Hardwired For Sorry [3]

Apology

An Apology For Womanhood

I posted quotes by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on my Facebook Timeline earlier today. All day, the quotes rolled through my mind like a refrain to a sad love song. And as I navigated thick traffic in Abuja, Nigeria’s equivalent of Washington, it hung like a wet blanket alongside my cranky baby’s cries. Hunger and exhaustion made me extra tense. I turned the radio on just in time to hear the anchor dispense advice to a caller who was seeking help for a floundering marriage and periodic punches from her husband.

“You know men have egos. You just have to stoop to conquer. Avoid behaviours that anger him. If he tells you to stop serving dinner late, you too, get home earlier!”

‘Softening,’ he concluded by recommending she watch her tone and find opportune moments to discuss issues with her husband.

 

We raise girls to cater to the fragile egos of men. 

 

Seconds later, my car rocked from the impact of a danfo bus running into the passenger-side door where my baby was seated. The driver had been trying to shunt the traffic queue. Rage propelled me out of my car. He sauntered out of his bus muttering, “Na woman sef.”

My fury grew as he unrepentantly argued with me and as he spat, “Hey! Mistake na mistake. I get your type for house! Don’t talk to me anyhow! Na so you dey talk to your husband for house?”

Bystanders advised me to calm down. “Shebi you know he is a man,” one of them counseled.

 

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. 

 

When we finally made it home, the water heater failed. I needed the electrician, Mr. Kehinde, to repair it. However, I couldn’t call him because he has issues taking instructions from women. So I rang my husband who was 800km away to call the electrician who was 4km away, and tell him to fix the heater.

Later, a friend called me to lament her experience at the police station where she had gone to bail a neighbour. The officer in charge had laughed in her face and told her that because she is a woman, she was not qualified to bail anyone. My friend, a medical doctor, then had to get her driver who has a secondary school-leaving certificate, to post bail. She was bitter and vented for a long time.

 

Each time they ignore me, I feel invisible. I feel upset. I want to tell them that I am just as human as the man, that I am just as worthy of acknowledgement. These are little things but sometimes it’s the little things that sting the most. 

 

Earlier in the evening, I listened to my aunt counsel my cousin whose husband is cheating on her and doling money he wouldn’t spend on his family, on his mistress.

“Just keep your home. That’s what I know. You will not be the first woman. Men stray, they return. Just ensure he continues to eat your food and don’t deny him sex. Don’t let silly girls who have not suffered with him snatch him from you.”

 

We teach females, that in relationships, ‘compromise’ is what women do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs, or for accomplishments — which I think can be a good thing — but for the attention of men. 

 

And then she turned to me, “I hear you are applying for PhD again. . . come, what are you looking for? You just want to compete with your husband ehn! The poor man does not have a Masters, now you are ready to lord PhD over him abi? Continue! That’s your cousin struggling right there. You don’t have problems; you want to create some for yourself with your own hands. Already, don’t you earn more than him? My dear . . . ”

 

We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man. 

 

Just before I turned in for the night, I visited Facebook. Four angry rants filled the comment section under my post. Their lowest common denominator? Women were marginalized in Nigerian society but that narrative has since changed. Citing a few trailblazers, they maintained that today’s women are just as empowered as men are. So quotes like Adichie’s only promote mischief.

I shook my head sadly. I didn’t respond. No. I shut down and kept my angst to myself. As I drifted off, I wondered why my society would showcase exceptions as the norm while women remain second-class citizens in the pecking order. Why, in spite of clear opportunities to change the status quo, do we continue to look the other way? A society that is blind to the lived experience of roughly half its population is a sorry excuse, an apology for woman empowerment.

We’ve got a long way to go baby. But maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will bring us a new song if we open our eyes.

 

Abiodun Baiyewu is a lawyer, human rights activist, and feminist with a strong interest in medical jurisprudence and reproductive health.

Watch Amy Schumer’s video which inspired the series.

 

 

Photo credit: Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/girl-sad-crying-raining-rain-drops-690327/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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62 thoughts on “Hardwired For Sorry [3]

  1. This put me in mind of a cartoon in a daily years ago. It had different Nigerian tribes claiming marginalization. Every major tribe – the usual plaintiffs, lol – was represented. Then there was a question in the center: “who is marginalizing who?” Women complain about being ignored. Men complain that they are being ignored. Lol. Who’s ignoring who really?

