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!

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