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6 Problematic Lessons Nollywood Teaches Girls about Femininity

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If you are a fan of Nollywood movies, you probably already have certain impressions about Nigerians and their women especially. The female characters in Nollywood movies are almost always cast in similar roles.
The young girls are often portrayed as damsels in distress who eventually find their purpose after they meet a man; or they are cast as gossips and home breakers driven by jealousy and bitterness. Other times they are money-conscious and beauty obsessed simpletons e.t.c;
The older women are usually depicted as wives whose lives are centered around their husbands; they are over-religious mothers who control their daughters, and mothers-in-law, whose purpose is to antagonize the daughters-in-law.

In general, the movies fail to portray Nigerian females in their diversity and complexity. Of course, there are exceptions where the female character is portrayed differently and given non-traditional roles, but how often do we see those kinds of Nollywood films?

While these movies entertain the viewers, it also serves as a medium through which the cultures and norms of the Nigerian society are disseminated to inform and mold the behavior of the masses. As such, they have the potential to shape young minds in a lot of ways.

Without realizing it, young girls in Nigeria who are exposed to these Nollywood films, learn what it means to “be a woman”. Unfortunately, not all of the lessons Nollywood teaches these girls about feminism are good.

Here are some of the problematic lessons:

Marriage is the end game
From as old as the movie “Taboo” to as recent as the blockbuster “Wedding Party”, a number of Nigerian movies tend to subtly or even strongly pass the message that marriage is a woman’s highest achievement, thus should be the highlight of her existence. Most times disguised as a love story or just plain comedy, it essentially portrays the heroine as someone who is all about getting a man to love and marry her. Some of these movies even portray women as men-mad idiots who will go to great lengths to get a man: betray friends, disown their families, and change their religion e.t.c.
Girls, when they absorb this message, start to believe that they must have a man to eventually lead a complete life. This is possibly why the marriage fever is unending and most women in our society today would rather chase a man than chase their dreams…even when they do not even feel attracted to a man.

Nollywood should strive to diversify their plot to include heroines who are able to achieve their life’s purpose without necessarily being married or being depressed they achieved the success without a man by their side.

Being Feminist means being tough, domineering and acting like a man
Among the myriad Nollywood movies that have been produced over the years, some movies have tried to foster the ‘feminist’ agenda. Some of these movies like “Black Bra” or “women in power”, however, end up giving these female characters “male” attributes while trying to achieve their aim. They make them tough, domineering and even get them do certain things that have been stereotyped as ‘male’ behavior. This defeats the purpose, as the idea of feminism is not that men be removed from earth or be hated.
It should not in any way either suggest that the world will be better run by females.
Feminism basically just suggests that the female is of the same status as the male, not less, not better…and this message is what these Nollywood movies should strive to pass across.

This is so that the girls, who are influenced by these movies, are not deluded to think that to be empowered, they have to feel better than men or even despise them.

Women are weak and need rescuing
A classic example is the movie “First lady”. The Heroine already on her own was hoping to be rescued by a Prince Charming. This is a mentality most girls have these days, as a result of the numerous Nollywood movies they have seen on African Magic.
They are unwilling to put in the hard work they need to upgrade their status, or take them out of whatever situation they find themselves entrapped in. They wait to meet a man who will rescue them from an abusive father, or change their lives and take them out of poverty.
This mentality is the reason a lot of our Nigerian girls are still not self-made and not rising up to their full potential.

Nollywood movies that highlight this damsel in distress/knight in a shining amor theme, should be regulated so that we have more girls who are confident and willing to chart their own course.

Being girly is what makes you a beautiful, attractive and most of all “normal”
The heroines who get the happy ending are usually costumed and molded to look and behave a certain way. They wear dresses and adorn themselves with jewelry. They also put on make-up and wear hair extensions. They also tend to show a lot of emotion (they cry and throw tantrums). The few times a female character is shown, perhaps without makeup or flashy girly clothes, she is really poor, and usually, she will have to upgrade to or adopt the “girly” image, in order to get her happy ending. Even more, if is she is dressed in certain clothes that have been tagged “male”, automatically she is a lesbian or a thug who probably will not have a happy ending.

The young girls who get these messages become image-obsessed, as they now believe how they look is everything. Perhaps Nollywood movies need to place less emphasis on the outward appearance of the girl focus more on highlighting the qualities in a female character that makes her uniquely female.

As a woman, you have to wait for love to find you
It is really hard to see any romantic Nollywood movie where the girl took the bull by the horn, and went in search of love. The love stories are always written in such a way that boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, and love conquers all.

In these movies, these girls- even ones that are clearly self-centered and narcissistic- do not need to work on themselves or do anything …love finds them any way.

