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A Portrait Of An Angry Nigerian Feminist

Written by Oluwabukunmi Fadeyi

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

In her 2013 TEDx Talk We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie narrated two stories that have stuck with me. In primary school, her teacher said she would give the class a test, and the child who got the highest mark would be named the class monitor. The class monitor had the important task of writing the names of noisemakers. This person also got a cane that they couldn’t use on their classmates but could hold while patrolling the class for noisemakers. She wanted that authoritative position! So she studied hard for the test and got the highest mark but because she is a girl, the teacher gave the position to the boy who came in second. Her teacher told them that the class monitor had to be a boy.

The next story was about how she went out in Lagos with her friends and was in the car with a male friend, Louis, who could not for the life of him, see what the fuss about gender equality was. He would say he could not see how things were different or harder for women and that maybe that happened in the past, but not now. When they were leaving that night, she took money from her bag to tip one of the men who helped them park because she was impressed with him. After taking the money from her, this man looked at Louis and said “Thank you, sir!” Louis was surprised at the man thanking him and asked Chimamanda why that happened since he was not the one who gave him the money. That was when he realised!

The second story is very important to me because I have had to deal with that exact situation more times than I can count. I remember the day I went to fill my cooking gas cylinder with a guy I was dating then. I had no cash on me, so I gave the attendant my ATM card because I wanted to use their POS machine. The attendant said the machine was in another part of the building and told me to stay downstairs. He then beckoned for the guy to follow him to input the card pin for the transaction.

This attendant saw me bring out my wallet, and the bank card from it, but because he felt there was no way it was mine, he told me to stay downstairs. I was livid! I was so livid that I created a huge scene and told him never to do that again. He turned to my then-boyfriend and said “this your babe too dey vex. You need to get her under control.” I never went back there for gas.

Should I mention the night I went to get suya with a male friend (I was paying by the way), and I asked the Hausa man for a “tasting”? This man looked me dead in the eyes and offered the piece of meat to the guy I was with. I tried picking it up from the place he put it but he prevented me from doing so. It wasn’t until the guy stepped in and told him to let me have the piece of meat, that he let go of my hand. I walked away, and we bought the suya elsewhere.

These stories may seem small or inconsequential to men because they do not know what it feels like to be treated that way, but I know how important it is to women out there.

I spoke with several feminist friends before writing this article. I asked them why they became feminists, knowing full well that the word comes with a lot of “negative baggage”. The consensus was that it was the little things like the casual sexist comments, the misogyny that threatens to choke you everywhere you look if you’re not careful, that made their minds up for them.

One of them told me she just recently accepted that tag. She’s a UI/UX designer in a tech company where she’s the only female employee. She said the men would crack unfunny jokes at her expense and that of other women, assign domestic tasks to her, not minding that they were all employees and she was as good, if not better than her male counterparts in design. She said she would laugh at the jokes and do the domestic tasks to maintain peace.

One day, she got tired, told them their jokes weren’t funny but offensive, and told one of them she saw no reason why he couldn’t boil his water for coffee. That was when they started calling her a feminist in derision. She said some would even take it further by calling her an angry, bitter feminist.

Can you imagine getting called all those colourful adjectives just because you spoke up about something you didn’t like and got tired of getting treated like a second-class human being? Well, that is the reality of Nigerian feminists.

An angry Nigerian feminist is a woman who dares to be emotional about getting unequal treatment and shows it. She is someone who demands in a loud, “unfeminine” voice to be treated as an equal instead of begging for it. She is tired of oppression and gender roles that we ascribe to our culture. She is tired of hearing women get blamed for rape, and domestic violence and will not keep quiet about it, not minding whose feelings get hurt.

In the past, I would get upset whenever someone called me an angry feminist but not anymore. My anger is justified and historically, people have used anger to effect change.

Do you expect me to look at the systematic oppression and blatant misogyny that I have to deal with every day and call myself a “Happy Nigerian Feminist”? Not on your life!

Connect with Oluwabukunmi on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Edited by Chizulu E. Uwolloh

Zulu, named after Zulu Shofola, is a writer, avid movie watcher, and self-proclaimed bibliophile. She is proud to call herself a feminist and when she’s not editing for Sisterly HQ and watching travel vlogs on YouTube, she’s trying to save the world in her own little way. Connect with Zulu on Instagram and LinkedIn

Published by Yetunde Onafuye

Yetunde is a storyteller, podcaster, and a graduate student with interest in the social and political history of post-independence Nigeria. She’s also the co-lead editor at Sisterly HQ. In her free time, she reads and reviews books, engages in social volunteering, and watches tons of dramas, vlogs, and TV shows. Connect with Yetunde on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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