What is Feminism? According to wikipedia, Feminism is the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes.
I believe Feminism to be a simple statement: Equality of both genders in all aspect. In Nigeria, it simply means standing up to own what the man stands for.
Are we really exercising Feminism in Nigeria or are we are just nonchalantly neglecting our culture? This has been the mother of question amidst other questions surrounding gender inequality in Nigeria.
How the movement started
Reports have it that there are three phases to how feminism came into existence. These phases are also called waves.
The first-wave feminism which was between the 19th and early 20th centuries dwelled on overturning legal inequalities and focus on women’s suffrage. The second-wave feminism was between the 1960s to 1980s and it opened doors to cultural inequalities, role of women in the society. The third wave was between the 1990s to 2000s, which was a continuation from the second wave.
Great women who fought for feminism
There is no history without acknowledging great women who really fought for this movement. In France, a writer named Olympe de Gouges had argued that women should have equal responsibility under the law as long as they are accountable for it. Another duo who introduced the male suffrage and hoped that women be given same treatment are Joseph de Maistre and Viscount Louis de Bonald.
In Germany, a writer called Louise Otto Peters was among those that fought for gender equality and was one of the women that also moved the woman suffrage movement. Another great woman is Alice Schwarzer, a German journalist and contemporary feminist. Alice was one of the founders of the Feminist Movement in Paris also known as Mouvement de libération des femmes (MLF).
In Egypt, a woman called Hoda Shaarawi founded the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923 and also became the president to the Arab Women’s Rights movement.
Camilla Collet is well known as the first Norwegian feminist. She was writer and loved showcasing the voice of others. Camilla wrote a novel and articles on hardships women face in her time, especially forced marriages.
We can go on and on on these great women all over the world, in countries like China, India, Poland and others. But let’s talk about Nigeria.
Overview of Feminism
We can’t talk about feminism in Nigeria without saying hello to the culture. The wall of culture in the country has been erected on the understanding that women are expected to submit to the male gender. They rule and we follow! The woman’s role in the family comes after the husband.
The role is solely perceived to be mothers, sisters, daughters, chefs, wives, domestic help in the house. A woman’s role is the incubator to expand the family. A girl-child in the Northern part of the nation is given to men at a tender age to join the catalogue of women already in the house. No value! That is the definition I see.
If you ask a typical Nigerian man what role a woman holds in his house. He either says something pertaining to kitchen or can simply call them the caretakers of the house, which is true in all sense.
However, with the introduction of feminism, more women are enlightened and given invisible wings to fly. Women are now aware that although there are roles, duties and obligations, they can still be whatever they want to be.
Feminism in Nigeria
To my knowledge, feminism has been a thing from the past but has often been ignored by the upper hand, the bigger forces.
In 1914, the year Nigeria was formed, a group of women held a protest called ‘Ogidi palaver’ to stand against the indigenous and British men who side-lined decision making by women. In 1925, another group emerged and formed the ‘Nwaobiala movement’.
Now the modern feminist, Nigerian best selling author, Chimamanda Adichie, has been spreading the word all over the world with her voice through her books. Most of her books are directed to expose the ill-treatment women face in the society.
One of such books is ‘Purple Hibiscus’. A character called ‘Beatrice’ gets beaten severally by her supposed servant of God, Eugene. The story is told through the eyes of her daughter, Kambili, who was also subjected to the violence and domestic abuse.
Now that we’ve discussed the major founders of Feminism, let’s give answers to questions like; Is feminism even good? Are we really on the right path? Or are we simply following the crowd when it comes to feminism.
It’s true that feminism has birthed great efforts. The movement has given opportunities to women to see what’s in the greener pastures. There are several women leading organizations in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, representing us well.
The most recent example can be seen in the Director general of the World Trade Organisation (WHO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is married and still doing great with her career. Executive Director of Customer service at Transcorp Hilton, Okaima Ohizua; Head, Human Capital of Stanbic IBTC bank, Olufunke Amobi; Filmmaker and television director, Kemi Adetiba; former NAFDAC boss, Late Dora Akunyili and so many others.
Another good thing from the movement can be seen on the recent protest against police brutality in Nigeria led by Feminist coalition and Nigerian youths. The FC was founded by Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi, who met with 12 other women, fellow fighters for Justice and Equal Rights.
Feminism has also created the cry for Rape/Domestic violence on Nigerian women. Women, according to the Nigerian culture, are made to endure any hardship they encounter in their marriages, the constant beating, the degrading exclusion from decision making e.t.c. They make them believe it’s okay for a man to result to beating to correct or instill discipline and fear into women.
Another good is the Right to vote and be voted for. Women are now being allocated posts in politics and places of work, not at an equal rate although. Recently, in Tanzania, a woman named Samia Suhulu Hassan was made the president after the death of the former president, John Magufuli. Also, Governor of Ondo State, Akeredolu, appointed Catherine Oludunni Odu as the first female SSG in Ondo.
It’s no news that women have been given the upper hand and insight to the real world. But have we been using it right? It’s gradually becoming a war and it’s rubbing on the real definition of feminism. It has become the battle of who to give the mantle to.
Women are often trying to throw the victim card in the name of feminism; the woman’s story matters and no one else.
Nigerian women have taken the real ‘feminism’ and turned it into something to benefit their selfish interest. Feminism means equal right in both sexes not a rise of provocation.
Women are not maids neither are they born chefs. Yes! But it’s not right to neglect these things as well because we are in a world of feminism. A typical Nigerian feminist now see daily chores as slavery. We are far neglecting some important basic things in life because of the knowledge we are now exposed to.
Feminism, to many, is the equal right to dictate and command respect in the house, that includes talking back at the husband. As much as feminism doesn’t support ill-treatment of any gender, the husband is still the head of the family and should be respected and taken care of.
There is absolutely nothing wrong if a man helps in the kitchen, baths the children and assist in house chores. These duties are not specifically assigned to a gender but it becomes a problem when the woman ignores them all together because of feminism.
It has become a back and forth social media war. We are quick to create a gender war most especially on Twitter all in the name of equality. The word ‘feminism’ is slowly becoming a thing of the past as people do not want to be associated with it.
The ugly side is not directed on the misconception on feminism alone but that people do not want to be called feminist anymore. Feminists are being perceived as bitter, ugly, angry women who want to have it their way even if it’s the opposite.
The Society is quick to refer them as being strong-willed and unwilling to bend.
Although the cry for feminism has been ongoing for centuries now but in a country like Nigeria, the sad truth is: it’s not the same. It’s not well managed.
The sad reality despite the movement
Women are still being subjected to the ‘other room’, most of them can’t get jobs because of the sexual harassment often thrown at them. A girl-child is still being told several times in her home that the male child owns it all; that she will eventually end up in another man’s kitchen.
Women are still being denied opportunities, promotions, contracts because of their marital status. Some are denied job opportunities because they are married with kids.
We are in a country where an unmarried woman is being referred to as an unserious one whereby the married one is being denied promotion at work because she has ‘responsibilities’ outside work. A woman with kids outside marriage is a woman with baggage.
Now, that’s where feminism should come in. This is where the fight should be directed to, not fighting your man at home for the remote control.
Although, feminism is a woman thing but do you know there are men who support feminism? They can be called feminists too. Men like Tyler Perry has made millions making movies about black women and the hardship they go through. He even dresses up as ‘Madea’, a woman character, in most of his movies.
Now, that’s a feminist. Are you a feminist or a feminist?