To be a woman in our society isn’t easy at all. On one hand, you are reminded of your “place” – from landlords refusing to rent homes to single women in some instances to an officiating pastor reminding a new wife that to have a successful marriage she must ensure that she is never too tired or too big to cook for her husband. “Even if you are the boss in your office, your husband is your oga at home. So, when you return from work, cook for him, feed him. Men love that,” he would say.
What about what women love? The way (we) Nigerian women are treated and expected to act by society is a study in oxymoron. We are perceived as weak, but we are also considered superhuman. We can return from work and not succumb to the normal fatigue that afflicts ordinary people. And those of us who work in the home are expected to look after children, cook, clean and still be up for all other marital responsibilities our spouses may request from us. Shebi they say that not all heroes wear capes.
As if it’s not enough that Naija women have to be everything, everywhere all at once, we are also held accountable for everything. When a husband cheats, the woman he is cheating with or the one being cheated on gets the blame. I just saw a video of some Nollywood dude whose aunt was calling out his second wife for breaking his marriage. This aunt did not blame her nephew for bringing in another woman into his home. Na wah o!
On another occasion, while visiting a loved one, I walked in on a televangelist who spent the better part of his sermon telling women off for not bothering to make themselves attractive for their husbands and thereby “forcing” the husbands into other women’s beds. He did not chastise men.
I don’t want to take a dig at my Naija brothers, but ironically, on Naija social media, it’s the husbands I often see looking anyhow after years of marriage compared to their wives. Men in too tight suits or trousers, standing without grace beside the wives who you can always tell have put a lot of effort into how they present themselves. In any case, how does one force a full-grown man into doing anything they don’t want to do? Men can’t on the one hand be the “stronger’ sex but on the other hand be so weak and vulnerable as to be “stolen” or forced into situations they do not want to be in.
Our society can’t decide what it wants: men as capable, fully functioning beings, like women, or men as perpetual babies. Men as partners can be misplaced or stolen, tucked into a pocket like a toy and end up in some other woman’s bed or they can be lured away by the next shiny new woman. When you do have them, to keep them, you have to treat them like children, cooking and cleaning for them, laughing at all of their jokes and you must never slip. And yet woe betide anyone who says men are weak. And as for women as partners/wives, they must do whatever it takes to make sure that their men do not get taken. If both partners work, the women are the ones expected not to have any downtime.
The televangelist I talked about also said, “Do not allow your maid to cook for your husband or to serve him food unless you want to lose your husband to your maid.” And yet this multitasking woman is the one to remember that “your husband is the man of the family, without him, you’re nothing.” The same man that has just been infantilised, reduced to someone needing full time care and attention like a newborn. SMH.
Social media gets a lot of flak, but one of the things I am grateful to it for is the way it allows our women (and men) to see different lives, and in some cases relearn what we have been socialised into.
A majority of the comments discussing the video of the aunt of the Nollywood dude called it out for its silliness. To see these young men and women questioning the status quo in such a way fills me with hope. Kudos to you all!