that instead of let’s say 12 people they expected to see, they now find out that there are 2000 people, this causes a lot of difficulty for the government.

The government should make policies and laws that will mandate that female children must go to school up till a certain age, at least until they leave SS3. This will empower them to be able to join in moving the country forward and enable them contribute meaningfully to the society. Many people don’t believe in educating their female children. In some homes they’ll have four children, let’s say two boys and two girls, but they will educate only the boys in a meaningful way. This is because they believe that no matter how well-educated their daughter is, she will end up in the kitchen.

But it’s not supposed to be like that. It shouldn’t be like that. They should understand that women should participate in decision making, so that we women will have power too.

Children should be educated about their reproductive rights and health from the age of 11years. We are all civilized now, and things shouldn’t be covered up again. Sexual rights education should be part of the school’s curriculum, it is also important that parents should have knowledge about these things so that they can also teach their children.

I use family planning methods, the 2 months injection. My children are well spaced, and I don’t suffer from any side effects. Once I stop taking the injections, after six-months, I usually get pregnant. Although I use the services of the health centre in our neighbourhood, I really don’t like going there often. They are always complaining that they don’t have one thing or the other. Their services are never complete, so I prefer going to a private clinic.

To be continued.

  • The interviews were recorded in Yoruba, transcribed and translated to English.
  • The names of correspondents have been changed to protect the identities of the correspondents.
  • For our Yoruba speaking audience audio notes of the women’s interviews are embedded in the article.

 

Find previous interviews here and here.

Reproductive Rights and Health: A series of interviews with women living in low-income communities (II)

In 2016, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi, proposed the incorporation and enforcement of certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, this bill came to be known as the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO Bill).

Of interest are items 5 and 7.

Item 5 seeks to modify socio-cultural practices within both public and private spaces that causes people to be fitted into stereotypes (classifying them as inferior or superior).

… every public or private educational institution shall ensure the adoption of appropriate teaching methods and curriculum including provision of facilities that emphasise the promotion of equality of all sexes in all circumstances and for all purposes, including choice of career, equal participation and inclusion of all persons in all activities of the school or institution. – GEO Bill 2016, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi.

While item 7 directly addresses the issue of eliminating discrimination in education. The bill was thrown out of the senate.

This action shows that the Nigerian government, in spite of many studies and evidence, do not understand that the more educated a woman is, the better her understanding of her reproductive rights and eventual reproductive health seeking behaviour. When women are educated they are able to make informed choices about the kind of Family Planning Methods they would use. They can make the connection between high birth rates and population explosion and how it affects the economy and the family’s spending power.

There are several similarities between Ruth’s interview and the one granted to us by Kudirat.

Interview with *Ruth

My name is Ruth and I’m a trader, I sell everyday goods from my house. I finished my secondary school education (SS3) and I am going to be 40 years old soon. I have four children, three boys and one girl. I didn’t use any family planning methods until just before I had my daughter. And even at that I only used the contraceptive for about six months.

Audio excerpt from Ruth’s interview (in Yoruba)

I stopped using it because I was allergic to it. I went to a private hospital when I wanted to do family planning, but they didn’t carry out any test on me. They only asked me the type I wanted. They wanted to know if I would want to use the one inserted into the arm, or the one inserted into the vaginal tract [Intrauterine contraceptive Devices, IUCD], or the injections [injectable contraceptives]. I told them I would like the injection that lasts for about three months. But after I took the injection my period kept flowing, all the time, that’s why I stopped taking the injections.

It is possible that public hospitals and health care centres carry out tests to determine the type of contraceptives that will work with one’s body, but those ones [a private clinic], didn’t do any test for me they didn’t tell me about any kind of side-effect, they just said that whoever elects to do the one inserted into the arm[contraceptive implants] that it lasts for five years.

According to some people, the one inserted into the arm needs a surgery, they will first open up your arm and some other people claim that it is quite painful. This is why I didn’t go down that line. And the one that is inserted inside you also has one long rope that makes washing down there discomforting. These are the reasons I decided to take the injection, particularly since all my friends are using that same method.

Nobody told me about menstruation or reproductive health or how to take care of myself, because I never really lived with my mum. The person that raised me was an old woman and she’s not the type to discuss that kind of thing with you. But, you know, when one starts going to school, once you start getting to SS (senior secondary school) you start hearing about different things, and then the subjects we were taught, particularly if you take sciences, you know… and by then one is no longer a child…the older one gets, the wiser one becomes. It’s because the world has become so civilized. When we were at the age that these children who are getting pregnant are, nobody ever discussed sex with us, but as the world is becoming more advanced, a lot of children are growing up pretty fast. Until I left secondary school I didn’t have a boyfriend.

