Sunday, 25 January 2015


Just in case there's anyone out there wondering why I haven't posted in a while, I've just started a new job (yay!). It's really great because it lets me work from home, but working from home = no set hours. I'm only just trying to figure out my new routine (I'm up at 4am everyday and sometimes don't sleep till 1am, so I have to snatch naps between school runs, domestic duties and the rest of my life), so please bear with me.

And anyway, even if I did have the time to write, I simply don't have the creative energy right now. Who knew regularly climbing into other people's brains via editing could be so draining?! Still, I'm grateful to be able to set my schedule primarily around baby cakes, and the absence of a commute (Lagos traffic, Lord no!) is everything to me. I'm definitely counting my blessings.

In the meantime, I have some thoughts percolating about the future direction of this blog, collaborations on Words for the Stolen (if you haven't yet submitted a piece memorialising the victims of Boko Haram over there, please consider doing so!), and other projects.

Wish me luck! x

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

An Open Letter to Alibaba Because, No.

I don't follow the Nigerian stand-up scene with any particular ardor, but every time I've stumbled across Alibaba's work I've found it unimaginative at best. Still, because he is a pioneer(?) in the Nigerian comedy environment, he continues to have clout in the entertainment industry that allows him to be described as a celebrity, and like all celebrities, he has a following. I really wish Nigerian celebrities wouldn't generate so much social media nonsense (remember when Toke felt the need to make this joke?) because people take celebrities seriously. Nothing reinforces a shitty worldview like having some famous person reiterate it (just look at this Tyler Perry mess), and that is a major part of why this tweet which made it's way onto Linda Ikeji's Blog (Linda oh Linda!) was particularly grating:

I therefore decided to write a response, not because I have any hopes that he will read it or that he is even interested in educating himself on domestic violence, but because I hope some of those hapless followers who take him seriously might find this somewhat enlightening.

Dear Alibaba,
This tweet is incredibly ignorant and dare I say, irresponsible. (It is also a bit difficult to understand because of the strange and somewhat contradictory sentence structure, but I'm not your English teacher). Domestic violence is not a simple equation where a man threatens violence or is actually violent one time and you decide it is unacceptable and you leave. There are always, always, nuances and considerations and experiences that determine the way any human relationship will play out, and that includes abusive ones.

It must be said that telling women to leave (or, in your case, judging them for not leaving) has never been and will never be an effective way to discuss domestic/intimate partner violence. It is rarely ever that simple. There are emotions involved in any intimate relationship, and in abusive ones the normal healthy emotions like love and loyalty are often mixed with fear, self-doubt, crippling anxiety and loneliness - all of which are often deliberately planted by the abuser, and all of which make independent decision-making difficult, if not impossible. In any discussion or commentary on intimate partner violence, one must first of all truly empathise with the victims (please note the difference between 'sympathy' and 'empathy'), and consider that women dealing with domestic violence are limited in their choices by any number of extenuating circumstances.

For instance, there is the huge amount of pressure put on women by society to establish intimate relationships and keep them going. The burden for 'relationship maintenance' falls disproportionately on women, such that women are almost always considered culpable in the event of a breakdown of a relationship, no matter what leads to that breakdown. Women are expected to do whatever they must to 'find' a husband, then they are expected to do whatever they must to stay married. That burden is often worsened by the presence of children. Women are taught to take many different kinds of abuse in order to 'keep' their homes, and domestic violence is often described as par for the course and/or a phase that will pass as long as a woman does what she must to keep her man happy. 

Women are often told they are overreacting or oversensitive when they report abuse to friends and family; I'm sure the trope of the weathered older wife who now knows how to 'manage' her husband, having triumphed over all of his failings, is one that is familiar to you. Our society has a tendency to shame women who fail to endure abuse for the sake of preserving their relationships, and one result of this is that women will lie about their abuse in order to protect their men and their relationships. Another factor that abused women must consider is the often significant difference in the earning power of men and women. Economic disenfranchisement, which makes women unable to sustain either themselves or their families without the help of the abuser, is often a major disincentive to women considering escaping abusive relationships. 

