My name is Ajike and I am a happy feminist. My friends can’t wrap their head around my seeming obsession with what they regard as a foreign and impracticable ideology that sets women on a revenge mission. You see, society has defined the place of a woman from the start of time and every woman who has dared challenge these limitations has been repeatedly tagged rebellious, purposeless, unworthy of emulation. The tremor that accompanies the word ‘feminist’ is caused by an imagery of retribution; a woman who wants to defy society and subsequently pay back every man she comes in touch with in the coin her predecessors were paid.
So like the rest of my kind, I am not interested in relegating the man-folk neither am I on a mission to prove the supremacy of my sex. The basic most guiding principle of my life is balance which is why I can absorb the message of equilibrium that feminism propagates and the sensitizing doze of harmony that accompanies it. With religious justifications such as ‘woman was created from the rib bone of man’ and cultural ones like ‘the place of woman is in the kitchen’, it is easy to settle into a role of conformity and act the script out. But while society might define roles, it is absolutely incapable of structuring a being; fierceness, the desire to be oneself, choosing a path to travel. The underlying distinction between the act of doing and the art of being is the route of escape for those who are called feminists, whether by admission or by action. This includes men who watch their women become tomboys and guys who don’t force their girlfriends to pound yam.
A popular social media personality was entangled in a web of dilemma over the weekend. First, her husband of just over a year was reported to have impregnated his ex. Second, she was abused and chastised by several members of the public for being less of a woman and causing her husband to mess up. Interesting, you would agree.
Let me state here that each relationship possesses peculiarities that are exclusive to the parties involved and as logical as a speculation may be, the reality of a relationship is totally subjective.
But for the sake of this discourse, let’s revisit the topic of infidelity and the place of a woman in it.
At a surprise lunch party organized to celebrate my birthday some weeks ago, a young woman made a statement that interested me and doused my spirit simultaneously. In her words, ‘men would always cheat’. This led to a heated debate that left some parties unconvinced and insulted while the feminists among us resigned to what seemed like fate. The lady who made the statement attended the event with her partner who did not attempt to refute her stance or corroborate it. He assumed an aura of indifference and disinterest to the debate that had the lady’s friend supporting his partner. Whether he had in anyway contributed to his partner’s position on the debate was unclear. His vibe was impermeable and for the sake of peace, nobody dared ask him what his thoughts were.
I am familiar with hearing men say ‘iran okunrin lo n she agbere’, a Yoruba phrase for ‘men have always cheated’ but to hear it from a woman who argued that it was better to accept this ‘fact’ and avert an incident of heartbreak, was a decline in whatever progress I thought I had made in selling feminism.
Yes, men cheat. But what about women? As painful as cheating may be and as much as it has contributed to breaking several homes and relationships, it is really just a potential flaw that manifests in human beings, men and women alike. Men cheat and it is declared a public phenomenon, but what about women? With the hostility that encounters homosexuality in this part of the world, the odds that men cheat with their kind are very low. I know a man who is an open cheat but swears that the day he catches his wife cheating shall mark the end of their marriage. If it is ok for men to cheat, why is the rule different for women?
Typical of many Nigerian homes is a scenario where the wife of a cheating man threatens to park her things out of the house. Usually, her mother-in law would sit her down to advise her to shut her eyes to her husband’s infidelity and concentrate on her kids. After all, that was the method she deployed. This same woman would be the first to throw her daughter-in law’s things out of her son’s house if she ever did as much as hug another man. What’s more ridiculous is that the wife’s family members would visit their house and tell the husband, ‘daddy Sola, eyin naa la ma be’ meaning ‘Daddy Sola, it is you we shall beg’. Putting it clearly, it is the sole responsibility of a woman to hold the forefront of the home together.
If a cheating man is indifferent to the collapse of his marriage, why should a woman care?
So yes, a faction in this debate is quick to point an accusing finger at the woman for her man’s ‘slip’. The list is endless. ‘If you don’t take care of your looks, your husband will look outside.’ ‘No man wants a woman that is too dependent on him, get a job.’ ‘Never say no to a man when he asks for sex.’ ‘Make your marriage priority, your career should be secondary.’ And for the men folk, you hear ‘a man is never ugly’.
Mothers discourage their girl children from breaking up with abusive and cheating boyfriends and teach them to learn the art of forgiveness. Their logic is that all men are structured that way and it pays to stick to one cheat than experience life through several cheats. LOL. Natural biologists. They ask boys to wash the cars while girls cook meals. They forget that girls can own cars too.
My friend made a point yesterday that stuck to me. He asked if I understood the potency of music. How it can rejuvenate a worn mind or annihilate a budding psyche. He doubted if feminism could make headway with mere speeches and write-ups in the face of vulgar music that ridicules womanhood and continually ascribes more importance to ‘bootays’ and ‘boobies’.
We may boast of more seasoned women surgeons than we had in the past, vibrant female politicians who are making headlines, a list of senior pastors who wear skirts and a Chimamanda Adichie who is a global pioneer of feminism. But is that really enough? Have we accomplished anything if it doesn’t reflect in the homefront?
Don’t they say charity begins at home? What is true equality if it’s not between a man and his woman or putting it differently, a woman and her man?