Saturday, 31 December 2016

Gyred Falcons and Labyrinths of Suffering: Books of 2016

Every year, since this blog was established in 2013, I do a brief review of some of the books I read during the year and found most interesting. This year would be no different. I read a lot of books in a 2016 that has been my busiest year in a long time. They were mostly fiction, can you blame me? It felt as though the more fire they were setting on the world, the more fiction I was reading. In fact I came to a conclusion this year that there is nothing non-fiction books can do for and to a person that fiction cannot do twice or three times more, absolutely nothing.
From the gyred falcons that were Ben and his brothers who could no longer hear their falconer in The Fishermen to the Labyrinth of suffering that General Simon Bolivar was desperate to get out of in his death in The General in his Labyrinth, I present to you, dear readers, my books of 2016.
1.      A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls is a small novel written by Patrick Ness about a boy Conor O’Malley, who was a victim of school bullying; and how he comes to terms with his mother having cancer. Every 12:07 am Conor meets with a towering monster. The monster claims he would help Conor by telling him three stories after which Conor will tell the monster one of his own. As the story progresses, Conor’s mother, who has been undergoing chemotherapy becomes worse. After all of the Monster’s stories, Conor is forced to tell his and confront his personal demons. The Monster Calls is a beautiful story of hope in times of troubles. It is amazing how such a small story is able to mean so much. I think that is one of the important things that stories can do for us. Here’s a nice excerpt: Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry truth.
Conor’s mother eventually died at exactly 12.07 am, however, because of the stories, Conor is able to accept it.
3.5 of 5
2.      This Is How You Lose Her
This Is How You Lose Her is a book of short stories by the amazing Junot Diaz. The first story I read from it was Alma, a fascinating, hilarious, extremely vivid, playboy sort of story. I read it in 2014 as part of required reading for a writing workshop I had attended. At that time I did not know that it was from a book of stories but I found it brilliant and I laughed all through. During the workshop I learnt that it was from a book of short stories by Junot Diaz and I made a mental note to find it. I did not find it until May 2016. What I found most fascinating about it was how Most of the stories, save for the first two, were written in second person, You. I write in second person sometimes and I can confirm that it is very difficult to keep up consistency writing in the second person singular. The stories are a sort of satirical manual, for men on how not to lose a girlfriend – but maybe it depends on who is reading, it could also be a manual on how to be a player. Though the stories are fiction, they seem so real and that is probably what Junot Diaz got right the most with this book. This uncanny ability to make fiction seem like it is a memoir. I am going to give a little excerpt for the first story in the collection so you get a feel of what the book is like.
The first story in the anthology of nine stories is titled The Sun, The Moon, The Stars and here is a short excerpt:
I’m not a bad guy. I know how that sounds— defensive, unscrupulous— but it’s true. I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good. Magdalena disagrees though. She considers me a typical Dominican man: a sucio, an asshole.
3.9 of 5
3.      Diary of a young girl
This is the story of Anne Frank, a little German-Jewish girl who was killed during The Holocaust. Diary of a young girl, or Diary of Anne Frank, or formerly The Secret Annex, describes her life in hiding as well as those of her immediate family and family friends in a Secret Annex in Holland between 1942 and 1944 during the time Holland was occupied by the Germans in World War Two. The diary is an honest account of what goes on in a teenage girl’s mind. The last few pages though, the Afterword, was a little bit too much to take in within whatever amount of time it takes for one to read three pages of writing. It told of what happened to Anne after the Secret Annex was discovered and the occupants were exposed and she had to stop making entries into her diary. They were deported to a Nazi Concentration Camp and you would have to read the book to discover what happened during that time.
It feels sort of weird rating this book, so I won’t.
