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The Need for Feminism in Nigeria!

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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.

~Eleniyan


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  • NaijaPsycho September 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Okay–really..I mean really…If feminism is a legal and political construct then women enjoy the same protections under the law in Nigeria..(can't extend it to every country in Africa)…enjoy equal salary for equal work…(which is not even the case in America–survey of US university professors etc.)

    SO please stop writing these assumptions and anecdotal nollywood stories and protray them as fact. Every where has family issues and male power structure which planet do you live on?..Why single out Nigeria?…How many cases of rape go unreported in USA/UK/Canada because women dont go forward?

    Feminism in no way tackles cultural norms–e.g even in West after donkey years since suffrage you can still hardly see proportional women in high positions. Heck Africa's got a female president, heads of stock exchanges, chairwomen of EFCC, etc.

    My issue is you are blending culture and legallity and even clear deviant behaviour (your example of man and daughter in beer parlour) and suggesting that it is condoned by the Nigerian society!!>that is ridiculous!

    So by your standards when a european man keeps his daughter in a basement and fathers children with her–it is because the society condones it.

    Furthermore if you look at the decline in marriages, increase in single parent homes, drop in birthrates and arguably even general female condition. Is this the progress feminists fought for?

    • eleniyan September 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

      To your first point, women do not enjoy the same protections under the law in Nigeria. Matter of fact, protection of law is non-extant for the majority of Nigerians. What is law if not enforced? Nothing! Majority of our laws only exist in paper. Anyway I digress…the article above argues for fairness in treatment of women and to do this, FEMINISM is the tool. After all you cannot expect men whom enjoy the status quo to want change, human nature won’t allow!

      And yes, WOMEN should get equal pay for equal work…So what if that’s not the case in America. Does America dictate what we do now????…am confused!

      Secondly, what you called assumptions are not so at all. These are facts daily occurrences in our midst. I have seen them happen and my tête-à-têtes with many women of all works of life in Nigeria confirm the same thing. Most refuse to say the same in public for they believe the way it is, is the way things are meant to be. Some refuse to publicly talk because of fear. And the very fact that you may have come across some of these stories in Nollywood, speak volume to the veracity of them. More than 60% Nollywood stories are examples of what goes on in Nigeria.

      Yeah everywhere has family issues, duhh…your point here is what????? Because everywhere has it means we should not find a way to arrest those issues? The reactions to family issues are distinctive from one society to the other…the way we address our marital issues in Nigeria is what this article is concern about. I do not give a rat ass about UK or Canada…Nigeria is my country, thus the focus.

      Feminism does tackle cultural norms, it tackled it in those countries that place in parity their women and men. How do you think those countries got there? Do you think they just woke up one day and automatically say women and men are equal…It is mostly FEMINISM that got them there…it is less than 75 yrs ago when women were considered the property of men in USA…what do you think stopped that? Things just don’t change unless you fight to change. I laugh at your reasoning because it betrays a cursory mind…so because America does not and have never had a female president, does that mean USA still treats its women unequally? If in areas where equality has not been totally achieved, there is a constant effort to right that wrong…and guess what, Feminism is behind those efforts…Dude, don’t lemme quote numbers mehn…so because Africa has a black president, does it mean unequal treatment of our women are still not rampant? You must be kidding me. Ok EFCC and stock exchange are under chairwomen…it is unbelievable you are taken token figure heads to mean equality for our women…

      You are mistaken in your issue you are taken with the article up there…how am I blending culture and legality????…legality of what exactly????

      The child rape example was a real life situation…I never said our SOCIETY condones that particular malfeasance but that particular wrong was not reported because the woman feared the backlash of disobeying her husband/father and that most likely society would cast bad eyes on her….why do you think most of our women suffer in silent? If ours society is one where our women are treated equally and can speak their mind, most would not be suffering in silence…and this is what FEMINISM aims to solve.

      Decline in marriages, increase single parent homes, drops in birthrates and general female condition are exactly part of what Feminist is fighting for. These problems are not birthed by feminism.

