Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Feminism, Misogyny and Female Perpetrators

I am (now) a feminist.
In the last couple of months I have been reading a lot about the lived experiences of women, what it means to be female in patriarchal societies, and the injustices, major and minor, that women suffer every day simply because they are women.

I am a woman.
This process of enlightenment that I've been going through has already made me more aware of what that really means, and it is shocking to me how things that I considered normal, things that I would not feel more than a flicker of irritation over, things that I would brush off and move on from, are actually symptoms of a system-wide misogyny that is being perpetrated everyday in our society.

Not only had I internalized this misogyny, in some cases I condoned it, was amused by it, contributed to it. But now I am learning about these things, and it deeply concerns me when I see other women who are still the way I used to be, because I have no idea how to get them to see what they are doing. I never saw it when I did it myself. Even in my blog post about the Walter/Fatoyimbo scandal, I failed to address the issue of abuse of power, because I really didn't think it was as important as the message I wanted to get across.

Now I say that I am a feminist, that it would be impossible for me not to be. I want to fight to eradicate the things that women suffer because we live in a society that tells men it is okay to harass, abuse, dehumanize and sexualize us, for them to feel entitled to our bodies and personhood, and even to kill us.
But what about when it is other women who act and think like all or some of those things are okay?

My older sister is one of those women.
Last night we were talking about one of our cousins who now lives abroad. He was in his fourth year of university when she started at Ife, and we shared fond memories of him. One of the stories that she shared was how he used to drive around campus with his male friends, shouting sexual comments at girls and 'complimenting' their backsides, and how any girl who showed disgust or disinterest was promptly labelled a 'skelewi', the colloquial term for 'slut'.
She was laughing as she told me this story. I didn't even know where to begin, so I didn't say anything.

Oma's mother is one of those women.
Oma's story, written as a ten-part series (start reading here), is heartbreaking. Her mother said to her that she would rather let her die at the hands of her abusive husband than watch her disgrace the family by leaving him.

Mrs. D.O. is one of those women.
A close family member's boss (a woman who is herself a mother of three) is putting her through severe abuse and discrimination in an attempt to force her to quit, just so she won't have to grant her the 12 weeks of paid maternity leave that she is due.

Mrs. P and Omobolanle et al are some of those women.
This blog post about a rape victim's trauma has some surprising comments left by women, some of whom are rape survivors themselves. This post on the same blog has some incredible victim-blaming mental gymnastics going on, with many female commenters saying the victim was going to have sex with her rapist anyway, a 'fact' which therefore nullified the crime of the rape. Never mind that there is no indication whatsoever in this girl's case that she was remotely sexually interested in her rapist; he was someone who offered her a job.

It is a huge, intimidating task, attempting to find solutions and empowering alternatives to the systemic abuse that women suffer in Nigeria at the hands of men. But I have no idea how we will ever get to this utopia of equal, respectful, empowering treatment of women if we ourselves have the misogyny so deeply ingrained in us that we don't even realise it when we are kicking another woman who is down, or when we are putting her down ourselves.

I just became a feminist, and I already feel defeated.

Further reading:
Male entitlement in Nigeria
Are you a feminist?
Rape culture
Everyday Sexism

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Promiscuous Nature of Grace: The COZA Scandal

Update, Dec. 30, 2014: This post is no longer reflective of my thoughts on this issue. I have a better understanding of how abuse should be handled in Christian settings, and I apologise for the complete derailment that this post contains. I however don't feel it is honest to take it down, so I won't, on principle. 

Pretty much every Nigerian in cyber-space has heard of the Ese Walter/Biodun Fatoyimbo debacle. Many waited to hear/see what the popular pastor's response would be, and many, myself inclusive, were disappointed with what appeared to be silent ratification by the church of his behavior, because things went on as usual. He preached this morning. And neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
We cried foul. I cried foul.
Then I got a lesson. In grace.

'I will show you levels of grace you don't understand.' 

I am not a theologian, but I have a few (potentially controversial) thoughts to share, based on this lesson that I received.

1. God does not pander to the human sense of justice (because it is flawed).
Most people want to see Pastor Biodun  either vindicated or punished, depending on his guilt. That is not on God's agenda at all. What God wants is what advances the gospel, not what makes us feel angry or pacified. At the end of the day, the opinion of the multitude is irrelevant to God's agenda because the multitude is rarely Godly.
God deals with us all on a personal basis. Let me show you.
The Woman Caught in Adultery.
The crowd wanted justice. 'Stone her!' (Also the crowd wanted to catch Jesus in a violation of Mosaic law, but that's another story).
What she did was wrong; unlike Pastor Biodun, she was caught in the act. Naked. Standing before a screaming, bloodthirsty mob, guilty as sin.
Jesus' first reaction? Silence. He did not respond to the crowd. The crowd was enraged, but they did not believe in him. Bringing her to be judged by him was an act of rebellion: 'We have always doubted your divinity, now we will use this adulterer to catch you in a misstep.'
How many gleeful church-bashers got a kick out of this scandal? The most popular reaction was 'Ehen! I knew these Pentecostal pastors were all self-seeking hypocrites!'
God is under no obligation to address people who hate him.
'..Let them that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.The Lord knoweth those that are his..'

