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Cisi Eze: Who Are We Really Protecting Women From?

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On December 15th, 2018, Damilola Marcus led the Market March Organisation to Yaba Market in a bid to protest the way male traders and touts harass women who come around the market. At this point, it is worthy to note that some men were a part of this memorable walk.

That day, I stumbled on a Twitter thread by @amaka_sandra1. It was a compilation of how those traders were banishing the movement with cries of “Holy Ghost Fire!” and how some kept insisting they were going to touch women inappropriately. I was not befuddled. I was not disappointed.

It was so hard to miss the glee in their eyes as they took that stance. Causing women pain was an act they revelled in. Picture this: A villain in one Nollywood classic deliberately, delightfully, and dastardly squeezing life out of the miniature voodoo doll of a rich relative in the city. On his face is a look that screams, “Yes! Yes, die!” Those male traders in those videos gave me that vibe. The sheer wickedness of it was blood-curdling. Just when I thought evil could not get any eviler, I saw those men.

As expected, there are those backlashy tweets that crawl out to fight progress. Most of them were saying the same thing: “This is not how to go about it. You should educate these men…” Nyen-nyen-nyen!

There is this overused, tired trope used in Nollywood movies. Here goes: A young man (imagine Jim Iyke) goes over to visit his girlfriend. On getting inside the sitting room, he meets her dad (visualise Ashley Nwosu – bless his soul). Her dad sizes him up, and blurts, “Who do you want to see?” Jim’s character states his mission.

“Oh,” the dad (Ashley Nwosu) says, and a faux smile peeks through. “You want to see Linda. Okay, let me go and call her for you. Wait for me, ehn.” He says and adds, “Feel free. Sit down.”

The young man takes a seat. He is fiddling with his hands. Soon enough, the soundtrack becomes dramatic the moment the dad storms into the sitting room viciously waving a cutlass. The soundtrack (yes, that clichéd, dramatic tune playing in your head right now) gets louder and next thing, the older man barks at the visitor, his eyes glazed with fury, “Who do you want to see?”

Quickly, the young chap jumps up from the seat and scampers away from the chair. He dashes to the door and runs out of the house. The girl’s father hopes he has succeeded in chasing the young man away from her life.

Why do you think her father is protective of her?

Why are our brothers protective of us?

When people make campaigns such as “Let us protect women” from who and what are they protecting women?

Men are aware of the wickedness of men. They are aware of the evil behaviours they exude which are detrimental to women. They know what they are doing is bad. They know. It would seem as though they thrive off women’s anguish, feed on it. It makes me wonder if they bathing in women’s tears makes their beards luxuriant.

Sadly, this unfortunate way men treat women is not limited to the market. We see it manifest in all spheres of life.

We see it in the boardroom when a male colleague shuts down a woman. “What she is trying to say is…”

It manifests when a woman is breathing all by herself in a public space and some man decides to insert his presence there.

It is evident when a father refuses to send his daughters to school, “After all, is it not kitchen it will end?”

The list is endless.

Men are aware of those toxic behaviours they exude. People tend to guard with passion a system that favours them, even if it put others at a disadvantage. They might feign ignorance, but let us not make the mistake to think that they need to be educated on how to treat people with kindness. They do not need to be schooled on how to be decent humans. Is it not a matter of morality to do unto others what you want others to do unto you? Is it not the kind thing to treat people how they tell you they want to be treated? Or are we saying men are psychopaths that need therapy and medicine for them to display empathy, kindness, and compassion?

There is no point coddling the feelings of someone who wilfully drinks your tears. Left to me, I suggest we take action. We have talked and talked, and I am sure these men know right from wrong. The Market March Organisation took action by protesting, and update is that the harassment in Yaba Market has reduced drastically. For this, I am grateful.

Action could take any form. It could be anything within your power that reduces misogyny in your personal space. It is doable.

P.S. “Men are wicked” is a generalisation the same way “Nigerians are religious” is a generalisation. Does that mean every Nigerian subscribes to religion? There are exceptions to every generalisation. I acknowledge that certain generalisations heighten prejudice. However, you cannot face prejudice in a system that has been craftily crafted to favour you based on a circumstance you did not choose.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Cisi Eze is a Lagos-based freelance journalist, writer, comic artist, and graphics designer. She feels strongly about LGBT+ rights, feminism, gender issues, and mental health, and this is expressed through her works on Bella Naija and her blog – Shades of Cisi. Aside these, she has works on Western Post NG, Kalahari Review, Holaafrica, Mounting the Moon, Gender IT, Outcast Magazine, Rustin Times, 14: An Anthology of Queer Art Volume 1 and 2, and Sweet Deluge (Issue 2). Her first book, published by Tamarind Hill Press, UK, is titled “Of Women, Edges, and Parks”. Cisi’s art challenges existing societal norms.