Should the Conversation surrounding Consent be Culturally Packaged?

This post acknowledges other relationship types but stays within heterosexual relationships for the purpose of this post.

 Whether we've ever copulated, intertwined, fucked or quite colloquially rolled in the sack, no matter the number of times, the act and its frequency simply do not translate into an automatic go-ahead that whoever is welcome without my consent!

My screen lit up. It was a simple link leading to a story of a young Ghanaian. He’d been reported to the police. His feet had taken him into the bedroom of his white female acquaintance who he’d had sex with. The woman had been asleep (read: drunk) and had obviously not been fully aware of the events that took place in her bed. I shook my head in awe and disbelief but mostly in awe.

…..She’d taken his name to the police despite the number of times they’d been together. Interesting…

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We sat in the auditorium waiting for the western experts to come talk to the local African students union about Consent. My temporary concerns were typically millennial; – I needed a source of power for my dying cell phone.  I needed to post highlights of the conversation to my Instagram feed. I needed to note down key points. I finally found a power station and then turned my focus off the device to the humans around me.

My friend quickly analyzed the seating arrangements in the room and compared it to the African society only we had seen growing up, and which, only we, could quite conveniently dare to analyze…The men sat up front in their burly suits, wearing their overall sense of self-importance around their necks like their stifling neckties. They carried equally bulky briefcases and wore shiny leather shoes that only they, could see their bloated self-reflections in. A pair of spectacles or two sat on tired noses. They were exhausted but determined to bombard the foreign experts with questions. ‘How dare you spoil our women with messages that will make them rebel? We’re here to cross-examine your intentions, first, it was feminism, now its consent,…’

Behind them was the matriarchy, we sat expectant, speaking in loud tones and ready to jump on anyone who dared hush us up. This was our time, we had a voice, anyone who wasn’t with it didn’t understand women’s empowerment, we were here and our objective opinions were valid.

Behind us sat the newbies, a mixture of men and women who weren’t quite sure of their contribution or place in the group.  Well, just yet…..Beside me, a male in his late twenties started to engage me in small talk surrounding the language of consent.

-Do our people really understand consent?

-I honestly don’t think some African guys understand the language of consent.

-Why?

-I mean,….consent is always mostly left in that messy place between let me convince them a bit more or let me reason out with them on why they should probably be doing x or y with me…

-But sometimes the women mean yes when they say no…..or what do you think? Really why do you think consent is one big blurry area in our part of the world? Aren’t our women ours?

Its many things, I would say a part of it comes from sexism and the different reactions to what a person does based on their sex. First, of, the concept of sex with enthusiasm begs many questions. Is this sex pre-marital or marital sex because we are schooled differently on how to react to these two types of sex. Sex education which is taught as a topic under the Religious and Moral Education course is full of Bible quotations and a tirade of do’s and don’ts. To summarize what we learn in this class, it simply remains at three words, –  ‘DON’T DO IT’.  Then, suddenly a person marries and is suddenly supposed to know what to do, or women become wives, remain pure and true while husbands daydream of that nasty mistress who was so uninhibited and knew just the right thing to do. Needless to say, women are taught to cater to EVERY need of the husband IF we want happy homes. Also, pre-marital sex is usually about sinning and asking for forgiveness later. The persons in question go in under a thick web of shame and guilt that sits on their shoulder, undresses with them and lays on the bed of fornication with them. Images of hell replay over and over and the sweltering heat of Ghana serves as a visual reminder of how hellish Hell will be if they do not repent. What enthusiasm will there be to show in a situation like that? Most importantly is the fact that the religious message surrounding sex is more severe on women than it is on men (read: through the backings of religion, women’s sexuality and not that of men’s is controlled). Maybe hypersexuality, zeal or interest is whorish. Maybe certain sex positions are not honorable enough for wives. Girlfriends and hoes are the ones that are deserving of being turned over like pieces of furniture, not pure wedded wives….. All these combative reasons and more, push women to indirectly show interest in ways that can be misleading. The idea is that even if I am interested, I would not want to be won over easily…Let me show interest, but let me not be over the top interested otherwise, they may think I’m a hoe…..

