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Atoke: Who Cares About Gender Roles When a Green Card is At Stake?

Atoke

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Atoke: Who Cares About Gender Roles When a Green Card is At Stake?The just-concluded season of TLC’s reality TV show “90-Day Fiance” had Michael and Angela, whose story together captured millions of viewers across the world. Like other couples on the show, they are expected to play out their relationship to the audience, establishing that they can be together for 90 days (for visa purposes) to allow the couple eventually live happily ever after in the United States of America. For Michael and Angela, things were switched up a bit, with Angela visiting Michael in his home country – Nigeria.

From the first time the audience meets both of them, the producers ensure that Nigeria’s notoriety is addressed. Because, along with the amazing achievements of Nigerians across the globe, we are well known for advanced fee fraud. In the early 2000s, the escapades of Nigerian men were well known. They left a trail of old (sometimes not so old) white women who paid money to imaginary love interests.

The routine was pretty simple: a promise of love. Everybody needs love; it didn’t matter where from. After weeks of conversation, someone would be asked for money – Internet Boo’s mom/sister could be down with a illness so intense, there’d be a need for money to save their lives. For some reason, white Americans fell for this. Until the gag was up. The victims spread tales of how they’d encountered Nigerians; the perpetrators simply moved on, not caring about the damage to the nation’s reputation.

When Angela told her family and friends that she’d met Michael, they quickly raised the issue of the possibility of fraud. She dismissed them, saying she could handle it if it ever came to that. At least, she was the one going over there and she had nothing to lose – it wasn’t like she’d filed documentation for him to come to the US.

Michael and Angela’s story popped up on my radar because little clips of the show were posted on Instagram. I heard the Nigerian accent and saw Angela and knew how this was going to end. Michael, a man in his 30s, was trying to prove that he was in love with a white woman in her 50s – the collective Nigerian reaction was “this guy is looking for a green card”

It is a well known hustle with some Nigerian men: find a foreign woman (she could be of any race or age – the only imperative factor is the passport), get her to fall in love with you (or have her believe you love her), be involved and be a listening ear. Finally, when you’re well ingrained in her life, propose and marry her.

To the American viewer, Michael’s task was apparently easy: do not aggravate the 52 year old white woman who had come across the world to see if the Nigerian dick was worth it. But every Nigerian watching the entire thing play out knew that it was a train wreck waiting to happen.

First and most important is that misogyny is deeply ingrained in the heart of the average Nigerian. Patriarchy is also deeply woven into the fabric of the society. But, Angela did not have a lot to fear: she is white and American. All Michael had to do was tuck in the misogyny and sexism … for 90 days.

He couldn’t.

He did try. After they had sex, Michael was asked to describe the experience, to which he responded that Angela was agile and muscular. If that isn’t a man who was trying, I don’t know what else is.

When Angela arrived at the Lagos airport, she excitedly kissed Michael, who wiped his lips. Yeah, that was our first hint that Michael wasn’t going to do a good job of tucking in any of his biases. In his interview with the producers, he said he hadn’t expected Angela to be that fat. However, he was anxious to emphasize her whiteness. He’d never been with a white woman, and on the hustle to Green Card, one had to stay focused. Fatness or age aside, Michael was going to try.

As the show went on, we saw Michael refer to Angela as fat during a scene where they were at the market to buy matching outfits. (Nigerian couples often dress like this – it’s one of the highlights of our culture, symbolizing love, unity and camaraderie) Michael was rewarded with a slap for calling her fat. He smiled and humbly accepted the reprimand.

Green card, Michael. Stay focused on the Green card.

In another scene, Michael told Angela he preferred that she didn’t smoke. Angela said she was going to buy her cigarettes, he didn’t get to tell her what she was going to put in her body or not. For the uninitiated, smoking, drinking and possession of tattoos are seen as unfeminine traits. In fact, women who brazenly smoke in public are stigmatized. Oh, I forgot to mention piercings and ankle chains. But you can figure some of these things out by asking your Nigerian friends.

Anyway, so Angela really wanted to buy her smokes and Michael didn’t want her to, but was once again constrained by the Green Card Quest.

At a visit to his mom’s home, Mama Michael laid out a plate of snails (a delicacy, usually reserved for the highest level of guests – because of the cost and the amount of time required to prep it. Also, tasty…) To the uncultured Westerner, Angela’s reaction to her first taste of the snails wouldn’t have been surprising. She whispered to Michael to quickly kiss her, and she spat out the half chewed snail into Michael’s open mouth.