This is not the case in our real world today. Love does not come easy. At least, not genuine love. It is important that girls know it is alright for them to make the first move sometimes, and go for what they want as opposed to waiting to be pursued.

Also, it is important that they understand that love requires emotional maturity; they may need to work on themselves to attract the kind of love they desire. Nollywood movies should try to reflect that.

Women are destined for subservient roles in the society
In a large number of Nollywood movies, men are depicted as leaders, rulers and successful business men. Women, on the other hand, are mostly captured in domestic settings, their roles constrained to being mothers, daughter, brides, housewives and other related roles. Even in a few movies where the woman is given a sort of ‘masculine’ role or place in a position of power, it is still orchestrated such that she has to submit to a higher boss who is male, or submit to a domineering husband.

This gives the girl the impression that this is all the future holds for her. Her mind is conditioned to accept and even look forward to it. Modern day Nollywood movies should consider the direct and remote messages their moving may be passing across and not ignore them. They can start by ensuring women are not always cast in traditional roles.

What are your thoughts on these points?

Photo Credit: Mimagephotography | Dreamstime.com

Nkem Ndem is an energetic and highly accomplished Media Consultant who loves to help small businesses, especially women-led, grow their online presence using the right digital strategy or transition from traditional organizational boundaries. With years of experience in Copywriting and Editing, Content Branding and Strategy, Social media, and Digital Marketing, she is clearly obsessed with Digital Communications. She is the Head of Content and Lead Consultant at Black Ink Media - an Ideation and Content Agency that excels in providing fresh, creative digital services to content-centric businesses. Find out more about her at www.blackinkm.com or send her an e-mail at [email protected] Also follow her on IG: @nkemndemv, Twitter: @ndemv.

23 Comments

  1. Truth

    April 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    I completely agree with your thoughts on this issue, as women are conditioned by the society to behave in a certain way not excluding the messages passed by the media and once she does not subject to the stereotype, she is branded in a negative light. Directly or Indirectly, women are trained to believed that getting is the ultimate attainment or fulfillment she can achieve in her life, and does all she can to get the ‘Mrs’ status and once that is done, she completely relegates herself to the back seat and starts to live her life for her husband, her kids, everyone else but herself.

  2. Truth

    April 19, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I completely agree with your thoughts on this issue, as women are conditioned by the society to behave in a certain way not excluding the messages passed by the media and once she does not subject to the stereotype, she is branded in a negative light. Directly or Indirectly, women are trained to believe that getting married is the ultimate attainment or fulfillment she can achieve in her life, and does all she can to get the ‘Mrs’ status and once that is done, she completely relegates herself to the back seat and starts to live her life for her husband, her kids, everyone else but herself.

  3. i must talk

    April 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Brewing my zobo for a sidon look. Oya, all the ‘sai mamas’ wia art thou?

  4. Finegehlsmallpimples

    April 19, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    ThatS how one girl will carry legs enter bush and start singing thinking a prince will Hear her voice and propose marriage, until someone tellher cxmon SHArrapp. Her voice is causing headache ? NOllywood and their unrealistic expectations. EVEn if it happens once in a while, someone’s story story is not yours.

  5. AceOfSpades

    April 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Physically women aren’t as strong as men and there are jobs that need just that physical strength so if women in power shows women do manly things then it means it is so.

    If you call 10 random men and 10 random women to work in a mine for a week. How many women will be able to keep up by the end of the way. Some jobs are manly and because there is one woman out of plenty that’s doing it doesn’t mean plenty women can do it. Let’s be real and stop being foolish in the name of feminism.

    Have you reviewed why in war, women and children are saved first? Have you reviewed why female soldiers aren’t usually sent to war front? Have you reviewed why your employer lets you get a maternity leave (and your salary isn’t touched) but the man (whose wife just had delivery) isn’t allowed such leave? So many things like this that favour ONLY women but men never fight it.

    While I agree marriage isn’t an achievement, the way it’s being talked about now is ‘sounding’ like married women shouldn’t be proud of their marriage.

    • Adunnie

      April 19, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      I was totally feeling and agreeing with you till I got to this part “Have you reviewed why your employer lets you get a maternity leave (and your salary isn’t touched) but the man (whose wife just had delivery) isn’t allowed such leave? ”
      How can you compare a woman who carried a baby for 9 months and laboured for hours to deliver it to a man who has no idea what it feels like? More often than not the mother stays and nurtures the child. How many men will leave their work to be nursing baby and changing diapers? So what does the man need maternity leave with pay for when he’s not the one doing babysitting duties ?

    • Breezy

      April 20, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      It doesnt still stop you frm rendering assurance to ur wife

    • Icrossmyheart

      April 20, 2017 at 12:05 am

      I dont know why your comment was liked 99 times. Your argument is completely flawed and lacks research.

