Saturday, 27 December 2014

Loving People You Don't Like: Family!

Happy Holidays, everyone. (I generally don't enjoy using politically correct Americanisms, but I will admit to liking this one). Don't you just love Christmastime? 'Tis the season to be jolly, eat too much rice, and dust off all of your coping-with-family techniques. What fun.

Okay, okay, the sarcasm is a bit much; I don't actually dislike Christmas. In fact, I don't really think about it at all; my nuclear family never really made a fuss about it when I was growing up. However, as we've grown older and started our own families, there's been a bit more of a deliberate effort to make time to bond over the holidays. In my experience, there are few things more appealing-sounding than family bonding, and even fewer things that generally tend to go South so quickly. (So I guess what I'm saying is I don't mind Christmas; what I mind is my family at Christmas. *sigh*).

Whenever my family is in one place, it is inevitable that some sort of debate will ensue. We all have very strong opinions, and most of us don't have any issues with airing them. What makes this interesting, for me at least, is that I have a lot of ideological/political positions that my conservative third-generation Christian family doesn't understand, and relating with them around the deeply entrenched beliefs that they have can be intensely frustrating and emotionally draining.

This holiday, the topic du jour was rape. Thanks to Tyler Perry's shitstorm of a movie Temptation, a heated discussion about women's culpability in their rapes (as if there is even such a thing!) was struck up. I pointed out what I believe is the immense irresponsibility of the rape scene. Tyler Perry's films occupy an interesting niche in Hollywood, and so many people of Black and African descent (including my own family apparently), take his films seriously. He has a massive audience, and this is chiefly why I was (and continue to be) so upset over the problematic message about women's sexual agency and consent, among other issues, that this film sends.

In case you haven't seen the film, don't. In the scene I'm referring to, the lead character Judith is on her way back from a business trip to New Orleans with a client on his private jet. Said client has made it clear he is interested in her sexually, and so far she has made it clear she is very married. Still, they've been in Nola, they've danced and drunk wine, she's awed by all his money and good looks etc, so when he comes on to her on the plane, of course she consents to sleep with him, right?


Harley slides over to her side of the plane. He starts touching her. She says "no, get off of me, stop it", repeatedly. She physically pushes him off her. But Harley, as written by my dear friend Tyler, only gets more turned on by her resistance and tries harder. He eventually tells her to stop it, adding in a suitably sexy voice, "now you can say you resisted." Judith stops struggling, and we cut to the next scene where Judith is visibly distressed and disgusted with Harley. She never wants to see him again. She is crying.

This means she was raped, right?

Again, wrong.

In the Tyler universe (as illustrated by a steamy flashback), she wanted it. She calls him first. She is upset that he doesn't pay her attention. She tells him he's the best sex of her previously unglamorous life. She wanted it. She sneaks out of her house under a false pretence for the most bizarrely lit sex scene in the history of weird lighting in filmmaking. So obviously, you know, she wanted it all along.

Dear Tyler Perry, I just have one question. How did we get from "no, stop it" to literally steamy sex in the bath tub?

I find it distressing that it does not appear to be common knowledge that when a woman says no, it doesn't mean yes. It doesn't mean maybe. It doesn't mean 'I want to be able to say I resisted because I'm actually a good woman'. It means no. When the media muddies the waters of consent, they perpetuate rape culture. That scene sends the message to everyone that women don't know what they want, women can be convinced to change their minds about wanting sex regardless of what they're saying about wanting sex, 'good' women secretly want 'bad' sex but can't admit it, men need to help women deal with their guilt about wanting sex by 'reading between the lines' of their refusal and interpreting 'no' as 'yes', men's sexual desire takes precedence over women's consent... I could go on. The point is, that scene makes rape seem okay by invalidating the need for consent.

This is what I was trying to explain to my family, but because of how rampant rape culture is in Christian circles, it wasn't surprising to me that they thought I was the crazy one for thinking there was something wrong with that scene. I wasn't surprised to hear family members say things like, "what does a woman expect when she goes to a man's house late?", "women have a responsibility to protect themselves", "anyone who has been raped will not make the same mistake twice", etc. I have been raped and I blamed myself and didn't want to tell anyone - not even my family - because even at 16 I knew how most people responded to rape. I know there are people who think 'no' is an invitation depending on the context. But to hear my own family, who are aware of my personal experience, confirm to me that they do believe women have a hand in their rapes? It was devastating.

As an adult and an unmarried mother, I've started to explore and adopt a lot of -isms that my family doesn't understand, and until fairly recently I have tried to accommodate their expectations of me by watering down my beliefs, pretending to believe different things and even outrightly lying just so as to not ruffle any feathers or cause them discomfort. More and more, however, I realise that the cost to myself of doing this is far too high to be healthy. One of my friends said to me that I ought not to take their comments personally, yet I don't know how to do that. The dominant narrative about family is that it is always and forever a safe space. This is however not true. Families are made up of human beings, and every human being has the potential to be horrible. This is not to say that my family is all bad, either; I've had a vast amount of support from them at different times in my life. This holiday has just cemented to me that I need to find new ways to deal with them...

Friday, 19 December 2014

"Women, Protect Yourselves." (And We Ask, "From What?")

Over the last month I've been in the process of moving into my own place and practising for life without domestic help (my maid leaves permanently next week and it's uncertain when I will find someone else), and so I've spent a lot more time out in the 'real world' than I normally would. I was told, and it made sense to me, that living on my own would be more difficult than the life I was used to, and in some ways I had prepared myself for it. One thing I failed to factor in though, was how unsafe I would feel while just going about living my life.

While I was still living with family, I was often driven around. I also had more disposable income and so could afford to take taxis regularly, but living on your own has its way of forcing you to trim the excess, so I've started taking danfo and the BRT a lot more. I spend more time walking on busy roads and go to the market more; I'm generally in public spaces more. The upshot of all this being out in the world is that I've experienced a lot more street/sexual harassment and sexist (micro-)aggressions in the last few weeks than the entire year prior. 

Leaving the house now requires a ridiculous amount of thought. My stress levels are higher when I have to go out because, depending on whether I feel up to standing up for myself or not, I have to carefully evaluate my outfits to ward off harassment. I have to think carefully about routes, be constantly alert when it starts to get dark, try to figure out whether it's safer to ignore catcalling or respond as politely as possible and walk away quickly... In the last month I've had one man pull out his penis and waggle it at me on the street, had a group of men call out to my two-year old daughter about her bum, been followed by several men, and (of course) had sexist slurs shouted at me.