I don’t think Michael saw that coming, but we have already established that the greater goal is the Green Card. His mother and her posse watched in awe as this older woman swapped mouth fluids with Michael. I applaud their ability to remain affixed to their seats.

Everyone was clearly on board. Green Card or bust.

The popularity of this show and the ridiculousness of everything playing out to millions of viewers across the world further highlight the suffering of Nigerian women who have to deal with Nigerian men.  I shudder to think about a Nigerian woman doing a third of the things Angela did to Michael.

To assert your agency as a Nigerian woman while you’re in a relationship with a Nigerian man in the manner Angela did is always noteworthy – simply because it is not the norm.

Nigerian women, particularly those raised in Nigeria, are taught that men are king. Nigerian mothers and aunties are also the stalwart defenders of patriarchy. They encourage you to continue to minimize yourself so that the man does not feel emasculated.

The masculinity is so fragile, it can be toppled by something as simple as disagreeing with your man in a gathering of his friends.

If a Nigerian man is seen carrying his wife’s purse, there’s at least one person sniggering, wondering who has the balls in that family. Is his father in law paying the rent? Is the woman paying his bills? Or is there a blue passport at stake?

In the wildly popular Nigerian film industry, Nigerian men who choose to be with assertive, fully formed and aware women are often depicted as men whose “manhoods” have been “stolen.” Somehow, through these movies, men who have women like Angela are continually portrayed as being weak or lacking in masculinity.

Nigerian women languish under patriarchy, but even worse is the burden Nigerian men bear under toxic masculinity.

Man up.

Be a man.

Don’t be a pussy.

These words are often thrown at Nigerian men who show any sign of perceived weakness, in relationship with women. It is particularly a worsened situation when the man’s apparent net worth is less than the woman’s.

It is presumed that if a man shows kindness and compassion to his wife, he automatically is someone who has lost his balls because he is benefiting financially from the wife.

In the case of Michael, he endured what his peers would ordinarily not abide because of his quest for a green card. To the struggling Nigerian man, the green card is indicative of financial freedom. It is the beginning of the end of his toils under the tough Nigerian economic climate.  Whether or not monetary Nirvana lies abroad is a risk he is willing to take.

Michael and Angela’s story also raises the subject of imbalance in inter-racial relationships. Michael mentions Angela’s whiteness so many times, it is clear that it is the only thing he sees when he looks at her. In a scene where Angela is unpacking and displaying the gifts she has brought for Michael, she pulls out a Make America Great Again hat. Michael laughs loudly saying he loves America (bless his heart, the poor guy wants to leave Lagos so bad). He then goes on to say that Donald Trump is his business mentor, one he loves very much.

Someone give that guy his green card already.

The British colonized Nigeria, and even though we regained our independence in 1960, many Nigerians are still plagued with colonialism of the mind. White is seen as right; the Brits did such damage to our psyche that even the most basic, bare minimum white man is often viewed as superior. Service people in Nigeria are generally seen paying obeisance to white expatriates. It is so bad that even Indians and Chinese get the trickle down adoration from everyday Nigerians. (Asians, although, not racially classified as white, but close enough in their eyes. Hello silky hair!) The anti-blackness is real, so it is quite understandable that Michael’s friends and mother (who would ordinarily have probably protested the entire Angela-Michael arrangement) watched quietly, afraid to rock the boat.

It’s the Colonizers all over again, but this time with the might of the dollar – or the imagination of its existence. (Angela nearly suffered a stroke when she found out that $900 was missing from her account.) In any case, as efforts go, Michael has given this quest for Green Card his best shot. And if you know how fiercely Nigerian men hold on to patriarchy, you’d admit that this man has paid his dues. Gender roles become flexible when there is a blue passport or green bills at stake.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore.Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

21 Comments

  1. Abi

    November 7, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Fantastic. And sadly so true. The adoration trickles down also to people of any mixed race as long the black has been sweetened up.

  2. Mrs chidukane

    November 7, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    Atoke na you sabi. Michael came out smelling like roses while Angela became the villain. People were even giving him ideas on how to secure the green card without Angela. Asking him if he had brothers, lmao. He also didn’t steal her money. It was a bank error.

