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Feminism, Nigerian womanhood and equality




IT is now politically incorrect to comment on the dress a woman is wearing. You cannot ask a woman out for a drink in Europe without millions of women screaming that you are a lecher, a creep, a misogynist. Chris Gayle, the West Indies Cricket Captain was fined for daring to say to TV interviewer that if they played well he would ask her for a drink. He was fined Aus$10,000 by the Aussies!!

When a woman dresses in a way to make her noticed, you better not notice, if you do, you might be accused of Sexual Assault in the crime of ‘lookery’. If a woman wears a micro mini skirt (skirt that is too short), it is her body she has worn it on and you should look away.

Women are beginning to take this Sexism thing to the extreme – but that is alright; they have been trampled upon for so long. So women in the movies are no longer actresses, they are to be addressed as actors! A woman is no longer Miss or Mrs. She is a MS (Miserable Spinster) or Lady or Dame.

Women wear jeans that are cut off just below their crotches, with the cheeks of their buttocks clearly visible – but you cannot look too long let alone comment. I see lots of women in Nigeria with foundations which claim that women are regarded as second class citizens in Nigeria.

Maybe so, but let us look at our culture and our women. Ever since elementary school, I was in a mixed class. More often than not, the brightest pupils were girls. After elementary school, we were streamed into boys and girls separate secondary schools, only for us to attend mixed schools again in Higher School/A levels. With their certificates, the ladies were employed and paid the same as men. In my class in the higher school, the brightest stars were women, all of whom passed and all of whom went to universities, some here and others overseas.

The first people to become Permanent Secretaries from my school were women. The first female Registrar of WAEC (Margaret) was my classmate – she even became the First Lady. Many were professors of Medicine, Biochemistry, etc. Those who read Law were judges, or even outstanding members of their profession. None was paid less than her male counterpart. Thus, Nigeria never really had that discrimination in wages that is so much talked about. My first boss in the cabinet office was a woman (Francesca Turi), a very good leader and Permanent Secretary.

But journalists and entertainers in the West will not allow this issue to rest! They are always pushing the boundaries, tying up sexism with inequality. So adamant are they that a common African custom of female circumcision (It is not as general as it is supposed) has been re-christened “female genital mutilation.” Very well, so why is male circumcision not called “male genital mutilation” for which a refugee status ought to be available to all males?

I have no problem with women playing Football, Tennis and Lord knows how many games. The West keeps going against nature – same gender ‘marriages’– that has to be a contradiction in terms. Of course it is wrong to discriminate against any one for what they practise in private – which I believe that is what sex ultimately is.

But this mania for imposing your standards and viewpoints on me has to stop. Women Tennis players agree they should be paid the same as their male counterparts; football players also demand equal pay. A male judge and a female judge earn the same in Nigeria but football, tennis? In tennis the rule is best out of five sets for men and best out of three sets for women.

The argument is endless: let us remove all distinctions between men and women – let’s be androgynous hermaphrodites. Ultimately all will play football and tennis with no distinctions. You may even increase the number of players of football to 12 – 6 men, 6 women to a side! There will be one tennis ranking, one football ranking, etc ridiculous.

Feminism in Nigeria must rescue some of the best aspects of our culture. We have top female bankers – one (Cecilia), established over 340 branches – a feat not many have achieved – that bank was eventually taken over as is sometimes the nature of business. Another female banker has just retired (Evelyn): she had a stint as Executive Director of our biggest bank and MD of a bank specialising in SMEs and industries. There are at least six women chairpersons of oil companies which they own, many chairpersons in publishing (Lady Maiden); another MD in an international bank (Stanbic’s Borha) and so on. The question is whether these successes had turned these women to aggressive dominatrixes.

Many of these women are from the West or South East where the culture is inbred deeply to respect tradition and to give males their due. These cultures show that when women give things to men they courtesy a little and whatever is being handed over is done with both hands.

Among the Yoruba, in some places, the women kneel but when you meet a woman – captain of an industry or bank and you are a guest in her house what you find is a simple housewife, hosting her guest. I was in the house of two such persons – a retired Chief Judge Rose, and the Chief Executive of an oil company, Seinye. Both of them displayed the most complete composite of the best in African womanhood: basically someone who had competed with men in brainpower and came out top (bested the best).

There was not a single hint of this women liberation stuff – we saw women dedicated to the task of looking after their men and receiving in full measure, the gratitude and devotion of their husbands. There was simplicity, compassion, understanding, tolerance, the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong with an equal measure of determination to maintain right, to let it triumph over evil and wrong. These qualities were so engrossing that they compel us to respect them and to respect their wisdom. They do not walk before mean men, they walk before kings: they were the embodiment of wisdom.
Some women, however, defy this idyllic description here – they are the Jezebels, aggressive, greedy, and loud. The appointments of female ministers and clergy have brought out the worst in them: pushy, corrupt, indulgent, and capricious sharks destroying everything they touch. Look around and you will find that in politics both men and women are corrupt hyenas. Perhaps, ultimately some women are so bad as some men.

Many Nigerians think that in old age they will always have someone to look after them. That the old traditional values of extended families will kick in and these old people would be looked after. I’m afraid this is not what happens now. It happens many are miserable, lonely, have no care-giver, no one to talk to, no place to go to even talk to their fellow old people.

A few years ago, Seinye met two such old men in different places – Ahoada and Ekiti. She stopped and spent hours talking to them and decided to do something about this. She found a place as a recreational centre for old people – found care givers who take them out to walk, see outside their rooms, etc. That scheme of two is now 3000 and at Christmas brought all of them together to mix with ordinary folks like you and me. They were all decked out in their best and you should see the smiles and light in their faces as we sat and talked with them.

But more work has to be done – apparently for every 100 old men and women reached, there are 1000 more to be reached and cared for. More care givers have to be recruited, we must phone our elders as often as possible, create events they can participate in, reporting abuse of elderly people, signing them up to medical insurance thus impacting positively in their lives, having helped to make people reach old age we should help them enjoy that stage of their lives.

Lastly, the battle has been joined between young women and middle aged or older women, since the idea that beauty now includes fuller bodied women with thick lips and big buttocks – beauty aspects popularised by Beyonce and the Kardashians. Now you can do plastic surgery to increase your lips or inject them with botox which also can remove tell-tale old age signs e.g. wrinkles.

As far as big breasts and equally big bottoms – these can be achieved by cosmetic surgery or by foam filled bras and large foam bottoms complimented by a punishing stomach reducing body fits. The older Nigerian women already have larger bottoms, thighs and breasts, etc. So what the younger women want, the older women already have. At a party both sets of women sing the songs – it is surprising to hear 45-50-year-old women singing the latest Wiz-kid, Davido, Olumide songs; they then combine the old dance steps they knew 20 to 30 years ago with the latest dance movements. Their younger comprados are restricted to the latest, each group gyrating as though their lives depended on the song.

When this contest starts, the men – usually 50-70years sit to watch the show as the battle rages; the battle of the shaking bottoms and shoulder is exhilarating and a good time is had by all. As at now, the older women have the edge but not for long. The younger women now, like wolves, hunt in packs.

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