4.      The Fishermen
The Fishermen irreverently asks its readers, page after page after page after page: how much heartache can you take? How much heartache can you take? It is written by the vastly talented Chigozie Obioma, it is one of the few Nigerian fiction that I was able to read during the year. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. It is a story of four brothers growing up in Akure, Ondo State in the 90s: Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Benjamin, who narrates the story of the fishermen. The Fishermen tells us how so ridiculously easily the strings that bond a group of people together can be loosened. A madman called Abulu prophesies that the oldest brother, Ikenna, would be killed by a fisherman and that prophesy from a madman was all that was needed to destroy a once tightly woven family. It is not just because this story is fascinating that makes it beautiful, it is the precision of the author, the deliberateness of every single word he uses. It is too easy to imagine that this was a memoir, but how can it be? Many times, while reading, I closed the book and promised myself that I had had enough of this shit, but the writing is too beautiful, the story is too real to just dismiss it like that. The Fishermen is a story that forces you to do things, very few books have that ability. It tells you, ‘this is crushing, but you must move to the next page, you must read the next chapter. You must see that Ikenna was killed, you must see that Boja killed himself, you must see that their mother went insane, that Obembe and Ben …’ I must stop, otherwise I would divulge everything.
It is a brilliant book.
4 of 5

5.      The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is written by John Boyne. It is set in Nazi Germany and Poland. It begins in Berlin with Bruno, a boy of ten, whose father is a Nazi German Soldier, finding out he and his family are moving from their home in Berlin and all his friends and going to live somewhere else; this occurs after a short man whom Bruno refers to as ‘The Fury’ comes to their house with his pretty wife to have dinner with his family. They move to this new place called ‘Out With’ which is a concentration camp in Poland. He finds the place immensely boring what with his lack of friends or acquaintances. In his boredom, he decides to do a bit of ‘exploration’ and he stumbles upon a boy in a striped pyjama, about his age, Schmuel. They become friends and the consequence of their friendship to both of them is not nice.
The story is very simple. It is perhaps the simplest book about Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler that I have read. And this simplicity is present from the start of the book to the end of it. and even in its simplicity, it is a very powerful story that literally takes you back to the 1940s, while both boys, Bruno and Schmuel, sit on different sides of the fence that seperates the concentration camp from Bruno’s house, you get this feeling that you are right there sitting with them.
3.8 of 5
6.      The Alchemist
The Alchemist is written by Paulo Coehlo
This story is about a shepherd boy from Andalusia who has recurring dreams of a treasure lying underneath the Egyptian Pyramids. He meets with an old king and he is offered some advice as well as a couple of magical stones. He embarks on his journey to find the treasure crossing the Mediterranean and trudging the Sahara desert. He meets swindlers, wars, helpers, friends and love. He learns alchemy along the way and is assured that when a person truly wants something, the universe conspires in his favour. The writing, maybe more than the story, is an absolute beauty. The writer weaves his story line around finding something he calls a Personal Legend (one’s purpose in life) dishing coats of advice and guidance in styles that make you marvel at words and how so easily they can be manipulated and made to act out all of one’s fantasies. However, I did not find it to be free flowing. I got caught reading the same paragraphs over and over and over again.    
3 of 5
7.      Bridge to Terabithia
I had wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia ever since I saw one of those Evangelical website review it poorly, saying it ‘apologetically portrays grief’ and words like ‘bitch’, ‘damn’ ‘cremation’ were used. I had not been able to lay my hands on it until I finally found it this year – it was a beautiful read, in all respects. It is written by Katherine Patterson. It is about two kids, Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke who become neighbours and then schoolmates and then friends, they create a magical kingdom which they call Terabithia. She is smart, creative and from a wealthy family; while he is artistic, mature and from a poorer family. It is one of the most frequently criticised and censored books. As a matter of fact, it is number eight on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the Decade 1990 – 2000, a list which one of my all-time favourite books, Looking for Alaska, which was reviewed last year, also falls in for the decade 2000 – 2010. It has been adapted into movies – twice.
Of the writing, I feel that Katherine Patterson did a beautiful job of making the book work as one that could be read by children and teenagers but also one that could be thoroughly enjoyed by adults. It was simple and witty and contained one of my characters of the year, Leslie Burke, who was, by equal measure, stunning in intelligence and wit. The ending was sad because it was and it is always difficult to come to terms with the loss of someone you have learned to love.