Last night I had to go out around 9pm to buy insecticide. I didn't feel like changing out of the clothes I had on (a loose shirt and mid-thigh bodycon skirt), but I suspected how things would go. I wasn't disappointed. I hadn't walked 15 metres from my street's gate before someone had tried to initiate contact and then proceeded to insult me when I ignored him. Two metres beyond him a group of men on a balcony started to call down to me. Another metre or so in front, some teenage boys walked past me, leering, and once they were behind me began to heckle me. On my way back home one man followed me very closely for over 100 metres, alternating between cajoling and threatening whispers, walking closer to me in the darker parts and drifting away where there were security lights, until I got to my street's gate and the security guard blocked him.

As I walked home I realised that if I told someone about that distressing experience, I was more likely to get a "but why did you wear that skirt?" than a "but why would someone follow a non-communicative stranger home?" Women are told and taught to do everything they can to protect ourselves, yet no one ever seems to question why there is even a need for self-protection. People say, "women, protect yourselves" and stop short of the "from men" part of that phrase. This is why no matter what women do, we continue to suffer all kinds of violence; people choose not to engage with the cause of the violence.

Telling women that we ought to limit our choices and even our lives in order to ward off violence is not and will never be effective in preventing or protecting us from violence, because women's choices, bodies and lives are not the cause of violence. The sense of entitlement, superiority and ownership that men feel over women and our bodies is. The privileging of maleness and male desires over women's safety and agency is. The dangerous man-as-hunter norm that teaches men to ignore consent and the absence of it is. The sexual objectification and commodification of women's bodies for male consumption is. And until society starts to interrogate the reasons behind all of the 'should nots' that are prescribed for women 'for their protection', we will continue to see women 'fail' at protecting themselves.

It was never about women protecting ourselves. It has always been about the men we need to protect ourselves from. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

When Grief Has Been Lurking

My mother died two years ago.

I still never consider that fact full on. Even now, typing the words, I'm still looking at the event out of the corner of my mind's eye. I don't know if there will ever be a day when I can say those words out loud and not internally look away from the fact of them, falsely flippant, skipping along without considering their real meaning: my mother died two years ago.

Today my older sister and I cleared out her old bedroom. The clothes didn't smell like her at all; they'd been hanging there, untouched, since 2012. Still, I could see her in them, smiling, coming into my bedroom unannounced to ask what I thought of her outfit.
"No one in church even fanned me.'
She used to say 'fan' to mean 'pay a compliment'. Or, more often,
"Ah, Timehin, they really fanned me today o. Emi gan, mo wo'ra mi, mo ri pe mo fine gan!"
She was so beautiful. And she made me laugh. Lord, how she made me laugh...

I found a picture of her when she was pregnant with me, and I almost, almost, came out of my mental hiding to confront the fact that I was clearing out her things from her old bedroom because she didn't live in it anymore. Her little notes on the mirror haven't been touched in over two years. No one has crossed that threshold at 9pm to ask why she's lying in the dark, worrying, in over two years. She hasn't asked me to help her figure out 'this new thing that they've done with my email!' in over two years.
But when you have to keep breathing after all your air is gone, you can't really take the time to consider how you're doing it. You just do it.

"Mummy. I have all this grief. All this confusion and wondering and growing-up-without-you that you left me with. My hands are full of it and my arms ache from it and Lord knows my heart is tired of the exertion of keeping on keeping on.
Tell me what to do with it, ma'ami. I need to lay it down. I need to lay down and rest and have you remind me that I will be okay.
I miss you so much that it almost forces me to stop and ask myself why.
But I can't.
That would mean having to deal with the reason you only ever smile back at me from pictures.
The reason why I haven't listened eagerly for your footsteps down the hall in forever.
The reason I'm crying right now.
The fact that you're gone, permanently, forever.
I have so many questions, ma'ami..."

It's been two years and I still don't know how to deal with it. So I won't. Not tonight. But my heart is heavy with the longing for the memory of her smell on those clothes, her arms in those jackets, holding me or preening for me or trying on my overlarge sunglasses and laughing at her reflection with me...

I just keep breathing. Maybe one day.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

An Untitled Piece of Fiction

I watched the heavy plastic bauble slip through her fingers. The sound of it hitting the floor was too loud in the darkness, but I picked it up and put it back again and again, each dull thud heavier than the last. Going, going, gone. I wondered crazily how many times I would have to put it back in her lifeless grip before her body would stiffen and force me to face the knowledge that my baby sister was dead, before I would have to find another insane thing to do to help me keep the knowing inside. Stupid jokes swirled in my head, jokes I knew she would have found wildly funny, her eyes streaming with the effort of laughing quietly. The knowing was a furious, chaotic thing in my chest, a thing I could not look at or allow. There was no room for grief here. 

The hair-grip started its gradual descent again, and suddenly it was too hot, too damp, too dirty. There had been many things in my life too hard to swallow, but this one was worse than all of them. Worse than twelve filthy soldiers hitting the back of my throat, my father’s averted eyes as the aid worker counted out five, ten, twenty dollars ‘for the pair of them’, the fury-shame-despair that had filled my insides because even though we had been on our best behaviour, he had really only kept us the two nights he had bargained for. The knowledge that I would have done anything, taken anything, to stay longer. My chest was tight. Sofia was dead. That chaotic thing in my chest felt like it wanted to take me too, but I didn’t know how to let it.

I was going to take her outside somehow, but when I touched her feet they felt like a disease and I hadn’t known it, but that too was too hard to take and all of a sudden I was running even though I didn’t remember standing up. And I was loud. I could hear myself crashing through brush, breathing, crying. There was a sound following me and I knew it was my wailing but it had been so long since I had been anything but small and silent and so very careful; I didn’t know how to put it back. That thing in my chest was furious and violent and there was no more room for it inside me. Death was hard - I had seen the fear and pain in Sofia’s eyes - but surviving would kill you harder. 

“Be quiet, Safi!” The first time I had heard myself say it, my mother’s voice was what came out of my mouth. “Be quiet, Safi.”  Help us survive. My ears filled with the noise I was making, struggling to stay alive longer than that thing in my chest. There was no room for grief anywhere, not even inside me. “Be quiet, Safi.”  It hadn’t helped her. Had it helped any of us? There was a sound following me now, a sound bigger than my wailing. “Stop! STOP!” I wanted to stop and explain that I wasn’t running away from them or their camp - I was running away from this thing that wanted to kill me - but that was them too, wasn’t it? Sofia had died anyway, as silent as ever, and that had been them too, hadn’t it? I heard myself explode, and I flew.

The earth I landed on had no give to it, and it forced everything in my lungs out. It was too bright, too raucous, too cold. There was a ringing in my body that felt like pain, but all I could think of was that I had forgotten to take Sofia’s hair grip with me, and she would be upset. I could hear them coming, loud, angry, not enough of a menace anymore. There was blood in my mouth, leaking out of me with everything else, warm. It was as sticky as Safi’s forehead had been, less wet than it should have been. I wanted to laugh. My eyes were streaming, just like hers used to. Look, Safi. I’m coming. They didn’t get us, Safi. Death is a hard thing to swallow, the thing inside my chest wanted to kill me, and I found a way back to you Safi. Look. I’m coming. We will have to remember how to laugh loudly, now. You will remind me, won’t you? Laugh, Safi. I’m coming.