    • @Queen_OoO March 2, 2011 at 12:07 am

      As a Nigerian woman living in America and a feminist. I prefer the term African feminism when referring to feminist movements in Africa because it is my belief that feminism can exist in Nigeria and everywhere else in the world but it can only exist when it is free of western ideas of feminism. I am not saying that western feminist should not be involved in movements or that African women can not look at western women for knowledge because we all have something to add to the movement but they should not impose their own ideas or strategies on African women and their feminist movements. Due to years of colonization and raping of the land many African women have lost their value within their societies. The introduction of patriarchy into the Nigerian culture changed the way society viewed women and set up the society to see women as housewives who duties where in the home only.

  • eleniyan September 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    @NaijaPsycho!

    To your first point, women do not enjoy the same protections under the law in Nigeria. Matter of fact, protection of law is non-extant for the majority of Nigerians. What is law if not enforced? Nothing! Majority of our laws only exist in paper. Anyway I digress…the article above argues for fairness in treatment of women and to do this, FEMINISM is the tool. After all you cannot expect men whom enjoy the status quo to want change, human nature won’t allow!

    And yes, WOMEN should get equal pay for equal work…So what if that’s not the case in America. Does America dictate what we do now????…am confused!

    Secondly, what you called assumptions are not so at all. These are facts daily occurrences in our midst. I have seen them happen and my tête-à-têtes with many women of all works of life in Nigeria confirm the same thing. Most refuse to say the same in public for they believe the way it is, is the way things are meant to be. Some refuse to publicly talk because of fear. And the very fact that you may have come across some of these stories in Nollywood, speak volume to the veracity of them. More than 60% Nollywood stories are examples of what goes on in Nigeria.

    Yeah everywhere has family issues, duhh…your point here is what????? Because everywhere has it means we should not find a way to arrest those issues? The reactions to family issues are distinctive from one society to the other…the way we address our marital issues in Nigeria is what this article is concern about. I do not give a rat ass about UK or Canada…Nigeria is my country, thus the focus.

    Feminism does tackle cultural norms, it tackled it in those countries that place in parity their women and men. How do you think those countries got there? Do you think they just woke up one day and automatically say women and men are equal…It is mostly FEMINISM that got them there…it is less than 75 yrs ago when women were considered the property of men in USA…what do you think stopped that? Things just don’t change unless you fight to change. I laugh at your reasoning because it betrays a cursory mind…so because America does not and have never had a female president, does that mean USA still treats its women unequally? If in areas where equality has not been totally achieved, there is a constant effort to right that wrong…and guess what, Feminism is behind those efforts…Dude, don’t lemme quote numbers mehn…so because Africa has a black president, does it mean unequal treatment of our women are still not rampant? You must be kidding me. Ok EFCC and stock exchange are under chairwomen…it is unbelievable you are taken token figure heads to mean equality for our women…

    You are mistaken in your issue you are taken with the article up there…how am I blending culture and legality????…legality of what exactly????

    The child rape example was a real life situation…I never said our SOCIETY condones that particular malfeasance but that particular wrong was not reported because the woman feared the backlash of disobeying her husband/father and that most likely society would cast bad eyes on her….why do you think most of our women suffer in silent? If ours society is one where our women are treated equally and can speak their mind, most would not be suffering in silence…and this is what FEMINISM aims to solve.

    Decline in marriages, increase single parent homes, drops in birthrates and general female condition are exactly part of what Feminist is fighting for. These problems are not birthed by feminism.

    • NaijaPsycho September 17, 2009 at 3:39 pm

      You stated "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."

      This presumes A) that there are "great societies" that you want Nigeria to emulate (which you have not named for us) when in fact Nigeria does far better than most and B) That African "don't get it".

      This is probably taken from some fuddy-duddy "feminist class" you attended out here which somehow casts other non-western cultures in bad light.

      In so far as you are focusing on Nigeria since you "care" you should present a better researched write-up. That presents the both good and bad, anyone reading this would assume that somehow women in Nigeria live worse than anywhere else and as a Nigerian, I categorically repute that notion. And we can disagree for reasons I have alluded to earlier.

      How can you say the "laws are not enforced" when you yourself indicate that the cases "are not reported"?