3.8 of 5
8.      The General in his Labyrinth
The General in his Labyrinth is a book about the great revolutionist and liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar. It is written by the phenomenal Gabriel Garcia Marquez, rest his soul. It was sort of a difficult book to read due to the fact that the novel was a labyrinth in its own right. Twisting and turning and snaking and meandering through time until time itself is confused. The story measures, with ruthless precision, the viciousness of politics and the concept of politicking. One does not need to be South American therefore to relate to the story. It talks about wars, triumph, defeat, love, celebrations, romance and suffering, very importantly, suffering. The General as Simon Bolivar was referred throughout the book, suffered a lot. Even in death his suffering continued. On his deathbed, he made one of the most remarkable last words in the history of last words, and then the way it was reproduced in Garcia Marquez’s book is nothing short of phenomenal:
‘The General paid no attention to the masterful reply, because he was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. "Damn it," he sighed. "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!"’
The labyrinth the general was talking about has been said to be very many things by very many people. But for me (and Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska, I must say), the labyrinth is suffering. Like, Alaska said, ‘Bolivar was talking about the pain, not about the living or dying. How do you get out of this labyrinth of suffering?
Did you notice the exclamation mark at the end of Bolivar’s sentence? I did too.
3.5 of 5
9.      My Sister’s Keeper
In 2016 I read very many sad books. But none could compare in its utter heartlessness and irreverence for happiness to My Sister’s Keeper. It was, quite simply, crushing. It tells a story of a designer baby called Anna whose sole reason for existing is so she can be a donor for her sister Kate who has a rare form of Leukaemia. At thirteen, because thirteen year olds think of these things, and because it’s time to donate one of her kidneys to Kate, she decides to sue her parents to the court of law. She wants to be the owner of her own body, she wants to decide for herself if she intends to donate an organ to her sister, she wants to have a say. What I find most beautiful about the book is that it is told from the point of view of all the different characters: Brian (the father), Sara (the mother), Kate (the sick daughter), Ana (the designer baby), Jesse (the brother), Campbell (the lawyer) etc. The book asks us important questions: What does it mean to be a good parent? What does it mean to be a good father? What does it mean to be a good person? Like, every parent wants the best for their children, every parent knows that it is incorrect to bury a child but is it ethically and morally justifiable to sort of taper the life of one of your children in a bid to save the life of another one?
There are excerpt I like from Anna’s point of view:
You know how silence can push in at your eardrums in the dark, make you deaf? That’s what happens, so that I almost miss mother’s answer. “For God’s sake, Brian… whose side are you on?”
And my father: “Who said there were sides?”
But even I could answer that for him. There are always sides. There is always a winner, and a loser. For every person who gets, there’s someone who must give.
It also has one of the most profound quotes on marriage I have ever seen in my life:
The older couples, the ones sporting wedding bands that wink with their silverware, eat without the pepper of conversation. Is it because they are so comfortable, they already know what the other is thinking? Or is it because after a certain point there is simply nothing left to say?
Thinking about the book brings emotions.
It was a sad book. Brilliant, but sad.
3.7 of 5
10.  If I Stay.
If I Stay is written by Gayle Forman. It is about a seventeen year old, Mia, whose whole life changes after her family is involved in a ghastly car crash. I read a review from The Guardian which I found fascinating. I read this book because of that review.
‘Despite her solid relationship with Adam, Mia has choices to make and she chooses to apply for Julliard, one of the most prestigious music schools… even though it is on the other side of the country. But all it takes is one snowy morning, a family trip in the car, a lorry driver not looking the right way… And suddenly, Mia has only one choice left.’
Most of the book had Mia unconscious seeing herself and her weight on others from a perspective that was separate from herself. And so the most important theme was making a choice between Leaving, which was rational considering that her whole family was gone, and Staying, which was going to be respite for her friends and an enablement to proceed with her career in music. The book is about loss, about choices, about facing ones fears. The writing was somewhat uneven. There were lots and lots of flashbacks and it sort of disturbed the consistency and flow of the book. It was an okay read however.  I would definitely recommend it.
