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

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?

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

Women Are So Much More!!!

Image: Pexels. I have, for months now, been staying in my lane and avoiding some issues that could easily rile me up. I have been learning to bridle my tongue to avoid dishing out words I can’t take back. But today, that will take a back seat! I’m literally going to war! I am a feminist and I am ever ready to jump on all issues relating to women. I could go on and on about women’s rights and what we deserve. So it is fitting that I go on this rant. I was in a bus heading to town when this lady in front of us tried to reverse. She reversed smoothly, albeit slowly, and went on her way. As we watched disappear into the distance, another passenger started ranting about why women shouldn’t drive. I wondered what he was about.  He sounded so angry that people began to complain. The conversation in the bus was crazy! The aggrieved passenger was hell bent on proving why women shouldn’t drive.  All through, I was saying, ‘Lord JESUS, help me get down ‘jejely’ without insulting anybody’.  I did!  When I got home, I wanted to put the incident behind me. I almost succeeded until I read a Facebook post where a guy said he hated seeing women act like bosses when, in the end, they would all end in the kitchen. He thought he was funny when he typed the hash-tag, #KitchenBoss.  I went at it a bit with him and he kept going on about women picking up western cultures and not respecting men. I told him respect was earned in ALL cultures and a woman shouldn’t have to respect a man just because of his penis! At this point, I was still trying to be good and reign in my tongue. I went on to do my midday show and asked the listeners to describe a woman who was accomplished educationally, in her work and career but who couldn’t cook. Out of the over 150 respondents, more than 120 said a woman who couldn’t cook was a totally useless person and an incomplete woman, backing it up with statements like ‘It is the destiny of a woman to end up in the kitchen’. By this time, I wasn’t pretending anymore! I was pissed the fuck up! I was angry and just about ready to spew venom! I tried to put it out of my mind until my colleague, while discussing an issue, said a married woman was her husband’s ‘property’. I asked, ‘Property?!’ and he reiterated his statement. At that point, I knew I had reached my tether’s end. I just couldn’t stand it anymore! This is 2019 for crying out loud and people still have the ideology that women are the inferior members of the human species. With all the campaign about equality, with all the manifestations that women can be and do so much more, men (and some women) still think we are nothing but beautiful bodies with little brain capacities! Women are cracking codes in genetics, flying to space, becoming engineers, soldiers, doctors, prime ministers, presidents, bloggers, artists, I.C.T experts, pilots and men still think it is okay to call us properties?! We are taking charge and working in just about any field and yet, we still manage to balance family life. In spite of all these, silly arguments about what women should and shouldn’t do still abound?! I’m most disappointed that we are held to impossibly archaic standards in today’s fast changing world! There are still things women can do on a general note that men CANNOT do and yet we still get to be discriminated against?! This is appalling! Well, like I told the ‘Facebooker’, I will say this to all chauvinistic, patriarchal and misogynistic men out there. ‘There are women who will be far more important in this world than you could ever be or hope to attain. You can either join the fast moving wagon of progressives or remain in your circle of ignorance’. Either way, you WILL NOT deter us.’ And to women, don’t let NO ONE tell you that you cannot aspire for more than the kitchen. Your multi-billion-celled brain was not created to just shuffle meal timetables for the month. Women are so much more than that!

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