Monday, 1 December 2014

#RedefiningBeauty (and the Value of Sisterhood)

Yesterday started off on a heartbreaking note, with a disappointment I was in no way shored up to handle. I've had a hard couple of months, and it felt like the last, ultimate, final straw; I wanted to just curl up in the dark and listen to Lianne La Havas while weeping. Then I remembered that I'd promised Wana I'd attend Glory Edozien's Redefining Beauty event, and in the spirit of choosing happiness, I decided to just go. And I'm grateful I did.

I know from my #AWW14 experience that when women have a safe, affirming space to share their stories, it can be a powerful thing. Yesterday was no different. It was incredibly uplifting to hear women who I admire and respect speak about struggles and triumphs that resonated deeply with me. There was laughter and crying, and the warmth and openness felt like a long drink of water when you didn't even realise how thirsty you were.

The discussions touched on overcompensating for the lack of beauty (or the presence of it in excess, as exemplified by Lola Maja's moving story), the confusing transition from girlish innocence to womanly responsibility - responsibility for your own body as well as for men's responses to it, weight, the 'natural' intrusiveness of Nigerian society when it comes to women and their appearance, the messages sent by the media about perfection and unattainable standards of beauty (you know Lupita came up), and most importantly for me, the struggle to protect or at least insulate our children from the powerful influences that shape popular perceptions of beauty and almost invariably leave them feeling inadequate.

Hosted by Glory, with Wana Udobang (OAP), Jadesola Osiberu (Director and Producer), Lola Maja (make-up guru) and Oreka Godis (OAP) on the panel, the event also included spoken word by Titilope Shonuga (she gets my life. Lord. That woman gets my whole entire life!) and an acoustic session by Omolara. It was the most uplifting experience I'd had in a very long time (and I'd just been to church that morning, smh). I'm so glad I got off my butt and went. I met some amazing new women, reconnected with old friends I hadn't seen in years, and laughed about pregnancy, motherhood, the ridiculous cost of living in Lagos, the price of small chops, the new trend of wedding guests paying for professional makeovers (I didn't even know this was a thing!)... It was amazing.

Yesterday started off on the shittiest of shitty notes, but there's nothing like sisterhood to take all of the blues away. And (like I told Glory after the event), you can bet I'm going to turn up at the next one with like six of my girlfriends, going 'yaaaaaaassss! Get your life, girl!'

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Because New Year Resolutions Are Too Mainstream

This year has been a bit rude, with the way it has sped past with no consideration for how slow some of us are when it comes to learning life's lessons. And I could certainly have used some consideration; I'm one of the slower set. In a lot of ways I feel like I'm still stuck in 2012, trying to figure out what the hell is happening and how I am supposed to cope with the enormous upheavals of unplanned motherhood and unforeseen orphaning, among other lesser shocks. Things have not been easy, and sometimes I have been convinced someone stole my controller and changed my player settings from 'Beginner' to 'Jedi Knight Expert'.

I have not dealt well.

I have been petulant, rash and selfish. I have made bad choices, danced on the edge of eating disorders, forgotten what it felt like to care even a little about myself, forgotten how to be generous to other people. There have been crippling bouts of anxiety and depression, self-doubt and despair, rage and desperation for something - anything - to give.

Then one day - at rock bottom, ready to give up the fight and just run away from all of the heartbreak and betrayal, it occurred to me that maybe life isn't actually shafting me out of spite. Maybe I've actually been doing it wrong. Everybody knows life is a bitch - to everybody. Shit happens - to everybody. So why have I been acting brand new and taking it personally?

It has been a slow, painful process, but now I'm starting to realise: I'm not as important as I think I am. The universe hasn't taken a special interest in beating me down. That's just how life works. And I will admit it freely now; it hasn't been all bad. I have had moments, experiences, seasons of pure goodness. People have been kind and generous, many times past the point of reason. I've made wonderful, life-giving new connections. My daughter has grown into an incredibly bright handful. My cheekbones have been popping of recent.

Looking back now, I realise that for a long time I simply didn't know how to be happy. I was always waiting for the perfect moment - when every single thing finally started to go my way - to be happy. I would decide, 'I'm miserable now but once I finish school I'll be happy.' Then it became 'once I get a job', 'once I get my own place', 'once I have six months' living expenses saved'... The result? I was mostly miserable. And I was turning into a cynical, resentful, bitter person, someone who I did not recognise and who I certainly did not like.

Do you know how hard it is to just be a decent human being when you don't even like yourself?

That's why I've decided to choose differently. I want to be able to look at myself at the end of every day, think back on the things I did and said, and be pleased with, if not proud of, myself. I want to take responsibility for my own happiness. Instead of being a passive victim of life's arbitrariness, I want to be able to say - this is what I'm going to do about my situation, this is how I'm going to feel, and this is who I'm going to be. I know this all sounds like recycled self-help material (I'm very suspicious of the Self-Help Industry), but I've realised that my perspective is vital to my happiness. I really believe that "happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it..."

So I'm not waiting for 2014 to speed past and disappear into the distance before I decide to do something different. Our calendar system is an arbitrarily designed man-made construct anyway (it's early 2007 right now in Ethiopia, people!), and ain't nobody got time to sit around and wait for a faraway midnight. What do I look like, Cinderella?

I'm choosing better today. Starting right now. (Actually I started about two weeks ago but for the purposes of this blog post we'll say right now.)

Watch me be happy, people. Watch me be fucking ecstatic.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Which Way, Nigeria?

Nigeria is a country where nothing works. It is oft-said that every man is his own government here, providing himself with water, power, security, education, healthcare; grateful if an elected leader fixes some roads while he loots the state, unsurprised if he doesn't even bother with the pretense of government. It is a testament to the average Nigerian's resourcefulness and resilience that any of us survive at all, let alone find a way to make some sort of happy life, but we do. We fold our tongues into the corners of our mouths when confronted with our country's many mind-boggling failures: navigating the madness of arriving at the international airport in Lagos and having to walk, rain or shine, lifetime's worth of luggage or no, to a shuttle bus station a kilometer away. Or delivering your first child in what is purportedly a private specialist hospital, only to be told when you go into active labour to 'hold on, don't push, the doctor is attending to another person now'. And this after running from another private maternity hospital when you discovered your doctor was lying about your child being breech so he could charge you the extra N500,000 for a Caesarean section. Or attempting to sue one of the many service providers who fleece you and deliver nothing, and being told not to waste your time because they have enough money to bribe judges. The frustration, the powerlessness, settles on you and you keep quiet, find a way to pull through, turn the knot of anger into an anecdote, laugh at it with people you love, remind yourself, this is Nigeria. E go beta.

