Monday, 13 December 2010
“WOMAN! part 1( which man buy this car for you?”)
These post is in two parts, second part continues here
Firstly, Mena is not a feminist oh, heck I dont even know what the concept really mean if I am honest. If I was strictly one, why would I publish blogs that practically bashes women, like this for a start? Nah I am interested in all topics and it just so happens that todays topic is centered on male chauvinism. honest.
The following article was written by Chimamanda Adichie. Here are some excerpts:
Sitting beside a male friend in his car, and I roll down my window to tip a young man, one of the thousands of unemployed young men in Lagos who hang around, humorous and resourceful, and help you park your car with the expectation of a tip. I brought the money from my bag. He took it with a grateful smile. Then he looked at my friend and said, “Thank you, sir!”
This is what it is to be youngish (early thirties) and female in urban Nigeria. You are driving and a policeman stops you and either he is leering and saying “fine aunty, I will marry you,” or he is sneering, with a taunt in his demeanour and the question so heavy in the air that it need not be asked: “which man bought this car for you and what did you have to do to get him to?”
More article: A humid night two years ago, sitting beside a male friend in his car, and I roll down my window to tip a young man, one of the thousands of unemployed young men in Lagos who hang around, humorous and resourceful, and help you park your car with the expectation of a tip. I brought the money from my bag. He took it with a grateful smile. Then he looked at my friend and said, “Thank you, sir!”
This is what it is to be youngish (early thirties) and female in urban Nigeria. You are driving and a policeman stops you and either he is leering and saying “fine aunty, I will marry you,” or he is sneering, with a taunt in his demeanour and the question so heavy in the air that it need not be asked: “which man bought this car for you and what did you have to do to get him to?” You are reduced to two options; to play angry and tough and to thereby offend his masculinity and have him keep you parked by the roadside, demanding document after document. Or to play the Young Simpering Female and massage his masculinity, a masculinity already fragile from poor pay and various other indignities of the Nigerian state. I am infuriated by these options. I am infuriated by the assumption that to be youngish and female means you are unable to earn your own living without a man. And yet. Sometimes I have taken on the simpering and smiling, because I am late or I am hot or I am simply not dedicated enough to my feminist principle.
I have a friend who is, on the surface, a cliché. An aspirational cliché. She has a beautiful face, two degrees from an American Ivy League college, a handsome husband with a similar educational pedigree and two children who started to read at the age of two; she is always at the top of Nigerian women achievers lists in magazines; has worked, in the past 10 years, in consulting, hedge funds and non-governmental organisations; mentors young girls on how to succeed in a male-dominated world; recites statistics about anything from trade deficits to export revenue. And yet.
One day she told me she had stopped giving interviews because her husband did not like her photo in the newspaper, and she had also decided to take her husband’s surname because it upset him that she continued to use hers professionally. Expressions such as “honour him” and “for peace in my marriage” tumbled out of her mouth, forming what I thought of as a smouldering log of self-conquest.
Another friend is very attractive, very educated, sits on boards of companies and does the sort of management work that is Greek to me. She is single. She is a few years older than I am but looks much younger. The first board meeting she attended, a man asked her, after being introduced, “So whose wife or daughter are you?” Because to him, it was the only way she would be on that board. She was, it turned out, a chief executive. And yet. She lives in a city where her friends dream not of becoming the CEO but of marrying the CEO, a city where her singleness is seen as an affront, where marriage carries more social and political cachet than it should.
Another friend is a talented writer, a forthright woman who makes people nervous when she speaks bluntly about sex, a woman who describes herself as a feminist, and who talks a lot about gender equality and changing the system. And yet. She earns more than her husband does but once told me that he had to pay the rent, always, because it was the man’s duty to do so. “Even if he is broke and I have money, he will have to go and borrow and pay the rent.” She paused, rolling this contradiction around her tongue, and then she added, “Maybe it is because of our culture. It is what they taught us.”
There is, of course, always that “they”. Two years ago, we were slumped on sofas in his Lagos living room, my brother-in-law and I, talking about politics as we usually did.
“I think I’ll run for governor in a few years,” I said in the musing manner of a person who only half-means what they say.
“You would never be governor,” he said promptly. “You could be a senator but not governor. They won’t let a woman be governor.”
What he meant was that a governor had too much power, and was in control of too much money, none of which could be left to a woman by that invisible “they”. And yet. I realise that 15 years ago he would not have said, “you could be a senator.” Civilian rule brought greater participation of women in politics and the most popular and most effective ministers in the past 10 years have been women. In the next decade, my brother-in-law could be proved wrong. In the next three decades, he will certainly be proved wrong. But she would have to be married, the woman who would be governor.
My first novel is on the West African secondary school curriculum. My second novel is taught in universities. One question I am almost always certain of getting during media interviews is a variation of this: we appreciate the work you are doing and your novels are important but when are you getting married? I refuse to accept that the institution of marriage is what gives me my true value, and I refuse to come across as silly or coy or both. The balance is a precarious one.
“Would you ask that question to a male writer my age?” I once asked a journalist in Lagos.
“No,” he said, looking at me as though I were foolish. “But you are not a man
The Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 33, won major literary awards in 2005 and 2007
Mena's thoughts: I think what Chimamanda was talking about was the almost unspoken condescending way women are potrayed in Nigeria and in instances conditioned by society to behave.I think the situation exists because our society gradually (say by the late 18th/19th century) started placing premium on the male child, making him more important than the female child by dictating for males only to inherit properties even going as far as to classify women as properties. Our culture that dictate that men are superior to women, or that husbands are domestic gods in their homes. In addition the notion was that only male children receives a proper education. Even today the family expends more resources on the male child (if any) than the female child. This results in the current position where many women simply cannot support themselves, they rely heavily on the men for their daily survival, since men have by culture grabed all the resources of wealth in our male dominated society. hence the avenue for abuse.
And just as the areaboy felt the money was from chimamanda's friend all because he is a man..and the policeman assumed that a man bought the author her car, other demeaning stereotypes are 'accepted' in our society.
Here are a few;
If its not the notion that You are nothing without a man or children, it is the supposition that any material items you own was bought as a reward for 'servicing' a man.
As a woman there is a ceiling you 'should' aim for and not be overambitious as that is the 'proper' way to behave regardless of the fact that you are trained for the job and have the relevant experience to take it on.
What is worse about this thinking is how women are objectified in Nigeria. Its either you are the innocent virgin submissive very young lady (note some read submissiveness to mean you should be emotionally, verbally and physically assaulted with a grateful smile on your lips and longsuffering knees on the floor thanking God for a man)or you are the outspoken, 'open eye' whore (God help you if you are also still single and an adult) or you are the diabolical, jealous, desperate old witch out to suck the blood of people so as to live longer (reserved for much older women)
Other variations of woman hood exists but I think you get my drift.
Just imagine that in our soceity, violent rape of women is condoned. "She asked for it' "No means yes" what sort of society are we breeding? Also imagine what some ethnic groups put widows through so they can prove they dont have a hand in the death of their husbands. Who encouraged this process? Why dont they subject men to the same humiliation?
They dont because society has been conditioned to accept the villification of women in our society.
Note: I speak in general terms for the sake of debate, as I acknowledge not every single woman is denied opportunity in the Nigerian society. If anything there has been a shift in thinking in recent times however that shift is merely a drip in the ocean of societal double standards.
I rest my case :D