Intimate partner violence is the worst kind of manipulation and entrapment that anyone can ever experience in a relationship. Abusers will do everything to gain the trust and love of their partners, then eventually begin to wear down their independence and self-esteem in a bid to establish their power over the victim and ensure that they never leave. Abusers are often charming at first, and because of how relationship maintenance is often marketed solely to women, many women feel obligated to try to 'fix' whatever is wrong when their partners 'change'. Abusers often take advantage of personal weaknesses, erode the victim's confidence in themselves and their ability to find help anywhere, and psychologically manipulate victims into dependence on them. In many cases, they will deliberately limit their victims' social lives by isolating them and/or misinforming their friends and family about the victims' behavior so that the victims are no longer seen as trustworthy or even stable. They may also remove their economic power by preventing them from working, sabotaging their jobs, or controlling their income by other means. 

I will ask you to especially consider the fact that women are at the highest risk of being killed by their intimate partners when they leave, and that most victims are aware of this because abusers often threaten grave consequences, including death, should the women undermine their authority in any way. Consider that resources to rehabilitate, empower and restore abused women to some sort of healthy normalcy are very few and far between. Consider that abused women often have nowhere to go should they leave, and that their worries are often complicated by having children. Consider that most abusers, because of their sense of entitlement, will relentlessly look for and violently punish their victims for leaving, and very often end up killing them. Consider what it must feel like to have the man you love fluctuate between threatening your safety, your life, maybe your children, and being loving and generous and kind. Imagine how confusing and heartwrenching that must be. Consider all of these things, read this hashtag started by Beverly Gooden on twitter, and then look at that little tweet you just sent out, and see whether you don't want to kick yourself.

I know no one knows everything, but I think you owe it to yourself and to the people who take you seriously to arm yourself with knowledge before commenting on something as serious as domestic violence. Here's to hoping this tweet never repeats itself.

Monday, 5 January 2015

#BBOG: I Have Too Many Feelings But That's Okay

It has been 267 days since the Chibok girls were taken. Since then, the only ones who have returned home are the ones who escaped on their own. It has been apparent pretty much from day one that the government doesn't care, and now the parents of the girls are looking for help elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has continued to kidnapforcefully recruit and terrorise people in Borno state. (See timeline of attacks here). There has been plenty of effort by activists, organisers and the politically-minded to keep the situation in the North-East on our minds, and I have immense respect for Oby Ezekwesili whose unflagging effort has sustained the #BringBackOurGirls campaign all this time. There are also efforts like the Testimonial Archive Project and BBOG Nigeria (their twitter is here) recording stories, providing updates, and keeping the fight alive.

It is easy to feel inadequate in the overall scheme of things, especially in the face of an issue as massive, complex and mind-boggling as the continued, practically unchecked existence of a group like Boko Haram. I have too many feelings about Nigeria and how it continues to fail its citizens, generally and specifically with regard to the BH situation, and so I decided late last year to commit to writing something every month about Borno state, the girls of Chibok, the victims of Boko Haram; that whole situation. It really doesn't feel like much of anything, but I honestly don't know what else I can do besides this. We must keep talking about this. Something has to be done.

This is the tumblr where I will be posting my pieces. I plan to share other relevant work as well, and I will gladly take submissions. I have already put up one poem there (I don't know how to upload audio on Blogger, sorry - I did try to post it here for those who'd rather not have to click over). It's called 'A Mother's Words for the Chibok Girls' and you can probably hear me getting emotional during the reading, but that's because I am emotional about this matter. I have a daughter. I can not imagine what those parents are going through. Reports say that eleven of them have passed on since the kidnapping, and I won't be surprised if they simply couldn't go on hoping. I can't imagine their pain, and I can't imagine them having to feel that way for the rest of their lives. This is why I'm doing this project. I never want to be able to stop my heart from breaking over the horrible things we humans put one another through.

Please spread the word about this project. For those of us unable to wield anything other than the pen, we must hope that it is indeed mightier than the sword in this case.

Peace, love and light to you all.

PS: The words of the poem are below.

Is anyone even looking anymore?
What is this thing that we are asking for?


