When No One Is Looking

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels As long as I can remember, I have always cared about the issues that affect Africa, Africans and people of African dissent, with special focus on how these issues affect women and children. Even as a child in primary school, I can remember expressing anger at people who treated women and children poorly and standing up for the girls in my class. It would not be far-fetched to assume I was born this way, having what can be described as a gnawing need to lend my voice to women and children’s issues. I was probably around 10 years old when I learned about basic human rights and the government’s role in protecting them. Without meaning to, that became my Bible and code of conduct.   I started creating content from a very young age. I wrote stories and school plays that centered women and children in roles that were not usually associated with their sex or age. These stories became church dramas because for most of my teenage years, I found expression in the church. Granted, most of what I created then was quite gruff and had a diamond-in-the-rough kind of feel but a central theme shone through all my pieces: women and children were human in themselves and needed to be treated with the full respect accorded to them by their basic rights.   I remember a play I wrote that we performed in church. It started with the parents of the lead character – a young teen – finding out that she was pregnant. Rather than be judgmental, it promoted allowing yourself to be hurt if your child gets pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ but, loving (and supporting) the child regardless. It showed that children were themselves overwhelmed by the consequences of their actions and beating them or kicking them out of the house was not a fair way to handle the issue. This play connected so well with people that the way teen pregnancies were handled – a problem that was predominant in the community where the church was situated – became markedly different.   It was for this openness that I was chosen when I was about 14 years to be part of a peer-education capacity building session on complete sexuality education. This opened my mind’s eye to the Millennium Development Goals and a world bigger than the things my environment had constrained it to. I began to actively promote these goals because I was: unhappy that the world didn’t take the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger as seriously as it should; wondering what could be done to achieve universal primary education; sure I needed to actively promote the idea of gender equality and the need to empower women; broken at the rate of child and maternal mortality and wondering how I could help; hated all discriminatory acts to people living with HIV/AIDS in a world where it was okay to do so; didn’t want anyone to die from Malaria or any other disease that could easily be prevented with small lifestyle changes; and, hated that our environment was gradually becoming dirty and unsustainable as a result of poor sanitation due to reduced enforcement of communal environmental protection activities.   These issues became my issues.   They mattered to me.   And I wanted to do something about them.   As I grew from teenager to young adult, I began to refine the areas that I was interested in. While I wanted to work in the field to directly help women and children, I knew it was cost heavy and living on the poverty line myself at that time, I didn’t think there was much I could do to help these people. So, I chose a path that centered more on creating content that could cause a mind shift in the general public and change behaviors that put women in boxes marked, ‘second class citizens’. I continued to write stories and plays for church, making sure to include the women empowerment nuggets in the overall message of the Christian faith.   With the advent of social media, I found a bigger outlet for my work…especially as I was questioning faith and removing myself from the church. I began to share my views – my very gruff and many times, antagonistic views – on my social media platforms. A friend told me about blogs and the possibilities they held for massive, and maybe even global, reach. So, I learned about this new frontier of communication and started my blog: Shades of Us.   I continued to evolve as a person, finding more perspectives to human rights and seeking even more succinct ways to communicate my ideas around them. When I heard the word ‘feminist’ during Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TedX Talk – We Should All Be Feminists – I knew this was the word that perfectly described exactly who I was and the issues that mattered to me.   So here I was: Ramatu Ada Ochekliye, creating content around the Sustainable Development Goals and hoping I could change the world with my words.   But, reality check. The world really doesn’t want to be changed. If the world has its way, it will continue to be patriarchal, misogynistic and abusive to women and children. It would continue to express hate against people whose sexuality is different from the accepted norm. It would continue to be intolerant of people’s rights to association, religion, belief and dignity.   This is why, my work – and the work of other feminists, human rights activists and advocates, and anyone who just believes in the basic rights of all human beings across the world – can be really tasking. Nobody tells you that it is easier to maintain the status quo, as oppressive as it is, than it is changing anything.   And because of this, many activists suffer the painful burnout that comes with wondering if their work even means anything. Oh! There are many reasons to keep

