June 18, 2016 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu
Feminism, feminist, gender equality, and other words in the equal rights family are words that evoke extreme feelings of disgust in a lot of Nigerians. A great number of men make no secret of their disdain for feminism and some women take pride in proclaiming how “un-feminist” they are.
A few months ago, I read a rage inducing article (Read it here) where a woman explained why she was not a feminist by spouting unsubstantiated and ignorant statements. She made some wild claims: “first bump is the modern day feminist belief of a lot of people that women rights are more important than men’s rights, that women are absolutely equal to men in all ways and men are bad, evil or out to harm women; I also want to Screech on the fact that I’ve never felt oppressed as a woman on the contrary I’ve gotten many perks for being female; I constantly wonder what do feminist fight for? what magical freedoms do you not already posses? Quite honestly I believe the answer is none. What more do you seek oh dear modern feminist? [sic]” Aside from the blatant ignorance present in those statements, the condescending tone of the article betrays the arrogance of the feminist-bashing crowd. That is what we are up against in this our Nigeria. Shortly after reading this article, the whole controversy about the failure to pass the Gender Equality Bill erupted and I was tempted to go back and ask the writer if she now sees the “magical freedoms” we do not currently possess.
I wanted to write about this after it happened, but I kept procrastinating until it got swallowed in everyday life; that was until Olori Wurazola-Zynab announced to the whole world that she is not a fan of equal rights: “The modern pattern of feminism has succeeded in limiting women of the heights they could reach; gender equality is unrealistic. We can never be equal with men, we are here for a great purpose, we have our roles to play we are powerful and we are a force of nature.” Where to start? I had not taken notice of the Olori or paid much attention to her, but this incident jarred me out of my ambivalence. At this moment, I am emotionally exhausted at having to have the same conversation over and over, where it seems like I am only pouring water on a rock. Everywhere I turn, it seems like I am under attack and always have to explain the simple and easy to understand concept of women’s humanity, so I give it up for the thousands of Nigerian women that sought to educate the Olori a little on this issue.
It was in this place of emotional and mental fatigue that Freeze’s “I Won’t Marry a Feminist” article knocked me out of my complacency. Freeze is another person that I had not cared about either way. Sure, I read the articles he always puts out (he has something to say about everything), but I had no strong feelings about him either way. The well-intentioned (in his warped mind) misogyny that is prevalent in Nigeria is apparent from the title of his article. The assumption that every Nigerian woman’s ultimate goal is marriage is exhibited because now that Freeze has announced to us that he will not marry a feminist, we are supposed to prostrate in repentance, give up our silly notions of equality, and beg him to have pity on us, forgive our misguided ideologies, and marry us. What would we be without husbands? He went on to tell the story of his friend Akin, who having tired of his wife’s ambition (she went to London to pursue her career in investment banking) was taken in by “Ekaete, who was content with her BSC, wanting her home to be her major investment, indulging Akin in the world of Edika Ikong, Afang, Ekpan ku kwo, piom piom and the likes, tempting him regularly with her 28 inch waist and 44 inch hips.” WANTING HER HOME TO BE HER MAJOR INVESTMENT. That he did not see something wrong with expressing this thought baffles me. Why does it always have to be the woman who has to give up her career and dreams? Why should a woman be content with only a BSc if she wants to go further? Why should a woman not want more?
Feminism’s detractors always bemoan the idea that feminist has destroyed our society, but I want to show them a world without feminism:
- A world without feminism looks like a world (Pakistan) where a group of men thought it was okay to have a variation of the following conversation and then acted on it by trying to pass it into law.
Man A: I have this great idea.
Man B: Please, bless me with your wisdom Oh wise one. What world changing idea have you had?
Man A: Listen to this, I think we should make a a law for men to be able to beat their wives when they disobey them, refuse them sex, or just for any arbitrary reason.
Man C: Wow, that is so profound. We should get cracking on this. I wonder why I didn’t think of this earlier.
Man B: Wait, I think this is a little harsh. Let us just make it a law that men can beat their wives for any reason, but only lightly.
Man C: You have always been too liberal, but I see what you mean. Yes, it should be law that men can beat their wives lightly.
Man A: It is men’s God-given right to beat their wives lightly.
Man A, B, and C: Cheers! We did it. We are geniuses.
- A world without feminism is a world where some men thought that that was an okay conversation to have and felt secure enough in their perceived superiority to propose a law allowing the abuse of women.
- A world without feminism looks like a world where women have to fight for their rights using the #TryBeatingMeLightly hashtag (here and here).
- A world without feminism is a world where a gender equality bill failed to pass because some men believe a woman has no right to inherit her father’s property, rights to her children on her husband’s death, etc.
- A world without feminism is a world where girls’ sexual urges are curtailed through the mutilation of their clitoris before said urges even appear.
- A world without feminism is girls being kidnapped for daring to get an education and then sold into sexual slavery to terrorists.
- A world without feminism is a world where women face countless microaggressions on account of their sex and are constantly reminded of their inherent inferiority as women.
Constantly I am left pondering, why can some men and women alike proudly come out to proclaim that they are anti-equal rights? The only rationale I can find for it is that somewhere in their minds, those men truly believe they are superior to women, and somewhere in their minds, those women fully believe they are inferior to men.
This has been said a million times before, but for the one millionth and one time, gender equality does not mean that women want to be men. Gender and sex are two entirely different things and it is high time people stopped conflating the two: sex is biological while gender is a social construct. I am a woman. I have never had phallus envy. I am not trying to be a man. I believe in gender equality because I know that ALL men and women were created equal.
I am a card carrying feminist that advocates for gender equality [something a lot of Nigerians despise].