      Women and men have been mining in many parts of the world from South Africa to Indonesia to Costa Rica to Nigeria. So I dont know where you got your data from. Again, research.

      Jobs that are manly become manly because well society constructs it so. For example, fire fighting was considered a male job because it was strongly believed that many women and some men could not do it as it requires one to have a certain height and a particular build. a lot of women had said build but were disqualified solely because they were women. There was a prevailing notion that women just could not do it. Guess what? Scientists have debunked such basis, need help, google.

      War? Women challenged your position by insisting on fighting in the war front, please research how many women have done this. Also, in West Africa before the glorious colonization took our dignity, WOMEN FOUGHT WARS WHILE MEN STAYED BACK TO PROTECT THE HOMES. Again research. You claimed because one woman did it does not mean every woman can do it. SAME LOGIC APPLIES TO MEN. Because one man did it DOES NOT MEAN ALL MEN CAN DO IT. This is the reason why most men can not meet up with even their patriarchal standards. More men likely to be poor than women ( read UN stats) despite their glorious physical strength.

      Maternity leave? There is also paternity leave where men can take leave to help with the baby after their partner decides to go back to work.

      It is very easy to assume women are weak if that is all you think women are.

      I am not a feminist but Nigerians just dont want to understand what it means for the sake of not understanding it. Feminism is simply giving right to a girl or woman where there was none. That is allowing her access to her autonomy, to decide for herself what she wants her life to be and not to be limited or restrained because of her biological disposition!

    • ify

      April 20, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Love that great motion there . Personalities like u are needed in dis country

  6. babym

    April 19, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Naah I mostly disagree with you mate. first of all the movie wedding party is about a WEDDING. so of course marriage was the be all and end all of the movie.

    Nollywood is entertainment not the beacon of what makes an ideal society.
    Nollywood movies portray the realities of the society we live in. When we as a society begin to change the narratives we don’t like, Nollywood will capture our new reality. Besides anyone looking to nollywood movies to dictate how they should live their lives is in serious trouble lol.

    • Just Saying...

      April 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” –Oscar Wilde

  7. Engoz

    April 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    It is always a case of the extremes. It’s either the wife is cantankerous and crazy, or the so-called good wife takes on an ‘omo odo’ status. A glorified housegirl with the nonexistent opinions of a housefly. There are no sane, normal, rational, assertive females. Yoruba movies are extremely guilty of this. Muyiwa Ademola is a chief culprit in the misrepresentation of women. This is what happens when men control the female narrative and women allow it or join in the stupidity. For example look at the hiphop culture and the representation of black women in it. Even Snoop dogg confessed to this misogyny. Until we begin to write and tell our own stories and boycott media that does nothing in our favor, there will be no progress. I pity girls who do not have strong female influences in their lives and internalize this nonsense from TV.

  8. Mz_Danielz

    April 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I agree with you dear, Nollywood no dey try at all. To me, the movies are simply a figment of imagination

  9. molarah

    April 19, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    All I can think of as I read this article are Nollywood movies that do not fit into these molds:

    – Full moon (and the Regina Askia movies)
    – True Confession (and the Liz Benson movies)
    – Witches, Nneka the pretty serpent, Living in Bondage (and all the other movies we remember more for their horror/occultic themes)
    – The Tunde Kelani films
    – The Mount Zion films
    – Mamaa Gee (and every other Patience Ozokwor film. I think those films were deliberately scripted to make her look like the last crazy woman on earth, and I don’t know any one that learns life lessons from the antagonist of the film)

    and the list goes on.

    I guess we could point to the movies of the early noughties that heavily featured Pat Attah, Ramsey Nouah, etc and cast Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade as simpering damsels, but even those films had romantic themes and the story lines focused largely on silly things people (men and women) do when in love and the power of love, blah blah.

    Bottom line: I think this article is filled with too many generalizations for comfort. It would have been helpful to specify which actual “blockbusters” informed your observations for this article.

    • Osanemengo

      April 20, 2017 at 5:23 am

      @molarah. I’m quite sure you don’t expect her to write a thesis. She did mention a couple of movies. And i I don’t think her points are filled with generalizations really. If you have watched any Nollywood movies in the last 10 year, you wld know this. Lol.

  10. Anon

    April 20, 2017 at 1:05 am

    Lmaoo you forgot the ultimate. When your husband moves in with another woman for 20 years or his mistress makes you run mad or turns you to a house girl and kills one of your children by hawking, when he comes back to ask for forgiveness 20 years later because the mistress is now wicked to him, take him back. You must always take him back lmaoo. And I wonder how different Nigeria would be if these movies ended differently eg the woman got her own job or left the country or found a great pastor to help her get back on the right track. Or when a woman is the breadwinner, if she asks the husband to cook at home then she’s wicked. She should come home from a long day at work and go the cooking
    They make it seem like a good wife is a stupid woman that tolerates anything and everything just to answer Mrs.