-Yeah because I know about that myth that says that she may be saying no but she actually means yes….so what do we really do then?

-No means no. Take the word for what it is and do nothing unless you are absolutely sure the person wants whatever is being offered. Yes, that is said in fear, under the influence of alcohol, under direct cohesion do not equal consent. Also, no matter the number of times you’ve been together, consent is needed for EACH TIME, even if she is your wife or partner or if you think you own them because you paid for them.

-….What if I’m the one she relies on for everything? Do I not deserve some love?

-Do you deserve or do you feel entitled?

-Do you speak of male entitlement?

-Yep,…don’t you think some males are entitled? Deserving something and being entitled to something are very different concepts…

-True..

-I was at a party and this guy wanted to talk to me, I was standing with a group and he walked up and asked for me to speak privately with him. I refused, and then he came back later to ask if I was ready this time. To show his insistence, he grabbed my forearm, ….was he deserving of or entitled to my attention?…..my friend got catcalled in the streets on her way home. She loves to show off her legs and she stands at about six feet one. She wore her mini jupe and set about her life’s activities. The catcalls were ignored but then she realized she’d soon gained a literal follower who was upset that she had ignored him previously. He pursued her until she got really frightened and called her mom. Did he feel entitled to her attention or did he deserve her attention?….

-That’s rough.

-Yep. She always talks about it…..I think she may need to talk to someone after this episode…

-The experts are here…

-I see them.

 

 

 

Is Wifey Status an Achievement?

Background

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has advocated for writing in African languages because how relevant is African literature if we write not in our native tongues but in the language of the White man? While I have my own opinion on this line of thought, the other subjects of discussion that come up after the former are conversations surrounding which audience African writers cater to? Is immigrant literature African and how much of Africa is projected in these stories that are told predominantly from the West? Even bigger is how an African writer gets published and who decides what goes into their story so that if publishers wield so much influence and power, then it goes to say that if an African writer publishes in the West, then the Western publisher more or less owns and determines what or how certain parts of the African story gets put across, that is if they do get put across in the very first place. As we all know, the West has written Africa’s story in multiple ways and continues to impose suggest ways they deem fit on Africa. By extension, I remain curious about how influential Africans push certain messages and how such messages, in turn, get interpreted by other African minds.

Issue

Chimamanda Adichie questions on her Twitter about why Hillary Clinton decides to place ‘Wife‘ before her other titles on her Twitter bio. I stare at this screenshot and I edit thought after thought after thought. First of all, why can’t she self-describe as a Wife? Wouldn’t that be her sole prerogative? Second, I want to know more about why Chimamanda is engaging with Hillary. Not that she can’t, but really, what is this about and if it is about what I suspect it is, then how many more African women are waiting or wanting to engage with Chimamanda who haven’t yet had the chance? (Refer to previous thought about who the new African writer’s target audience really is) What I believe though, from listening to Chimamanda speak countlessly is that she is suggesting that Hilary’s self-description as a Wife negates her other accomplishments. That, it is almost as if her other accomplishments come second to she being a Wife so that in a more overt sense, being a Wife is the main calling of a woman. In addition is Bill Clinton self-describing as husband above other things online?

Thoughts

Outside an African writer engaging with a non-African which I am in no way saying is wrong because of course everyone is entitled to their choices, I am more concerned about this concept of feminism and how individuals feel the deep-seated need to impose views on others. I keep maintaining that this concept is not a one size fits all and neither is it a term that Africans should embrace while thinking oh my God, I just discovered something surreal. Good news is that before precolonial times, while Europe’s women were still disenfranchised, African women were leaders in their communities, serving as heads of state, queen mothers, queen sisters, chiefs, female husbands, warriors, and contributing to their economies, through substantial work. Your mom is probably the best example of what feminism means to you. Yet, the West had to once again come tell us that hey, this tag is what you need to make all your outdated attempts official. It sounds almost as if someone would walk to my grandma and tell her ‘hey mama, this Vibranium in my hand is the key that will make you a better woman’.