    I don’t mean that women aren’t getting the short end of the stick. We live in a badly screwed up world. But look at this:

    At the time I was making the decision to drop out of uni, my then-girlfriend was graduating from the uni. I tried very hard to get her to look toward the future and plot a course for herself. I talked to her and got my mom to talk to her to consider pursuing a Master’s and start building a career in something. I was trying to figure my life out. I was sort of stacking disadvantages for myself at the time but I was all for helping her build something of herself. It was hard enough to share my thoughts with her. My decisions were all driven by my evolving ideologies but I couldn’t really talk with her. Intellectual engagement with me was a bit too much to ask of her, it seemed.

    I had the ability to help her build something significant for herself. But I couldn’t get her to care enough then. I was the one dropping out of school. She was the one graduating with a degree. I probably didn’t have a fragile ego or why was all for helping her get even more out of life while I seemed to be retrogressing?

    There is a real problem in the world. It isn’t just that men feel so threatened by women that they want to keep them under their thumb. Or that women feel so disadvantaged that they feel obliged to be on the defensive around and about men. The problem is the idea that there isn’t enough [fill-in-the-blanks] to go round so people can’t stop themselves from competing over everything.

    There is enough. A woman can live a happy life with her PhDs and a husband in the mix. I think that women who want to accomplish certain ambitions in their life should just go ahead and do it and ignore those who feel that they should apologize for daring to dream. Just ignore them. Men like me exist. We’ll deal with those who try to do more than look at you wrong. Have enough faith in our existence not to become too defensive. You may end up generalizing too much and failing to recognize that the most vocal are not necessarily the majority.

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    1. Hi Odii, I hear what you’re saying, but I beg to disagree. Men like you are in the minority in this society. To me, Abiodun has written an article to force us or shock us into “seeing” attitudes surrounding gender, which are deeply entrenched. I’d wager that everyone who grew up in Nigeria recognizes at least one of the examples she describes, which have become the norm.

      Insightful story regarding your then-girlfriend. The internal hurdles women face aren’t always discussed. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg notes that women lower their expectations of what they can achieve … they compromise their career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet. Women tend to shrink themselves because of the subtle and not so subtle cues they pick up and internalize from their environment. Men don’t have this problem in general. She may have been unable to articulate what was going on inside her…

      There is a real problem in the world. It is a “man’s world” and privilege is usually invisible to those who have it. It is my hope that the articles and videos in this series will help women (and men), see the attitudes they have internalized and “just ignore them,” as you say, and then just do it! 🙂

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      1. Thanks for the response, Timi. Stimulating. 🙂

        About being in the minority, think about this: what is the natural male instinct toward women? Is it to dominate and frighten her into submission? Or is it to protect and impress her? I think it is obviously the latter. Male domineering and marginalization of the female is a learned behavior rather than a natural instinct. If only by that fact, I can argue that I am not in the minority. Men are naturally driven to protect and even impress women which means that there are very likely more men who not only don’t mind seeing a woman doing well but who would actually pitch in to help her do better. We are just naturally like that.

        But, good is not often in a hurry to hug the spotlight. For instance, I never thought of my actions toward my ex as a talking point. It was just normal for me to help her develop herself. I haven’t even come close to describing what the tone of our relationship was. I only started talking about what I did when I was trying to figure us out in my early experiences of an online discussion board. People don’t talk much about the good they do or experience because it’s more normal than the terrible things that throw life out of balance for them. So, again, I think it is really the case that there are more men who value womanhood than there are who don’t.

        This does not mean that women do not experience what Abiodun did a lot. But I think that if women talked about all the men who deferred to them or made life easier in some way for them, there’d be more stories in favor of male appreciation of womanhood than there are against.

        About the internal controls, as a man I had to make decisions about my future, what careers to pursue and what causes to champion. I promise you that I couldn’t shake the thought of how each thing I could do or might want to do would affect my future wife and kids. I deliberately chose my current career and planned its development so that when eventually I got married my family would not suffer from the pressures of my career, rather they would benefit.

        Men are like that. We, men and women, all of us normally have a sense of responsibility that makes us take our time to figure out what we are willing to commit to. It’s not limited to women. My ex may really have been dealing with all the psychological limits imposed by society but so was I and she had me planning a life for us together which meant that I was accommodating even the possibility of her being a career mom and wife.

        I suggest that women make the attempt to stop thinking and unconsciously promoting the idea that it is a man’s world because it is not only false but also it is what puts them on the defensive and gives them ready excuses for personal failure. My ex had a man ready to back her career choices and help promote them and who was planning to build a home with her. She had no business thinking about what anybody else thought about the matter.

