AN ARTICLE BY Chisom Mefor
Feminism as a social movement started between the 19th and 20th centuries throughout the Western world and focused chiefly on legal issues and gaining the right to vote. It was at that time referred to as “First wave Feminism”.
Unlike dated Feminist of the 500 ADs, contemporary Feminists like the Adichie’s are backing rights for social equality which somewhat could be ascribed to Elisabeth Stanton or Christine de Pizan, however, if studied closely, have divergent approaches.
Far-flung from actual Feminism and what the first Feminists rallied day after day for, what appears to tickle the lot of us lately is- Conceptual Nigerian Feminism, for clarity, a layman perchance could say “Men are scum” or “Men are trash” Feminism.
Prior Feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) which helped shape the Feminist Movement and remains relevant till today argued that both sexes deserved equal access to fundamental rights. It is also essential to understand that purely because Wollstonecraft stood in the gap, girls like you and I are allowed equal rights to education.
Nevertheless, there are present-day Feminists like Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American Journalist and outspoken advocate for women’s rights in the Arab world and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our Feminist/Author who continues to delve decisively on how gender expectations have a detrimental effect in Nigeria’s society. The major similarity Wollstonecraft, Adichie, Eltahawy and Simone De Beauvoir share is the social inclusion of women and awareness of the populace, which, unfortunately, Nigerian Feminism is far from attaining correctly.
Not to make swift generalizations but our Nigerian notion of Feminism has half the population intoning, “I am a Feminist”, “I am equal to men” or “Richard cheated on me, all men are trash, I am now a Feminist”. Merely correcting a man at the littlest things like “Oh, don’t litter trash here” could get you tagged “A Feminist”. To be something or attribute an identity to a particular gender, should you not in the very least understand what you claim to be?
Women can NEVER be equal to men, yes, I said it. Everyone is scared to say it if a man says it, then he’s automatically tagged a sexist, chauvinist, bigot or women down-looker. If a woman says it, she’s a male-apologist (as someone called me once and went on to say that women like me were the cause of the regression of Nigerian Feminism). For lucidity, if you didn’t get it the first time- WOMEN CAN NEVER BE EQUAL TO MEN. I’ll say it again. It’s like reading Rick Richter’s “Comparing the Qu’ran and the Bible” to find comparations of both religions, for all I could pick up from the book was Abraham and Ibrahim, or Isa and Isaac, something like that. The same goes for men and women, they are higher class mammals that share the five senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. Like both Religions, Men and Women have unique qualities that make each of them distinct.
If Feminism actually translates to being alike, then the struggle is baseless, in my own opinion. In Mathematics, if x+2=3, then x is equal to 1 because 3 is 3. Understanding the term, the quality of being equal means that two or more comparable objects are identical, matching or are exactly the same.
Women have always been perceived as inferior gender- fragile and weak. Gender Reform Feminism, Gender Resistant Feminism, and Gender Revolution Feminism all seek to change this narrative and effect transformation ranging from women suffrage, greater access to education, more equitable pay with men, right to initiate divorce proceedings and right to make individual decisions concerning marriage, pregnancy, etc.
Wholly contrasting Gender Revolution Feminism and the other kinds of Women’s liberation movement, our country’s Feminism sees it contrarily. Does anyone care to define Nigerian Feminism? I’ll go first and keep it straight, I pay my bills, I have a Federal Government job, Twitter account, single and likely approaching 33, I’m a Feminist. There’s habitually this misapprehension that Female Independence literally translates to some special kind of antagonism, this by the average Nigerian’s judgment, already makes you Feminist. A bitter, angry, aggressive Twitter Feminist and man-hater, to be more specific.
There’s absolutely no biggie about paying your bills. Well, considering that this present Government has driven us into recession, paying bills should count for something. But honey, a Lady that pays her bills is just a lady. Hysterically, Bebe Rexha sees it differently in her lyrics “I buy my own hair and I pay my own bills, I’m a bad bitch”. Whichever one you prefer to go with- Lady or Bad bitch, have in mind that regardless of gender, whoever works hard enough to pay bills and put food on the table is doing exactly what’s expected of every responsible adult.