      When I use the word legality it is to affirm that the laws of the land "do not" oppress women–women can drive, women can travel, women can run for office. So if "feminism" is a tool to bring that about–guess what it was done already–indeed with the constitution of Nigeria. TBC

    • NaijaPsycho September 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm

      Contd:

      You accuse me of having a "cursory mind" when you used selected examples and I used my owned selected examples to argue my point. So if one man chases his first wife away does that mean there are others that have not lived in peace? I list my "token figures" is it not that same in the other places you are suggesting have "reached their plateau"?

      You are the one that cites "family issues" as reason for need of feminism. Neglecting that many women have established means of redress up to and including divorce. The problem is you picked an issue that is in itself broad did not focus it and decided to use scatter ammunition with massive holes in your arguement. I am sure you are passionate about this issue but you need to step back and really perform a comparative research before delving into issues beyond dating and clubbing. You simply cannot paint the numerous social structures of an entire country in bad light simply because you FEEL like it or spoke to some of your girlfriends at the hair salon.

      • eleniyan September 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm

        NP wrote : “How can you say the "laws are not enforced" when you yourself indicate that the cases "are not reported"?

        You mixed up the context here, never have I argued our law as unequal, but rather that our culture encourages unfair treatment of our women. What did I say the reason why the incident was not reported??? if you grasp well, you would see where I said, the lady did not report because of fear of how our society would react to her, fear of what her husband’s family would do. Ofcourse the law (hopefully) would have done something, but what the law would do differs from what perception our culture would have on the wife. Get it, law and culture differs, you are mixing this and a lot of other things…the article up there never touched on law, legality or whatever you might want to call it….the articles argues our culture’s unequal treatment of our women, and how feminism can conquer that. Don’t get it mixed and twisted. If you wanna say our law kills the inequality, that’s a whole new topic and it seems to be what you are trying to say in your responses…..and to that I don’t think you know what you are talking about.

        What does women driving has to do with INEQUALITY? So because women travel, it means there is no inequality??? Or Women running for office…Look dude, you sound petulant in your responses, and a wanna-be pedantic, and them jumbled up my points and intentionally obfuscate yourself. So let’s get back to the basis and devoid yourself of your defence stand since no one is attacking your country here…Here is a poser?

        DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE TREATED UNFAIRLY and UNEQUALLY in Nigeria space?

        On the personal, who delves into clubbing and dating issues???…me? then you must not have read my other articles!

        • NaijaPsycho September 18, 2009 at 7:19 am

          My friend digging up your SAT revision words and personal attacks cannot mask the almost complete lack of intellectual rigour in your write-up and subsequent responses to my stated issues with your piece.

          As a true Nigerian let me respond to your question with MY own question:

          "What concrete actions based on your "Feminism as a tool" can we take to make women report on offenses perpetrated on them by men?" (give us your 7 point agenda if you will)

          Let me help you here. Western "feminist movement" fought for voting rights, reproductive rights, legal equity etc. So before I confuse you entirely and you again resort to "big grammar" which is laughable since your original write-up exhibited no such vocabulary. By the way you are the one exhibiting all the things you accuse me of..LOL

          What are the "actionable items" the brand of feminism you espouse for Nigeria fighting for? I am willing to support when I know WHAT exactly I am trying to achieve.

          PS. Its an interesting using words like "duuh"/"look dude"…and then flip to "pedantic"/"obfuscate"..hahahaha

  • ajoma joseph ojochogwu. A.K.A ajtegzy September 9, 2012 at 3:56 am

    the possition of women and the girl child in national development cannot be overemphasized. Why should me deviate from issues that concern feminin in Nigeria? Men should note that whether they run away from it in Nigeria, scholars and humanist who are sympathetic will continue to table it in our Nigeria society. I urge all Nigerians to please put this feminin issues into considerations and work towards thier growth as they are not ment for the chores alone, with this, i believe and ensure a better Nigeria feminin society just as other Nations.

  • ajoma joseph ojochogwu. A.K.A ajtegzy September 9, 2012 at 4:06 am

    the possition of women and the girl child in national development cannot be overemphasized. Why should men deviate from issues that concern feminin in Nigeria? Men should note that whether they run away from it in Nigeria, scholars and humanist who are sympathetic will continue to table it in our Nigeria society. I urge all Nigerians to please put this feminin issues into considerations and work towards thier growth as they are not ment for the chores alone, with this, i believe and ensure a better Nigeria feminin society just as other Nations. Long live Nigeria

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