3 of 5
Character of 2016
Last year, my favourite character was Cash Daddy from Adaobi Tricia Nwabuani’s I Do Not Come To You By Chance. This year I finally, FINALLY read all seven books from the Harry Potter Series. They are beautiful, all seven of them, they are absolutely beautiful stories. My favourite character this year deserves a separate mention because of how captivating he is. His name is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. Even though he died at the end of Half Blood Prince, he is still one of the most influential and inspiring characters in all of fiction. From words to action Albus Dumbledore is definitely a literary personality I would give anything to spend thirty minutes of real life with.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Your Year (2016)

In January, you were anxious. It was the official start of life ‘back in school’ and you were anxious to know what obstacles lay ahead. You were starting off on another course completely and your mind was ablaze with questions: Would it be easy? Would it be difficult? Would you get some sleep? You were anxious because of How to be A Person. You thought that you may be too busy to find time for those stories even though they meant so much to you.
In February, you were sleepless. You were not sleepless because you had important stuff to do through the night, you were sleepless because you could not sleep. It was the worst that it had ever been in your life. You got vertigo and the world was swirling around you. You also had a seminar to present and you were ready, but the vertigo made sure you could not move a muscle without falling to the ground, like you were perpetually drunk. The vertigo disappeared eventually, and you were back to normal. You made your seminar presentation and it was not the best presentation you had ever made in your life, however, you were content. It was not that bad.
In March, you were doubtful. You had exams coming up and you were doubtful. Had you prepared enough? Was it going to be tough? Was the vertigo going to come back? You thought a lot about How to be a Person, but it was quite difficult to write anything because you hardly even had time for yourself. School work was taking everything from you. You did not mind too much: you asked for it. Nobody put a gun to your head and said go and start an MPH.
In April, you were studious. Exams came and went and they weren’t so bad that you would not do well, you imagined. After, you had about a month of schoolessness and so you decided to continue working on How to be a Person. It felt like you had left the stories on their own for so long, they had also left you; and so you stared at your computer and your stories stared at you like they had never seen you before and they wanted to have nothing to do with you for the remainder of their lives. You did not know where to turn, what to write. You were stuck.
In May, you were playful. It was all about poetry, music and Google for you in May. You turned your back on your stories as they had decided to turn their backs on you. They lay fallow in their folder assured that you would never touch them again and you played away resignedly, assured that all those stories you love so much would be another victim of your recycle bin. It sucked but you drowned yourself in Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. You wanted to master all the stanzas and all one hundred and something lines, as if doing that will make it better to live with yourself.
In June, you were happy. It was your birthday month and it was a milestone age and so you felt happy and thankful that you were alive. Also, you were happy because you were getting back to the process of making progress with How to be a person. You began by editing some of the stories you had finished and from there you continued with some of those you stopped abruptly. On your birthday you went for a walk and then you went to the mall where you met someone who broke your breakup record. Life was bright and beautiful for the first time in 2016.
In July, you were broken. You stopped being friends with someone you did not think you knew how to not be friends with. You did that a lot this year, you lost more friends this year than you had your whole life, put together. It is important to say here: there is nothing more suffocating than holding on to a friendship that has let go of you. It was in July also that you finished The Harry Potter Series, it was one of your new year resolutions to start and finish all seven Harry Potter Books. They were phenomenal, those stories. You fell in love with J.K. Rowling.
In August, you were lazy. Exams were coming but you were lazy. You wanted to keep reading fiction and poetry as you had been doing for most of the year. You had Writer’s Block and everything irritated you.  You finished My Sister’s Keeper early in August and you were closest to shedding a tear as you had ever been after reading fiction. You decided that fiction is better than non-fiction. That fiction can teach you so much more than non-fiction. You thought about marriage, you saw the best quote on marriage you had ever seen and it went “The older couples, the ones sporting wedding bands that wink with their silverware, eat without the pepper of conversation. Is it because they are so comfortable, they already know what the other is thinking? Or is it because after a certain point, there is simply nothing left to say?” you decided that it was because of the later.