        The beginning of the solution of most of the gender war issues in my thinking is for both men and women to stop projecting the difficulties some insecure individuals have with their masculinity or feminity upon their own gender. Like I said, it is all a perception. Yes, some men make life hard for women ostensibly because they are women but really because they themselves feel threatened by the women. And they would feel threatened by any other person who in their opinion is really less important than themselves. The gender is only a soft target.

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  2. I just had to comment. A familiar anger welled up in me as I read this piece. Women are severely marginalised in our society. The unfaithfulness. The abuse. What’s most bothersome is that many men–women also–don’t see anything wrong with this.

    Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Samuel, one hopes that articles like this one are eye openers.
      I would like to see men standing up and standing by women to ensure their rights aren’t trampled upon- a case in point would be at the police station. Some laws are in place, but attitudes can’t be legislated.

      Like

  3. I can soooo relate to these experiences. Way back in school, a friend needed a bail but we were told point blank that we cannot bail her, why? Women cannot bail anybody! What I am yet to find out is whether that is constitutional.
    Everyday we meet men and even women who believe that women should only be seen and never heard… so annoying.
    Great piece.

    Like

    1. Hi Eby, Abiodun confirms that there is no law barring women from posting bail in Nigeria. However, it isn’t uncommon for women to be told that they can’t bail anybody. Can you picture yourself in a Police Station quoting the law and being listened to? I would like to see a man coming into the station to join voices with a woman and insist on her constitutional right.

      Thanks to Abiodun for sharing it with us.

      Like

  4. I love, love, love the write up…maybe just one day we will wake up and all will be WELL. I am so gonna be very successful whether THE MAN likes it or YES. My mum got shit from my dad n his peeps cos she had no orientation, education or MONEY. I say NO WAY

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Abiodun’s pain over women being treated unfairly shines through. I’m glad her article resonates with you. I think that these conversations are a good place to birth change.

      It’s unfortunate that your mum and others went through a difficult phase. We can look at the past and learn how to chart a better future. Orientation, education, money … can help emancipate a woman… 🙂

      Like

  5. This is truly sad, and it’s frustrating for anyone to have such experiences.
    I’m one of those who usually contend that things have become better for women, but I cannot deny that many women today are being treated with disrespect, just because they’re women. The writer’s experiences hit hard, not just because they’re sad, but very familiar too; a lot of men say these insulting and patronising things about women all the time, even educated and exposed men.
    One question we men must ask is “how would you feel if your wife or sister or daughter or mother was treated with disrespect somewhere, just because she’s a woman or girl?” If that makes you furious, it should influence your relationship with other women. Every lady out there is someone’s sister, mother, daughter, aunt, wife, cousin etc.
    It’s beyond what a legal and legislative structure can handle. It’s a change of mindset that’s needed. I agree, we need to raise our children differently.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dare, women today have it better, but there’s still some ways to go in our (male and female) attitudes as you say.

      Yes, the scenarios are so familiar, we overlook them, excuse them, find a way around them, cope with them, live with them… Abiodun challenges us to look again… and do something. You mention two areas that have me nodding: empathy and parenting.

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  6. Now this was something! A lot of it happens back home too. And a lot of women in these contemporary times question and stand up against these stereotypical notions as well. And they should! Though I do believe in some sort of a healthy balance to sustain a good relationship, specifically one’s marriage. Above all, it’s respect for the woman and man involved that is most important. If you respect each other, you will inevitably respect each other’s desires and goals. But yes, hard wired for sorry is something we are!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Nida. We sure are wired for sorry! I think its important as you have said to always keep the conversation about mutual respect on the table. To remind ourselves that everyone is deserving of respect as long as they are human and irrespective of gender or roles.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We have come a long way legally in the U.S., but the defensive attitudes of many men are still there.
    Older women here also often show subtle lack of respect for their own gender and a need to keep a certain image in front of men. When a women’s class or workshop is meeting and for some reason a man joins it, the women hide their independent thinking and seem to lose self confidence. Sad. But, I don’t think nearly as many of the younger generation of women are as inhibited now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve made strides true, but as you note attitudes still persist. Often when a woman ‘stands up’ men and women tell her to ‘stand down’. We’ll hear from some younger women as the series continues.

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  8. I was very sad about the accident. Your baby and you safe, then made me angry at the society you live in where directions from women, choices to better yourselves and expressing feelings would be punished or frowned upon. Definitely women must not put up with controlling men, philandering or cheating men. Handyman should listen to anyone paying them to do their job. In my case, I have had men tell me I need more expensive work fine on car than necessary. Women viewed as dumb when electronics or technology being fixed, too.
    Thank you to Abiodun Baiyewu for sharing your frustration and your culture so openly. Thanks, Timi for creating a fascinating international forum on women. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Reocochran. I think women from cultures across the world would tell the same stories in different shapes, shades, depths and sizes. Its up to us in each generation to paint a progressive narrative on gender equity even if it means running against the winds of tradition. We can only hope that things get progressively better for our daughters – more than they have for us.