E go beta. But when, my people? How? I recount the small things because I can, if I try, wrap my mind around them. And if I can't wrap my mind around them, I can tuck them neatly into a pile of Things I Can't Afford To Forget when navigating my survival in this country that continues to exist in spite of itself. Small things like the police is not your friend, civil servants require bribes to do their jobs, your mechanic is ripping you off, your gateman thinks he can make passes because you are unmarried and living alone. But the big things, like my friend dying because NEPA wires started a fire that the fire service arrived too late to put out, like my mother's death from a misdiagnosis, like being blamed for my rape, those ones I can't tuck away. Those ones refuse to be spun into small talk or cookie-cut into conversation fillers. And the insane things - planes dropping out of the sky like rain, the slaughter of schoolboys by terrorists and soldiers alike, the weaponized rape and abduction of schoolgirls, the unchecked looting of sums of money so fantastic that the poor it should have gone to can't understand what they have lost - those ones remind me that little drops make an ocean. And this one is poised to drown us.

How much more will we take before it is enough? I don't know. But I am afraid to continue to be in this country. I march, write, sing, protest, but who is listening? #BringBackOurGirls has shown me that Nigeria is where it is, not just because our leaders are greedy, shortsighted and selfish, but also because they are actually incapable of being anything other than what they are. And I am afraid. We are in trouble and I can see no way that it will be fixed because those in power are too thick with corruption to let it happen. I want to have hope, but I don't see what I will base this hope on. And, in case you missed it, this scares me.

Which way, Nigeria?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bills, Bills, Bills.

In case you didn't know, I identify as a feminist. (These days I'm leaning towards womanism because I think it might speak a bit better to my experience as a Black female, but that's another post entirely). For me, it is always interesting to talk about feminism, even though I'll admit I haven't quite mastered the art of detaching my emotions from the conversation, because it is always interesting to hear the many skewed (albeit sometimes understandably so) perceptions that people have of feminism.

I was out to dinner with my boyfriend and a small group of friends, and inevitably the issue of my relatively recent conversion to the feminist religion came up. A girlfriend stated that she had no use for feminism as she had no desire for equality with men, because men and women are simply not equal. Someone else mentioned to my partner that dating feminists must be cheaper than dating 'regular women', because they (we?) always insist on going Dutch, to which we both laughed and established; he always pays for dinner. The outcry was instantaneous and loud, and the general consensus was that I wasn't doing feminism right.

I'm not sure how the 'feminists want to be men/do what men do' argument gained such currency, but in my experience it is second only in popularity to the 'feminists hate men' argument. If I had a kobo for every time the 'feminists, who pays the bills on your dates?' question has come up on my twitter feed, I'd be earning at least minimum wage every month for simply existing. I find it interesting how, when oppression begins to be discussed, the most common form of derailment is to reduce the issue from an institutional, systemic problem, and make it about individuals. Discuss racism and white supremacy, and someone is sure to argue that 'not all white people...'; discuss sexism and patriarchy, and someone is sure to say you hate men (usually because they're certain you must be incredibly unattractive to them).

I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating: feminism isn't about men. Nor is it about rejecting traditional gender roles or refusing chivalry.  To borrow a quote from Minna Salami, "feminism is not simply about being an independent or successful woman. It is about recognizing and taking a critical engagement with patriarchal structures that oppress women..."

Feminism is about recognizing that women almost always draw the shortest straw, pointing out the instances where this happens, and doing what we can to rectify the situation in those instances.  We earn much less money for doing the same (and in some cases, like African women farmers, even more) work than men. We are less educated, abused more, and denied more opportunities than boys. We die younger, bear more of the burden of raising a family, and are always, always reminded, that we are less important. Don't believe me? Just look around you. The evidence is everywhere.

So, in the light of all this, should anyone in all seriousness be able to tie the validity of feminism to who pays for a dinner date? I think not.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

PSA: Comments

If you guys needed any more proof regarding my tech ineptitude, here it is: someone pointed out to me that only people with Google+ Profiles are able to comment on my blog. I wasn't aware of this, and while I'm proud of myself for figuring out how to change that in less than 20 minutes, I'm afraid all your lovely comments posted on google+ will vanish into the ether.

I only hope that one day in the near future I will figure this thing out, once and for all. Till then, please bear with me! 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Scenic Route Still Gets You There

I wrote my last exam in Uni this morning. Can I get an "Amen!"?

I'd been looking forward to this day, anticipating this moment, for such a long time that I didn't know how to feel when it finally came. The end of my apparently endless undergraduate career, lengthened by three strikes that lasted a total of a year, and a year-long break to have my daughter (and, as it turned out, grieve my mum), arrived this morning at 10.24 am, and there were no fireworks! I found it a bit underwhelming, in all honesty.

But here I am done, dusted, on my grown woman shit, and pleased as punch. My sixteen year old self would never have been able to picture the events of the last six years - hell, my current self still has trouble recognizing my reality sometimes, but I am finally done with the University of Ibadan and vowing never to write another exam ever again in my life.

I still believe going to Uni was a waste of valuable time, considering how crappy the system is, but I'm grateful for the friends I made. I really lucked out in the friendship department, a fact which was never more obvious than when I fell pregnant in my not-so-final year and then lost my mum months later. If you're one of those people who think female friends are too much hassle, you need new friends (or a different attitude). I never liked school, but having people who genuinely had my back and with whom I could make awesome memories definitely improved my experience.

I'm really not sure what the point of this post is supposed to be, beyond sharing this small seed of happiness that I have. Like one of the half-unread books on my shelf says, life turns man up and down. Even if it was not part if the plan, you can still make it work.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Girl Power, Rah Rah - Nah.

This post is a bit 'for the record'-esque, so I will be brief: my feminism (because I believe in the concept of different feminisms) is not about usurping power, it's about being given equal opportunities and equitable treatment.

Let all children, male or female, go to school. And let girls have safe, clean toilets at school.

Let all people, male or female, get jobs based on merit, let their salaries and promotions be based on the same performance criteria, and let pregnant women be treated fairly in the workplace.

Let all parents, male or female, be allowed to participate in their children's lives in the public sphere in the same ways/whatever ways they choose, without their competence being called into question.

Let all adults, male or female, be able to explore and express their sexuality in healthy, consensual ways without judgment or reprisal.

Let girls and women contribute, lead, create and succeed, without questioning their abilities or qualifying their output with 'feminine' (read: 'less worthy of respect') qualifiers. 

Let boys and men be vulnerable, in need of help, emotional, asexual, non-violent, paternal and faithful, without qualifying their actions as 'feminine' (again, 'less worthy of respect') qualifiers.