Cancel Culture

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels If you have been using social media for any length of time, it is quite possible that you have heard (or used) the term, ‘Cancel Culture’. Like ‘misogyny’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘feminism’, ‘human rights’, this phrase is one of the buzz words of this generation that gets thrown around when heated socio-cultural issues are being debated – or fought over – on social media. It has become so predominant that many dictionaries now carry a definition for the phrase. So, what is cancel culture? Dictionary.com has one of the more encompassing definitions. cancel culture [ kan-suhl kuhl-cher ] “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.” I like this definition of the term more than the one on Urban Dictionary. This one just explains the term as it has been used in conversation, without any of the sensationalism in the one written by Urban Dictionary. I mean, what is the use of calling the people who are part of any cancel culture, narcissists? Why couldn’t they have stuck with the definition of the word? If not because I may need to use the dictionary sometime soon, I would encourage people to stop using the dictionary. See what I did there? It is the classic route taken to cancel an individual and/or organization. I read their definition, didn’t agree with the statement, proceeded to take offense, expressed said offense and invited people to join in my discontent. Again, if you have been on social media long enough, you would most likely have seen this expressed over and over, with millions of people chiming into the conversation and running with the herd. But have you seen this replicated in everyday life? I mean, not just on social media? I have. I think cancel culture, like other things expressed on social media, reflects how we act in our communities. The idea that social media is the reason why this happens is at best, ludicrous. I remember when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. This was around 1999/2000. We lived in a community in Kaduna State, Nigeria. The predominant culture was: husbands went out to work, wives took care of the house and their well-behaved children. Wives were seen but rarely heard unless they were in the market with other women. They dressed and acted ‘responsibly’ as was expected of married women. Husbands ruled their homes and were accorded the respect of mini-gods. Almost every home was a variation of this model. One home didn’t fit in though. The husband had died, and the wife was the sole provider and caregiver to her three children. She barely had any education or any necessary workplace skillset beyond being a full-time housewife. But she had to survive. And her children had to survive. So, she bought a grinding machine and soon realized the money she was making was barely enough to cater to their basic needs. After some years of really going through it, she took up sex work to augment the money she was making. This was a direct response to the men in the neighborhood who had been propositioning her and offering to cater to her (and her children) if she had sex with them. As the number of men visiting her began to increase, husbands warned their wives to stay away from her; no doubt wanting their wives to remain sexually unaware in comparison to her. The women decided to cut her off because they didn’t want to ‘lose’ their husbands to someone they deemed ‘wanton’ and ‘irresponsible’. But it didn’t end there. They placed an embargo on the widow’s kids too. Well behaved children had no reason to interact with the children of a ‘prostitute’. For years, this woman was a pariah in that community. It did not ease up when she up and left her children – teenagers at this time – to fend for themselves. The children inherited the hate their mother had taken for years and at that young age, had to find work for themselves. Only one family went over and beyond to provide any succor to the children; food, soap and friendship. It was not surprising that the only woman who welcomed them into her warmth also didn’t have her husband around and was going through hell raising five kids. She, more than any of the other wives, knew the great hardship that came with being a ‘single’ mother in a community where women were expected to be dependent on their husbands; no matter what the reality was. I remember how many times I was flogged for being friends with the kids. I had to hide my friendship with them for the longest time and it was my first introduction to cancel culture, even though I didn’t even know the phrase existed then. Many have seen this type of cancellation at one point or the other in their lives. In fact, most of the times we have seen this, it is usually with people or organizations that are not popular or prominent in the real sense of the word. Sometimes, what confers popularity or prominence on these individuals is the agreement that propels people to stop supporting them. Let us look at cancel culture in present day as seen on our social media platforms. The only noticeable difference is that are they fed to a seemingly larger audience; what with the internet connecting us to the global community and what not. What we may not have been able to express to a large audience in the past can now be done with the click of a button. How has this caused this culture to evolve? We are now able to call out people and organizations for human rights abuses, racism, cultural appropriation, and other areas demanding accountability. But

