Thursday, 19 May 2016

Looking for writing updates? Go to my Medium.

I haven't published anything on this blog in a while, but it is not because I haven't been writing. I have some new stuff up over at Medium -- click here to see it. And thanks for reading!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

A Letter to My Teenage Self

Darling, everything feels like the end of the world when you’re fifteen. By the time you’re twenty-one, you will have learnt that nothing really is. You’re such a sharp, charming, ambitious girl; I promise you, you can not be stopped. Not by the horrible girls who set you up for heartbreak by getting your crush to prank-call you and ask you out, not by the damning B on your report card, and certainly not by the fact that your breasts haven’t come in yet. Breasts are the least of your worries, as you will soon learn.

The world is a hard place; its rough edges are designed to sand girls like you down into submission and meek conformity. You must resist this. Your voice is powerful and necessary. You must not let those people who say your age means you have nothing to offer silence you. You must certainly not let the gender police keep you from asserting yourself in all of your complexity and humanity. You are deserving of your own life, and your dreams are valid.

Acknowledge your body. Remember that it is first and foremost your own; not a debt you owe the men who seek to prey on you, not an apology to those who accuse you of seduction when you are merely existing, not a pile of inadequacies that you must compensate for. Your body is your home in this world. Be grateful for and to it. Use it. Dance, laugh, run, swim. Let the air and the sun and the water kiss it and remind you that God lives in every crack and corner of it, of you.

Forgive yourself for believing that you are to blame for the people who invited themselves into your body and did not wait for your permission. One day you will be strong enough to stare the trauma of the break-ins in the face, but for now, hug yourself and love yourself and forgive yourself. There are people who will take what they have not been offered. That is not your fault. Take your showers; let your tears lance the wound and help you towards wholeness. You will find support when you are ready to lay their violence down. Do not doubt this: when the time comes, there will be loving hands to help you unburden yourself. I cannot wait for you to experience the indescribable lightness that awaits you.

Never forget that you are so much more than a body. You are a force; invincible, rising, here. The world has never seen anything like you, so it will fight hard against you. You are strong enough to push back, to claim your space and to make room for the others who will follow. You can not be broken; you will learn this for sure because life will try. 

Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. You are so much more than you realise; so much of what you need is already within you. Give yourself time, especially when you are sad. Don't let anyone tell you you cry too much. All of the sorrow that you experience is fashioning within you compassion, a heart that is too soft to break, that swells with love for people like you who are told that they are unworthy. 


You are a date palm, dancing in the desert, bending in the wind, majestic and life giving and undeniable. You are the first of your name, and the world will say it. Oh, darling, it will.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

You started a war. We will finish it.

I've been very sick. But the internet - that small microcosm of Nigerians, that incredible place where the educated go to reveal their true selves, has made me sicker.

A woman; brilliant, controversial, bold -- came forward with a story of rape more horrific than anything I would wish on my enemy.

There should not have been a single word uttered against her. There should have been ashes and sackcloth and collective grief that eight years passed with this festering evil eating up one of their own, but of course Nigerians showed themselves mighty in the defence of the powerful. 

I wish any of the reactions surprised me. But they didn't. And the pain of this -- the pain of this child, this woman who cannot sleep through a night because men thought her a plaything, effectively silenced her with threats of further destruction, broke down the spirit of a child so much that her abuser was the only one she could turn to -- her pain was taken for sport.

Like the snake in the garden, they hissed. Eight years of silence and now this? How much attention does one whore need? Do you not know a lie when you hear it? Sssssslut. Shamelessssss. Dissssgusting. 

The gods of the universe fold in on themselves in horror. This is what they created? These creatures, who would pick up the pain of a child in a world that they know is designed to create such pain, and turn it over and over in their hands, to find a crack to prove that it is not really pain? It's just your imagination, you vile, ugly thing. Be quiet. BE QUIET.

That ANYONE would open their mouths and allow these things fall on the head of a child, of a woman surviving, of a human being, is the most heartbreaking thing.
And yet. 
AND YET. 
None of this surprises me. I have known since I was a child that no woman is rapeable, not before she is raped, not after she is raped, not while she is being raped. I knew it when I was seven, knew it when I was sixteen, knew it when I was eighteen. I knew it and kept my unrapeable mouth shut as men I loved and trusted raped me. There is none of us good enough to be left alone, or good enough to be believed. NONE.

But ENOUGH.
ENOUGH ENOUGH ENOUGH ENOUGH.

The silence has gone on LONG ENOUGH. Does the Earth itself not cry out for us?!
Where is the justice? Where is it that we can go to find safety? WHERE?

I want to scream: What have we done to deserve your hatred?  Yes, ALL women. Every single one of us. What did we do to deserve this violence?! 

You allow us no safety. Even when all we want is to live, to take back the things you stole from us when you invited yourselves into our bodies, even when we want nothing more than to survive, you hunt us down and grind us into the ground. And some of us join you, and you spit in our faces, are those not women? They are, but they are women deceived, mouths full of the poison of the abuser, eyes sealed shut so that they can pretend to have found safe haven. 

We would laugh at you, barbed-tongued woman, if we did not know the truth of your situation. We weep for you, just as we weep for the daughters we are afraid to bear, afraid to let go of, afraid for, because there is no safe haven. Know this: The man whose approval settles on your shoulders hates you just as much as he hates the whore, the bold woman, the woman who dares to claim her name and her life. Push him. I dare you. His violence will spray across your face like acid and you will know that none of us are special to him. Especially not you, a woman who dares to forget her place. Know this.

It is enough.

