The Occupational Hazard of being a Nigerian Woman
I did not plan to write this post, but this morning my friend tweeted about something that had happened to her earlier today and it got me all worked up. I don't really know where I'm going with this, so bear with me.
(Oga = Boss in pidgin English)
Uncensored Mango is an intelligent, amazing, beautiful, successful black woman and the fact that she was disrespected in her own home (which, by the way she pays for herself, with her own money. Like this is HER house guys.. not daddy or mummy’s house) simply because she does not have a penis and testicles infuriates me.
Being a woman is hardddd, being a woman of colour 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 realised that it was white and sticky and a man had basically… yeah it’s exactly what you’re thinking
- She (this happens A LOT) 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. Bouncer wouldn’t let Her go to Her room because She was on Her own, and he thought 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 a hotel to see Her female friend who was staying there and was told 'We don't allow single ladies in the hotel'
- Some guy reversed into Her car on Her way home, he got out of his car and apologised to her boyfriend who was in the passenger seat. She was driving. He bumped into them again at Shoprite supermarket and profusely apologised to Her boyfriend. Again, he completely ignored her.
- Some 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 at the bank who take your number from the form you fill in, and call you to tell you you're beautiful and they want to get to know you
- They were having drinks at a hotel bar and 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
- Over Christmas She gave the security guard of Her apartment block some food, and he started texting Her. Because being nice and feeding someone during the holidays means you have feelings for them obv 🙄
- When She was 10 years old, She went to a 50th birthday party and had to go and say hello to an older (maybe like 60 years old) 'uncle'. He grabbed Her, put Her on his lap and kissed Her directly on the lips. (I would've died. On the spot.)
- She needed to go to the KLM office at the airport, but a soldier wouldn't let Her in unless She gave him Her number. She gave it to him just so She could get in. He called Her non-stop for the rest of the day. So She blocked his number. She ended up having to go back to their office again the next day and he was there so he started harassing Her for not picking up his calls.
- She got into a disagreement with a client at work. He said he wouldn't talk to Her, She should go and bring Her husband
- She was driving her car, minding Her business. A guy shouts from his car 'Madam, go get driver'
- She was 18. A married officer that helped with Her passport renewal was trying to flirt with Her, so She lied She was younger. He wasn't deterred. When She went back to pick up Her passport, he checked the date of birth, smiled and said 'you're even a big girl'. He wouldn't give Her back the passport until She agreed to be 'his friend' aka give him Her number. As this was happening, a colleague walked by and asked about his wife and kids. He responded 'they're fine' like it was nothing.
- She was 16/17 years old in Naples. 6 girls (She was the only Nigerian) were standing together having a cigarette. A car pulled up behind Her and started honking incessantly. She turned around to see a bald, sweaty, obese man who had his penis out, looking straight at Her and stroking it.
- She was called an ashewo (prostitute) by a policeman during an illegal search. She responded 'like your mother and wife'. He threatened to shoot Her.
- She's an engineer. A man saw Her setting out for a construction project and proceeded to ask Her why She didn't become a fashion designer.
- 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?
- A man crashed into Her car, that She bought. She stepped out of the car to check the damage. The man who hit Her and random okada men (motorbike drivers) said 'Please get back into your car. This is the fault of the man who gave you this car and allowed you to drive'.
- She is a divorcée. Her neighbour was beating his wife black and blue. She came out to try and stop him. He responded 'Madam please go back to your house. When you can keep a home, then you can have a voice'. No one else came out to try and help, some of the other neighbours told their wives that they would divorce them if they tried to assist.
- 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 apologised 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? There's a lot more and I will keep adding to it as I hear.
Why do we have to go through these things? Why can't men just be normal? I don't want to go into the whole rape/sexual harassment thing, because I will be here all day. Plus that's more of a global problem and I'm trying to focus on things that are "special" to Nigeria. But if you still think that a man raping a woman is in any minute way the fault of the woman I need you to get off my blog and block me on all social media platforms. I SAID BLOCK ME NOW!
😊 Story time: 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. Doesn't matter what she was wearing, where she was going, her age, the time of day, whether she was drunk or sober. You men 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...
I saw this on instagram earlier today, and it made me happy:
P.S. Please keep tweeting at me with your Nigerian woman experiences. You guys are everything. And thank you to everyone who let me share their stories ❤️