The Male Identity Crisis

Man staring intently.Image: Pexels Most of us have probably heard that a woman’s identity is tied to a couple of things; her beauty, skin tone, demeanor, chastity or purity, and ultimately, her ability to use these qualities to square herself a husband and bear ‘his’ children. This can be further expanded into the duties she is supposed to play in these roles of wife and mother; roles defined as the epitome of her womanhood. And we all know that those duties are many, unreasonable and often times, downright wicked. But these roles are so firmly woven into the fabric of society that choosing a different path almost always results in backlash, shaming and in some cases, physical and sexual abuse. Very few people expect a woman’s identity to be tied to her intellect, career, goals and aspirations, or achievements. It why women are constantly asked about their husbands or children; regardless of what other achievements they have outside of that. So…yeah. Everyone has an opinion about what a woman’s identity should be to be considered ‘complete’. But…have you wondered what a man’s identity is connected to? I believe that men’s identity is tied to two things; the size of their account balances…and the size of their penises. Yes; I said that! And…I will say it again! So, let us really get into it, shall we? I was having a conversation with a ‘friend’ when he told me he was interested in a girl. Looking at him, and looking at the girl, I didn’t think he could get with her. It was not that he wasn’t good looking – because I genuinely believe everyone is good looking – but, this girl was a stunner. She seemed like the kind of girl who spent at least two hours every morning putting on her face. She smelled of class, money, and exotic fragrances. She carried ‘designer’ bags that were so good, they almost looked real and she generally had this air of you-can’t-get-me-even-if-you-tried thing about her. Honestly, I didn’t think my ‘friend’ had a chance; and I said so. He laughed in that overly confident way that men do when you present them with a challenge. ‘Forget all her paparazzi. She hasn’t seen life like that. I have set up a budget of N100,000 for her. I will take her to a really expensive restaurant, so she can have a taste of my kind of cuisine. When she sees how much I am willing to spend to give her a good time, there is no wayI will not knack.’ Yes; desperately sexist and misogynistic. Anyway, I called him out and told him spending money wouldn’t get him the girl. Again, he laughed and went, ‘Ramat, there is no girl that will see my car, see my house, go out with me and not be impressed. When she knows I can spend that money, she has no choice but to trip.’ I wanted to rile him up, so I asked if he was okay with knowing that a girl would only be interested in him because he was flashing money. This time, the laughter was snarky; I had hit a nerve. ‘See ehn Ramat, girls only like two things: money and big dick. And I have both. So, after I spend on her and knack her, she will definitely fall in love.’ I know you are probably as turned off by his crudeness as I was, but I remember laughing at him and telling him to keep wishing. I was so sure he wouldn’t get the girl. But…he did. Turns out his budget impressed her, and she became interested in him. While it wasn’t the first time I had heard a man make that statement and follow it through, it was the first time I has seen that level of brashness displayed by a guy whom I would never have considered a ‘catch’. There were aspects of him that were great, as with most people, but he wasn’t the oozing-with-Idris-Elba-sexiness kind of guy. But all that didn’t seem to matter. Soon enough, I was introduced to his many girlfriends, with each seemingly hotter than the last. One day, a girl came to see him with meals prepared for his week. I smelled her before I saw her and by God, I was mesmerized. This lady was so gloriously beautiful! Her look was the arresting kind; perfectly done hair, makeup, and nails, shoes, clothes and bag to the nines, and an entire aura of sexiness about her. If I thought the girl he budgeted N100,000 for was sexy, this one definedthe term! I am even going to go as far as saying that I felt like a dull glow in the presence of that much aura of sexiness. He quickly introduced her as his girlfriend and being his ‘wingman’, I acted like she was the only one in his life. Yes, I know I used to be disgusting too. But as soon as she left, I couldn’t hide my awe: how in the world did he get a girl like that?! He laughed as he told me his money made him all the more appealing. The opening line of Mayorkun’s ‘Bobo’ quickly came to my head. I was beginning to see that truly, ‘na money be fine bobo’. And judging by how big a hit the song became, it wasn’t hard to see why men totally connected to it. Still talking about that same ‘friend’, a time came when he made some poor investments. He lost a lot of money and was, for the first time in his life, really and truly broke. At about the same time, he got into an accident that totaled his car. He was lucky to have come out of the situation unscathed. For almost 6 months, he was in the dumps. He had to use public transport and learn all the inglorious aspects to it. I watched him shrivel into a shell of himself; ‘my guy’ was struggling.

Men-Hating Feminists

Image: Ebony Magazine As more women are finding (and using) their voices, the dark forces of patriarchy seem to be retreating; albeit slower than a slug’s pace. Oh, there is still a long way to go before we can confidently say that women share the same pedestal with men but for the most past, we are not where we were one hundred years ago. Women in some climes can work, vote, run for office, choose their life’s paths, and receive inheritance. Though the strides are small, women are becoming visible; and not just as walking vaginas for the pleasure of men. What do we have to thank for it? A lot of it is hinged on ‘Feminism’. Of all the definitions of feminism that is out there, the most appealing to me is the one postulated by Bestselling Author, Chimamanda Adichie. ‘Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’ From the definition, we can infer that feminism calls for the equal treatment of men and women in all spheres of life. Feminism wants women to have equal access to education, health care, job opportunities, equal pay for same work done,  protection from sexual predation and abuse, lack of discrimination based on gender to mention a few. Women want to be able to make the choices for their own lives, their sexuality, their reproductive health, whom they marry or even if they marry, their education and career choices, whether they want to be in governance or leadership etc. These are some of the core values and principles of feminism. However, easily ascribed the term ‘feminism’ is her twin, misandry. Misandry is; mɪˈsandri/ noun ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e. the male sex).’ (Wikitionary) At the core of misandry is deeply rooted hate and prejudice against men. For many, this has stemmed from being repeatedly bashed by a system that favors men at the expense of women. For others, it is the men themselves that evoke this hatred and bitterness. The sheer disrespect, the overbearing ego, the unabashed entitlement and the callous treatment of our emotion and person can become too much to bear. It is no wonder that many of us become so filled with hate that we become misandrists. I know…because I was one of these women. The men in my life weren’t the best models for me and each man that came into my life affirmed my resolve to hate men. All of these men seemed to be cut from the same cloth. I got to see spousal abuse, child sexual abuse, rape, a constant reminder that women’s opinions didn’t matter, and even worse. Around me were women dealing with so much from the men in their lives that at an early age, I knew that I wouldn’t take it lying down. I made up my mind to never give any man that much power over me. Like me, most feminists came to this conclusion. Some of us went a bit further though. We delved into the ‘Men are scum’, ‘Men are trash’ and ‘Women are better than men’ groups. As we became less docile to the men in our lives, we became more hateful. While being less docile is fantastic, being hateful is not!  Yes! I said it! Misandrists are almost as bad as patriarchists/misogynists in this regard: these broad groups are both fueled by hate and/or prejudice; they both undermine the importance of the other gender; they think the development of their societies lies squarely on their gender; and they overestimate their independence and are both bullishly stubborn in their prejudice.  Hating the other half of the population doesn’t bode well for anybody. And this is why I believe feminists need to do better. We need to, as Michelle Obama so eloquently put, ‘go high when they go low’. We cannot reflect hate and prejudice and expect to stimulate change. Yes, we should be angry when we are discriminated against, when we have do not have equal access to healthcare, education, and job/leadership opportunities. We should refuse to watch women suffer the debilitating effects of domestic, emotional and sexual violence, human trafficking and forced prostitution. We must speak against inheritance, religious and cultural laws that disfavor women. We must cry out against female genital mutilation and child marriages and promote the choices women make with their bodies, clothing and sexuality. We should not become doormats to men who think we are not equal to them but we can do all this without resorting to hating men! Hate is a blinding emotion. It prevents us from seeing people’s humanity. Once that is firmly rooted, we treat people poorly and hurt them. They in turn treat us poorly and we have an unending circle of misunderstanding and dysfunction. Are some men scum? Yes! Are there men that are trash? Yes! Are some women better than some men? Oh yeah! But…are all men scum, trash or less than women? No! Also, there are women who are ‘scum’, ‘trash’ and despicable human beings. Men and women are equal! No gender is better than the other. We are both important to the advancement of our societies. We ALL need to contribute to moving the human race forward. Men couldn’t do it on their own. Women also can’t do it on our own. So why not join forces? So dear men-hating feminist, I know that we have gone through so much and have suffered a lot from men but can we ditch the hate? Can we give each man we meet the benefit of doubt and blank slates, judging them based on their own ideologies, belief systems and how they treat us rather than lumping them together in the negativity of their gender? Can we try to show these patriarchists that we are better, not because we are women, but because we have better understanding of the complexities of our humanity? Can we change the rhetoric? This may sound idealistic but I honestly believe it is doable. Do you?