Audio excerpt 2 from our interview with Ruth (in Yoruba)

As far as I’m concerned as soon as a child turns fifteen, one should be telling them about sex, in fact one can tell them that if you have sex with a man you’ll get pregnant immediately. There’s this program that we watch, on Saturday evenings, that one man was accused of raping a 3year old child.

If a man can afford it nothing stops you from having as many children as possible. I have a friend whose husband loves children, a lot of children. But the man is very rich and can afford to take care of them, that man has 3 wives, but he has divorced one of them, the other two are still having children. The number of children one has depends on the man, you know some men love having children. But some people decide that they will only have the number of children they can afford. In that case both the man and the woman will discuss this. There are also some men who don’t take care of their children, once a woman knows the kind of man she’s married to, she can go ahead and do family planning.

But in some cases, the husband and wife decides to plan their families, the husband is the one who will even give his wife money to go to the hospital.

As for us, there’s no number of children that we can’t decide to have, my father-in-law has many children, and he’s always telling his own children to have many children. This is due to the fact that my father-in-law was his mother’s only child. But then everyone has to decide the number of children they want to have, depending on whether they can afford it.

Especially with how everybody is becoming educated and school fees are becoming higher. It’s not everyone who has a high number of children that’s not educated, it depends on individuals and their love for children. I once worked in Lagos with a couple, very rich couple, but they have only two children, if this couple decides to have ten children, they can afford it. Education has nothing to do with the number of children you have.

To be continued.

  • The interviews were recorded in Yoruba, transcribed and translated to English.
  • The names of correspondents have been changed to protect the identities of the correspondents.
  • For our Yoruba speaking audience audio notes of the women’s interviews are embedded in the article.

Ikenga!

She looked to her left, then her right. There was no one in sight. She could see light from afar but no shadows or figures. She kept walking, almost running. She knew that everything ends tonight.

It used to be sweet and good, but now, it’s painful.

Pain-ful. And bad.

Ugly-bad.

She continued to run-walk.

Everything had been good and beautiful until her husband, Ikenga, brought that witch of a sister to live with them. She had protested the decision, but Ikenga had promised her that it was just for some time. Maybe a month or two. But that month or two had stretched into six, seven, eight, nine months and half, and that girl became pregnant.

Pregnant! She almost screamed, she clamped her mouth with her left hand.

Pregnant for Ikenga!

Who would believe this?

And he never attempted to deny it. All he said was that she wasn’t related to him .

But how could she have been so foolish? How could she not have seen that they were not related? That the girl was his new wife, sent from the village by her mother-in-law, to come and take her Ikenga from her.

That witch of a mother!

She kept walking and running.

Crying.

That girl with her nonsense pregnancy! Ha the way she’d been flaunting it, as if she wants to torment my childlessness. It’s not my fault that my stomach cannot hold a pregnancy.

Ikenga had been so supportive of her, consoling her and fighting his mother for her. He had comforted her and followed her to all the doctors and pastors that were recommended. He had cooked and drank and bathed with all the oil and herbs and potions and concoctions they were given. He had prayed and fasted and thrown small parties for children like they were told, parties because children are spirits and if treated well and kindly with love and generosity, could bring babies to those who sought them.

Ikenga!

Why didn’t you tell me that you wanted a baby badly? Why humiliate me?

A light flashed from afar. A thick voice, almost like leather, asked who it was. She stopped.

Police! Yes. It was the police.

She ran towards them.

They kept the torchlight shining into her face, blinding her.

“Woman, what is the problem? Where are you coming from this late in the night?”

“I killed them! My husband and the pregnant girl. I killed them both with poison. Please arrest me… arrest me now!”

 

Som’Adina Kambilinudo is a writer, a human being. 

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma – through the eyes of a feminist

In three hundred and one pages, Chigozie Obioma weaves a tale about a family, the family of Eme Agwu, a Banker, who leaves his family in Akure because his employer, the Central Bank of Nigeria, transferred him to Yola.

Back in Akure, his first four boys break free and do the things boys do and more, while under their mother’s watch. An apocalyptic prophecy followed this freedom tumbling the family into a seemingly endless tale of horror.

