Open Letter to All Nigerian Men
Dear Nigerian Man,
Let me speak some truth to you.
The system does not favour Nigerian women. It never has. And many of you are working hard to see that it never will.
A young Nigerian girl goes to school, studies hard, gets great grades, gets a scholarship to Harvard, a PhD at Yale, gets recruited into World Bank, buys a house in Maitama or Lekki… She can have all of that but if her ring finger is still bare or she still bears her father’s name, all na wash. Case study: Linda Ikeji
The society you have built and are so hell bent on preserving is one that subjugates women. It always has.
A woman gets married, she has to leave her home.
If they live in different cities, the woman is always the one that must pack up and go live with her husband. It is an unspoken rule. It doesn’t matter whether she earns more or has a more successful career, she is the woman, she moves, it is not up for discussion. Any woman that even dares to mention separate residences or even finds a man willing to accept separate residences before they have grown kids is beset by glances askance and murmurings behind hands from family, friends and society.
A woman gets married, she has to change her name. Sugabelly once said that she wanted to keep her maiden name after marriage, she was insulted on social media for over 24 hours. All for wanting to keep your own name. Is that so bad, so heinous? But, we cannot talk about it, us women. It is another forgone deal. You marry, you take your husband’s name. It is written and so it shall be.
A woman gets married, she must have kids. 9 months after the wedding, with no baby cries to be heard and the in-laws become worried. They start to ask if she is barren. They wonder if she had abortions as a teenager. They start scouting for a second wife for their son. This is the way. Nobody asks how it will affect her body, her career and her life. She doesn’t have one. She is married. Giving birth to as many kids as her husband wants is her new sole purpose in life. Which rubbish career? Nobody stops to understand that from the moment she births that child to when they are 25 (Which Nigerian kid is really an adult at 18?), her life is no longer her own. She is no longer Janet or Aisha, she is now Mama Tope or Mummy Fatima. Nobody cares to know if she is ready. What rubbish? Her mother did the same before her. But nobody asked her mother either. She comes from a long line of subjugated females and when you point at her mother as an example, you are probably using one thoroughly cowed female as an epitome of perfect subjugation to an in-process-to-be-perfectly-cowed female.
When a woman marries, she should limit her travelling. She has kids at home, what is she doing gallivanting all over the country, worse, all over the globe? Her career must take a break so she can take care of her kids. If a provisions store in front of the house is good enough for Mama Nkechi, the neighbour then it is certainly good enough for her. Again, this is assumed. If a female begins to say she wants to continue working, trouble ensues. How dare she? Her yards of wife material are drastically reduced by such ghastly behaviour. You call a family meeting. The family elders tell her that if she doesn’t stay home to look after her children and her husband, another woman certainly will. They cow her. She loves her husband and her kids. She behaves. They tell her it is only for a few decades then she can get back to working. She agrees. It is not so long. Just a few decades. She behaves.
A woman gets married, she becomes a one stop shop for all things domestic. She cooks. She cleans. She bathes kids. She dresses them. She takes them to school. She does laundry. She goes shopping for the house. She entertains her husband’s friends. These things are unmasculine. If her husband is the open minded sort, he might do the dishes. But he doesn’t have to. He is just “helping his wife”. She appreciates him. Tells him thank you. He tells her he will do anything for her. If they are going out, she must have the kids bathed, dressed and powdered as well as herself or her husband will complain long and loud about her never getting ready on time. If he hires a maid, he has done it to “help madam”. However many people tell her not to. Maids are very wicked. They might snatch her husband from her. How do you snatch a grown man? We cannot ask. So it is written. So the maid must be watched with an eagle eye at all times. Any small perceived slight, maid must be yelled at or her ears slapped. Is it only maids? No. Even your own female relations must not visit for long. Any female from age 14 — 40 is a serious threat to your marriage. They can snatch your husband. Again, I don’t understand how a man can be snatched. Is it too much to expect a man to be faithful to his wife and his vows without protecting him from infidelity? Lol. See question. They laugh. They say I know nothing. A man is a man and he is polygamous by nature. Hmmmn. So, basically you cannot keep your pants zipped and you are irresponsible and ruled by your groin instead of your brain but somehow, it is your wife’s fault. She should have watched you better? Okay.
LEARN TO TOLERATE.
All married/about to get married Nigerian women are very familiar with this phrase.
If our husband is abusing us and dishing emotional abuse, learn to tolerate, they say. At least, he is not beating you, they say.
If our husband is beating us, learn to tolerate they say, you must understand him. What are you doing to anger him? You must stop it.
If our husband is sleeping around, learn to tolerate they say. You are the mother of his children, he will never leave you. Men are polygamous by nature. Learn to tolerate.
If our husband leaves us. It is our fault. We drove him away. We didn’t tolerate enough.
This system does not work for us women. If we murmur, you are quick to cite scripture from holy books and tradition as clear evidence why we should stay in our place.
That is what they tell the young girls and women who dare to speak up. They get inbox messages telling them they better shut up or they will never get married.
Why is marriage something that society uses to subjugate women, to keep them in their place, to keep their mouths shut. But yet they call wedding ceremonies a “Happy union”. What they do not say is the woman is far happier than the man for she has landed a man, a prize, a goal.
Her entire life’s work from that moment is to take care of that man, meet his needs, keep him satisfied. Feed him whenever he is hungry. Have sex with him whenever he is horny. Wash his clothes whenever they are dirty. When he says jump, we ask, “how high?”.
For we live everyday of our lives henceforth with the fear knowing that invisible rope from our neck to our husband’s legs is there and any slight dereliction of duty will bring that hidden knife down sawing the rope, cutting our prize away, everything we have worked our entire life for… gone.
Dear Nigerian man,
Maybe some of the things I have written here apply to you or all or none. Maybe this is an overly dramatic letter, maybe I laid it on too thick or thin or whatever. This changes nothing. This is our reality. We do not speak of it. Like the slaves of old, we cannot speak to each other of our master’ cruelty. We don’t even know if the other slave will report us for speaking out loud. So we have learnt to keep our own counsel.
I do not expect you to agree with me. That is not the purpose of this article.
I only need you to do one thing.
Close your eyes for me. Imagine that you were coming back to this world exactly as it it now. Imagine that you are just born in the hospital and the doctor is there beaming at your mother. The nurses are there handing you over, as you cry loudly to your mother, your mother looks down at you with tired eyes full of kindness and care. She touches your nose and smiles. She looks up at the nurse who smiles back at her. Then the nurse says to her, “It’s a girl”.
Did you just cringe? Did I hear you say God Forbid?
You can open your eyes now.
My work is done.
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