On July 31, 2018, a female presidential aspirant was moved to share that she was no feminist.
Her reasons have changed with time – initially, it was because she didn’t want to “be like her friend who doesn’t cook for her husband and kids.” Later, she added more: she is no feminist because she believes in “equality for all.”
Save your laughs for her Twitter page. Of course, Twitter went apes—.
This brings me to the million-naira question: Why do Nigerians hate feminism so much?
For any avoidance of doubt, cooking for your partner and children does not make or break a feminist. What breaks a feminist is, first, not understanding what feminism is. And no, I will not be providing a definition because a simple Select and Look Up on your smartphones will define feminism.
So here are a few reasons I posit for why there’s such a loud outrage against the movement.
1. We lack a basic understanding of what feminism is.
A few years ago, I was engrossed in conversation with a friend and colleague. After about an hour, she quipped: “I am a feminist, but I have to go home because I told my husband that I’ll be back home at X time. I know you don’t agree with me because you’re a feminist.”
Ignore the obvious contradiction of her statement if you can. The average Nigerian thinks that when a woman is a feminist, she has gone rogue – lost all sense of affection for her family and community. This is why the female presidential aspirant mentioned specifically that she couldn’t possibly be feminist because she cooks for her husband and kids. News flash: feminists cook in their homes.
Fortunately for us, we cook not because of our gender, but because we can choose to. We are cognizant of the fact that our cooking is not an entitlement to our partners, but a non-gendered choice to make our homes functional. In case you had any doubt, going “rogue” is also okay. Some men need to be shocked into consciousness, and going rogue might help.
2. We want to be accepted by men so bad.
I spoke to an established, female, young, self-proclaimed feminist recently. She laughed and said, “Anu, these men don’t know that we will drop all this feminism if they become good.” Not to kill the conversation, I laughed an uncomfortable laughter but kept it moving.
So long as Nigerian women continue to desire male approval, we will continue to get the shorter end of the stick. Men are able to move forward with their theatrics because they know that they have the upper hand in society. They don’t care that women think their behaviour is often reprehensible. Economically, politically, and socially (think marriage), men have the advantage. But we still want their approval, even though they don’t care about ours.
In fact, what the recent political party defections should show you is that Nigerian men really don’t care that you think they have no integrity – shifting the goal post as they see fit. Why should we change our feminism because of a few good men, as my friend desires? Even the few good men have been painstakingly taught by persistent feminists.
Women, do you. The biggest threat to a Nigerian patriarch is a woman who lives life on her own terms, a woman not working to be “marriageable,” nor does she care about the male gaze. See, that woman will flourish. Be that woman. Men will catch up, maybe. After all, they don’t know what they want – so just do you.
3. We think “modern day” feminism doesn’t focus on the “right” issues.
Most “women empowerment” women argue that modern feminism lacks aim and purpose. They say we should focus on girl-child education and not on changing our last names. That is fake news for a host of reasons, but I will give a couple.
Take gender roles for example. “Women empowerment” activists would argue that girl-child education is more important than gender roles in a home. Do you know that girls cannot focus in school because of gender roles? Do you know that when a male child goes home, on average, his sister is stuck with chores but he is not? There is an entire spectrum of aggression toward women. Do not let anyone tell you that one is less important than the other. They are all equally important.
And even if you feel that modern-day feminism is improperly organized, it is not your role to pull it down. You get no points with the men you’re trying to please, and you alienate yourself from other women.
Of the many issues feminism in Nigeria has, I think that these are the most pervasive. If you disagree, tell me why. If you agree, tell your neighbour. Most importantly, think about it. And tell Eunice that we were not going to vote for her, anyway.
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