His next reaction?
'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'
God does not deal with us as a multitude. In the dispensation of grace, God handles our sins as individuals. Jesus pointed the crowd's spotlight at their own hearts, and based on their own sins, they could no longer stand in judgment over another.
We clamor for justice based on the (definite possibility) that Pastor Biodun has committed a sin. By so doing, we are indirectly calling for the same treatment of our sins. Asking God for justice is not wrong in itself, but can we ask for the same treatment for ourselves? If we are honest with ourselves, our personal wrongdoing becomes the bigger priority than the sins of another man, no matter how grievous or scandalous.
What do you care of another man's standing with God when your own is precarious?
Then, 'woman, where are you accusers?'
In light of your personal sins, hidden and forgiven alike, can you stand in judgment over another man? If you have not confessed them, they will convict you. If you have, they will remind you that your righteousness is simply a function of the same grace that has been so mocked in the last couple of days.

2. 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God (alone!) forbid!'
Grace is God saying 'I have factored in your past, present and future, and I will always relate with you from the perspective of the possibilities of your future.'
Man says 'look at his past! look at his present!' And God replies, 'I'm looking at his future.' The present and past have been resolved by the death of Christ on the cross; as long as a man has a future, he is entitled to grace. That is why God's judgment comes after you have died. God's judgment and his mercy are two sides of the same coin, so insist on divine judgment, and you are by default insisting on God's mercy.
You can scream and shout about a man being a sinner. But God's grace is infinite to the living.
'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.'
Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. God and Abraham, judgment and mercy.
'If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.'

Grace cannot exist outside the context of sin. After Jesus sent away the multitude to deal with their own individual issues, he dealt with the adulterous woman's sin. She had sinned, there was no question of it, and the wages of sin is still death. But the gift of God is still eternal life, and Jesus knew he would die for her and pay for her sins, so he was the only one qualified to judge her, and in the process, give her a chance at eternal life. So he said 'Woman, where are your accusers? Do they not condemn you? Even so, I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.'

3. God does not owe the public an explanation.
The kingdom of God is not a democracy; it is a theocracy. There is only one King of Kings, and his word is final. Children of God are kings on the Earth, and the King of Kings will never subject his kings to the judgment of sons of men. This is a hard truth, but it is the truth. It is God's truth.
God was not elected into office. To what electorate then does he owe anything? David and Bathsheba are a favorite line of defense when issues like this come up. And my question is, at what point did David apologise to Israel? To his army? To anyone other than God Himself? God sent a prophet to convict David, not a screaming mob of irate Israelites. The truth of the matter is, guilty or not, we may never hear anything of what Pastor Biodun does about this situation. And this is because he came to Christ as an individual, and his relationship with God is personal. He owes us nothing.
Someone might say 'but he has caused other men to sin!' because there will be people who will leave the church, people who will take the stance of 'if pastor can do it, so can I.' But the honest truth is others influence our choices, yes, but our choices remain ours. And that is the basis upon which God will judge each and every one of us; as single, independent agents who exercised free will. If Ese herself could come to a deeper knowledge of God because of this experience, who are you then to say it has caused you to sin?

Am I sanctioning Pastor Biodun's behavior? Far from it. I am just sharing what I understand to be the position of God. Ese Walter shared that the episode caused her to find God's truth personally. What that means is if she were to stand before God in judgment, she would not be a slut, she would not be an attention-seeker, she would be a child of God, your opinion notwithstanding. If Pastor Biodun is not guilty of this offence, He remains a child of God. If he is guilty and he repents and avails himself of the grace of God, he is restored as a child of God.
The only other person in this equation is you, standing in judgment over these children of God. What footing are you standing on? Both Ese and Pastor Biodun can take advantage of the shameless, annoying (to those seeking 'justice'), all-inclusive grace of God. But can you? Are you a child of God?
That is the only question that really matters.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hello Stranger, Again and Again

*walks to center-stage*
I think I have something to say. I hope you want to hear it.
This is the third or fourth blog I've started. I've always wanted to write - that's the only thing that has always been with me, through my wanting to be a doctor and an astronaut, model and housewife, actress and dancer. Writing is like bloodletting, and I don't think I'll ever stop.
My other blogs were clearly defined. The first was an online diary, the next a travel and style blog, the next a poetry blog...this one though, this one is simply me tracking my life, and inviting anyone who cares to watch and/or participate in my journey to do so.
I'm still searching for my voice, or message, or whatever. I hope this blog helps me find it.
More than that, I hope I find inspiration for life, and make friends, and find encouragement for the hard places and shine a light to someone else in a dark place.
This blog is me sending myself out into the world again, in a little love-scented box, and hoping you open it and enjoy the contents.

Love, OluTimehin.