Feminists. Those man-hating, bitter, forever-single women who are cry babies right?
Feminism is the belief in the equality of both sexes. It is the idea that women should be whatever they want to be without fear of retaliation from male counterparts. It is the idea that though men and women are different anatomically and biologically, we are one in the same. The movement that started in the mid to late nineteenth century in the West, has found its way to the bosoms of Nigerian women.
Of course I am speaking technically, because stating the above would assume that African women have not been fighting for gender equality. From Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti who was the political voice of the Nigerian women, to the Aba Women’s riot that held protests due to the declining role of women in the government; non-Western women have been fighting gender inequality since time immemorial. But more often than not, we never hear of their stories because their triumphs are overwhelmed by narratives that Caucasian peoples championed this movement all over the globe. A narrative that is common with almost every other rhetoric globally.
Nigeria is one of the many countries battling intense misogyny and patriarchy. It is a country that is blatantly sexist and has no apologies for it, defending its archaic ideologies with beliefs ranging from Christianity to tradition. Thankfully, a number of Nigerian women have started advocating and calling for a total revamp of the traditions that have kept Nigerian women from being at par with the 21st century woman. But this movement is not without its own problems, some of them not exclusive to the Nigerian feminism movement, but most of them do not make extensive progress in the fight for gender equality in Nigeria.
First of all, Promoting the idea that every woman has to be an intellectual is downright annoying.
Women in the West are guilty of this as well. Women are generally smarter than men and yet, women don’t go around treating them like shit. The whole “beauty with brains” fad that men and women like to champion is not going to make women garner respect from men. Not every woman is going to be a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; some women delight in being nothing more than a pretty face, and That. Is. Okay. Feminism is saying that all women be respected, with no caveats.
Blac Chyna, the Kardashians, and Cardi B are women that deserve as much respect given to women intellectuals. Granted, I will not bring up my daughter to be like these women, nor will I support her trolling their career paths. Still, these so-called “beauty without brains” deserve to be respected and not trolled by society.
Now to discuss about issues that are more exclusive to Nigerian women; Promoting financial independence for women in order to get equality is another topic I have an issue with. Unmarried women should be responsible for their own finances. Whether or not they choose to get it from the numerous men they date is not my concern. My concern is these feminists who promote working women over housewives.
Let. Women. Do. What. They. Want.
In the West, women have the option of being full-time housewives without fear of retaliation from their spouses. Why? Because Western men view women differently and there are laws to protect women from the maltreatment from their spouses and partners. There is something innately wrong with a man that will only respect his wife if she is making her own money, irrespective of the fact that he most likely is the one who suggests to her that she abandons her dreams beyond being a wife and a mother, because patriarchy. Let housewives be given as much respect as the working wife, provided she is well aware that she can be more and still made the choice to be a housewife. Dare I say that if Nigerian women were more respected by their spouses, more women will opt to be housewives. Most Nigerian women work only so that they can be earn some money in order to be respected by their spouses.
Another rhetoric that I am quick to dispute is that abolishing the bride price is going to make huge progress in gender equality in Nigeria. Abolishing the bride price is not going to make men look at women as anything other than property, nor is it going to make women wake up one morning and suddenly agree that they are not validated by whether or not a bride price is paid for them. What it will do is take autonomy away from Nigerian women, which will end up breeding more resentment between feminists and non-feminists. A better reform in my opinion would be to remove the mandatory rule attached to it. Let women have the option of saying yes or no to a bride price, instead of leaving it at the hands of those hungry “Umunnas” who do not care about you until they hear that you’re getting married.
P.S: There’s a satirical website designed to help Nigerian women calculate their bride price. So if you would like to know whether you’re 1000 or 10 yards of wife material, calculate it here
If a woman is going to decide that she doesn’t want a bride price, let it be because she wants to, not because the choice no longer lies in her hands. I will like to live in a world where more women reject bride price, but in the meantime we have a more excruciating task that will entail reforming the psyche of many Nigerian women and men. If you take away bride price, men and women will turn to other beliefs like Christianity to exert their misogyny. What happens then? Will you advocate for Christianity to be illegal? What extents would we go to make people with dissenting opinions see reason with us?
Before I end this piece, I understand and respect the sentiments of feminists who believe that the bride price should be abolished. We both want one thing for men and women, and for that you have my solidarity. But it is pertinent that in promoting gender equality, we don’t impose our personal convictions on other people.
Most importantly, bride price, financial independence, and other frivolities, are like weeds that are part of a much larger weed infestation on a plant. The plant has been extensively damaged by the weeds that the only solution would be that it is uprooted and new seeds be planted in place of the old plant. The psyche of many Nigerian men and women need to be reformed. We hope to live in a world where these frivolities will not determine the worth of a woman.