  11. Uhmm

    April 20, 2017 at 5:42 am

    Which Nollywood are you watching?

    Clearly, it’s a portrayal of the society we live in though the Oscar Wilde Comment got me thinking. However there are several new movies that isn’t about the manly woman, the woman in distress or even about Cinderella.

    The script is getting better.

  12. Jideofor

    April 20, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Am surprised men are liking this nonsense post and encouraging women to ride on our heads worst than they are doing now. 99% of Nigerian women are into all kinds and categories of runs(prostitution) and we still want to encourage them further to achieve success without a man in life. This is the is the reason we now have countless baby mamas without father’s or a good home with both parents. A woman should know that her highest achievement is getting married and having kids in her husband’s house together with her husband and also building and controlling her home should be her utmost priority. Girl child is good so that we don’t have illiterates or semi illiterates as mothers. Stop encouraging women to ride on men’s head and start rubbing shoulders with men cause even the greatest democracy the US, women are put in their place as home makers not presidents. Thunder fire any weakling of a man who will like or support this nonsense post cause Nollywood is right and a reminder what their God assigned role in life truly is. Women belong to our kitchen and other room not political parties. Infact God created women to be rich men’s sex objects and that’s why we can never stop women from doing runs so that our young men can work hard to make money if you want to keep women.

  13. Nne Umu Boys!

    April 20, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I am not sure how to put my thoughts without it being misconstrued but let me try:

    First, marriage is a beautiful thing. It has worked very well for some and it hasnt for others but it is still very beautiful and worth looking forward to. Marriage is both biblical and Koranic and it is part of human ‘being’.
    I find it worrisome reading articles that subtly or directly try to berate women who aspire to be married, it is even more worrisome that most of the people who write these things are unmarried. I have often found myself wondering if they are writing it to dismiss a dream that hasnt come true or if they are genuinely concerned. Whatever the reason please understand that it is okay to crave to be married, at least to minimize dick-hopping, besides as we age we need companion. So while I will raise my daughter to be a gold worth digging, an asset to herself first, I will also teach her to look forward to marriage, pray for it and work towards it. But if it doesnt happen, she is still my gold and asset. Nevertheless dear daughter find marriage it is beautiful if you journey through it with the right person.

    Nollywood has done no wrong in this regard IMO.

  14. Breezy

    April 20, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Beautifully written my dear.. I hpe d adhear d change

  15. April til

    April 21, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Hello from the U.S.A.
    I discovered Nollywood movies by accident a little over a month ago and i completely agree with the points made in this article.

  16. NG

    April 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Madam, most of what we see in Nollywood movies, are REALITIES OF LIFE IN NIGERIA. Most of these stories are not FABRICATED or FICTIONS, they are STORIES told by NIGERIANS and things happening in THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY. Hollywood can not tell our stories because in their society, their way of life and laws are different, like wise in Bollywood too e.t.c, so do not expect NOLLYWOOD to start telling stories from OTHER COUNTRIES just to PORTRAY NIGERIA as a very CIVILIZED country, which will be a WHITE LIE.
    In Nigeria, if a lady is not married at a “certain age”, she is LOOKED UPON as someone who is not FULFILLED in life, even when she is WELL ESTABLISHED financially and she won’t be accorded the same RESPECT a man in the same position would get, which is the aspect that i agree with you. This NIGERIAN MENTALITY has to change.
    I also agree with the fact that it is not FAIR that women are not allowed in some official positions because they think we are TOO WEAK and also not as STRONG as the men. You know all these started way back even before Christ was born on earth. No be today tins, even in the Bible, women are to be submissive to the men, stay back at home to raise the kids and not indulge in politics or some kind of jobs and also make her home the envy of others, while men go to work and wars.
    Some Nigerian women NEGLECT their children, simply because they are “CAREER” women, some treat their husbands or partners as TRASH simply because they are the breadwinners in their families or relationships, is that part of FEMINISM?
    In conclusion, if the Nigerian society changes for good, then Nollywood will change their story lines, but until then, you can as well venture in to MOVIE PRODUCTIONS and do your own MOVIES to DEPICT the LIFESTYLE you whuch to see in NOLLYWOOD MOVIES, since you think NOLLYWOOD is not portraying FEMINISM! Have a blessed day!

  17. NG

    April 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    *which and not whuch, na typographical error abeg!?

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