In September, you were scared. Your exams for your second semester came and went and they were okay in that average way that you had told yourself that you would not be associated with anymore. You were down a bit and so after the last exam you had to find silly excuses to disappear, you disappeared for a few minutes. For some reason, you felt that those minutes you disappeared for were very important, it was hard because you had developed the kind of company for which disappearing was difficult and for the first time in your whole life, you did not mind that much. You drowned yourself in reading. How to be a person was teaching you all over again that writing is hard. You wanted to write. You wanted to talk. But at the same time, you wanted to be alone and do nothing.
In October, you were thinking. You began a field posting that you thought you would find interesting but it ended up not being all that. Donald Trump was worrying you like a bad dream worries a child. His rhetoric was difficult to come to terms with.  It was hard to understand how such a sucio, an asshole would get so close to the most important office in the whole world and what was worse: he was being cheered on. You read books and you wrote stories. You read about Adolf Hitler’s rise in Nazi Germany in the 40s and the similarities were so striking with the rise of Trump. You began to pray that even if Trump became president of America, the world would not have any course to remember Adolf Hitler.
In November, you were astounded. Donald Trump became president elect of the United States of America and you were astounded. You sat in front of the television and repeatedly told yourself that you would wake up from this bad dream in thirty minutes and you would sigh and smile and say ‘Damn, I just had the worst nightmare.’ But it was not a dream. Donald Trump was to become president of America after the first Black president: somebody on CNN called it a ‘white-lash’ and you could not agree more. You were sad. You were also astounded because it seemed as though the whole world was going insane. We were rationalizing everything. There was a lynching in Nigeria and we were trying to rationalize it, the insurgency in the north east peaked and many people died and we were trying to rationalize it and we were saying ‘soft targets’, the worst was Aleppo- we were mute.
In December, you are hoping. You are hoping for a better 2017 because honestly 2016 has not been such a good year, especially compared to 2015. There is a lot you intend to achieve in the coming year and you are hoping. You are calm, too because that is about the best thing you can do. You can only be calm as you hope, you can’t be anything else.

*Thank you for reading my blog this year. May 2017 be better!

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Trend

I wrote a screenplay for a shot film. It was completed earlier this month. The story is basically one about how parents pressure if not force marriage on their female children as soon as they reach a certain age; women who may not be ready for marriage at that time.
It was written for The Message Production, which is a film production company that is dedicated to making films that count. the short film is titled The Trend and you can watch below.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

On Being Good

In the middle of the night when you can’t sleep because sleep has never been your friend and you are thirsty because you do not have drinking water in the house and there is no electricity because the purveyors of electricity are inept and the government is inept and you are ashamed that you supported them during the elections, you imagine about good people and wonder if you are one. You have had this argument with yourself very many times and you just want to put an end to it. Like, if the world had a giant brown notebook with ‘Register of Good People’ written over the top in blue ink, would your name be in it?
This question has been asked very many times: what is the definition of a good person, like, what does it take to be a good person? Is a good person someone who does not drink alcohol, for example? But alcohol seems too trivial a thing to judge a good person by, just like smoking, just like womanizing. Isn’t it possible to be an alcoholic and be a good person at the same time? - A smoker and a good person at the same time? - A womanizer and a good person at the same time?
When I was a child, my definitions of what made people bad and good were way too broad and narrow respectively; these ideas were greatly influenced by my keenly pious mother, whom I love so much. For example, in my mind, you were a bad person if you consumed alcohol, if you watched any movie that was not gospel, if you listened to any music that was not gospel, if you watched Channel O, if you were a lady and you wore trousers and used attachments and wore lipstick and stuff. These days, however, my ideas of good and bad are not as streamlined as before, for example, I hardly think that religiousness has anything to do with being a good person: One of the best people I have ever met is agnostic, and some of the worst human beings I know are devout Muslims and Christians. So, no, religiousness is not a determining factor.
