Being a woman is hard, being a woman of color is even harder and being a woman in Nigeria is damn near impossible. Talk to any Nigerian woman about their life and they will have at least one (or a hundred) tales of how they have been held back or at the very least inconvenienced simply because of their sex.
From childhood, boys and girls are treated differently. I remember being made to go to my Grandmother’s house to learn how to cook – by the way, this consisted of me standing around watching my amazing Grandma expertly make delicious dishes. I didn't lift a finger. Now, don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed these 'lessons' because it gave me an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with my Grandmother. She is a remarkable woman. But I always wondered why my brother who is only 2 years younger than me, wasn’t subjected to these lessons. Is the ability to cook not a skill everyone, regardless of sex, should have? I mean, being able to feed one's self is a pretty important life skill no? Disclaimer: My brother can cook (Thank God).
Everyday on social media I see wild stories of sexual prejudice or sexual harassment in Nigeria. Here are a few examples from Nigerian women on twitter, and also from friends:
- One time a woman posted a video, she was in the back of a taxi and the taxi driver had his dick out and was playing with himself. Why?
- She was in a tightly packed bus (standing), felt a wet patch on her skirt, upon inspection, she realized that it was white and sticky and a man had basically… yeah it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
- She (and this happens ALOT) was trying to rent an apartment. The landlord wouldn’t rent to her because he doesn't rent to ‘single ladies’.
- She (Doctor) was on a business trip and was staying in a hotel suite. For some reason, this hotel had a bouncer at the entrance to where all the suites were. The bouncer refused to let her go to her room because she was on her own, and assumed she was a prostitute.
- In a court of law, a female lawyer introduces herself and the judge asks Miss or Mrs? ... Mind your damn business sir
- In a restaurant, the bill will always be handed to the man.
- You’re walking down the road or in the market and there will always be catcalling ‘fine girl, I like your breast’ ‘See as your nyash dey shake’ (translation: I like the tempting way your booty sways).
- You’re minding your business in the market again, or maybe a club this time. Some unknown man grabs your hand or your waist.
- She went to visit her female friend staying at a hotel and was told 'We don't allow single ladies in the hotel'
- A guy backed into her car on her way home, he got out of his car and apologized to her boyfriend who was in the passenger seat. She was driving. He bumped into them again at Shop-rite supermarket and profusely apologized to Her boyfriend. Again, he completely ignored her.
- A guy grabbed her while she was walking to the lunch room at the bank. He said he wanted to say hi. When she asked why that required him touching her, he asked what was so special about her, that means he can't touch?
- Let's not forget the men working at banks, who take your phone number off the forms you fill in, and call you to tell you you're beautiful and they want to get to know you.
- A group of girls having drinks at a hotel bar were asked to leave because they were 'alone' at the bar
- Several women have had their asses slapped by random men
- She was waiting in the queue for an ATM machine, when a man tried to cut in line. She refused to let him in, so he threatened to slap her because apparently he had '5 like her at home. (This one is funny, because she was taller than him so she squared up, dropped her British accent and dared him to slap her 😂 😂 )
- A man stopped her to talk, she said she wasn't interested. He persisted, she walked away so he pulled her dress to stop her and it ripped.
- She calls a handyman to come and fix something in the house. He tells Her how much it costs. Her husband comes back and asks the same question. The cost magically decreases by half.
- She is a PhD holder. She receives a request to speak at a conference. The message reads 'I must say that we are pleased with your accomplishments in the field of computer science despite being a female...' despite?
- When She had her baby, the doctor made a mistake that would've been fatal if it hadn't been detected early. When the mistake was discovered, hospital management and staff only apologized and tried to console her husband. No-one spoke to her, whose life had been at risk. Their main focus was her husband.
- Constant Rape victim blaming - need I say more?
Do you see how long this list is?
Why do we have to go through these things? Why can't men just be normal? I don't want to delve into the topic of rape/sexual harassment because I will be here all day. Plus, it is admittedly more of a global problem and I'm trying to focus on things that are "unique" to Nigeria. However, if you think that a man raping a woman is in any minute way the fault of the woman, I need you to block me on all social media platforms.
