I Am Not A Feminist
I wish that the moment a Nigerian woman opens her mouth and utters the words "I am not a feminist", she would disappear and reappear as the fourteen year old sixth wife of a ninety year old man who insists on fucking her every day whether she likes it or not, with no employment prospects beyond domestic labour, ten children to feed, and nothing more than a primary school education.
Why would I wish such a horrible fate on (presumably) innocent Nigerian women who have done nothing to me?
Because, this, my dear Nigerian women is the alternative to the Feminism that you despise so much: Patriarchy.
Nigerian women are before all else, hypocrites par excellence.
If I had one kobo for every time I have heard a Nigerian woman with at least a Bachelor's degree declare nervously "I am not a feminist o!" in the vicinity of Nigerian men, I would be so fucking rich I wouldn't know what to do with myself.
Feminism has a bad bad reputation in Nigeria. Nigerian women love to claim to anyone who will hear that they are not feminists as if feminism were synonymous to being a genocide mastermind or some other equally appalling thing. It is then highly surprising that these same Nigerian women who deny feminism with all their energy have no problem availing themselves of all the benefits that feminism has to offer such as the freedom to pursue education, and to choose whom they will marry for themselves, the freedom to make as much money as humanly possible, to buy big cars, and build more houses than any sane person needs.
Arguably, Nigerian women on average have more advanced degrees than any other group of black women in the world but when it comes to feminism the number of Nigerian women that walk around with their heads so far up men's asses that it's almost impossible to comprehend the paradox they represent is unbelievable.
I am going to put forward a theory that some (or many) might disagree with. As far as I am concerned, it is true as the day is bright but you're welcome to disagree.
I postulate that Nigerian women distance themselves from feminism because they want Nigerian men (of whom the vast majority are actively invested to some degree in upholding and perpetuating patriarchy) to like them.*
It really is that simple.
What I believe is really up for debate is the level to which Nigerian women are engaging in this behaviour consciously, and the level to which it is an unconscious strategy borne out of a need to survive in a society that so emphatically insists on valuing women not by their personal achievements but by the degree to which they are attached to a man and the perceived permanency of that attachment.
Nigerian women say they are not feminists because Nigerian men dislike and are threatened by feminism. In a country where a woman driving a large luxury car (say a Range Rover Sport) can be interrogated by a lowly security guard who demands to know "Which man bought this car for you?", women have learned that if they want to be successful in securing a husband, they must toe the patriarchal line.
What then does "toeing the patriarchal line" mean for a Nigerian woman? Well the answer differs starkly depending on which rung of Nigeria's viciously stratified social ladder you are on. For poor Nigerian women with limited education, submitting to patriarchy is every bit as bleak as you might imagine it to be.
This is typically what happens in rural Northern Nigeria where the vast majority of Nigeria's poor and uneducated or under educated people live - little girls are married off to old men because men like tight pussies and the Right to Tight Pre-Pubescent Pussy is a God-given inalienable right just like the right to Life and The Pursuit of Happiness.
In wealthier or more educated parts of Northern Nigeria and in the rest of the country in general, the higher up the social ladder you climb, the more subtle and less brutal (but every bit as pernicious) the submission to patriarchy becomes.
Educated / Wealthy Nigerian women still want Nigerian Men to like them but they enjoy the finer things of life too much to give up their cushy freedoms and become cattle for the use of men like their poorer or less educated sisters so to get around this they pay lip service to patriarchy when inside many really hold feminist views.
Educated / Wealthy Nigerian women go about proclaiming they are not feminists yet all the benefits that they greedily reap are protected and were set within their grasp by their feminist families. Granted, these wealthy / educated / middle/upper class families are probably a whole bunch of feminism-deniers themselves but if they really were not feminists and truly supported patriarchy, they wouldn't be churning out daughters with medical degrees, engineering degrees, advanced business degrees, successful businesses, and so on at the rate they currently are. They would have told their daughters long ago not to bother with education and to focus on being pretty so some nice old man would marry them when they were nine years old.
Clearly, this did not happen to the majority of women from wealthy / educated Nigerian families and in most cases, their families were in support of them furthering their education and having successful careers as well as amassing as much wealth, power, and property as they could possibly manage.
Instead for more fortunate Nigerians, the focus is on denying feminism as loudly as possible as long as they are not denied their feminism-derived benefits. These Nigerian women do not care that by doing this they are worsening the situation of the subsection of Nigerian women who actively suffer daily oppression from the Nigerian men in their lives.
