Nigeria hates our women. I know there’s probably no place in the world where misogyny, most especially misogynoir, isn’t rife but I am a Nigerian woman; Nigerian culture, which is just a melting pot of the dominant cultural groups, affects me and Nigerian women are who i care about here. Misogynistic culture is so perfectly entrenched in Nigeria that the dismissal of a Gender Equality Bill due to “religious beliefs” doesn’t call for national action and nor does it shock us. Rather, the implementation of said bill, that was to aid in halting the inhuman and degradation of women, would probably cause confusion because why would women need equal footing to their male counterparts? Why would they want to be treated as individuals and not just an extension of a man e.g. sister, wife, mother?
I can’t guarantee that I shall cover the many ways in which misogyny is propagated and this 3 part post isn’t going to provide solutions but only calls to address this pervasive culture; because how else can we think up solutions when we still shy away from discussing our issue with women in the first place? Many Nigerian women banded together via social media to talk about the everyday sexism they face using the hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria and as expected, it was met with denials from men claiming those who spoke their truth had delusions of grandeur. This could’ve been the perfect opportunity for Nigerian men to be still, shut up and listen to what our women had to say, but deflated egos and their inability to reason inspired them to silence the women.
In order to talk about misogyny, we must start with patriarchy. So what is patriarchy? Simply put, it is a male dominated system of society and government. It places the man above the woman and thus is the parent of misogyny. It creates the subordination of women by continuously suggesting that being a woman means being “second best”. Nigeria runs on patriarchal culture. How often do we hear of the importance of “sons” over “daughters” which has led to breakdowns of a union? Birthing one son is seen as an achievement over birthing three daughters. You might as well not have given birth at all.
This culture permeates every other influencing factor in Nigeria which, therefore, continues to propel misogyny. When women are viewed as “innately” or “naturally” inferior to men, you find there are very little measures e.g., laws, put in place to protect women and if there are, they are used to restrict women rather than giving us the full freedom we demand.
As patriarchy tells us that women are “weaker” by pulling on the strings of biological factors* this then decreases job opportunities for us which may require manual labour, as we are immediately deemed as unfit. We aren’t given the opportunity to prove ourselves. We are also then told to use our bodies to gain better opportunities, which fits into rape culture. We see endless Nollywood films that show scenes of a male interviewer or CEO, sexually harassing a female interviewee or employee and making threats to not give her the job/promotion despite her qualifications, if she doesn’t heed to his desires. That is a window into being a woman in Nigeria.
Note: * This is not to say that there are no significant biological differences between the sexes but rather how the differences are used to subordinate women, ignoring individual differences.