  3. The Real Oma

    November 7, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    “the Brits did such damage to our psyche that even the most basic, bare minimum white man is often viewed as superior.”
    Atoke, very few things irk me more as a Nigerian than this! It irritates my soul, it kills my spirit. As someone who currently lives in the abroad, I am constantly saddened that I am a second class citizen here and I am very quickly relegated to the same status in my own country, as soon as a white person shows up, even if they are ‘chinko’ Like, I don’t get it. I sometimes wonder if we can still continue to blame the Brits for this after half a century of independence. I have both passively and actively confronted service people in Naija for doing this and each time it is clear it is more an instinctive reaction than a premeditated one, so, i don’t know, the thing weakens me jare

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      November 9, 2018 at 12:39 am

      You’re actually more of a first class citizen there than you’ll ever be in this unrepentantly unfaithful nation of ours. Please take this as gospel and stop wasting precious fealty on imaginations of the Nigeria you left behind. The one you’re now pining over will tear your living flesh apart, kick your bloody bones into the gutter and sharply sell your passport to an expat Indian/Chinese worker for a few extra naira.

      Try and resolve to make your home wherever you find yourself.

  4. Mama

    November 8, 2018 at 12:07 am

    Atoke, I really like the way you write. Your narrative made it seem like I was watching the show itself. As funny as this story sounds, you have raised an important point that we tend to trivialize in Nigeria- white worship. The black man’s (and woman’s) psyche has really been messed with. Is it not only recently that Nigerian artiste started to feature dark skinned love interests in their music videos?! At this point it is really becoming pathetic.

  5. Californiabawlar

    November 8, 2018 at 12:59 am

    Eleniyan is back in the building! Mama alaye! Eyan iyi! Awon eruku ti miss yin baje! ??????

    Sooo…. did the green card happen or nah? As I no dey watch tv again ?

    Meanwhile, I saw a ‘vibrant’ Naija boy at the African store the other day… him and his… errrrm… plus sized African American babe… at least I deduced that they were a couple from her own body language. His own? Hian! The azimuth and inclination of the bobo’s waka relative to his madam’s was as if his ancestral spirits from Ibadan were pulling him in a totally different direction. The way he was acting drew so much attention. Fidgeting and acting like he didn’t want to be seen.
    Tbh, there was nothing wrong with the chick… yeah she’s orobo but no be today wey yansh dey back… patapata na like size 18-20… but this guy was acting like she rub shyt for body ?
    I just wakad and thought about the ridiculousness of the situation. Really, if not that all these Naija omo boys stay believing their culturally-induced hype, there is nothing wrong with dating/marrying a white person, a fat person, an older person or a fat white older person. People are people… my Aunty who isn’t even that skinny married and had kids for a man in his 30s when she was 50. He didn’t need jack from her but love from a woman ‘that knew exactly what she wanted from life’.
    My point is that a lot of these green card expedition-type relationships aren’t even that bad to begin with! But all the cultural mago mago that most Nigerians have bought into – as described aptly by Atoksy- will not let them be honest with themselves. Who is Michael by the way or by the bush that he cannot marry orobo older woman for who she is on the inside and what she brings to the table? rather than acting like putting up with her could only be compensated by her oyinbo skin. It’s this their attitude that ends up effing them up in the end. Because like a self-fulfilling prophesy, most of the foreign women turn around and become monsters to them because they know they are being used.

    In some ways I’ve enjoyed being a female immigrant. It’s not safe for women to do these things, so most chicks just find honest means of getting their immigration cards or worst case scenario make it a cash transaction. I don’t see the use of deceiving somebody with love… and unlike men that somewhat generally have no value for their bodies, how do I explain to myself that I gbensed a man for 4 years to stay in a country. A country with a high chance of getting shot in the face as you walk out of the courthouse with that blue passport… ejo, isit worit???‍♀️

    • Atoke

      Atoke

      November 8, 2018 at 1:20 am

      She got mad that he referred to her as an “Elder”, and broke off the engagement.

      Odun mi gan fun. Poor guy was just being a well brought up Yoruba man who respects agbalagba.

    • Mama

      November 8, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Where I live, females do it too. Theirs is even more pathetic because they seem to gain nothing (no sex for years with their partner) except for visa status.

    • newbie

      November 8, 2018 at 8:35 am

      Making plenty sense mehn. I did follow the programme for a couple of episodes but then stopped, so not even sure how it ended. I must admit I too straight up viewed it as the stereotypical scenario where the dude is seen as ‘putting up’ to get what he wants, but you’re right, it mustn’t always be viewed that way.