I SAID, BLOCK ME NOW!
A few years ago, I went for Umrah, which is the lesser Muslim pilgrimage, to Makkah in Saudi Arabia. It was just after the late afternoon prayer and I was trying to get back to my hotel from the mosque. Bear in mind that this is the holiest, most sacred site in Islam. The Masjid al-haram. The mosque where the holy Ka'abah is. Okay. After prayers, it can get quite crowded as everyone is trying to leave the mosque. And it was Ramadan, so Makkah was packed. Not that this matters, but I was wearing an abaya, the traditional black, long, loose gown with a long hijab on top. So I was covered literally head to toe. I was with my sister and she was wearing pretty much the same thing. We were still on the mosque grounds and everyone was shuffling along in the same direction trying to leave. As I was walking, I could feel someone or something touching my bum. I turned around to check and there was an innocent (looking) old man walking behind me. So I assumed it was accidental and kept walking, but I managed to move out of his path.
Once we had gotten out of the grounds, and the crowd had dispersed I told my sister about how I hated walking in large crowds because it feels like people are touching you and ew. And she was like 'yeah, when we were trying to leave it felt like someone was touching my bum'. I was in shock! This pervy old man had been doing it intentionally, and I moved out of the way only to put my younger sister in his path. I've never felt so disgusted in my life. In the mosque? And not just any mosque .. the Masjid Al-haram for God's sake! #MenAreScum
Anyway, I digress. This post was not supposed to be about rape/sexual harassment but my point is, don't be a rape apologist. It is never ever the victims fault. It doesn't matter what she was wearing, where she was going, her age, the time of day, whether she was drunk or sober. You are not animals, you are human beings who have the ability to control yourselves. So shut the fuck up with that trash.
A simple rule of thumb is: Don't touch anybody without their permission.
Okay, back to the point: A lot of Nigerians see being married as a huge achievement, like you know how after your name you put your degrees and qualifications (e.g. Jane Doe PhD). In Nigeria it might as well be - Olufolake Adekunle MRS* (*All names used are purely fictional, and any resemblance to any real person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental).
I genuinely don’t blame them, because the level of respect when you are a married woman in Nigeria is triple that of an unmarried one. It’s still less than the respect given to a man, but it’s more than that of a “single lady” (I really hate the term single lady, apart from when it's in a Beyoncé song obv). And no one wants to be at the bottom. Whenever there is an incident or disagreement involving a married woman you will always hear 'I am calling my husband right now' Why? Because that is the only way to get a man to listen to you apparently.
The richest black woman in the world and the second most powerful woman in Africa is a Nigerian woman. Every so often you will see a newspaper headline which reads '"I still kiss my husband everyday" - Folorunsho Alakija' or '"I still cook for my husband and wash his underwear" - Alakija'. Sorry ma, but who asked you? We want to know how we can be as rich and successful as you and 'It was by the grace of God' is not an acceptable answer. Instead we are reminded that even though she is super successful she is first and foremost a submissive wife.
As a Nigerian, marriage should be the ultimate goal (the sooner, the better), and God forbid it isn't. I told my uncle that I wanted to get married at 30/31 and he nearly had a panic attack. Imagine if I had said I didn't want to get married, the man might have fainted. Also, if someone says 'May God bring you a husband' or the hausa, kanuri or yoruba equivalent and I don't shout 'Amin', my mum legit has a go at me.
If I don't get married, will I die?????????
Nigerian women are the strongest, most resilient, most intelligent (Fight.Me.) women in the world. And it is a shame that our society tries to reduce us, disrespect us, put us down and define us by our marital status. Somehow we manage to smile through the bullshit and SLAY like no other. But we need to do better. Both men and women need to come together and fight these idiotic societal norms. The misogyny is deeply instilled in our men (yes, even you the progressive, feminist, Nigerian millennial. It's in your blood), and you need to fight to unlearn all those years of pre-programmed BS.
We all should be feminists, just think of all the good we could do together.
Words by Mira.
" I love to travel. I love to eat. I love to dance. I live to laugh. Sometimes I write about serious things. Most times I don't.."
Read more from Mira on her personal blog, AMEERKAT