Why Do Men So Easily Harass Women?

Men in Yaba Market (Nigeria) harassing a woman for demanding an end to street harassment.Credit: Market March Most women have been sexually harassed one way or the other. This could be in the market, at work, in schools or just walking down the street. Some women have come to expect it as part of their lives. Before I go on my rant – and this is going to be a rant – defining what it means to be sexually harassed is the first call of duty. 1.      Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment Legal Dictionary, The Free Dictionary by Farlex Uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student) Merriam Webster Dictionary 2.      Street Harassment: Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, gestures, honking, wolf-whistling, catcalling, exposure, following, persistent sexual advances, and touching by strangers in public areas such as streets, shopping malls, and public transportation. Wikipedia I have a couple of stories to back this up. I went to Sabo Market in Kaduna recently with my sister Enigbe. The walkways were packed full with people doing their shopping. As we passed by a man selling clothes, I felt someone pat my butt and grab my hand. ‘Baby…come to my shop now.’ I was so mad in danger of popping a vein. I didn’t care that I was in the market. I went ham and warned him to never touch me. The idiot removed his hand and went, ‘Who touch you? If I want touch person, na you I go touch?’ to which some of the men around guffawed. He went to further to say, ‘you no even happy say I touch you. As you dey like this, you no happy say I touch you.’ This elicited more laughter from his fellow market men. I kept ranting which seemed to make them even happier. The women on the other hand looked away. Not only did the man harass me and lie about it, he made a U-turn, admitted to doing it and tried to shame me for not basking in his repulsive and wanton behavior. It wasn’t until I got to the shop I wanted to go to that a woman said, ‘My sister, no mind them. Na so them dey do.’ That statement made me even angrier than I could have thought possible. In another instance, my friend Ruth and I were walking under the Ikeja Bridge to go do our hair. As we set out to cross the road, we were cut off by this bus which deliberately swerved towards us. We stood where we were and the bus slowed; almost to a crawl. The conductor was saying stuff in Yoruba – which I didn’t understand – but seemed bad enough that Ruth cussed him out. The laughter from the bus driver and conductor made me ask what was said. ‘The goat was talking about what he will do to me with his penis.’ Ruth retorted. I asked her why she had even bothered to answer them but then realized I was also playing the game of ‘unlooking’; like the women who didn’t say anything when I was being harassed. When I was in the university, we had this Chemistry Lecturer that was known for his randy behavior. Rumor had it that he chose specific types of women each semester; light skinned, dark skinned, Muslim, Christian, Tall, Short and the list goes on. What wasn’t a rumor was what I witnessed myself. We were writing examinations in 100L and he was invigilating. He would randomly walk about and touch girls inappropriately. I was sitting with my friends Grace and Hasiya when he came by us. Grace had warned us about his reputation and told us not squirm or risk becoming his victim. So when he touched Grace’s hair, she smiled and said ‘Well done, sir’. He came to me and touched my arm and I said, ‘Good morning, sir’. He moved away and touched Hasiya on her lower back and she squirmed and frowned. When he saw this happen, he laughed. Unfortunately, Hasiya’s phone was in her pocket and though switched off, the man reached in to her pockets, pulled it out and said he had caught Hasiya cheating in her exams. Knowing Ahmadu Bello University, that offence was punishable by expulsion or rustication at best. We went to beg him but he laughed at our faces. He said Hasiya should come and beg him alone or lose her phone. When Hasiya realized he hadn’t made a formal complaint, she left the phone with him and didn’t get it until after two semesters. That was just one of the harassments I witnessed with this man. While this may not classify as harassment per se, I still label it as such. Ever walked into a restaurant or hotel or event location where there are predominantly men and get stared the hell down from your very first step until you fall (thankfully) into your seat? I hear men say it is a compliment to stare at a woman like that because it shows she is hot. Ermm…NO! It isn’t a compliment unless a woman loves the attention. But even at that, it is wrong to just stare at someone when you can glance at them and look away. Staring is rude! I know even the most confident men would not appreciate been stared at if they walk into a room full of women. If a man can get uncomfortable, why do you think a woman wouldn’t? Recently on Twitter, women across Nigeria and Africa complained about the sexual harassment they have been subjected to in the office, at school, in the markets, at restaurants and just about every other place. The stories were horrifying and quite frankly, scary. It seems that where

