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Niyi Ademoroti: You’re Only Using Religion as an Excuse to be Misogynistic



OP-ED: You're Only Using Religion as an Excuse to be MisogynisticI like the patient purgation of Sundays. I know I’m probably the only one, but I enjoy how restful it can be, the feeling of the day seeming like an in-between, bringing with it the end of something while foretelling the start of another.

To slimfit the peace, this past week, was church. Blessed church. I sat there in the hallowed halls listening to the pastor preach about marriage, about “The Winning Family.”

It goes without saying that in a Nigerian Pentecostal church, the winning family is always described as one where everyone is aware of their respective roles – where the man is the head and the woman is the neck. The woman is always to submit to her husband, honour and serve him. The man is to, well…whatever.

And that’s all fine, you know. Whatever floats people’s boats.

Anyway, in church that day was the pastor talking about man, how the woman is his helpmeet, how she was made from his ribs to be his companion, an afterthought, and how women need to respect that. My woke-sirens went haywire, but I soon got over it, moved on.

The message came rushing back when I saw a tweet, something about God creating animals male and female, but somehow forgot after he created man, somehow forgot until he noticed Adam’s loneliness, that was when he thought, Oh yeah, true. I should totally create a helpmeet for this guy. I should create a female. And I’ll do it from his ribs, too!

In the replies to the tweet were the standard format misogyny, bundled, as if a two-in-one special, along with accusations of blasphemy. A woman was created to assist a man. Keep God out of your mouth. How dare you say that? Women were created as companions to men. Women should know their place. Yada yada yada.

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie described Jesus, because of his actions as stated in the bible, as someone who treated men and women equally, the responses were identical.

Another tweet comes to mind, one where a Muslim girl tweeted about feminism being unnecessary in Islam because men and women are equal in the sight of Allah. A friend of mine, characteristically sarcastic, quoted the tweet with something like, Yeah, except women just need permission from men before they can step out of their homes. I expected the girl to get it. I thought it was quite clear what my friend was saying – that women and men are not equal in Islam and feminism is indeed necessary. Instead, the girl replied, saying, Yes, women need to get permission from their brothers or spouses before they can leave their homes.

The point here is just how much misogyny, through religion, has become a part of our everyday lives, a norm that is deemed disrespectful and blasphemous to challenge.

No, I’m not saying religion is the reason for misogyny in our society. Our world is one where different civilizations have always found reasons to keep the woman subdued. In pre-colonial Yoruba, marriage rites and the bride price, even just ways in which women were referred to – Solape omo Akanni who after marriage became Solape aya Remilekun – showed how much we viewed them as property.

What I’m saying is that we have learned to interpret religion in ways that help perpetuate misogyny.

Nary a Nigerian home that isn’t religious. You see the stickers on doors to apartments, car bumpers, everywhere. I am a Redeemer. Peace Be Unto You. Chosen Family. Islam is the True Religion. I am a Winner. Everywhere.

Jesus did speak to women and treat them in a way that showed he viewed them as equal beings. This, in a time when women had barely any rights. It was to women Jesus first appeared when he rose from the dead (John 20:11-18). He was said to have loved Martha and Mary just as he loved Lazarus (John 11:5).

Prophet Muhammad, too, said the “buried girls” – a custom back them was to bury baby girls alive in times of scarcity – would rise up from the grave on Judgement Day and ask what crimes they committed (Surah al-Takweer, Verses 8-9). He told fathers that if they raised their daughters well and did not prefer their male sons to them, they would be granted paradise.

And these were times and in cultures where women scarcely had any rights, where even to live was not a right but a privilege, something that could be taken away from you whenever. These things were revolutionary.

But let’s say both Jesus and Prophet Muhammad didn’t see women as equal beings, let’s say I’m only nitpicking the Holy Books and they too were misogynistic, is that enough reason for us to continue to be so? Because, if we look at it, too many other things exist in those times, in those two books, that we have done away with because it is inconsistent with our times.

The question is: shouldn’t the ill-treatment of women be one of those things?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Niyi Ademoroti is the Features Editor at BellaNaija and an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His writing has appeared in AGNI, Hobart and The Republic.


  1. larz

    October 29, 2018 at 11:37 am

    When a society wants to be misogynistic, they will use whatever is at their disposal as a reason/ tool to make the society know.

    In most Nigerian cultures, the grooms family pays the BRIDE PRICE (money, gifts etc) which can be used as a tool to enforce male dominance to transfer “ownership from her fathers house to her husband”. Historically in England and in parts of India, brides family pays dowries to the groom. Despite this, marriage and the dowry process is still used as tool of misogyny in these societies. I don’t think it is the act itself but the people/ society that are infact misogynist.

    I wont be surprised to hear (but I don’t know this for a fact), that the act of seeking male permission in Islam probably stemmed from women having protectors when going out to shield them from danger. And overtime, the message got diluted from trying to protect their women to women needing their permission to carry out daily tasks.