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By all means, Feminism is a great concept, however, let us not be quick to jump on it while implying that before it, we had no understanding of it in our societies. Doing this only reinforces the idea that the West civilized and saved us from our primitive ways and set us straight on the path of life after rescuing us from murky waters. In addition, if a human deems it fit to self-describe as Wife above other achievements, so be it, who said because I am feminist I can’t be a Wife? Or that being a Wife makes me any less a feminist? In any case, Wife, as defined in the African socio-cultural context, can either be a female who is married to the family of her husband, in that sense, she is a Wife,theirWife, and she can be called thus by either male or female member of her husband’s family without it being language that is in anyway derogatory or implicitly suggestive of possession or ownership, it may simply even in most cases be a term or endearment or a demonstration that the family accepts her totally as a member of their family. In the West though, where concepts are generally more legally than socially interpreted, a Wife is simply and more narrowly, the woman a man legally lives with as a lifelong partner. From these two definitions, we see that different spaces have different conceptions of ideas. Western feminists have different motivations that characterize their fight than African feminists. Even in a western society such as America, a white feminists motivations and concerns will hardly be the same as a a black or Hispanic feminist, why then do we simply assume that Western feminism with its highly nuanced points of concern will be the same antidote for African women’s issues?

***

While progressive movements are helpful, let us as Africans be critical of how and why we adapt concepts. After we do that, let us subjectively interpret it for ourselves according to our specific contexts. Then after that, let us endeavor not to impose what we believe is right on others.

Conclusion

If the issue is with Hillary placing Wife first, this can be looked at differently. From a position of strength, this fore mention of Wife can be interpreted to mean that as a woman, you can achieve it all without having to deal with the all-or-nothing mentality that society often drums in our heads. Women can be ambitious and career driven and still be Wives or succeed in their romantic ventures if they meet supportive humans (being that heterosexual relationships do not necessarily define our times) who share the same values as they do.  Maybe listen to Alicia Keys’ SuperWoman again.

Barack placed dad on his bio above everything else. While his and Michelle’s has been a presidency that has humanized the White House the most largely by its depiction of the intimacy of its family set up, his use of dad, I believe has more to do with the contradiction of the usual perception of Black fathers’ absence in the lives of their children in America. Ultimately, there is always a reason, and our concepts aren’t the primus inter pares of what the world needs to do, a word to the West and influential Africans.

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Moesha Boduong, the Ghanaian Reality or a Disgrace to the Image of the ‘Honest’ Working Class Ghanaian Woman?

When I saw Christiane Amanpour outdoor her new show Sex and Lovearound the world, I wondered what grand plan lay behind the production of this show…

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9:40 something pm, my phone is buzzing with messages. The girls are upset over Moesha’s comments about Ghanaian women and their having to live off transactional relationships often with older men. Moesha is a Ghanaian socialite whose real profession is unknown. We either think she lives off her men or is employed in a day job that can not technically pay for her lifestyle so the sugar daddy or better put, the sponsor, fills in the paycheck gap. Chimamanda Adichie in her novel Americanah paints a vivid depiction of the complex socio-economic landscape in Nigeria while specifying the ambiguousness surrounding the economic life of one of her lady characters. The other co-protagonist of the novel, the man who is in love with the main character ends up marrying into a family mainly for financial reasons. Right from the middle ages until the twenty-first century, financial gain has remained a motivator of unions and relationships, Moesha’s declarations seem no different thematically from the allusions this paragraph has developed from.

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Screen Shot of South African article on transactional relationships and the spread of HIV/AIDS

My friend just returned from Nigeria and literally remained without female ‘company’ while away because he was unwilling to go along with the transactional reality that relationships are in that part of the world. Another friend recently returned from Cameroon and while asking him how his trip was, his words were that basic prostitution is out of hand. What in the world is basic prostitution? Casual relationships that dwell on economic gain was his answer. Wow, I said. Weeks ago, my eyes widened as I read this article about the blesser syndrome in South Africa. (Blessers are older men that literally bless younger women with HIV AIDS and money and condomless sex) As I drew comparisons between the facts the article presented and Ghana, I arrived at the conclusion that while the article portrayed Southern Africans as being more overt about their search for blessees and blessers, (because adverts were/are made on social media in search of younger girls to bless and older men who bless) Ghanaians are a bit more discreet in their ways I daresay mostly because of our religious hypocrisy but moving on, songs such as Ebony’s Sponsor among a host of other products of popular culture such as this episode on An African City shows us that the dynamic of sexual-economic relationships aren’t a new thing under the Ghanaian sky.