Our blood is on your hands. On your fists and your sheets and at the bottom of your beer glasses as you joke and laugh. You can not escape it. It cries out from the depths of the darkness, it cries out for justice, for vengeance. BLOOD FOR BLOOD. LIFE FOR LIFE.

We are weary. The fight is before us, every second of every day. You do not alleviate it. You do not fight for us. You stick your toe in the water and scream it is too hot, too cold, too much. You leave us to it. And yet when we fight you tell us we are too angry, too heartbroken, that we are bleeding all over the carpet and it makes you uncomfortable. SHALL WE CONTINUE TO DIE IN SILENCE FOR YOUR COMFORT? IS YOUR COMFORT WORTH OUR LIVES?

You are demons, walking around wielding a power you have no right to. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Our mothers died fighting for some room to breathe. Our daughters WILL NOT. This is where it ENDS. 

FUCK YOUR COMFORT. FUCK EVERYTHING YOU PREFER TO BELIEVE ABOUT YOURSELF WHEN YOU SHAVE YOUR FACE IN THE MORNING AND WINCE AT THE NICK OF THE BLADE. PRESS THAT BLADE TO YOUR NECK AND KNOW THAT WE ARE COMING FOR YOU. THIS IS A WAR YOU HAVE STARTED, AND BY GOD IT WILL END.


Demon, know this. The curses are laid. The fight has begun. You drew the line. We have crossed it. There is no more comfort for you. This is war.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

I'm one of the many women who don't trust their own judgment.

Early this year, I had a conversation with a good friend that allowed me to acknowledge for the first time ever that I might have depression.

Despite having been diagnosed by a psychiatrist and despite all my research of the subject however, I still don't really feel that I have a right to feel the way I do when I have a depressive episode. I question the dark hopelessness, the listlessness, the loss of appetite, the lethargy. Am I just being lazy? Why can't I just snap out of it? What do I have to be unhappy about? There are people in the world who really suffer!

In a conversation with the same good friend yesterday, I realised that it's not just when I'm depressive that I question how I feel. It's almost as though I've been hardwired to disbelieve the thoughts or feelings that come instinctively to me, and the more I think about this issue, the more I suspect it should be (is?) a feminist issue.

The thing is, I know I'm not alone in this. Self-doubt is part of the human condition, I'm sure, but it seems to disproportionately affect women. I know too many women who squash their gut feelings about predatory men, thinking that they're being over-sensitive or imagining things. I know too many women who come away from interactions with their significant other feeling slightly loopy, wondering whether it's really all in their head and they're really acting 'crazy'. I know too many women who don't believe in the value of their work or contributions to society, despite evidence that indicates that they actually are valuable.

I am one of those women.

What is it about the way so many of us are socialised that we can't even trust ourselves? If we can't trust ourselves, then it means we must look to others for guidance. And if we look to people who are exploitative, manipulative or abusive, then we are exposed to harm. So many times, I have looked back on situations and realised I was actually right. There was something wrong. So why couldn't I believe myself at the time?

I need to be able to trust my gut. How can I get there?

Friday, 2 October 2015

Access Bank's W Initiative and the Question of Honouring Women

It is a well-documented (and these days, much-discussed) fact that those who embody the social identity of ‘woman’ are very often prescribed limiting possibilities and are perceived as having a limited ability to contribute meaningfully in the public arena. Expectations of women are generally set fairly low, and any kind of excellence we exhibit or success we achieve is dismissed, minimised or even completely erased. The systemic factors that conspire to confine women to background roles are significant and pervasive, and the result of this is a phenomenon succinctly described by the late environmentalist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai: “The higher you go, the fewer women there are.”

Still, despite the historical and current exclusion of women from locations of power and the unfortunate reality that our world is generally not set up to enable women to succeed, many of us still find ways to rise to great heights. It is a deeply held belief of mine, supported by the evidence of the odds stacked against us, that women who do make it into positions of corporate, financial or political power work much harder and make more sacrifices than men in similar positions, simply because there are implicit and explicit reminders every step of the way that they do not belong there.

The above is why it is so important that the work that women do -- and the heights we aspire to and attain -- be recognised as inherently valuable; no ifs, ands or buts. Access Bank’s W Initiative seems poised to do just that. Described as having been set up “to support inclusive banking in Nigeria, so that we can support women’s growth and their progress,” the initiative aims to enable women to take advantage of opportunities in business and entrepreneurship, and its W Awards place the achievements of Nigerian women front and center.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

This is Why You Should Tell Your Story

I, being late to the game as I now often am, watched 'Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation' last night. It has the usual dearth of women and people of colour that you would expect from a Hollywood blockbuster, but that's not the point of this.

There is a scene in which Ethan Hunt confronts the villain, Lane(?), with a question about how he went from good guy to bad guy. "You killed so many innocent people on orders without asking why, because you believed you were doing it for the right reasons," or something along those lines. There's another scene involving Elsa(?) with a similar question about the rightness or wrongness of the side they were fighting on. In fact, thinking about it now, I just realised that the whole film runs on a theme about the fluidity of 'rightness', depending on who is in control of the narrative.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Reviving an old article: 'I Got It From My Mama'

I wrote this piece in February 2014 for africaisdonesuffering.com, but that site has since morphed into ezibota.com and the link is now dead. Seeing as how I was quite proud of it (and I think its message is still relevant), I have reproduced it here. My thoughts on some of the ideas contained in it have evolved or even changed completely, but I still enjoyed reading it, as I hope you will too.
Leave a comment or something!

I think I look a lot like my daughter in this photo