    • Bio

      November 8, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Iwo gan gan ni eleniyan.
      Padi to sure. Your ajasa just catch me this morning.

      You made sense sha…….
      I am also thrill with the fact that your aunt married a 30 year old in her 50(s).
      How did they find themselves attractive?
      Did the hubby not feel he will be disrespecting her mummy’s age mate?
      Did aunt not feel like she was with her son? I will like to know.

      Yes I agree that most of these arranged relationships are not as bad.
      Matter of fact I have always believed that even the simplest of marriages have some arrangements i.e considerations.

      E.g. The moment you start saying I cant marry a Muslim, a christian, Hausa. I want slim, tall, (un)educated girl, my husband must be a banker e.g. you are not different from him who says my prospective bride must have a green card. Its all some calculation with some expected benefits.

    • lorenz

      November 8, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      I love you.

    • Marian

      November 11, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Lol!! in my head we are friends.. mo ko e je bi indomie; no homo!

  6. That African Chic

    November 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

    I love 90 day fiance…I watch all the seasons and Micheal and Angela featured on ‘Before the 90 days’ because he hasn’t made it yet to the US. The actual ’90 day finace’ is filmed when the application has been processed and the other partner is in the US

    Now about Michael and Angela!! They were one of the most dysfunctional couples for that season. (Actually most couples on 90 day fiance are). Their relationship is clearly 2 people using each other. Angela, an older, fat,brash American woman who needs companionship and sex and Michael who just needs a damn green card. Angela is not stupid and knows exactly why Michael is with her. She is just hoping she can use Green Card to make him stay with her forever but we all know it’s not possible. At the show finale Angela got mad and broke it off with Michael because he said ‘i respect Angela because she is my elder’. It made for great TV, Angela’s reaction. I think Michael deserves a green card for putting up with Angela’s behaviour. She has no regard for him or his culture she just wants her black d**k.

    And the subject of white superiority, Atoke, nothing saddens me more. Coming from someone married to a white man I know what I’m talking about. I’m currently pregnant and all my Mum keeps talking about is how her grandchildren will be white! She’s extremely elated about that. When my then boyfriend and I were living in my home country he would always get preferential treatment!

    • 9ja

      November 9, 2018 at 8:44 am

      @THAT AFRICAN CHIC, with all due respect, the same overreaching generalization can be made about you by people who (not knowing you personally) would presume that you married your hubby because he is white.

      Again, no disrespect intended (particularly as I personally do not know your mother), but frankly while there are many people like her in all parts of the globe, she does not come across in your portrayal of her as a particularly enlightened person. Apologies in advance.

  7. Adem

    November 8, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Wow, you article is so demeaning of Nigerian men. I mean are all Nigerian men like this or do I leave in an alternate universe.

  8. Ajala & Foodie

    November 8, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    I tried watching that particular season but i just couldn’t. All the Americans on that show have issues, that is my personal conclusion. All of them have issues with dating and the opposite sex, which makes them susceptible to green card hunters. Micheal put up with a ton that many men but home and abroad would not tolerate. Not many men and even women sef in the abroad will tolerate getting slapped. All one need do is picture the case being reversed. Would Angela (a Caucasian woman) have tolerated getting hit by Micheal? That had nothing to do with patriarchy. It just plaim simple decency.

    On the other hand, Yes, we still worship Caucasians and believe not only are they better than us, many still think they are better looking. I was just talking about this yesterday after a friend was talking about the insecurities her kids face because they are mixed race. She is Caucasian but her hubby is African-American. I told my hubby in 9ja that will not be an issue. In fact, that will be cool factor. Sadly, there are still many mixed race adults im Nigeria that still hold on to the ridiculous “hald caste” myth. At the end of the day, many of us are still practicing racism and the words of MartinLuther king Jr does not only hold true for Caucasians. It holds true for us too and sadly even today. We “black” Africans need to educate ourselves more/better on “judging people (ourselves) based on the content of their character and not the color of one’s skin”.

  9. Jaykay Zieuwa

    November 8, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Nice article. Though when I read ur bio and saw dat “Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University”, I couldn’t help but think dat u r a victim of ds same colonialism u so speak strongly against.

    • Ovadje

      November 9, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Lol! ???