Guerrilla Feminism

By Abe Onche It’s not easy being a feminist. I can hear the collective hiss and mumble about this one who doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. From the men who only needed this admission to confirm I’ve been neutered or from the women who disqualify my experiences because I have a penis. Yes, yes…I’ve heard it all before…either I’m stupid or grossly ignorant, and by no means are those mutually exclusive. Yet when all is said and done, I stand my ground in this little church of passive aggression. It would appear, for those of us who see nothing wrong with gender equality and the emancipation of our womenfolk, a philosophy that involves sitting on this sexist fence requires a great deal of discouragement. But it is a hard path, and not for a few reasons. In the spirit of satire, there are men and then there are gorillas. Now if the staff at Cincinnati Zoo would kindly hold their fire, I will explain. David Barash, an evolutionary biologist commented on the possible inspirations of monotheistic religion in the “harem-keeping alpha male” leaders of gorilla families. In maintaining order, the big powerful male gorilla must remain BIG, POWERFUL and MALE (particularly the last one). Insubordination is tantamount to a collapse of his jungle empire and therefore, with a great deal of posturing, excessive flexing of pectorals and consistent veneration of his physically stronger position, he lords it over everyone else. Stop looking at your dad. Yes, you. But as primates we share more than just most of our genes with gorillas. We similarly exhibit sexual dimorphism (when opposite sexes in a species are physically dissimilar beyond sex organs). In order to survive, like the gorillas, our children are taught fear from a young age. Fear of God, fear of the dark, fear of grandma who is probably a witch, fear of our neighbors and the like. We become attuned to fear, a fear without reason. Fear because we are told to. We aren’t really afraid of the object, just of the cataclysmic assault on our rear ends for daring to go near that which we should fear. Perhaps the most evoking might be “daddy”. Daddy is coming! Everyone act like you are useful! Mop the sink! Sweep the ceiling! Stand on one leg and don’t move, maybe he won’t see you! Like the T-Rex, modern times have ushered in furry new principles but the backbone of our society’s major definitions remain deeply rooted in patriarchy; fossil deep. And while some things have been shed for the love of common sense, there are still many more “values” that make for a decidedly more difficult journey to progress. Patriarchy for the most part, like Alzheimers, Tay Sachs and certain cancer factors is hereditary. It’s one of the reasons it’s been around for so long. It’s also, funny enough, contagious. Men are often also victims of patriarchy. Yes, that came out right and no, please do not throw that at me. But for the men who are not gorillas, it is more than an inconvenience. By very existence, he is not a “man”. He is not “manly”. Therefore he endures some maltreatment of his own. That is not to say being a man can be as rough as being a woman. Heck…at least as a man, the gorillas will ignore you. Most of them anyway. Imagine however, explaining to your father and his people, that your fiancée is keeping her name and you are all for it. Sounds reasonable to you? You are lucky. I’ve heard of weddings boycotted for less (More food for me, frankly so I’m good with that. But I’ve been told this is not a decent position to maintain). Yet in that brief moment when the spirit of your ancestors descends on your father, he will descend on your mother for feeding you too many eggs when you were a child. (I don’t know why eggs get such a bad rap. Folklore?) After all, this was not why he sent you overseas; to learn “from the white people” about women’s rights, emancipation, governance and ethno-religious tolerance, self-management and entrepreneurship. They’ve only ever brought us trouble, he says. (More on that later). And your mother in true character will appeal to you not to become a “woman-wrapper” like all the people she has seen around today. She fears her grandchildren will become homos and the like (because this is usually how it starts. No? NO??). For those of you who don’t know, a “woman-wrapper” is a particularly effeminate man. Other definitions include momma’s boy, pansy, skirt hugger. My father has written to Cambridge University press about installing my picture next to this word in the dictionary. Fortunately they’ve reserved their comments. And between your mother’s sobs do you dare seek a murmur of approval for recognizing in your own beloved fiancée, something which your mother has burned for her own husband to see? A legacy of her own making? Okay perhaps I’m taking it too far. After all, what is in a name? But, what IS in a name? And why are they so important? What is it about the patriarchy and the need to keep women anonymous? Does it link back to the idea of ownership? The idea of inheritance? The idea that women cannot have possession that aren’t linked to a man? In that sense, they cannot do without men? Except they do, don’t they? But it isn’t easy being a feminist. Some people call me a “male feminist”. Fine, be as categorical/exclusionist as you like. Some people ask me if I’m a feminist because it helps me get laid more often. Erm…no. Frankly, “nice guys” still finish last when you think of it. But I see that the battle of the sexes has become an all-out war. Women are on the offensive and pretty soon, things will get better. At least for us nice guys. Which is why I believe we should