While I am not interested in determining whether Moesha was wrong to have said what she said or not, my focus rests on what Ghanaians are doing to empower women and renew mindsets so that people do have the need to rely on sugar moms or dads out of economic need. Logically, there is no way to dictate the lifestyle of humans but the more important thing is to realize the urgency that needs to come from issues like this. Our society is morally decadent and sexual episodes such as these are not the only things that we should be alarmed about. Being a Ghanaian has taught me that we are people that easily forget and make fun of every possible thing on earth. In addition, Ghanaians literally live with crocodiles yet scream in fright when we see lizards outside.

In a country where a minor can flash her naked body on camera while flies dance around her vagina and receive acclaim through viral shares and much laughter, in a country where preachers go to bed with members of their churches, hold entire services to demand the body counts of their members with much focus on how much members are bringing to the church coffers rather than a focus on the salvation of members, in a country where female singers get shamed over their choice of dress, in a country where full grown parlimentarian women get shamed over wearing body jewelery such as anklets, in a country where women sometimes often fall prey to sexual requirements to secure or keep a job, ( well this happens in our schools too ) in such a country, a country where if you’re a woman in a top position, people wonder if you slept your way up, paying little heed to your credentials, a country where self-acclaimed relationship experts and mariage counsellors hide behind morality and push severe and unrestrained sexism and remain justified, this is our country where scandals blow over quickly just to be replaced by other ones while we laugh and laugh, maybe it is time to ask what exactly we are doing besides laughing or hurling angry words at people such as Moesha while the truth stares us in the face. Ghanaians love to circumvent and address everything else but the truth and possible solutions. Maybe it is high time we brainstorm real solutions.

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Comments like this are refreshing because it is very much like that community with the dusty, bumpy, eroded road. One of the community members decides to tar only the portion of the road that is in front of their house while the dust from the rest of the road blows up and touches the same house that sits in front of the little stretch of tarred road.

Watch Moesha’s full interview here.

 

Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy and Rethinking Feminism

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Looking on social media and hearing people speak/write, I’ve questioned the meaning of trends such as #drippingmelanin, #doitfortheculture, #feminist. Needless to say that somehow #teamlightskin has gradually faded out, with #drippingmelanin gradually taking its place and hitherto weird looking Sudanese models suddenly taking center stage with their lean bodies, sharp jawlines and dark skins; Lupita’s unapologetic hairstyle (cropped hair with the line that we’re all suddenly rocking), direct gaze, dark skin and Wakanda prowess will simply not allow any millennial think that this is the age where we cower to whispers that remind us that we aren’t worthy enough. However, while developments such as these make me question hashtags such as#drippingmelanin, I wonder if such hashtags serve as a reflection of real mindsets or are they basic trends we jump on for the simple reason that they’re trends?  Are we feminist because we think it is cool to say we are or do we actually embody and understand what we claim ? Are we doing it for the culture because we have a deep appreciation of culture or just because we want to rock that Dashiki or do the Gwaragwara for the gram?

Anyway so while we #Sugardem (hard to say what they stand for because they have no website and their Facebook does not so much as have a basic one line about what they stand for ... however they are a Ghanaian group that seem to sympathize with the patriarchal society that Ghana is) or #Pepperthem, I’d like to remind us all that feminism is not a simplistic battle of the sexes, which is why I regard Cardi B’s latest album as a work of art that is not necessarily feminist (the #Pepperthem type of feminsim) even though her songs have become official diatribes directed at men, but an album that everyone regardless of identity can take something out of. ( Timely reason why you probably should watch this TedTalk)

Capture d’écran 2018-04-08 à 11.14.55 AM.pngCardi is a blast of freshness, and for all who know how much I adore all things cultural, I love the fact that she gives Latina/o/x and other minorities something to hold onto especially in a country where being in the minority is a huge privilege (insert sarcastic emoji). Though I find the cover of the album insanely cliche; (because of course who doesn’t take a photo without sticking out their tongue these days), her lyrics hit you and make you wonder if you heard right. This post will analyze Cardi’s shocking and yet endearing and highly relatable lines as a call to action especially for the relentless pursuit of excellence, assertiveness and an acceptance of self-worth that hopefully transcends a basic interpretation of her songs as a divisive wedge between the sexes or a girl tribute to worthless men.