When you pick a copy of The Fishermen, sit down, and make sure you get a bottle of chilled beer. It will help in the digestion of all the well-manicured sentences in the book, as the book is an intelligent book that says what it intends to say and doles out words, unsparingly, like a generous mother.

While you’re reading it, you will discover that this resplendent book is about the women that waited on their husbands to survive. Women who watched their empire fall apart because of the absence of their husbands, because they have been raised to be nothing but women; primed to depend on men for their survival. And if, per chance, the man of the house leaves, these women wear the gait of a wet mouse and murmur about being left alone with growing boys, and in the case of death, they become petty traders, hawking groundnuts, and raising malnourished sons, having a sea of endless wants and telling tales, running around their houses naked till their almost insane son rapes them, and kills their other son, and finally run mad.

When you encounter the numerous tragedies that are splattered on almost every page of the book, close your eyes to how it pulverizes and pummels the female characters, and simply shrug, after all, they are women; another name for ‘the insignificant other’.

It is horrendous to break a tear for them, and please do not even sniffle like them because it is very womanly to shed a tear.

Real men don’t cry.

Be a REAL man.

Always bear in mind that The Fishermen is a book about a ‘head honcho’ of a father who leaves his home in Akure because his employer prefers him to be in Yola. As he leaves, he leaves his six children with his insignificant other who is ‘only fully realised in presence, the woman whose maternal vigilance falls apart with her husband’s momentary absence’.

It is, therefore, natural that while she carries her children in the earthenware pot she carries on her head, while focussing on the other things in her hands, her four boys break the pot and run free. Bouncing around with their ball to hit the disabled, shatter glass windows, and then when the ball becomes what it shouldn’t be, they become fishermen, fishing in Omi-Ala, that dreadful river where even adults dread to go.

And so, in there, they fish out the madman who utters an ugly prophecy that will fiberize the four fishermen.

And these women, when they weren’t able to bear a child for their dead husbands, wouldn’t mind seeking solace in the loins of a ‘mad’ man, after all, a mad man is also a man. A mad man is better than a drunken husband who comes home naked and couldn’t bring money for his sick child, a man who visits violence on his family when asked to perform his fatherly duties.

Such a man is better off killed with a chair.

Obioma’s The Fishermen depicts the consequences of pushing women to the margin of the society. And even when Eme Agwu sketched a pattern for the future of his children, the functionality of gender, as it stands today, isn’t thrown aside. Ikenna was to be a pilot, Boja was to be a lawyer, Obembe the family’s doctor, Benjamin a Professor, David an engineer, and Nkem… a woman.

This can be an immediate indoctrination for the female child to believe that she is a second class citizen, the one who functions like the vassal conditioned to serve the suzerains, and who in likewise manner, favour their hard deeds in a superior way. In similar vein, the women are expected to serve the men in their lives, and then depend on them for their survival; a system which readily showcases an imbalance of power.

The first sentence shows the boys’ new career as fishermen and the event that sparked up this choice: ‘…father moved out of Akure.’ And the realization of this news created a new mother for the Agwu family. ‘Mother emerged a different being. She had acquired the gait of a wet mouse, averting her eyes as she went about…(9)’ She also missed the church because she was busy priming her primary duty as a woman: taking care of her husband. The news, that her husband would be leaving their six children and the home with her, shook her. She says all she could to dissuade Eme as he drives out of the life they know, but Eme is almost sure that his wife could do it, that she could run the home without him.  Eme, just as the many men who are not aware of the gender problem in Africa, wasn’t aware that in his absence, mother isn’t human enough to keep her boys together because the society had socialized her to shrink herself, to silence herself, to always wait on the man. She is a falconer, who sees all, she staves off all ills from the hills where she stands, however, she couldn’t see that her young birds were fishing curses from the cursed river, Omi-Ala, and she still would not have seen it if her neighbour, Iya Iyabo, did not burst the boys secret.

In fact it is ignorable and forgivable.

The Fishermen does nothing to challenge the society.

The book is a perfect example of why we need to re-evaluate our postures on women and their place in the society. It shows a need for us to reign in our impulse to stereotype the Nigerian woman especially in this day and age and particularly in works of literature.

A society will be safer if it glories in the functionality of its women rather than in their passivity.

*Published by Cassava Republic in 2015, Obioma’s debut novel, TheFishermen, was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Ada Chioma Ezeano

 

A brief Slut Shaming Dictionary aka Slut Shaming on Fleek

This article is dedicated to one thing and one thing only, arming you with words. Yes we can, arm you with words that should be used the next time you’re going on a slut shaming mission. We would be dismayed, if you start this very important activity that helps the patriarchy control women’s bodies without using the proper slangs and terms.