You started that trek nine months ago
by now your feet are surely 
too tired
to trace the path
back to safety
and what is that?
How do you catch a word like that
and tuck it into your mouth
when two hundred and sixty-seven repeats 
of a night horrible past comprehending
separate you from it?


What is it that we are asking for, bring back our girls
as if they were stolen from their beds
to be carried preciously 
by rapers and stealers
religious killers
who want that we but ask politely
please, would you kindly
bring back our girls?
We thought it was a fight we were starting,
We thought everyone knew you were deserving
of your own lives
We thought our voices would sound
a war cry
It was not meant to be a plea
Nor a desperate broken whisper
fading like the memory of 
the sound of your laughter


Our girls' beds are cold and wet
with the tears of mothers whose arms ache
with the memory of holding them safe
Please, if only for their sake
bring our babies home.
we miss them
we are afraid for them
You mustn’t let murderers keep them
please let us fix them.


Nine months is a long time -
if you were a bride borne gently into the night
your womb might be empty again
And the child you bore would be
your heart living far enough outside your body
that someone could take her away
just far enough
to keep you and your hope 
faintly alive.
we hope they are alive
we hope they hear us calling out their names,
if only faintly,
We hope their hearts are not as broken 
as their bodies must be
we hope they remember that
there is love waiting for them here
We hope
that someone will #BringBackOurGirls.


You were once children whose dreams set your eyes alight
are there any stars left in them?

We are keeping a light on for when you are brought home.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Leftist Living in 2015!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I had the best NYE ever, folks. Do you know what I did?

I slept

That's right: I got in bed at 11pm on December 31st, and save rolling over to cover my ears with a pillow because some people in the neighbourhood insisted on fireworks, I didn't wake up until 8am. I'm twenty-three years old and this was the first time I did exactly what I wanted on New Year's Eve (my daughter was at her dad's and I made my S.O. go to the Lagos Countdown event without me because sleep trumps loud music and fireworks any day of the year, including New Year's Eve). I woke up in 2015 and I was the most pleasant version of myself, no lies. I wish my whole year could be that way! Alas, this is real life, and I'm not in Kansas anymore...

Having done the customary end-of-year reflections and pre-new-year projections, I have come to the conclusion that 2015 is going to be quite something. This will be my first year doing the whole, entire 'adult' thing; I will be living on my own, working full time and parenting without domestic help (at least for the foreseeable future). Note: my daughter starts school in a week (2015! Such exciting times!), so that's a whole new dimension to my life that I have no experience with. I also plan to do (and share) a bit of research about Yoruba culture, religion and traditions on here, while championing my feminist cause as an unmarried parent in a relationship where I am, you guessed it, sexually active and patently unashamed thereof. I'm diving straight into the deep end here, people.

Based on all of the above, I have no illusions that this will be an easy year - if anything I suspect I will have a surfeit of material to comment on and take issue with on the blog, because you know how the world works. A self-determining woman is the biggest threat to the stability of the human race, next to the gays and free streaming on porn websites. What is the world coming to, one wonders?? To be frank I can already see some of the scenarios in which someone somewhere will try to help me fix my life because they have determined by the length of my skirt and the age of my child (and my nose piercing that I'm still too chicken to get) that I am Doing It Wrong:

  • navigating PTA and such-like
  • attempting international travel with my daughter and S.O. (none of our surnames match, see?)
  • dealing with nosy parkers who think I'm a bad parent because I won't beat my child
  • defending my areligious position/explaining that Yoruba religions are not 'fetish'
  • attempting to explain why I do yoga and meditation to my Christian family
  • generally handling the fallout of being a leftist rabble rouser with strong opinions about pretty much everything.
I can't wait. (No, really. I can't. The sooner it begins the sooner I can get past it. Can I get an Amen?).

So, this is my manifesto for 2015: I will experience things, many of which I suspect will be quite hilarious in hindsight, and I will write about them in critical feminist-speak, because this is necessary. Especially considering that this happened:
Where are the African feminists taking over the African internet in Africa???

It's going to be a fun year, people. And since I plan to do a bunch of writing, I hope you plan to do a bunch of reading. I'm not learning all this feminist-speak for nothing! Love, peace and comfortable jammies,