Why We Love Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham ClintonPicture: MISES INSTITUTE The first time I really took note of Hillary Rodham Clinton was when she was propelled to national (and international) ridicule by Bill Clinton’s affair in 1998. I was nine years old then and didn’t really understand politics. I was however very sad that Hillary Clinton had been publicly embarrassed by the scandal. I didn’t have access to the internet then but I followed every article that mentioned Hillary Clinton on the dailies. And even though I didn’t completely understand a lot of what I was reading, I grew fascinated with her. I learned that she wasn’t the typical woman of the 90s. She had a mind of her own, a drive that could rival most men and a desire that was as infectious as it was surprising. She was a lawyer, held strong political views that she was willing to work for and was actively fighting for children’s rights in her country. What was most impressive was that she was all of these before she even met Bill Clinton. The results of my research on Hillary and what I knew about Oprah Winfrey made me sit down – all 9 years old of me – to write out my life plans, the things I wanted to do and achieve and the person I wanted to be remembered for. I wrote these plans knowing that it wasn’t wrong for women to be intelligent, passionate or driven; things I was already displaying at that age. As I grew older, the strides Hillary made – in her law practice, humanitarian work and on the board of many committees – cemented my views about who I was meant to be. She was shattering glass ceilings way before it was a fitting catchphrase. What was most inspiring was her drive. She couldn’t be stopped for anything! Yes, she was less prominent during the time leading to the 1996 elections, but she didn’t stop pushing for the causes she was passionate about. From a driven lawyer, she became the first ‘First Lady’ to share her desire for elective post, campaign for that and win. But that was not the end for her. After serving for eight years in the US Senate, she announced that she was going to run for Presidency in 2008. I was so excited when I read this and even though I was a total fan of Barack Obama, I was happy that she dared to aspire for the highest post in one of the world’s greatest nations. And even though she didn’t get the Democratic Party nomination, she didn’t remain bitter. She joined forced with President Barack Obama as his Secretary of State. When she expressed her desire again for office in 2015, I was again inspired. She couldn’t be put down! And best of all, she wouldn’tbe put down. Never in my life have I prayed to be American more than at that time so I could vote for her; vote for a woman who refused to toe the line society tried to force down her throat. Hillary was more qualified than her husband when he ran for presidency but she waited. She was probably more experienced than President Barack Obama when he ran but again, she waited. You can imagine my pain when the time finally came and she had to face a racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynist, unintelligent, vile and inexperienced man! I honestly thought she had it in the bun. But alas, racism, James Comey, sexism, homophobia, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, white supremacy and blatant tomfoolery would have none of that. In spite of her loss at the US Elections, I have never been more proud of a person like I am of Hillary. Hillary Clinton is a woman who has pushed for the things she believes in, giving her all – and then some – to her dreams, even when everything seemed against her. Many people wanted her to stand behind her husband, aspire for garden parties in the white house and be a beautiful potted plant. Most people couldn’t understand a woman who dared to have her own mind, her own dreams, her own vision and even her own sense of style. I mean, how dare Hillary think she can wear those pantsuits and three-inch heels and be president? Well, those people won! For now, anyway. Why was it so important for Hillary to win? Would she have been the first female president? No! We have African female presidents. Plus, I am Nigerian. How does it affect me? Well, it does! Many people have accused me of supporting Hillary Clinton only because she is a woman and I laugh because the reaction is typical.  I wanted her to win because she was the most qualified person for the position as a result of her extensive work in government and because she worked hard; even harder than most men have to. Nut more than that, and she daredto. I wanted her to win because I saw her policy plans and agreed with them. I wanted her to win because she had demonstrated better character for humanity and basic human rights than Trump has or will ever. Beyond that, I wanted her to win because she had her failings too and has learned from them. But no; she is a woman, so that was my only reason for supporting her (*shaking my head). It is worrisome however that most people would rather vote a bumbling unqualified man than a woman.  We get it; society has its tethering rope. Hillary may have lost this election but she has inspired me, and many people globally, to fight for what we believe in, to push for what we want and to stay the course, even if it takes forever. She may not get to be the first female president of the United States of America but her drive would make some woman the first. Many of the suffragettes didn’t get to see Hillary Clinton contest but their


