Dear Naija feminist,
I normally shouldn’t be writing you an open letter because I had neither initiated any form of discussion with you before now, nor met you in person; but I have heard about you, read about you, and encountered you on twitter – yes, you have ‘feminist’ boldly written in your bio and I never had a reason to ponder on what that ‘title’ of yours means, or how it affects me; maybe because my knowledge is limited (just like every man’s) when it comes to women and things that dwell inside their heads, or because I never cared. But, today, I have few things on my mind and I will simply go ahead and state them like a layman that I am, so I beseech you to please hear me out and read this letter through; after which you can kill me or kiss me – whichever you feel is applicable.
It was one of my followers/friends on twitter who tweeted something about you last week, and this is the tweet verbatim, “If you wanna take a babe out on a date, make sure she’s a feminist, that way you won’t incur too much loss” by this, he implied you would pick up the whole bill or maybe share it with me so that you won’t come across as being ‘dependent’ on me. I replied my friend that he was just assuming or making a sweeping generalization as some self-styled ‘feminists’ would eat on a man’s bill, buy takeaway packs and reward the man with a side-hug when the date is over.
But let me quickly ask you my dear feminist, and I hope you’d tell me. Who is a feminist especially in Nigeria? What does she do? What are the causes she takes on? On whose side is she? Is she just someone who stands up to men at every opportunity? What is even your own definition of feminism? I hope you can give me an answer when/if you reply my letter. But before you probably do, I checked the Oxford dictionary, and it defines feminism as ‘The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ it also describes a feminist as a person who advocates for such rights. Now, here is the problem; feminism is a total English word which has no direct translation that I know of in any Nigerian language. Noticed I didn’t say Africa? Because I have not been to other African countries to see if they have a local word that captures feminism as a word or not, and as much as I try, it might be a serious task for me to aptly define who a Nigerian feminist is – except you educate me.
But generally, feminism to me should be a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women and maybe both genders. But my dear Naija feminist, it seems you have lost the plot somewhere, you no longer defend any right or advocate for anything, and you have totally turned feminism on its head; almost as if you have changed it to ‘misandry’ and I wonder why; because instead of defining and establishing rights, it has now become a constant war between you and the male gender. These days, I see you treating guys as if they are next to nothing, especially those you think you won’t likely need for anything, or the ones that seem below your professional, social, and financial status; I see you nagging endlessly for no other reason than to prove a point that your idea must be considered superior whenever you find yourself in a male dominated environment; I see you subtly communicating to younger girls that men are just there to be used either to get to the top, or to conceive a baby, and they can even strike out conception, because artificial insemination is now possible. And I see you constantly opposing everything and anything without a girl or a woman in the forefront just to make your voice heard or just for the sake of doing it. Do not get me wrong, I believe in human equality and I think it is not a concept, but a necessity we need to stand on this earth as men and women. But surprisingly, you have taken human equality to mean a kind of ‘gender equality/war’ that demonizes everything male and male dominant; you forget that God created us male and female, our brain structures, hormones, and psychological traits are different based on our sexes, and we still use different restrooms in public places.
See, I have not forgotten how you ‘rightly’ fought against that beautiful MTN TV commercial, ‘Mama na boy’ you were of the opinion that it portrayed a picture of discrimination against the female child that exists in Nigeria and Africa, and you screamed at the top of your lung until it was taken off air because you succeeded in labeling it ‘gender sensitive’ or is it insensitive? This was fine by me, but may I remind you that with all your hues and cries, if I called you today that my wife just put to bed, your first question would be “Is it a boy or a girl?” and I am thinking,why would you even ask that question? Ponder on that.
Dear feminist, you have also been clamouring equality at workplace and in matter of domestic roles, I have even heard you say “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do better” Nothing is farther from the truth my dear; while I won’t dispute the fact that there are exceptional women who would attempt to do anything a man does and be successful at it, we both know that males are greater risk-takers and females are more nurturing. Or how would you look at me if I own a cement factory, and I hired girls and women to carry two bags of cements on their backs and load on my trucks? So, there are jobs I would not give to a woman not because she doesn’t have enough brain power to do it, but because she would not possess the needed energy required. Of course, this does not mean that women should be prevented from pursuing their goals in any field they choose; what it does suggest is that we should not expect parity in all fields as more women than men especially in Nigeria will continue to want to stay at home with the children and pursue careers in fields like early childhood education or some form of business that will not hinder them from building a desired home, while a man will opt for a more tasking vocation. In fact, in our society, when a woman goes out to work daily and the man stays at home to tend to the kids, such a man will be labeled lazy and un-African.
My dear, I have a lot of things to say, but space would not permit me today, and I fear you might not like reading a long and boring letter, but before I drop my pen, you should know that we live in a male dominant society and that might not change for a long time to come, also know that a portion does not equal the whole, even if that portion is really louder. Feminism means allowing both women and men to be themselves as God created them to be – as individuals, not defined by their reproductive system but rather by their personalities, their abilities, their responsibilities, and their definitions of themselves. And feminism, distilled down to its absolute core, is about gender equity where we all strive to create a society in which individual’s gender does not restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness; where we’re all deserving and worthy human beings – women, men, even trans-genders.
And lastly, please remember the words of Madeleine Albright in a keynote speech she delivered at the Celebrating Inspiration luncheon with the WNBA’s All-Decade Team, 2006, she said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” So, don’t just make ‘feminism’ a title on your twitter bio or something you brag about, go out today and use it to make for a more equitable society for mothers, sisters, daughters, and especially do something about our little girls that were kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State. I don’t have any suggestion, but just do or say something to someone, to bring back our girls. God bless you as you do so.