|Looking like a money bag|- These are famously synonymous lines to Cardi’s own life, a girl whose journey is a literal backdrop against the famous motif of rags to riches. Lines like this reinforce acknowledgment of hard work and success, (whatever that is). Cardi’s lines demonstrate a willingness to strive for dreams so they don’t remain abstract and unreachable and while she does it, she shows that she pursues success at an individual and subjective pace,|I’m my own competition| remaining unwavered by whatever ‘progress’ the people around her are making.  

|Sex so good I mention my own name while at it |- Take it whatever way you want, this line bears undertones of conceit yet demonstrates confidence and a deep-seated understanding of her sense of worth as a person, complimenting herself fiercely and not waiting for validation from others, while taking time to acknowledge other strong females (humans) around her, she sings about taking pictures with Beyoncé and asks women (men) to demand higher standards from respective partners.

|If I fall ten times I rise nine times; I’m not asking you to do it the way I did; I’m just telling my story.|  While these lines are pretty self-explanatory and a motivation of sorts for everyone, emotional baggage can drive singers to subjectively interpret |I waited my whole life just to shit on niggas|as a vindictive comeback line over the people and more specifically niggas that have done them bad in their lives. No hun, |I waited my whole life just to shit on niggas|means that your feminism shouldn’t be all about men. This line could possibly be interpreted as your having waited all your life to show the world what you have talent wise or professional wise.

|Good girls do what they told; a bad bitch does what she wants|- best line so far that has caused or may cause a stir among friends who constantly want to argue out things as trivial as the meaning of words such as good or bad. Essentially Cardi just defined what it means to be a bad girl, a girl that defies conventions and independently does whatever she wants because she wants to and not because she only feels like somehow being a bad bitch is only about dope lace frontals that lie slickly against hairlines with the help of cheap pharmacy edge control gels. This time, I somewhat agree with Urban dictionary . A girl  can be a bad bitch without it somehow being tied to how she relates to men.

I won’t write a concluding paragraph because this is an ongoing conversation but while I think about this wonderful album which has surprisingly held my attention and received no skips ( something I do fairly often) my favorite so far on it is I Like-it because of its latino influenced beats.

Withering Heights III

Does familiarity breed contempt? No. Sometimes it breeds recklessness…and that is the amount of recklessness I felt these men were demonstrating. I thought I was way past the age of being in a crowded space with wine spills and incoherent speech….not that I have a problem with the concepts of wine spilling and incoherent speech. We’ve all been there. At least at one point in our lives. But then it was more about the lax and wanton grossness of it all. These men felt they knew us. So there was no need for any type of stiff-necked civility. Which irritated me very much. I think we need to ‘try’, like just fucking try to be civil no matter how long you think you’ve known a person. I remember that night on the phone when out of the need to hear his opinion on an unrelated topic I asked; do you think men take stuff for granted when they get to know you in a more intimate way? His answer was; I think humans have the potential of taking everything for granted once they get to know you. And I guess he was right. We all do take things for granted all the time.

I thought she was weird. The main question was, is she weird or just different? And I remember frowning a lot on many occasions when after nearly two years of friendship she would still come and ask me for permission to use my stuff. Cherie, you can have it. I would say, why ask? Just take it. In retrospect, I respect the fact that she asked. I guess familiarity did not ease her into the comfort of taking boundaries and space for granted which I appreciate now.

So the men wanted to dance…and just like any human that abuses familiarity, the general unmentioned consensus was to dance regardless of if we wanted to or not. An assertive dialogue broke out over this. He thought it was about feminism, and I was just ready to explode. An implosive fit that left me in awe of how refusing to dance is tied to feminism.  I was in awe of how Feminism sounds like an accusation sometimes. Maybe I wanted to graduate this implosive fit to an explosive and exaggerated one but I knew better than to get involved with drunk pontificating men. Quite bluntly, I didn’t and don’t care much for feminism. Anything that ensures the sanity, respect and harmonious coexistence of the human race is what we all really want. I recommend everyone doing what floats their boat and if men and women choose to dance, or not dance, the recipient of that bit of info should be ok with it.