Carefree Girls: What we aspire for ever girl in the world.Image: Unsplash. Today, SHADES OF US joins the world in commemorating the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL! We believe EVERY GIRL deserves the following; 1.      Equal Access To Basic Human Rights; 2.      Equal Access To Education; 3.      Equal Access To Proper Health Care; 4.      Equal Pay For Same Quality Or Quantity Of Work/Job; 5.  Equal Right To Vote And Be Vote For And To Be In Leadership Positions Without Intimidation; 6.      Equal Access To Opportunities; 7.      Equal Access To Inheritance; 8.      Right To Choose Whom To Marry And if/when To Marry; 9.  Protection From Rape, Pedophilia, Domestic Violence Or Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Patriarchy And Misogyny; 10. Protection From Harmful Cultural And Religious Practices Like Female Genital Mutilation, Public Flogging For Perceived Wrongs Etc; 11. Equal Access to Digital Rights and Protection from Digital Gender Based Violence. With this in mind, we agree with this year’s theme for the International Day of the Girl Child as put out by the United Nations. If girls progress in all the spheres mentioned above, the sustainable development goals will progress and we will enjoy a better world. Add your voice today! What can YOU do to make girls progress? Credit: ESAU DILIS BLOG

Dear Future Family: Letter to Myself

PICTURE CULLED FROM: NATIONTRENDZ Dear 21st Century Strong Black Woman, Unfortunately, nobody has a song for you because they think you are a phase. But we will have to make do with Run the World by Beyonce. They have been trying to shut you out for so long it is a wonder you are still standing strong. Some even think you are ‘demonic’ for holding your own. Well girl, bask in their hate! Women like you who have refused to cower to the system have gone on to shine further and farther than anyone can ever imagine; women like Beyoncé, Oprah, Chimamanda Adichie, Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Maya Angelou, Warsan Shire, Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba, Juliet K’ego and so many more that cannot be mentioned. So girl, shine! Write your own stories and force the earth to listen to your brilliance! That being said, we need to talk. First off, we know that you are whole, complete and full. Sometimes you wonder if you will ever find someone who sees the world like you do. You need to know that there are millions of men who not only see the world like you do but who are also searching for you. You have to be more accessible. Sometimes, let it all go down in the DM. Don’t be sending those nudes (tsk Yo Gotti) because there are some really crazy dudes out there who are all about revenge porn. But…be more open. Be more willing to interact with people. On a serious note though. You are complete. No arguing that. No man will complete you. That is given. But you have to allow that good man complement you. We are using the word ‘allow’. You know how you always want things to go your way, well…cut it out! Allow that man sweep you off your feet, allow him treat you like you are fragile even if the world knows you aren’t. We all know you are able to open the car door yourself, pull out your own seat in the restaurant and split the bill but if he insists on doing all these, let him girl! Good thing is, you can always do the same and ask him to get dressed, pick him up, open the car door for him, pull out his seat and pay the bills; just like Usher said in Trading Places. You can then laugh together while cuddling as you compare notes about who is better at the art of romance. He is not expecting you to take his name. How about you surprise him and do? I can see you balking and girl, you better listen! We ain’t here to play! You are no less a feminist if you take your husband’s name. Work hard on getting your name out there, work harder on being memorable and people will not be so bothered about your last name. Leave that for the government documents. I see you are still balking. Girl, when you hear Oprah and Beyoncé, doesn’t it take you a minute to remember what their surnames are? So our point is that you work hard at leaving a legacy and people will care only about your first name. But since you want to change the world with your man, a single name that rings true for your family makes you more awesome. You guys can choose a new name you want to go by if you are not comfortable with his family name. Think of the Durotoyes, the Gates, and the Carters (*wink). The name thing is a two way street. If that man fits into your expectations, you know you don’t need to worry about trivial things like names. Okay? Your mind is beautiful. We know that. We also know you are stubborn. Very! So though you have your own thoughts, you must listen to others once in a while. No one is a repository of knowledge and if you want to be relevant for long, you constantly have to open your mind to the wisdom of others. What better person to listen to than the man you love?! Everyone knows you will not pick someone who is mediocre so open yourself to him. Let him make decisions that you know are important and support him wholly. Baby girl, there are times you should just shut up and be led! Isn’t leading such a stressful path sometimes? And…remember what leadership is about? Following and service! Don’t be Sheldon Cooper or that always-angry woman in those Tyler Perry movies. You do not become less than you are by listening to your man. And about cooking, girl…you know you love to cook! Why are you acting up? We know that it can be tiring but you and he can work out a schedule. Now, don’t go bossing about getting that schedule followed to the tee. When he has a long day in the office, surprise him with a warm bath and piping hot food. Don’t hammer on it being his turn and let that man suffer. You know you would hate it if that is done to you. So, do to him what you would want done to you. Isn’t that the entire essence of the second most important commandment? Meet him at the door with a kiss, don’t nag, resolve fights quickly and when he is having that bath, rub out the kinks in his back and thighs so he can rest well for the hours of lovemaking communion you should have before bed. You know he will do the same for you if you had the long day. So don’t be selling fish. Treat him like a king as he should treat you like a queen. Honor him. Make him feel so good at home that he isn’t happy until he gets back. When at work, you can be the Sasha-fierce-go-getter that you are but when you come home, be a cuddly bear! And yes, we know you hate to cuddle! You will learn, girl, and you will learn fast! Also, learn to leave the office drama in