My (and most other feminists') feminism isn't anti-man, man-hating, militant rampaging. It's not about men. It's about systems of oppression and the usually but not exclusively male-run, male-upheld institutions that promote and perpetuate them. It's about patriarchy, about kyriarchy, about the dehumanization of women and men due to subjugation, abuse of power and denial of rights.

So, guys, don't flatter yourselves. This shit ain't about you.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Die. It's Easy.

It is probably for the best that Nigerian hospitals don't have the manpower to perform routine autopsies on the unusually deceased, because the sort of Cause of Death reports we would receive would be the stuff of a truly macabre imagination. In Nigeria there are a thousand ways to die, many of them too amazing to be anything but stark reality.

You can die from a two-year old misdiagnosis given at a government hospital, or from an asthma attack because there is no oxygen, or from an asthma attack because the nurse won't listen when you mention she is overdosing you, or from an asthma attack when your inhaler turns out to be fake. You can die by falling from an old crane with maintenance issues on a construction site, or a truck driving into your shop when its brakes fail on a bad road. You can be T-boned by a speeding trailer on your way to NYSC camp, or in a plane crash along with all your classmates because there is no water for the Fire Service to save you with. 

You can die when the power goes out while you're in surgery, or when your doctor lies about your child being breech so he can charge you extra for a (subsequently botched) Caesarean section. You can die when a plane falls out of the sky into your house on a quiet Sunday, or when long-forgotten bombs go off in a military cantonment kilometers away, or for maybe being gay. You can die when a building collapses or when your pastor sets you on fire. You can die when your aunty decides you're a witch, when your husband stabs you 76 times, or when you are forced to marry your rapist. 

And you will be forgotten, eventually, by everyone but those who loved you before you died. No one will care enough about how you died to make sure nobody else dies that way, because this is Nigeria after all; people die all the time.

Monday, 10 March 2014


"There are no voiceless; there are only the silenced."
Entertainment Splash came on the radio just as we passed what used to be the Ibadan toll gate, and after the stories about Lupita's Oscar and the imminent AMVCAs, the show moved on to the Obesere rape allegation. The presenters, two male, one female, went over the victim's story: she had been introduced to the musician because he had connections that could benefit her. She went to see him at his house, he made advances that she refused, then agreed to stay in his guest room till morning because it was so late. During the night he came to her room and raped her, penetrating her with a heavy gold ring as well.

I didn't have to wait long for the disbelief. Male Presenter 1 spoke up: "Sorry o, but this lady's story is strange." Female presenter: "Exactly! Why did she stay at his house if he had already made advances? Is she a child? She's 29 years old for God's sake, she can't tell me she doesn't know better." Male presenter 2: "She called it a business meeting yet she was there till midnight? Is she a learner?" They all agreed amid laughter that she was indeed a learner. By the time the show was over the other people in the taxi had more to add: she probably slept with him for money and then cried wolf when he refused to pay her, she just wanted to blackmail him because he's famous, you can't trust these women.

I listened to these comments in unsurprised despair. Rape is a seriously misunderstood and misrepresented concept in Nigeria; it is the most underreported crime in the country, with statutory rape being permissible under customary law and marital rape not even being illegal. A January 2013 poll gives some disturbing insight into the way Nigerians perceive rape, with 'indecent dressing' being listed as the top cause of rape, alongside 'lack of moral values, unemployment and inability to control the sexual urge', and the majority of rapes going unreported due to 'pressures that seek to compel women to remain silent about rape in order to conform to the expected societal standards of women remaining chaste till marriage.'

The sad truth is that Nigeria and its average citizens promote the deafening silence of rape victims: when women come forward with their stories, they are invariably described as attention-seeking liars. And when it cannot be disproved that they were indeed raped, they are responsible for their rapes because of something they did or didn't do. She went out at night. She went to his house. She wore a short skirt. She dated him. She was a prostitute. She was working late. She was going to sleep with him anyway. The list is endless, but the meaning is always the same: these women made themselves rapeable. In doing or not doing so-and-so, how could they expect anything other than to be raped?!

I am a Nigerian woman. I have been raped. It never once occurred to me to report my rapist: I was sixteen, I snuck out of school to see my 26 year old club-owner toaster, I went to his house, and he raped me. I knew without being told that I would be blamed for it, so going to the police never entered my mind. I continued my life as yet another unreported rape victim, because the country I grew up in, with its patriarchal culture and religious fundamentalism, had taught me that I was responsible for my rape, my shame was mine alone, and my truth would not be believed.

Rape in Nigeria is a systemic, institutionalized issue protected by culture, ignored by the law and decried only in theory. We have a culture that tells people that women's sexuality is not valid outside of the context of a man and babies, that men are animals unable to control their sexual urges and women are somehow responsible for this absence of self-control, that women's bodies are public property, that a woman cannot be defined outside of a man's ownership of her, that her chastity is what defines her value as a person, and her marriage is what cements her womanhood. And so a raped woman is, very simply, a woman who has cheated herself, by herself.

She knows her options are limited - almost non-existent. She goes to her family, and she is begged to be silent. She goes to the police, and she is disbelieved. She goes to her lover, and he is offended that someone else has eaten from his pot. She goes to her friends and she is asked why she did what she did to bring the rape on herself. So she goes to no one. She picks up the pieces, cries herself to sleep, reminds herself to calm down every time she passes her assailant on the street or at work or at home, prays it never happens again, suffers through the same cycle if it does.

In Nigeria, the rape victim almost always has no allies, no friends, no support. In fact, she barely exists: a victim is someone against whom a crime has been committed, hapless, innocent, deserving of justice. Nigerian people can almost always find a way to blame a woman for her rape (assuming of course that it even happened at all; you know you really can't trust these women). And if you can be blamed, you are not a victim. If there are no victims, there is no crime. If there is no crime, we do not have a problem.

Nigeria does not have a rape problem.

The Princess in Nairobi Blue

"Once upon a time, in a wonderful land where most everyone had magical portals that showed them everything going on everywhere, an unlikely princess named Lupita did an unlikely thing; she became a star."

I used to believe that the age of the breakout superstar was over.  Now that we have reality TV and YouTube, any schmuck with a camera can become famous - there are after all 25 letters other than 'A' to go with the '-list celebrity' qualifier. But I'm willing to consider that I may have been wrong, because Lupita. 

Everyone's been talking about Lupita Nyong'o. She's talented, stylish, intelligent, gracious, funny and articulate. More importantly (to me at least), she's undeniably African; dark, with short cropped hair and a surname people are constantly asking to be taught to pronounce. She's also just won an oscar - she's only the 7th black woman to do so, the second African woman, and the first black African woman. In other words, Lupita Nyong'o is a Big Deal.