Feminism is not a ‘One size fits all’

Before falling into the temptation of providing a definition of feminism and its attendant compulsion to be bound by the definition, I would like to use this post to help our new generation of feisty lady feminists understand that feminism is not only limited to the literal fight against the male species.  The ideology is not a mere reduction to whether we are better than men or an unnecessary desire to be at par with them constantly.

Feminism is intellectual and subjective and like all other discourses and opinion, you must examine it for yourself (esprit critique) before you get lost in the all attractive tendency to base your whole life and line of thought and argument on only a distorted aspect of the idea. We are so quick these days to get so defensive over our nature as women and what men do or do not do and then run to the umbrella of feminism for justification.

Just because Descartes preached the need for critical thinking, independent thought as well as skepticism does not mean I jump on the bandwagon and live a life of complete skepticism of everything I am presented with. Also, just because I read a few lines of J.P Sartre does not make me suddenly go off and denounce my Catholic faith in favor of existentialist thought. To start off, the term feminist isn’t even African. In that sense, we can argue that the concept is lacking in addressing the African woman’s unique struggle. What I am driving at is the fact that before we get too quick to prescribe solutions or adhere to schools of thought, consider your own unique situation and apply your subjectivity. I love Ghana Feminist blog because the curators identify that the concept is a huge foreign umbrella that needs to be tailored to the Ghanaian woman’s unique situation. Ideas are appealing, they are the foundations for thought. If you accept an idea for what it is and remain only at foundation level, without building on it or questioning it and more importantly adding your own subjectivity to it, you go no further than a building stuck at foundation level.

Chimamanda in her Feminist Manifesto argues that girls need not spend too much time on their hair because while we do that, our male contemporaries may be using that time to self-develop. Though I adore Chimamanda, I am not obliged to prescribe to every thought she presents, though she is a force to reckon with in academic conversation.  In that sense, I as an individual with reasoning capacity will, examine the information presented and see if that opinion works for me. After all, though Chimamanda and I share a common sex, we cannot lump our experiences as women from two entirely different cultural heritages, ethnicity and nationalities, experience, etc together and claim to have a common world view. Surely based off of all these variables, we are different. The thing with our generation these days is that we’re quick to jump on bandwagons and adhere to opinions without thinking in-depth. One of the reasons for my disinterest in online debates is the fear of saying something stupid and distorted that would come back and haunt me. I intend to lean on one recent online conversation to push the argument that

  1. Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board
  2. Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  3. Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

I will make reference to one online conversation to build my claims; more specifically a recent reaction to a Nigerian talk show on Youtube called ‘King Women’ on Twitter.  A friend sent it my way and I hated the title immediately but then I loved the show and the idea of celebrating women’s success stories. I questioned the idea of female success being tagged with the crux of male success or dominance. Why couldn’t the show be called ‘Queen Women?’ or something feminine at least? We went on and on over this and I doubt I accepted his views though I made comments that demonstrated I had. I’m still thinking about his comments.

In one of the episodes, a successful Nigerian lady architect mentions that there is a difference between being submissive and obeying in marriage.Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.39.52 AM