This October-January holiday, Eseoghene sent me a photo on WhatsApp. A young girl, possibly 16 or 17, because I know only people within that age bracket would reason in such a dour manner. Without a doubt, I’m sure a number of you saw the photo and as the photo read again, “I am Tolu, I am a Feminist, I wear short skirts, I club and allow guys to rock my body because I want to. I am a Feminist”.
Are you freaking kidding me now, Tolu? So, for Chino Constance to be initiated into the Feminist confraternity, she would have to wear short skirts, allow guys to rock her body at clubs? There you go, Boom! Badass Feminist, Queen of the first men and the Andals, Senior Partner of the Men are scum FC. Quick maths, short skirt equals Feminism, making Bobrisky a Feminist and all the girls that go to Ajah for a sleepover? Alamaak!
You see, Tolu, gender differences and discrimination of women continue every day at a staggering rate. In 2015, President Jonathan may have banned FGM but until now, as I am typing, there is still a slight inconsistency enforcing the laws. Even in some very remote parts of Africa, breast Ironing of some pubescent girls’ breasts with heated objects to make them disappear is still practiced and sustained in the name of traditions. We definitely should just pretend like expanding the lips with a plug or disc as a form of body modification isn’t still sustained by the Suri tribe? Independence is good, but if anyone goes to a club and allows guys rock their body but never in the slightest chance advocates against discrimination of women in culture, workplaces, politics, job placement, can they really claim to be Feminists?
An appropriate New Year’s resolution for Nigerian women would be to do better. Rather than judging ourselves by terrible metrics like “How many men did I drag on social media today?”. We need to think critically and channel our voices towards what actually matters. Malala continues to emphasize the rights of Pakistani women to have an education and most importantly, voices of their own. She went on to say in her book with Christina Lamb, that sometimes families could be feuding, the way to settle it would be to give the most beautiful girl to the least successful man of the feuding party. Why should women be sold off like commodities to settle a dispute? Mineko Iwasaki was sick of seeing little girls of 3-5 years being sold to Okiyas for entertaining men at tea houses. She retired at 29 to advocate for independence and professional rights for geisha, with Iwasaki’s revolution followed 70 other geishas resigning but nothing changed. The truth is, the conversation on women’s discrimination can never be enough.
We are so clogged with the “Men are trash” Feminism and the world is advancing and leaving us behind. It is unfair that works of actual Feminists who are shaping our society and making a path for the younger generation, continue to go unnoticed. Olaoluwa Onyinyechi Abagun is a lawyer and she continues to fight tirelessly till today for women’s rights in Nigeria. Sandra Aguebor is the founder of the Lady Mechanic Initiative that trains sexually abused and underprivileged women to be mechanics. The list is Nigerian women fighting for the liberation of their gender is endless, but rather than getting recognized for their thankless works worthy of accolades you see all manner of posts on the media like that of CNN- Nigeria: The women who reject Feminism.
I shall talk about Gender Equality as a value of having the same rights and social status in a separate piece. However, this cannot be attained by aggression. Fighting for women’s rights in today’s world is a tricky business as Mark Manson said because we are no longer dealing with Institutions as the first wave feminists did. We’re dealing with people’s perceptions and people’s brains. We have to confront Religious systems and irrational assumptions sustained over time through culture. Rather than making a mockery out of it because of ignorance, men and women should be encouraged to participate in the Feminist movement, because both genders need to unlearn things that they’ve known for decades.
Well, here’s cheers to a better 2020 of uplifting each other and speaking up for disadvantaged women in different parts of the country. Also, in hopes of not seeing posts and profiles like “Angry, bitter, aggressive Feminist”. The Merriam Webster Dictionary (1828) defines the word as “threatening behavior, marked by combative readiness”. A person with a rude aggressive personality needs immediate psychological attention and that’s not a prize at all, sis. If you can’t help yourself, how do we suppose you can help other people and speak up for them?