Unsurprisingly, there's talk about whether the buzz she generated is really commensurate to her achievements: 12 Years A Slave was her first film (is Non-Stop out in Nigeria yet?), she just graduated from drama school, and her only previous acting credit is in Shuga, a Kenyan series funded by MTV. Yet on the strength of these accomplishments alone she was the most talked-about actor this awards season - she did countless talk shows, magazine covers, interviews and appearances, and designers were apparently vying to dress her for the Oscars. It doesn't add up!

Or does it? Why the fuss about her? Why am I, a Nigerian woman, writing about her?

American culture is the most exported culture on the planet. I would make bold to say that the American entertainment industry is, for all intents and purposes, the entertainment industry of the English-speaking world. In other words, American culture is The Mainstream. And American history and social/racial constructs being what they are, people of color have a lot to contend with before they can be accepted into that mainstream as something other than a sales gimmick. I have a private joke about the movie awards season being a blizzard because the whiteness is unreal. And then when you do see black people, they're usually light-skinned. And if they're dark-skinned, they're usually male. And if they're female, they're usually not a big deal. 

But every once in a (long!) while, someone will come along who bucks the trend. It was Cecily Tyson once, then Whoopi Goldberg, then Gabourey Sidibe, then Viola Davis... They are few and far between because that's how the system works. But never have I seen a dark black woman capture the hearts and imaginations of Hollywood and the world in the way that Lupita did. Her face was everywhere. Her voice was everywhere. People put her sound bites up on their social media. They made memes out of her fashion choices. Lupita is a star - a real one.

As you might have guessed, I'm a fan. It made my heart sing to see someone who looks like me walk the red carpet looking flawless every time, receiving recognition for her work and talents. This is not to say that I don't have my reservations about the image that the media machine seems to have created for her; I do. I worry about the possibility that she's been fetishized as an exceptional creature, because that just reinforces the stereotype that dark black women can not ordinarily be beautiful. It upsets me that because she is female, so much of the discourse was about her attractiveness or otherwise, and her body was constantly scrutinized and judged, instead of the focus being on her accomplishments and personality. And it has occurred to me that she might have been a token; a pawn in the mess that is American (media's) race and gender relations.

But I think it does her, and all the people inspired by her, a disservice to focus on these things because of all the good that can come out of her stardom. Lupita herself has spoken about how seeing Alek Wek become a supermodel enabled her to stop wishing to become something other than what she was, because for the first time someone who looked like her was celebrated as beautiful. And now, she is doing that same thing for black girls everywhere. Her image is powerful. Her voice is powerful. So though it might be unrealistic to hope that the adulation never ends, I am glad the world talked about Lupita because no matter what, she will always be one more woman who proved that catching the eye and ear of the world is not reserved for blonde, blue-eyed beauties and those who look like them. Up there with Alek, Grace Jones, Iman and Nina Simone, Lupita is one more star who shines, dark as night.

There may never be a consensus on whether she deserved all the buzz, but who cares? People can question the validity of her celebrity and her beauty all they want, but it doesn't matter because now and forever, Lupita and her image are a powerful beacon of hope - a confirmation that, 'no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.' 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Hardy Har Har, Tokstarr

Tokstarr, or Toke Makinwa to the uninitiated (ahem), is possibly Nigeria's most ubiquitous media personality. Someone once said that she's like MTN: bright yellow and everywhere you go. I found it hilarious, if a bit harsh. I don't listen to radio, so I don't know what she's like, but I was wandering around on Instagram, and one of her photos is the whole reason for this blogpost.

There's a lot I find very disquieting about the fact that this photo is on her Instagram. Here is a young woman with a significant following posting a (racist?) 'joke' about a 12 year old child having sex...and the punch line is that this child is a whore. To my mind, she must have first found it funny herself, for her to consider it appropriate to share.

Where to even begin?

I'm not Chinese, so I don't know if the play on their language would be considered offensive. But you don't have to be female, or an adolescent, to know that there is absolutely nothing amusing about rape, which is what any kind of sex involving a 12 year old child is. 

More disturbing than the mere fact of Toke posting this picture was the sheer number of 'LOL'ers, many of them female, one of whom even took it upon herself to 'school' the lone woman who took exception to the 'joke'. 

I've noticed that when people take exception to tasteless jokes such as this, they are invariably accused of being too sensitive, lacking humor, or having nothing better to do than make a fuss over nothing. But this isn't nothing. Rape isn't nothing. Paedophilia isn't nothing. Calling a girl (or any female for that matter) a 'ho' isn't nothing.

It wasn't long ago that Basketmouth got serious flak for posting a rape joke on his social media. I however find this joke even more distressing than Basketmouth's, because not only does it make rape seem okay, it goes further to shame the victim by calling her a 'young ho'. Add to that the fact that it was posted and laughed at by women, and one has to wonder just how much of a problem of internalized misogyny we have in Nigeria. I think it is important for any marginalised/oppressed/mis- or under-represented group to be careful about the messages they put out in the world. Having men misunderstand or make light of the very real, very serious issues women face is bad enough; should we have to deal with women doing the same thing too? 

Last year, the Nigerian populace was outraged by the legislature's apparent attempt at legalizing child marriage in the country. I did a simple twitter search, and found Toke's thoughts on the matter.

I wasn't surprised to note her own (mild?) outrage. I just have one question for Toke: are Instagram likes all it takes for you to change your mind about children and their sexual availability? 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Still on the Matter

I watched the 2012 documentary 'Call Me Kuchu' about the LGBTQI situation in Uganda this morning, and it reminded me of the foolishness our legislature passed into law earlier this year. So I did a google search on 'homosexuality in Nigeria' and read a few ridiculous articles rife with religion-based homophobia. By the time I arrived at this article I was just done. I was so completely over the bullshit that I angry-commented, the result of which was three or so paragraphs. So I thought I'd share it, as I've been bogged down with boring work and haven't had any inspired posts pop into my head of late. (I should have known better than to read anything on the Daily Post, by the way).