The Weird One Out

PHOTO: ONE EQUAL WORLD Society has defined how the ‘ideal woman’ should look, walk, talk, behave and be interested in. This evolves every once in a while but the core tenets of what society wants from women are basically the same; be pretty, talk less, marry, give birth, support your man and fade into oblivion. When a woman doesn’t fit into the well laid out specifics of the ‘ideal woman’, she begins to feel odd and worse, and doubt her self-worth. Her difference plagues her and she wonders if something is wrong with her. As she battles these thoughts, society sends men and women who fit in to her ‘ideal’ classification to pepper this ‘different woman’ with wandering anecdotes and poisonous sarcasm. Here is a glimpse of the thoughts that plague women who do not fit into the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ or ‘true definition of what a true woman should be’ classification. Let us start off on some of the questions she asks herself about her look: · Is it weird that she does not know the difference between a hair conditioner and a moisturizer? Or what their uses are?· Is it weird that she cannot tell between an original human and faux human hair? And that even if she knew, she would never spend over ₦50,000 just for her hair?· Should she be worried that she cannot tell the difference between a foundation and a concealer or even a highlighter? Oh! She knows what they are supposed to do but isn’t sure she can tell the difference when placed in front of her.· Why does the sales girl at the lipstick store ask her if she wants merlot, garnet, sangria or currant when all she asked for was red?· Why did the man at the cosmetic store snicker when she insisted there was really no difference between a ‘bleaching’ cream and a ‘toning’ cream?· Should she have been mad when the man at the underwear shop told her she was better off with the push-up bra as she isn’t well endowed?· Is it weird that she is not worried about her belly fat? And why was it acceptable to use waist trainers and give an illusion of a flat tummy when she had anything but?· Is her natural smell so wrong that she has to douse herself with multiple perfumes, deodorants, sprays and scents?· Is it wrong to just want to wear something comfortable instead of something trendy? That she wouldn’t spend money on designers who are all the rave now but whose designs would be outdated after a season? That she would rather wear generic clothes because somehow, they never go out of style?· Should she pretend those heels don’t hurt like hell or should she just stick to her ballet flats and scandals?    And when she is done thinking about how she looks, she also has to ponder on these other questions: · Why should she be quiet in public places when her voice is a great tool in correcting societal wrongs?· Why should she catwalk and sway her hips when all she wants to do is to get to where she is going?· Is it weird that she would rather spend ₦20,000 on books than on clothes, shoes, bags, makeup or jewelry?· Why do people give her the funny look when she says she never watches ZeeWorld or Telemundo or Africa Magic Epic? Is she so wrong for preferring Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC and the NBA channel?· What is so wrong with being interested in The Big Bang Theory, Fringe, CSI, Criminal Minds, Bones, Sherlock and the Marvel series? Why should she have to limit her scope of understanding because girls are ‘not supposed to be that intelligent’?· And where was it written that women are only interested in sports because of their boyfriends or because they want to ogle men? Even when she proves she has been a supporter of Arsenal since they first signed Robert Pires, some men still think she is a supporter because Theo Walcott is fine.· And why do her female friends keep telling her she ‘sounds like a man’ when she discusses politics and the economy and global happenings? Like, because she is a woman, she shouldn’t be able to understand politics, economics or espionage?· And talking espionage, is it weird that she would rather cuddle up with a Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Steven King, Tom Clancy, Agatha Christie, James Patterson, Sydney Sheldon and John Grisham than Complete Fashion, City people, any M & B or eHarlequin?· Is it weird that she knows about NASA, quantum physics, coding and app creation, DNA sequencing and cloning, artificial intelligence and Einstein’s Gravitational waves theory? · Why should she have to take the words of ‘spiritual leaders’ as true and infallible when she studies the scriptures herself and sees that, many times, these ‘spiritual leaders’ are just wrong? And why should she not teach the word because she is a woman? These questions keep her up at night wondering if her difference will negatively affect her life. The worst area for her revolves around her sexual relationships. She wonders: · if her mind is sexy enough to attract the guy she wants; · if the guy she wants wouldn’t be bothered by her lack of interest in fake nails, caked faces and flamboyant clothes; · if the guy wouldn’t be threatened by her intellect and the quality of her mind; · if the guy understands that a relationship is a part of her life and not the entire essence of it and; · if the guy she wants even exists? What many people do not know is that more women are waking up to the realization that there has to be more to life than looking pretty, ‘slaying’, wearing the hottest designer clothes, getting married, giving birth and taking care of a family. These women want to change their world in their various fields. They want to leave a

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