She further explains that submission is about the possession of power but the decision to relinquish it. Obeying is powerlessness and unquestioned compliance. I agreed with this paradox of power and submission. She gave the example that if a woman has the same economic power as her husband and decided to travel and the husband asked her not to go, and she granted his wish, that was submission. The fact that she has the power to make her trip happen but deciding not to because he asked. The contrast with sheepish obedience though is being powerless (in this case economic) and obeying simply because you have been told not to travel.  (And actually not having the means to go anyway ) If you listen to this part well enough, you would realize there is an underlying message of the need for feminine economic independence.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-14 à 11.40.08 AMThough the message of submission has been distorted in our African society with the sad backing of religion and made to appear as a term that only applies to females, I think it is also very much applicable to males contrary to popular belief. Moving away from the gender conversation, if a human loves you, they will ‘submit’ to you. All we hear is wives submit to your husbands’. I do not blame some women for clinging onto what society feeds them. However, the fact that society feeds our thoughts and perspectives does not mean subscribe to everything it tells you. Matter of fact, submission does not mean lay down and be a doormat ladies! Both humans can submit to each other if it works for them. For women such as Jumoke , her subjectivity and personal interpretation of a word ( that sadly connotes being a doormat in society) allows her to navigate her relationship with her husband. Why then will other women come online and rubbish or disagree with a concept that they may not have fully explored or personally analyzed for their own unique situation(s)? Jumoke’s definition of feminism is different and works for her. She is successful and confident enough to share an opinion that she is entitled to. One of the online commentators wrote  ”Women like these mislead other less informed women out there who look up to them. I feel sad for them.” What I think is that no one needs to allow themselves get misled. First of all, you do not have to subscribe to everything you are fed. #LessonOne. Rather cultivate the habit of independent and subjective thought and then you won’t be misled. Also, there is no need to lose emotions. Be sad for causes that need sadness.

img_1796 In conclusion, I will copy and paste my three motivations for writing this post.

  • * Many schools of thought including Feminism is not a one size fits all; just because it’s an attractive or popular ‘train’ does not mean you must jump on board without taking into consideration your unique situation
  • * Subjectivity is an art our generation needs to develop; accept an idea or perspective and turn it around mentally; a cow’s four stomachs can be perfect imagery for this claim. Let ideas simmer in your head and develop your own theory. Also, realize that it is unintelligent to lean on parts rather than the whole context of an issue
  • Knowledge is life long. life is a learning curve. You may rubbish one thing today and actually accept it tomorrow, do not be dismissive of ideas and perspectives. Also, the fact that something works for someone or someone swears by an idea does not mean you disrespect or reduce it. Their reality is not your reality.

Here is the entire conversation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG7yo5m_T9s&t=3879s

Dear Ijeawele, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This small book is a simple write up where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie advises a friend on how to raise her daughter to be feminist. In fifteen suggestions spanning marriage, identity and a subtle discussion on hair and sexual politics she basically prescribes a solution for parenting her friend’s girl child urging herself and her friend with a ‘determination to try’.

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I was beyond moved to write a response to this piece for many reasons I’m about to go into; however, this read is one of those ones that make you gasp with utter amazement at the truth presented in such simple language. At some points, this read affirmed my firm stance that time spent reading good material is never a waste. This read jolts you awake not from sleep but from the uneventful monotonous continuity that we sometimes go through book pages with until we hit that point in the narrative where we literally wake due to a truth we agree so much with! In the subsequent piece, I will cite aspects of Chimamanda’s arguments and add my thoughts and perspectives.

Chimamanda has always commented on hair in a way that has held so much insight and refreshment and once again, she tells her friend not to be tempted to conform to society’s definition of ‘neat’ for her daughter’s hair. She urges her friend to redefine ‘neat’. ‘Part of the reason hair is about pain for many girls is that adults are determined to conform to a version of ‘neat’ that means too tight and scalp destroying and headache infusing.’ ‘Don’t use a tiny-toothed comb that wasn’t made with our hair texture in mind!’  Amen Chimamanda, Amen! That tiny toothed comb that hairdressers so love! They need to get that straight neat line no matter how painful it is. After all, no pain no gain and your braids need to be nice like they would last for eternity so you had better endure that piercing division to save your own damn life! The one thing that I disagree with in this part of the manifesto though is the part where the author criticizes the amount of time used on little girls’ hair. ‘Imagine if we had not spent so many Saturdays of our childhood doing our hair. What might we have learned? In what ways might we have grown? What did boys do on Saturdays?’ This quotation is perfect until the line about what little boys do on Saturdays. What’s the point of the comparison? Granted. Women and girls waste time on hair sometimes. Time that could be used in other ‘beneficial’ pursuits; but then time waste is relative and one can still spend time on their appearance and ‘grow’ in other respects of their life. No one cares what boys do on Saturdays. If men/boys want to waste/conserve their Saturdays that’s fine. It is none of our business and we shouldn’t feel we’re missing out on ‘growth’ opportunities because of our hair or because of what boys are doing at that specific point in time. It is unhealthy to constantly compare the sexes, we want to be women because we want to and not because of the existence of men. At the same time boys should be boys and let alone to do with their Saturdays what they deem fit. Finally, their decisions must not make me make or unmake our plans.