Since most well educated Nigerian feminism-deniers are largely protected from the real brunt of living in a patriarchal society, they do not see any real need to challenge whatever relatively few and less serious vestiges of patriarchy that still exists in their lives ( such as the ubiquitous pressure in Nigerian society for Nigerian women to be married and child bearing before the age of 30, workplace sexism, or the rampant lookism evident in the hiring practices of Nigerian companies across the nation )
Because these Nigerian women (and they outnumber those Nigerian women who are unashamedly feminists by far) never challenge the misogynistic attitudes of Nigerian men on any real level, those Nigerian men who are involved in more vicious and crushing oppression of women feel very free to carry on as there no repercussions of any sort.
Why won't police men in Nigeria automatically assume that brides maids returning from a friend's wedding are prostitutes in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary? Why won't security guards at public buildings feel emboldened to tell women wearing sleeveless tops that they are "indecently dressed" and bar them from entering a public building, access to which they have a right as Nigerians? Why won't rape in Nigeria be so grossly under-reported when articles written by male Nigerian journalists can declare in the headlines that an 11 year old rape victim "Liked" having sex with her attacker?
But then again, encroachments upon the rights of women only make headlines when they happen to wealthy educated Nigerian women. The millions of poor Nigerian women nobodies whose rights are violated every day by Nigerian men are too unimportant to be worth comment. The truth is, educated or wealthy Nigerian women have no perceived need for feminism because they never expect to be the victims of patriarchy.
Their thought process is:
It will always happen to some poor woman out in a hut in some God forsaken village in Sokoto, but it will never happen to me or any of my friends so it's okay.
This is why it is national news when an upper class Nigerian girl gets raped or slapped or beaten or denied entry to some establishment. Because patriarchy isn't supposed to really affect girls or women like that. They're not oppressed, or at least, they amount of oppression that they have to tolerate from men at any given time is to be kept to the bare minimum and only expressed in the most genteel of ways.
Educated / Wealthy Nigerian women can be reminded that they are not getting any younger so they should soon get married but they are not to be beaten or prevented from getting their fourth PhD ever! That's for poor women who are too stupid to go to university. Eyaaa!
So you see, as long as the patriarchy pill they have to swallow isn't too big to go down, Nigerian women don't need to be feminists because feminism chases husbands away and nobody wants to be the unmarried old maid being suspected of lesbianism at the school reunion. By pandering to the overinflated egos of Nigerian men, wealthy / educated Nigerian women can keep what freedoms they already have without having to work too hard at improving the lot of ALL Nigerian women.
Who needs feminism when you can convince the like-minded men of the upper classes to look the other way while you scale the corporate ladder and drive "manly" luxury cars in exchange for only being reminded once in a while that "you are just a woman" in a refined version of Oppression Lite?
The hypocrisy of wealthy / educated Nigerian women is especially sickening when one considers that their denial of feminism prevents poorer or less educated Nigerian women from being protected by the same rights and freedoms that their more fortunate counterparts have gleefully availed themselves of.
Dear Nigerian women, if you like to buy your own clothes, have your own bank account, make and spend your own money, marry the person of your choice, pursue your education to your heart's content, build your own house and buy your own car, then whether you like it or not, YOU ARE IN SUPPORT OF FEMINISM. And many of you are already enjoying rights and freedoms that Feminism upholds and if following your claim that you "are not a feminist" you were asked to GIVE UP those rights and freedoms, you would all REFUSE.
So, cut the crap.
Nigerian men are not going to stop marrying you if you openly admit to being a feminist. The only way they can continue benefiting from the atmosphere of fear surrounding the feminism of Nigerian women in Nigeria is if Nigerian women continue to trade away some of their rights in exchange for acceptance in our patriarchal society.
Nigerian men keep winning because they they close ranks hard versus Nigerian women. Nigerian women in their unwillingness to be be seen as non-compliant by Nigerian patriarchy keep themselves fragmented and unable to forge the solidarity with their fellow women necessary to overcome patriarchal oppression in Nigeria once and for all.
Feminism is not a dirty word or something you should be ashamed of, and it's not a movement by a bunch of white women in America that you can't relate to either.
Feminism has existed four tens of thousands of years and is every much a part of our various cultures as our food or our languages.
Being Nigerian and being Feminist are not and have never been mutually exclusive. You are not trying to be American or white by saying you are a feminist, it's not for women only, and reminding a feminist that they are "African" is bullshit and bollocks.
So, next time you get in your car and drive down the street, or go to the ATM and withdraw money from your bank account, or ask your boyfriend to wear a condom before you have sex or buy chingum from the mallam on your street without first asking permission from your father and your sixteen uncles, keep telling yourself you're not a feminist.
You are not a feminist o!!
*This is why 99.9% of Nigerian lesbians are feminists. ( I don't have a source for this claim but I am yet to meet a Nigerian lesbian that denied she was a feminist. Conversely, I have met shitloads of cis-gendered, heterosexual Nigerian women who swore up and down for anyone who could hear that they were not feminists. )