    • didi

      October 29, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      I have said it before and am repeating it, stop trying to understand God or the bible if you have not accepted jesus as your saviour, it will hurt you instead. God truly said he discovered man to be lonely and as a result made him a helpmeet THE WOMAN but mind you help meet does not mean inferior, theres no man God made inferior. So that WORD HELPMEET describes the role every woman plays in this life which is to help bring a vision to FRUITION it could be in the family, organisation, society wherever. Every woman has that inbuilt ability to to actualize any VISION ie to make it happen. This is a role not based on her value but based on her strengths. So a God also making a man the head of the family too is not to show that the woman is less relevant but for ORDER and RESPONSIBILITIES.

    • 9ja

      October 29, 2018 at 11:20 pm

      @DIDI, so you believe in an omnipotent God that only “discovered” man to be lonely after the fact? Interesting.

    • californiabawlar

      October 30, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      Male and female He made them both: general population.
      Female made for lonely Adam: husband and wife.

      Men and women are equal in God’s eyes. Husbands and wives can choose to live by the “husband is the head of the home” ideology IF they so please. Why do I use IF? I can’t easily pick a successful marriage from the bible. Everyone had their issues. If there was a perfect template, God would have made us one. Y’all need to quit forcing the issue.

      The only person that elaborates on marriage i.e. Apostle Paul was never even married himself – this is a hard truth to speak, given that as Christians we are not allowed to question any parts of the scriptures.The west brought their version of misogyny along with the gospel. Our culture isn’t without it’s own unfairness to women but it is definitely escalated by all of the extras that are mis- or over-interpreted from the scriptures.
      The instructions of Christ are against adultery… that I would never compromise on… the other christian rules? there’s too much of a mix with culture… even in the bible.

  2. RUKKY

    October 29, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    beautiful write up, I am a muslim, female and proud of the rights my religion has bestowed upon me as a woman. Was speaking to an acquaintance from the law school and on he first day we met, we discussed a lot about religion and when I spelt out a few of he rights islam has given me, he was shocked, so he asked, is it for a just a special kind of people? My response was no, these are instructions from the Holy Quran and it applies to every female.

    Interestingly, i believe islam has favoured me over a man honestly. let us look at a few areas:
    1.Inheritance- I get half of what my brother gets, and I can choose to do whatever I want with mine, and as for my brother he has to provide for my every need from his portion.
    2. Marriage- marriage is a contract in islam, and there are terms, in as much as a man is entitled to 4 women, its my right to let the man who is going to marry me know I do not fancy a polygamous home, and we can reach an agreement where he has no right to marry anyone after me.

    And many others….

    The issue with our muslim women is, they don’t learn the religion and therefore do not know the rights islam has bestowed upon them unfortunately.

    All in all, i believe islam nor christianity is not in to make our lives harder, rather these religions are in to make life a lot easier for us (at least i can say that for islam), but our selfish nature as humans makes every other thing worse, we interpret the scriptures to suit our desires and manipulate the masses unfortunately.

    • larz

      October 29, 2018 at 10:07 pm

      Another issue is culture. Even if the woman is knowledgable and knows her right. He family or culture might ovwrride what she knows is right and funny enuf she might even find religious leaders that back them.

      A friend of mine (Indian muslim) cant get married because they are in different Islamic sect. Tell me, where in the Quran did it say a person from Ahmadi cant marry a Sunii muslim?

  3. Cocoa

    October 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    You lost me. I couldnt get past comparing God to an idol.

    We haven’t done away with anything God commanded because God will never change, What you speak of perhaps are things other humans did or said. God hasn’t done and will never do nor command anything that isn’t JUST …even if your human sense says otherwise.

    Are we equal? YES WE ARE. The SPIRIT is neither male nor female Do we have the same roles within a Family? No we don’t. Key word *FAMILY* …outside of that contex you play whatever role you want. If you’re the boss at your place of work..then you lead etc

    • Tito

      October 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      We don’t have to agree with you Madam Cocoa. We refuse to play the roles you set for us in our families just because you said so.

    • ......

      October 29, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      We agree with you cocoa, well said

  4. Manny

    October 29, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    That yadayada about pre-colonial Yoruba is not well-thought out. Yoruba women in pre-colonial times were most definitively not viewed as property. Maybe in your tiny neck of the yoruba woods. Certainly not in mine and I am a Yoruba girl that has done a lot of reading on the history and customs of the Yoruba people.

    A man can also be referred to as Kunle oko Solape or Kunle omo Akanni – does that make him property? Argue your case without using examples that are not relevant.

  5. Adem

    October 30, 2018 at 9:44 am

    My Niyi, you are pushing an agenda with this article and it is not a balanced one, you have concluded already so what is the need of debating or reasoning out what you have said. ” The man is to, well…whatever.” What did the pastor say about the man’s role? What do you think is the man’s role?
    Then ‘ how the woman is his helpmeet, how she was made from his ribs to be his companion, an afterthought’ Did he say an afterthought or you did?
    Who is misogynistic? Can a woman be misogynistic too?

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