But how do you even define being good? In my mind, a good person is kind, is not afraid of putting others before himself/herself, is humane and so is able to empathize with people, understands pain and suffering and grief (even though he or she may not know what the right reaction to these things are, the important thing is understanding).
Therefore, it does not really matter here what variant God one bows to.
Are there advantages to being good? Like, is there something to be gained by trying to do the right thing and feel people’s pain at all times? I don’t think so, but at the same time, I don’t think it matters. I think a lot of us get it wrong here. We exhibit kindness because we expect a reward in return. In church they tell you to sow bountifully so that we shall reap bountifully: ‘sow a seed to proceed’ and that’s why many of us give tithes and offerings, because we want to be rewarded by God. How about you just be kind and be good because it is the right thing to do?
I read of a Sufi woman by name Rabe’a al-Adiwiyah, she was a saint of Sufism. She was seen running through the streets of Basra carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. Someone asked what she was doing and she said she was going to pour the bucket of water on the flames of hell and use the torch to set paradise on fire so that people will not believe in God for want of heaven or avoidance of hell, but believe because He is God.
What a story, right?
How about we try to be good and do good not because our God wants us to do these things but because these things are the correct things to do in every situation? In my mind, you are only as humane, as kind, as good as your heart is and you cannot say your heart is humane and kind and good if the only reason it is these things is because it knows a reward is coming.
Be safe and be kind to other people!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Musings on a Sweltering December Afternoon

My house is a few paces off a busy highway where there is always heavy traffic. And every second, even right as I type this, under the scorching sun of a 12.30 pm harmattan-less December afternoon in Ilorin, I hear those kids hawking, jumping from one moving car’s window to another, to another, to another, screaming ‘pure water tutu wa’ dressed either in rags or makeshift clothing torn at every considerable part but hard to call a rag because at least it is wholesome. They do this all day and every day. I wonder very often if they have ever entered into any sort of educational institution, if they have plans to. I wonder where they would be in the next, say, twenty years– they would probably not hawk pure water to speeding cars anymore, maybe not, maybe they would have gotten better ways to make more money and or maybe they would no longer be under the guardianship of the individual that makes them hawk pure water in this kind of sweltering weather. Maybe at that time, they would have become the guardian. It is pure water, there is not much to be made from it: if they are lucky to sell a bag of 20 a day, they make two hundred naira, two hundred naira cannot buy a dozen biscuits anymore. It is hard not to think about these things if you live where I live and cannot think about anything for one second without getting distracted by a little girl shouting ‘pure water.’ A boy once carried a red bowl on his head and sat on the curb between the two lanes, he had eight sachets of pure water in the bowl. I asked how old he was, he was seven. I asked how long he had been standing, he had been standing since morning. I bought all eight sachets from him and told him to go home. I came out ten minutes later and saw same boy with same bowl on same head but with new sachets. I passed. It is not a serious problem when the people that have the problem do not consider that they have a problem.
I just saw two tweets I found interesting because I have a significant problem with Twitter on Saturdays: I can’t stay off. The first tweet is by a lady, she tweets: I don’t think there’s any amount of love in this world that will make me marry poor tbqh, and I don’t apologize for this sentiment.
It is an interesting tweet for two reasons, i. Poverty is relative; the poverty of some is the life dream of others. ii. Love is also relative. I have never felt it, but I can tell you for free that there are shades of love, degrees of love that can get you to do the stupidest things (or in this case, the things you never thought you could do.) I preach, usually, that if you cannot afford to take care of yourself and two others, you have absolutely no business thinking about marriage. And on a personal basis, it should work both ways; meaning that I can take care of two others and my wife can take care of two others. So that we can both take care of ourselves and four other people as at the point of marriage. But here is the thing I have learnt so much in this absolute plane crash of a year that 2016 has turned out to be: Everybody. Is. Different. I know people who get married with nothing and they build themselves from the bottom up, together. I respect that. I do.