      Are you implying that she is being hypocritical by preferring a white uni to a Naija uni? Especially given that the best place for an African creative writer would be in Africa. Meanwhile, if everyone here is so disgusted with so-called “white worship” how come it apparently still exists? Anyway, the demeaning manner that most Nigerians treat other Nigerians (particularly their underlings and the “lower” classes, including menial service-providers), I am not sure that I can in any good conscience join the mob-bashing of the so-called “white-worshipping” Nigerian-on-the-Street. At least, they are likely to get a tip or other material reward (or even just mere appreciation) for their services – unless of course said Oyibo has been in Nigeria for more than a minute.

  10. 9ja

    November 9, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Abegi, enough already with the overbroad (almost racist) overgeneralizations…smh

    Although one recognizes that these sorts of pieces must of necessity bear a certain measure of generalizations, please let’s not go overboard with it. Been personally privileged to traverse through much of the globe, and very few people (if any) has the amount of self-pride and self-confidence (almost bordering on arrogance) that Nigerians do. At least, most Nigerians believe that if granted the same opportunities they can achieve as much as anyone else – and trust me (as someone who’s been around), not everyone else do!

    What many Nigerians really “worship” is the almighty dollar and they (for historical and even current economical reasons) tend to equate foreigners with dollars and attendant wealth, and/or Green Card or the possibility of relocating to the often mythical “the Abroad” (and frankly not just Caucasians, Asians, or mixed-race, but frankly about anyone with a Western accent). However (as unfortunate as it may be), it is hardly peculiar to Nigerians.

  11. Akara Pancake

    November 11, 2018 at 12:12 am

    I do not agree with some of the points raised in your article as I don’t actually think misogyny was at play between Michael and Angela. His shock that she was a smoker or that she was fatter than he had expected are more to go with culture shock or personal taste.

    Some females would not want to be with a man who smokes, or someone who is overweight. To each his own. Not wanting PDA is also a personal choice – I am a passionate dude if I’m into a chick but smooching in public. Certainly not in front of your folks.

    I know it is common place for our Nigerian sisters to lay blame on many aspects on our patriarchal culture at the feet of Nigerian men. However not all parts of native culture are designed to put women in a disadvantaged position. Some of our native norms are matriarchal. That is another topic for another day. For the article, I will say that many times when a man would take care of his wife and make her the beneficiary of his time and resources. However his wife has a son who grows up and does the same for his new wife, the mother in law gets angry and says the new wife has her son’s balls/masculinity in her pocket. Women sometimes are unwittingly the biggest proponents of norms which they blame menfolk for. All genders have to work together to stop not our beautiful culture which has many fantastic aspects, but those parts which are now repugnant, “immoral”, brutish and contrary to our public conscience.

    So what if Michael wanted a green card- the lady knew this from the start; she isn’t stupid. All she wanted was love and attention in return. It’s very common for Western men to procure mail order bride services run by Asian and Russian agencies. Western women have been known to go to certain Caribbean and West Indian island holiday spots in search of vacation flings who could turn into a long term permanent relationship.

    All around the world there are willing partners looking for economic freedom in exchange for love and sex. It’s not unique to Nigerian men

  12. RAJ

    November 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    As an AA women, I am totally shocked and sickened that Michael subjected himself to such abuse, embarrassment and emasculation. His countenance dropped from high to extremely low as Angela cursed him in the most disgusting manner before the entire world. This is after she’d slapped him!
    Will this behavior continue after marriage and the treasured Green Card is received? Most likely, YES! She has crossed the lines of respect and written the low level of derogatory treatment she will hand out…and he agreed by freely receiving it.
    So for the next 2 years, he will be subjected to maniac episodes of irrational, unstable emotions and mental beatings. Even considering that Angela will be supporting Michael financially.
    Also, I’m concerned that Michael has even minimized cultural importance of African men (and women) bearing children to carry on their legacy. Please, I’m puzzled that at 30, has he cast this aside?
    I’m questioning that he may love her, else why would he skip over the many available younger women? Or, is it strategic of him to marry a women nearer to death so he could then marry someone else and still bear children later on? Who knows…
    Here in America, and especially under the current Presidential administration and social climate, heightened attacks toward AA, other minorities and immigrants are more common place and becoming regular, accepted occurrences. For those seeking Green Cards, the greener pastures here may not be so green as we have a President thst is openly racist and he meant every demeaning word spoken against Africa.

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