From the time a girl is born in this part of the world, there is a silent understanding, that her life is not hers.
Perhaps, majority of the population may no longer overtly voice their preference for a male child as an heir, but that mindset still prevails whether voiced or not.
As a little girl, I heard it from the women in my family who told me to learn how to cook, not because it was a basic life skill I would need as a human being, but because the man I would one day marry would need that in a wife.
I was taught to close my legs when I sat down, so that no man would get a glimpse between my legs, not because it was untidy, but so that people would not be aroused and form bad opinions of my upbringing.
As I reached puberty, I was regularly reminded of the importance of “keeping myself”, not for any other reason than to please my future husband, and assure him of my virtue -whatever that was - as well as my worth as a woman.
I was discouraged from lifting heavy things, so that my arms would not become muscular like a man's.
Sent to an all girls school by my parents, I spent most of my life planning my choices with a nameless, faceless man in mind who over time assumed a lot of power over me.
I couldn’t wear fitted dresses or tight jeans so that men would not be aroused to uncontrollable lust by the sight of my teenage hips and bum. And God forbid that a man would see me naked.
I was taught that his arousal by me would bind me to him or reduce my value in the eyes of God and man. My speaking loudly and out of turn, about my opinions and my questioning of authority was snuffed out because God forbid that by questioning authority, I provoked the head of my home to physically lash out in anger.
I looked at every guy I would date or make friends with through husband colored lenses, careful not to say or do the wrong thing.
I was fearful of my own desires because no good woman or girl would have them, believing that they came naturally to the male sex instead.
As a result, towards the end of my teenage years, I was convinced that because I was too emotional, too irrational, and physically “weak”, that my dreams and desires were to take a back seat, my worth solely laying in my ability to support, endure, stretch and shrink when required, talk in a pleasing manner and, most importantly, forgive.
However, the more I interacted with the alleged superior sex, the more I noticed that they were every bit as selfish, emotional, irrational and flawed as I was. They were human. Same as me.
Why then was my worth tied to how much they would deem me worthy?
The older I get, the more grateful I am to the feminists that came before me, the unruly women who don’t adjust who they are to fit into spaces that no fair creator would force them to occupy, just because they pee sitting down.
The world is gradually changing, and for that I am grateful.
Let us teach girls that the use of the idea of their womanhood for sexual gratification by men or the media does not change the fact that their bodies belong to them regardless.
Let us teach the women that will come after us, that their lives belong to them.
Words by Ikanniwa Soyinka