"This article failed to make any real point. There are far too many social, political and cultural issues that characterize relations between Africa and the West for such a simplistic, reductionist argument as 'the homosexuality campaign is the new face of imperialism' to hold any water. 
While I understand your religious bias against SSA, it does not negate the fact that the religious concept of sin does not equate to the legal concept of crime. There are understandable overlaps in the two, but it would require the kind of fantastic cognitive dissonance that you and most religious homophobic Africans display to say that God condemns homosexuality, and therefore so must our laws. What about the other kinds of 'sexual immorality' that are so rampant? What about the rife corruption and greed? Are they not sins too? 
It does not matter whether people are born straight or gay, whether it is a mental illness or learned behavior. You do not contest a human's right to life, nor her right to mental illness or learning of behaviors of any kind. At the root of all human rights is the right to choose. Even your God allows free will, does he not?
Homophobia apologists are forever decrying the dangers of homosexuality; it frays the moral fabric, undermines the family unit, it will be the end of humanity as we know it. Yet you acknowledge that it has been around since at least the time of Abraham, and these great evils that homosexuality is said to cause STILL have not overtaken mankind and destroyed us all. I wonder how come!
At the root of any kind of discrimination is hatred. and I'm sure your God does not promote hatred - in fact, isn't hatred a sin? Some friendly advice: maybe you should be the one repenting of your own unrighteousness, instead of announcing to the whole world that homosexuals are on their way to hell. They might very well end up burning there for eternity, but i think you'd better hurry up and repent before you die, or you might burn with them too. And what could be worse than spending eternity next to a homo?"

There is truly nothing sadder than the use of God's name to promote evil. People are literally being killed because of homophobia, and yet they say that God has sanctioned this. It makes me wonder which God these people believe in...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

What Is Your Aspiration In Life?

I love Beyoncé to death (the album, that is. Beyonce herself I merely famz). There is a raw honesty to that body of work that is not usually present in pop music; it reeks of self-awareness, obviously the work of a woman who looked at her self, critically, honestly, and accepted what she saw, was satisfied with it, and loved it. I've watched the whole thing countless times, and I love that the album opens with this question:

What is your aspiration in life?

There is something about having a child that wakes one up. I suspect it happened to Queen B; it most certainly happened to me. I look at my daughter, and I realise that for both our sakes I must pursue more than the things society values as important - I must ask myself, over and over again, "what is my aspiration in life?". Forget my dreams of traveling the world à la Eat, Pray, Love: the pursuit of happiness as it has been sold to us by feel-good philosophy and pop culture is not good enough anymore. There has to be more to life.

I used to want to be famous. Being as gifted as I am (note the use of the word 'gifted' - this is not bragging), I have always taken it for granted that I would have no trouble excelling at whatever I choose to dedicate my life to (the tenses in this sentence are giving me a headache!). I practiced giving acceptance speeches, envisioned the thousands of interviews I would grant and the far-from-casual trips to Saks and Neiman-Marcus with an army of bodyguards and credit cards to ensure my safety and happiness. The adulation would be enough.

Then I grew up a little and decided I wanted to be famous and change the world as well, because hey, it's only right to give back. You know, like Angelina and Madonna and Alek. That sort of thing. UN ambassadorship and feeding starving children. Maybe even a Heal The World-esque detour along the way. Who says I can't dabble into inspirational pop while I'm at it? I would be famous, but, you know, Bono-famous. Show me the money and the free pass to heaven, thank you.

Now, things are different. I don't know what I want to be anymore, but it's not due to a lack of direction. I'm looking at the things that used to define success for me: renown, accumulated personal wealth, influence, leisurely luxury, and I'm questioning their validity. Do I really want the sum of my life to be fame and fortune? What kind of lessons would I be inadvertently teaching my child if I spent my life in the pursuit of capitalist goals, striving to be one step ahead of everyone else in the name of ambition? Is the belief that competition is necessary for personal success valid? Do I need to be a superlative of somebody else's achievements to have a meaningful life? What defines a meaningful life?

The thing about life is, once you start asking, the answers will find you. And I'm starting to see, vaguely still, but there's definitely something there, what a meaningful life might mean. Less of a focus on things, more of a focus on people. Less conformity, more authenticity. Less self-reliance, more faith. The universe, God, life, is revealing itself to me. And as long as I remain open, I'm sure the answers will keep coming.

What is your aspiration in life?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Movie Night and New Sight

I've just spent six hours watching movies and doing my hair (mostly watching movies), and I was reminded of something I saw on tumblr: once you wake up to all the injustice, discrimination and general systemic assholery in the world, nothing looks the same anymore. It is a complete loss of innocence. I have to agree, because movie/detangling night went from being just a night of mindless entertainment to 'aw, come on, wtf!' Way to go, Feminism. 

Anyway. Just thought I'd share what my my post-feminist eyes saw.

Riddick: There are three female roles in the whole movie. One is a bed warmer writhing for Riddick's visual pleasure, the next is a hostage who is apparently repeatedly raped and then used for target practice, and the last one is a lesbian who is kind of tough but doesn't have any real dialogue outside of Riddick's and Santana's sexual harassment/come-ons. And at the end she sits on Riddick and talking to him 'sweet-like', apparently becomes quite straight.

The Usual Suspect: When I started thinking about this post, it took me about two minutes of serious brainwork to remember whether or not there were any female characters in this movie. I eventually had a *lightbulb!*: Edie! She was female! She had lines! She even appeared more than once! It's just...her character is so thoroughly forgettable, despite an apparent plot point being the need to eliminate her, that I completely, well, forgot about her. 

Monsters University: The final movie, and the one who redeemed(ish) Hollywood in my eyes tonight. Lots of femme monsters all over the place - the goth announcer with the deadpan voice and leaf hair was my favorite. But Hardscrabble, ah Hardscrabble! Thank you, Pixar, for not being misogynistic/woman-dismissing animators. Disney could learn a thing or two (ahem, Snow White/Sleeping Beauty!)

Now I'm just going to watch The Women, because screw you, Hollywood.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Young Unmarried Mother

It has been over a year since I had my daughter; twenty-three months since I found out I was carrying an unplanned pregnancy (ironically, I got pregnant in the same month when I decided I was going to donate my eggs to a fertility center, but that's a story for another day.) In that time, I have lived through what feels like a lifetime of experiences, many beautiful and rewarding, many not.

Being a young unmarried mother isn't easy. That statement is in fact too simplistic to capture just how incredibly difficult it can be, and I have had it a lot easier than most people who find themselves in my position. I have a supportive family, her father is identifiable, I work in a field that pays well, and ASUU gave me a chance to earn money instead of wasting my time acquiring an obsolete education. Life is better for me than for the average Y.U.M.
But still, there are some aspects in which my experience is exactly the same as every other girl or woman in my shoes. And that's what I want to talk about today.

1. "You can't possibly know what you're doing."

In choosing to keep and raise my child, I decided that getting pregnant at all was, to borrow a quote, the last irresponsible thing I would do where she is concerned. But people can't seem to get that.

You know what racial profiling is? Well, let me introduce you to Maternal Profiling. People look at me and my daughter and immediately assume her mother is somewhere else in the vicinity. If I had a pair of shoes for every time I've been asked, 'where is her mother?', I would be Carrie Bradshaw. Then when it has been established that I am indeed her mother, my competence is immediately called into question. I'm offered ridiculous unsolicited advice, asked insulting questions - the really forward ones attempt to take her from me to 'make sure she is okay.' Many older women seem to forget that everyone, their own insensitive selves inclusive, raised their own children mostly by instinct and intuition. There's no manual, not even when your 'happy married life!' cards come before your 'it's a girl!' cards. I'm not saying there are no bad mothers; I'm saying that the fact that I am young and don't have a husband doesn't automatically make me one. Does she look healthy? Does she look happy? Is she developing normally? Then surely that tells you that whatever I've been doing so far is working, does it not?