At this point, I think the perfect segue is the addition of the fact that growing up as a light skinned Ghanaian girl, I received comments about my beauty and attendant blessings/remarks I have not fully understood until now. As a ‘beautiful’ girl I should be able to get a man simply for the above reasons. This mentality makes ‘beautiful’ girls feel bad when they’re unable to ‘secure’ men. Another narrative that I find distasteful is when someone goes like ‘you must have a problem if this beauty has not landed you a man’ or ‘you’re too beautiful to be struggling like this.’ Comments like this are disheartening and render ‘beauty’ transactional. A ‘beautiful’ woman’s inability to acquire material things in life including a man, translates into her ‘wasting’ of her ‘beauty’. The ironical twist lies in the same society questioning ‘beautiful’ women who are successful simply because the twisted social consciousness adheres to the thought that most things in life are transactional. Hence, ‘beautiful’ successful women must’ve definitely sexed their way up the ranks, a situation that is not always true. A woman’s beauty is hers and hers alone. Beauty is a blessing and relative and transient. Women aren’t made beautiful for men, women are created beautiful for themselves and mustn’t be made to feel that ‘beauty’ is a means to an end. If some girls understand this, they will dress up to please themselves and not feel like failures if they are unmarried by a certain age or have not reached a certain pedestal in life. God made you beautiful for a reason so start finding out why. If you find a partner that is thrilled by your ‘beauty’ remind them it is only skin deep.

Till this day I hold my dualism on cultural issues a true asset, but then I have also constantly wondered if I sound logical enough (and if I’m courageous enough) saying I have selected the bits and pieces of my culture which I deem ‘right’ and done away with the ones I deem ‘inappropriate’. Who am I to decide what aspects of my African-ness I want to pick and choose from?! This stance makes me uncomfortable because I wonder who taught me what was right and wrong? Was it intrinsic or had I been influenced/schooled as an African by white supremacist ideas to think that certain aspects of my African-ness were wrong? What standard enables me say a certain aspect of my culture is wrong or right? What is the determiner of wrong or right? So for example (and this is only an example) if I decided that female genital mutilation was wrong and decided as an African female to look down upon that cultural practice; what would I use as a reason

to condemn this practice? Would it be because the white man told me it is wrong or because I feel it is wrong from a feminist view point (of disempowering women sexually) or would I say it is wrong for health reasons? I digress though; however, the main point here is to point out that discarding aspects of the culture you come from based off of white supremacist prescriptions is dangerous. We must be able to weigh and decide for us and not because of what someone said we should do. Moving on, it felt reassuring to read that I’m not the only one crazy enough to want to pick and choose aspects of culture. The ninth suggestion where Chimamanda advises her friend to allow her daughter embrace parts of Igbo culture and reject the parts that are not beautiful resonated so much with me! To go into detail, that part of the manifesto criticizes Igbo culture for it’s materialistic tendencies. The same chapter goes on to cite Igbo culture as beautiful because it upholds the communal way of life. So in this scenario, the author urges to uphold and do away with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts of culture.

Finally, I was blown away by the introduction of the term ‘feminism lite!’ ‘Feminism lite is the idea of conditional female equality.’ ‘Feminism lite uses the language of ‘allowing’.’ The lines that explain this further are; ‘A husband is not a headmaster. A wife is not a schoolgirl. Permission and being allowed, when used one-sidedly-and it is nearly only used that way –should never be the language of an equal marriage’. If wives constantly ask permission from their husbands and the reverse isn’t the case, who needs to be told that is not a healthy relationship? If husbands need to ‘allow’ their wives to do things, that still aligns well with the language of marriage being about ‘ownership’ and not ‘partnership’. What then is the difference between leaving your father’s house to your husband’s house? You literally live with another dad if you constantly ask your husband permission to do stuff when the reverse is not necessarily the case.

I want every woman to read this manifesto, period!