What else are we here for but to help you achieve your dreams of a world without equality, a world in which women are seen as objects (preferably sex objects). In this Utopia, men would be able to strip women that annoy them on the streets naked, without fear of reprisal. Teachers can sleep with as many of their underage students as it is possible, women with cups bigger than an ‘A’ cup size can be stared at and the state of their sexuality a topic for discussion and debate. Men will be able to grab the boobs of women they meet in the swimming pool. In this ideal world, women will be able to give excuses for the rape of other women… ooops… wait… we are living in this sexist utopia already!

But… we won’t let that stop us! Hell to the No! We will still go ahead and equip you with words that hurt, words that can maim, or kill… words that will continue to make this utopia of ours what it is today, a country without the basic amenities, but is obsessed with sex, money and religion (and not necessarily in that order).

Without any further ado, we introduce our dictionary of slut shaming.

Slut Shaming – stigmatizing a woman for having sex, or stigmatizing a woman on the suspicion that she’s having sex, or stigmatizing a woman on the suspicion that she might be planning to have sex… makes absolute sense don’t it?

Ashawo: If there’s any Nigerian dictionary, the word ‘Ashawo’ is the only one deserving of a whole page for itself, just that word, ‘ashawo’ written on a plain foolscap page… why you ask. Well this is simple, ashawo is one of the few (and we dare say the only) word understood across all languages, all ethnic boundaries. Ashawo is a prostitute, ashawo gives sex for money, ashawo sleeps around, her body count is almost as high as that of the Nigerian population.
Ashawo is to be pitied, only to be seen (by men) under the cover of darkness.

Ashawo is a slut.

Slut: is a term for a woman or girl who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous (Wikipedia)

Although men who are promiscuous are called ‘Community Penis’ note that being a community penis does not make you a slut, which is why another word had to be coined for them.

A community penis is a ‘man’, because part of hyper-masculinity is your ability to have as many sexual partners as possible.

Side-Chick – the other woman; also known as the mistress; a female that is neither a male’s wife or girlfriend who has relations with the male while he is in another relationship (Urban Dictionary).

Men are expected to cheat, women are not expected to cheat. In a heteronormal, hyper-religious and homophobic society like ours that operates a gender binary system, we wonder who men are supposed to cheat with… other men? Trans? Lesbians? Who?… but that is not why we are here…

The point is, a side-chick is a slut, an ashawo, who is giving sex away ‘free of charge’.

Transactional Sexual Relationships: We know you did not come here to read big-big grammar… who grammar don epp? But there are times that you need to sound like a Patrick Obahiagbon in order to get your point across. If you can throw this sentence into a conversation surrounding slut-shaming, we assure you that will be the end of that matter!

So what are transactional sexual relatitonships?

Transactional sexual relationship is closely linked to socio-cultural expectations of gender whereby a man is expected to act as a provider to their partners and women expect a compensation for ‘giving’ sex. This results in implicit assumptions of exchange, whereby for example a man might buy a woman a drink and her acceptance implies a willingness to have sex.(Wikipedia)

In proper Nigerian English, what this means is that a man is expected to be the ‘provider’ of money and penis, and in exchange a woman is expected to ‘give’ sex and often times, these days, domesticity.

Body Count – also known as ‘how many men have you slept with?’ Having a body-count of more than half, qualifies you for sluthood… period!

With these few, but very important words, we encourage you to go into the world and put women to task.

A girl is unreachable because she’s classy, she has a job and doesn’t want to date a jobless, uncivilized slob? Call her a slut.

A girl turns down your proposal for friendship because she’s noticed that you’re borderline sociopath? Call her a slut.

A girl breaks up with you? Call her a slut.

You rape a girl and she reports you to the police? Call her a slut.

You blackmail a vulnerable girl into having an affair with you and then she calls it off? Call her a slut.

A girl refuses to sleep with you because you’re suffering from hyper-masculinity and have violent tendencies? Call her a slut.

A girl refuses to wash your underpants because she’s not your domestic help and breaks up her friendship with you? Call her a slut.

Slut shaming covers a multitude of sins…

Are we saying that you’re a sinner? Oh no we wouldn’t dare say that…

Do we dare call you a misogynist, self-hating, uncivilized pig?
Oh no, we are not that nasty… are we?