The Need for Feminism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole!
Yeah! yeah!! yeah!!!, the sound of the word “Feminism” makes many men shiver, and send some women sucking their teeth. The word has been so demonized yet its movement has been tremendously helpful to all those societies that have embraced and let it shape their polity. No society has reached their plateau in greatness that has not done away with oppression of its women. Women’s importance and contributions can never be fully emphasized, yet we Africans seem not to get it.
First, let’s go into what feminism is NOT, it is not ANTI-MEN! It seems this misconception has been the staunching block against feminism. To the supposed feminists who have been espousing “anti-menism”, I must say you are hurting the cause of feminism. The problem with the anti-men agenda cloaked in feminism is that, in its effort to subvert the order of things, wanting to take power away from men, they forgot the fundamental differences both socially and biologically, between men and women. By peddling their “freedoms” or “anti-men” agenda that are artificial, self-destructive, and merely allow women to have superficial semblance of equality, they hurt feminism’s aim to improve emotional and psychological relations between men and women, and cultivate a genuine respect for women. This anti-men agenda has been mistaken for feminism, hence the road-bumps against feminism in our society.
Feminism is a political movement aspired at equal rights and legal protection for women. It involves various movements, theories, and philosophies, all concerned with issues of gender difference; that advocate equality for women; and that campaign for women’s rights and interests.
I know many, in and out of Nigeria, would say, Eleniyan should shut his trap and that this is the least of our myriad of problems. I say these people are very tendentious because the status quo jells well with them. This is a serious issue and its solution would begin to elevate our country as it has in other progressive and successful societies. Our society is one with a dominating patriarchal system with inherent oppressiveness. The oppression is overt but sometimes may be covert with seeming innocuousness. It is the male-based authority and power structure that is partly responsible for the inequality, oppression, and fosters the sense of impunity our men display in their actions. To combat this, one of the measures to use is feminism.
Before when women were at the mercy of male specie, could not self support in case they never married or are divorced, or became widowed and forced into untenable situations as a result, feminism came to the rescue, and it has since been more advantageous than otherwise. It befuddles me why we have not elevated to parity with men the treatment of our women now that the social and economic dynamics are ever changing and the elevation of what women do—breaking barriers and doing what only men used to do. Why do we continue to retain some of our culture that subject women to unequal treatments? Culture must not be stagnant, must bow to its people, and any cultural practice that hinders happiness or pursuit of happiness, and perpetuate unfairness of any group of people, must go. Some of our men even use religion to justify unfair treatment of our women. Those religions did delineate the roles of man and woman in a home, though most of women’s roles may be said to be in the “supporting” cast, but never did any religion say woman is unequal to man. We must cease using the difference in roles to arrive at unfair, unjust, and unequal treatment of our women. To help us get there, feminism is the tool.
It is universal or at least almost universal the traditional setup of a home; the man goes out to work and provide for the home, while the woman takes care of the home. There is nothing latently unequal here. However the inequality airs its head the way our society responds to issues arising out of the family setup. Ours is a culture where whatever a husband does, how egregious against his wife, he is almost always scot-free, but if the shoe was on the other foot, the wife would almost always chastised, and most of the time, demonized and ostracized from her community. This particular attitude makes many of these husbands feel unaccountable on how they “RULE” their homes. How else could a man, after many of years of marriage, brought a home a new woman, and when his wife protested, he chased her out never to come to back, and the society did nothing to hold this man accountable. Even if our law did not go after this guy, how could our society sit still, did nothing against the man, casted a negative eye on the woman, and made her feel less worthy. This is the case with the preponderance of women in Nigeria.
It takes an absolute amazing self-centeredness for any man not to see the obvious and entrenched gender inequality in our society. To stay this status quo betrays the negative nature of our society. The world always commends people that see their own weakness/negative and work to improve it. So why is our society refusing to change its negative nature that affects half of its people? Feminism’s aim is to cure this negative nature. The most recurrent delusion of feminism is that it is solely about “Women’s issues.” However what affects women affects us all, in other words, “Women’s issues” are everybody issues. For example, there was a real-life short documentary about some African raped women; in one of the cases in the documentary, a girl was, on several occasions, taken to beer lounges by her father and was repeatedly pawned for sex with everyman that bought him a drink. He did this over and over again. This action was clearly against the law, but societal taboo prevented the action from being reported to the authority. The mother of the girl feared airing the issue because of what the husband’s family side would do to her, and because of the disdain in the society against a woman insubordination of her husband. Even if it was reported to the authority, the authority is full of men who do not put wage on equality between men and women. Now this is how that girl’s issue is also our issue; the particular girl is probably forever psychologically scarred and she would most likely take the scar to her future husband resulting in a problem in that home. And if she were to bore offspring, she may impart into those children her psychological infirmities. Do you see how one cruel act of one person and the societal mum about it affects everyone down the line? Feminism would lessen the chances of this kind of cruelty happening when a man knows and feel he is not superior to the woman and cannot behave anyhow without being accountable to the society and/or the law. Feminism would create a safe haven where our females can easily speak up whatever issues they grapple with, and it would help rein many of our men behaving badly due to the feeling of unaccountability to no one in their homes.
Granted there cannot be sameness in treatment with women and men because we are incredibly different. EQUALITY is not sameness in treatment, but fairness in treatment. Differences in compositions and nature must not encourage unfair treatment of one over another. Fairness is equality and that is accepting people as they are and giving them what they need, not discarding the needs, wants, and aspirations of someone just because that person is not of particular gender. Unfairness in treatment of our women is what feminism guns after, and not down for this movement is akin to not supporting movement to equalize disparity in racial treatment.