Nigerian Women In Music Cannot Be Feminists, Their Lives Are At Stake
The music industry isn’t a place for feminists. It’s a male-dominated space, which celebrates hyper-masculine excesses as art, objectifies women as a commodity for male sport, and is defined by the basest of human interaction and logic.
“DJ Cuppy is tone deaf. DJ Cuppy has privilege. DJ Cuppy’s station in life makes her lack empathy. DJ Cuppy is a spoilt brat. DJ Cuppy has no sense. DJ Cuppy is just stupid.”
That’s the predominant consensus on Twitter from female fans and many music enthusiasts who watched the young DJ pull up at an interview with City FM and declare with a fascinating half-conviction and half-stutter that she isn’t a feminist.
According to her, “I used to consider myself a feminist, until I realised that I did not really understand it. I don’t like people who are hypocrites. People are out there speaking about women rights, but behind closed doors are doing crazy things.”
“I will never come out as a feminist because I am in a male-dominated industry, so I have a certain scenario. I deal with men on a daily basis and I realise that they will always think that they are better than women. I don’t think it is going to solve it,” she says.
The moment those words left her mouth, I knew a war was upon us. Feminism on Nigeria social media exists as a spectrum of intensity. From the mildly assertive protagonists who dabble into the movement as a “side interest,” to the amenable evangelist looking to educate and win souls, down to the extremist who are militant in their disposition and arguments, they exist in harmony in unison of purpose. DJ Cuppy, a bastion of female achievement, coming out to disassociate herself from the movement is a big blow to their efforts. When Nigeria’s biggest female DJ with a lot of female admirers show up and use the word “feminism” and “hypocrites” in the same sentence, then you know the backlash will be huge.
Much of the triggered reactions blame her privilege for insulating her from the struggles of grassroots women. After all, her surname is ‘Otedola’. She is the daughter of the famous oil tycoon, whose business holdings and wealth borders on legendary in Nigeria. And while this view is valid, what they are missing is a consideration of the terrain that she operates in.
The music industry isn’t a place for feminists. It’s a male-dominated space, which celebrates hyper-masculine excesses as art, objectifies women as a commodity for male sport, and is defined with the basest of human interaction and logic.
When DJ Cuppy, who has had to navigate through the maze of toxic masculinity, massaging male egos and pockets with both money and feminine charm to rise to her current station in her profession, distances herself from the movement, it isn’t due to privilege. It’s a ploy to save her life.
The music industry is a minefield for women. That’s why at every level, they are under-represented. From the constant demand for sex as a currency to the belittling of feminine efforts and voices, women have their work cut out. Their ideas are passed through a male filter for validation, access to their bodies are often required as part of negotiations, and when they finally get to achieve anything, look carefully behind the curtain, and you would find sad tales of sacrifice, compromise, and most often, a bucket of tears. Their struggle to be successful is individualistic. Why jeopardize it with something bigger than themselves? They aren’t Jesus. They can’t die for you.
And outside the industry, they have to interface with a fickle fanbase of men who find the movement antagonistic. The bulk of Nigerian pop music listeners are drawn from an unenlightened bunch who find the calls for female emancipation as mostly an attack on the primordial and parochial order of things. Their love for the music is highly dependent on their positive emotional perception. If they feel threatened by the rise of women, their defences go up, and the music is branded negative and avoided. Feminists aren’t welcomed to their basic human love and consideration, talk less of their earned Naira and fandom.
Tiwa Savage, Nigeria’s pop queen, isn’t a feminist too. And she is extremely vocal about it. Nigeria’s most celebrated women in music avoid feminism because it is the only play which gives them professional agency to make a decent living from their art. That art is made in a space where feminism isn’t welcome. So why stab yourself in the back, when you profit from it?
Ideally, we want a world where feminism isn’t so hated, and women aren’t so oppressed. But no one wants to die on that hill, when they can avoid it and grow professionally. DJ Cuppy has privilege. DJ Cuppy has money. DJ Cuppy might be tone deaf. But, you have to admit that DJ Cuppy would rather be the celebrated DJ Cuppy, than a music industry reject. Sorry.