The second tweet was from a church account, name withheld, the church tweeted: TESTIMONY: By faith, medical protols are broken with the delivery of 2 bouncing boys when gynaecological scans confirmed them to be girls.
This tweet is interesting because it brazenly tells that boys are better than girls, and it is a TESTIMONY when you do not have a girl child. There are no other ways to look at it unless you want to look away because it is your church or it is your Daddy in the Lord who is the Oga at the top– and you jump when he tells you that he wanna see jumping or you let him spray your eyes with insecticide or you let him sleep with your wife because she has evil spirit. :’). There is no miracle here. Churches these days seem to seek out avenues to show how they are in some sort of competition with medicalization. But it doesn’t have to be a competition, both institutions could cohabit happily: in this tweet, for example: how about the sonographer was simply wrong (as they often are)?
You may see it differently, as I said: Everybody is different.
It is now twenty minutes past two and I have nothing else to say but to ask you to be safe and be kind.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Maybe We Should All Be Feminists

I wanted to blog about a poem by William Ernest Henley called Invictus until I found (and read) an essay I had always wanted to read by the legend Chimamanda Adichie titled We Should All Be Feminists. In this essay, Adichie discusses our society, in a most candid way, as it reacts and relates to males versus females. She describes the way society treats men and compares it to the way it treats women. I have never gotten up to the point of describing myself as a feminist. I see feminism exactly the way I see human rights, they are brilliant ideas, but the problem is I am Nigeria and the truth is Nigeria will not robustly achieve feminism, or human rights, in my children’s generation. Adichie paints a beautiful picture in her essay that I want everybody to see. For this reason, I would quote a tiny portion of the essay here for you, however, the essay is in public domain and you can easily get it if you want. This portion tells about marriage and how society sort of ‘drives’ (action word) a woman into marriage. Her readiness is inconsequential. Her ambitions are inconsequential. Her feelings are inconsequential. Ultimately, she is just an inconsequential side effect of society’s disregard and disrespect for the idea of womanhood. More often than not, because society is in a hurry to get rid of every single young lady out there, many single young ladies are driven into the hands (or life) of men who care nothing about them and would treat them like garbage.
A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all—it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.
Still, I was struck by this. Because I am female, I’m expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Marriage can be a good thing, a source of joy, love, and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, but we don’t teach boys to do the same?
I know a Nigerian woman who decided to sell her house because she didn’t want to intimidate a man who might want to marry her.
I know an unmarried woman in Nigeria who, when she goes to conferences, wears a wedding ring because she wants her colleagues to—according to her—“give her respect.”
The sadness in this is that a wedding ring will indeed automatically make her seem worthy of respect, while not wearing a wedding ring would make her easily dismissible—and this is in a modern workplace.
I know young women who are under so much pressure—from family, from friends, even from work—to get married that they are pushed to make terrible choices.
Our society teaches a woman at a certain age who is unmarried to see it as a deep personal failure. While a man at a certain age who is unmarried has not quite come around to making his pick.
It is easy to say—but women can just say no to all this. But the reality is more difficult, more complex. We are all social beings. We internalize ideas from our socialization.
Even the language we use illustrates this. The language of marriage is often a language of ownership, not a language of partnership.
We use the word respect for something a woman shows a man but often not for something a man shows a woman.
Both men and women will say:  “I did it for peace in my marriage.”
When men say it, it is usually about something they should not be doing anyway.
Something they say to their friends in a fondly exasperated way, something that ultimately proves to them their masculinity—“Oh, my wife said I can’t go to clubs every night, so now, for peace in my marriage, I go only on weekends.”
When women say “I did it for peace in my marriage,” it is usually because they have given up a job, a career goal, a dream.
We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do.
We raise girls to see each other as competitors—not for jobs or accomplishments, which in my opinion can be a good thing—but for the attention of men…
See you next time!