2. "You're a mother. You should (not)..."

People also can't seem to get that they cannot decide for me how to conduct myself and my life as a mother.

Don't tell me I can not or should not do this or that, 'because, don't you know you're a mother?' Especially if I haven't asked you. I carried her in my body for nine months. I gave birth to her in the most painful experience of my life. I have been her primary caregiver till now. Of course I know I'm a mother. I am also a young woman in my early twenties, and I'm not about to set myself and my child up for a lifetime of resentment by giving up everything that means anything to me simply because I want to appear to random strangers and/or presumptuous family members to be a 'good mother'.

I chose to raise a child, and in doing so I chose to do my best to give her everything she needs to become a well-rounded person. I know I will make mistakes along the way, I know there will be things I will be unable to handle with the amount of experience that I have, and I will seek advice and help in those situations. But please don't tell me how to live or raise my child - if you want someone to follow all your instructions on parenting, do it yourself.

3. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Some people seem offended because I haven't internalized any sense of guilt or shame over my 'mistake'.

It is my theory that many people become unintelligent when confronted with someone in my position, because I don't know how else to explain the number of times I've been asked, 'You have a baby? How come?' Nobody believed Mary when she said she was still a virgin because, big surprise, there is only one way to get pregnant. I wasn't raped, I'm thankful I didn't get pregnant from such a traumatic event; I had consensual sex. Does that bother you? The fact that a young unmarried woman had consensual sex bothers you? Why? Oh, it's fornication. It's a sin. Well, so is lying, and checking out the pastor's wife's ass and thinking about all the ways you would hit that, and changing the numbers on your expense report at work, and casually looking at Pornhub. What's your point?

Dear Christians, when Jesus died, He took care of ALL sin(s). The fact that your patriarchal socialization tells you a young woman shouldn't have sexual agency or enjoy sex has nothing to do with anything - please go and nurse your patriarchy in front of someone who cares. I had sex. God isn't having aneurysms over that fact, so why are you?
  • 'Don't you know unplanned children have a hard life?' Life is hard for everyone. Ask Kylie Jenner.
  • 'Don't you know she will want to know her father?' She knows her father. And even if he wasn't around, planned children lose their fathers too, sometimes even before they are born. So...
  • 'You've jeopardised your future.' No, I've changed it. Every person's future is the result of overcoming challenges, self-inflicted and otherwise. That's life.
  • 'Girls born to unwed mothers get pregnant young too.' I will do my best to ensure it doesn't happen to her. And if it does, I and millions of young women in the world have lived through it and made something of themselves. I don't see why she won't too.
I could go on and on, but here is the point: I refuse to feel bad for taking responsibility for my actions. If it bothers you that now there is chubby-cheeked evidence of my sex life in the world, maybe you should stop thinking so much about my sex life.

Unplanned pregnancies happen. And sometimes unplanned pregnancies become babies born to unmarried young women. Ditch the hypocrisy, set your prejudices aside, and cut young unmarried mothers some slack. Things are difficult enough for us as it is. And if you can't do those things, then you should probably just keep your opinions to yourself, because I can't guarantee that the other Y.U.M's out there will be as civil as me. 

Love, peace and soiled diapers.

Respectability and the Woman II: Sex

  1. 1.
    a woman who has many casual sexual partners.
    synonyms:promiscuous woman; More

Ever wondered why no pejorative for men who have 'many sexual partners' exists? 

Patriarchy is why. 

Feminine agency of any kind is a threat to The Man, but feminine sexual agency is (almost?) the worst kind there is. In a patriarchal culture, the female body exists solely to please men (and procreate) and this is why female objectification, hyper-sexualisation of children, reproductive rights abuse and rape culture, among other things, proliferate.

When people say feminism is about women wanting to 'become like men', they are very wrong, but also right in a roundabout way. They fumble into being right in the sense that feminism is about agency - the right of the female, as a human being, to choose and define the parameters of her life, and to be able to function within those parameters without fear of reprisal and worse. In the patriarchal system of oppression, no one is allowed to be fully human (not even men), but as far as hierarchy goes, men have a much better go of it than women.

For example, sex.

Consider the moral concepts of chastity and virtue. The white wedding dress, if you please. Virginity as a worthwhile pursuit is marketed solely to women; no one ever tells boys that their virginity is their pride, or that their worthiness as a spouse (as a person, in fact) is directly correlated to their sexual status prior to marriage.

I remember being berated by an aunt once for sleeping with a boyfriend because, according to her:
1) I had cheapened myself and was now worthless
2) he could not possibly have an interest in me beyond sex
3) the only way to make a man stay in a relationship is to make him wait for sex till after the wedding.


She asked me why I slept with him. I replied, "Because I wanted to." I earned a slap for my honesty, and this is why: purity culture (which is actually rape culture), does not allow a woman to enjoy or control her sex life. It simultaneously reduces a woman to her reproductive organs while dissociating her from said organs so that every woman is literally nothing more than a walking vagina, and her value as a person is entirely dependent on whether or not a penis has 'conquered' this vagina. Ergo she has no real value as a person. Ergo she is not a person.

Why is it impossible to consider that, apart from my sexual prowess, a man can be interested in my mind, my ability to hold a conversation, my amateur comedienne skills, my ambition? Why is it impossible to consider that I might choose to have sex because I am a sexual human being, and I therefore like sex? I've heard women say things like, "I have to make him work for it." Again, #pause. This kind of thinking reduces women to inert creatures, prizes waiting to be won, rewards at the end of the qualifying process, as opposed to people with sexual agency.

Women (and our bodies) are not vehicles for men's sexual expression. We are human beings. Complex, nuanced, sometimes sexual, sometimes not, but human. Not vaginae. Not uteri. Human beings. And human beings all have the right to choose what to do with our bodies, including having sex, because that's what makes us human; our ability to choose. 

Disclaimer: this is not an anti-abstinence campaign. I believe that abstinence/celibacy is important, even crucial to spiritual growth. But it should be approached with the right mindset, because when women are made responsible for being the gatekeepers of sexual purity while simultaneously being marketed as meat to men by mass media and cultural norms (polygamy, permissive infidelity, statutory rape in the name of 'child marriage'), the result is what we have in Nigeria and other patriarchies: a rape culture that completely dehumanises women, glorifies the male gaze, reduces women's bodies to sexual disposables, and propagates all forms of violence against women.