      P.s: Thanks for the Pingback! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a great article. We still have a long way to go! I call on tradesmen all the time and I discuss the issues at hand. With my husband’s work commitments I handle a great deal around the home, office etc, etc. In my humble opinion if I could not get the work done because I am a woman I would definitely have to grow big balls! We need to work together equally! I confess there jobs that men love and I cannot stand and vice versa! 🙂 🙂 The humble Cook…..

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    1. Thanks for your comments Milanka.
      I do very much agree – there are roles I’ll rather not play. But its not so much about roles. Roles are important. Our socialisation traditionally define roles for ‘men’ and for ‘women’. The roles don’t bother me. It’s the value we place on the players that bother me. The inequities that suggest a hierarchy of genders.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Abiodun, I appreciate your awareness and honesty and beautiful writing. This was all painful to hear in that this way of how men are regarded over women is still very much a reality in many places, some places more than most- equally painful is the denial that allows such truths to continue existing. Loved this line and its potent wisdom “A society that is blind to the lived experience of roughly half its population is a sorry excuse, an apology for woman empowerment.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I do not know if I am allowed to comment here. I long learned to respect what is a woman’s business, but this one seems to me a bit not inclusive. I have long thought about feminism and what it portends for our society.

    Last two weeks I was teaching a group of seven teenage girls and I asked them a simple question outside what I was teaching though: in your next life would you still want to be a girl? My own mother had said she wouldn’t be a female in her next life, because women work themselves to the bones, and she does, domestic work. The answers these girls gave were illuminating. Three said they would like to be boys in their next life while four said they would still want to be girls for different reasons. But surprisingly, the same reasons that made some prefer thier sex were the same reasons that pissed the others off: dropping their surnames for their husbands, not being allowed to take some risks, being policed about etc.

    I think we first have to understand that a man and a woman were created not to be equal but to be whole together, to compliment each other into a complete human being. Nature has different roles for men and women and when each embraces their role and holds it dear, we create a perfect society. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Ugochukwu, I welcome your comment. I apologize for the late response- your comment went to spam.

      In my view, in her writing Abiodun is challenging the notion that: Women were marginalized in Nigerian society but that narrative has since changed. Citing a few trailblazers, they maintained that today’s women are just as empowered as men are.

      Sadly, as her examples, which resonate show, this isn’t the case.

      I find your comment about nature and roles interesting. Hmmm… I wonder whether the lines between nature and nurture haven’t blurred.

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    2. Thank you for your comments Ugochukwu and they are most welcome. I agree with you nature primes humans for roles – typically women with wombs to be first primary care givers, men with physical prowess to do the heavy lifting. However nature does not suggest a pecking order in humans. Our socialisation does that.
      Our inequities are socially constructed and that because they are deeply ingrained, we rarely think about them.
      I trust that you agree with me that all humans irrespective of their gender are deserving of respect. We must aspire to this ideal whether the recipient thinks they are deserving or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The thing about women in a prominent position in our part of the world is that you are expected to play a less dominant role than your male counterparts the moment you begin to assert yourself you hear this common phrase ‘don’t you know you are a woman’ as if your gender has anything to do with how you execute your job.

    I remember going for an engineering training early in my career with my male colleagues and I wanted to ask a question and a senior and much older male colleague who slept most part of the training told be to keep quiet I thought maybe he misunderstood me so I raised my hand again and off he went again well the third time I refused to be silenced I asked what I wanted got clarity and made sure I didn’t sit next to this colleague for the rest of the training.

    Society is funny in the work place too if a man doesn’t assert his authority he is considered weak but it’s normal for a woman. If a man asserts his authority he is in charge but if a woman does she is considered a ‘thatcher’ and reminded with our common phrase “don’t you know you are a woman”

    Nice piece Biodun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @ much older male colleague who slept most part of the training, lol! Since he obviously doesn’t want to learn, why is he stopping others? XD

      Biodun mentions the electrician having issues taking instructions from women… perhaps this is also part of what’s playing out in the workplace …

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. If these examples are the norm for gender relations in Nigeria, there is indeed a long uphill battle ahead.

    When I ran a Domestic Violence program (in the late 1990’s), we educated women to see that HIS violence was not HER fault ~> men who hit women, children, or animals to bolster their “fragile egos” are SMALL MEN indeed.

    If my aunt had advised me not to get a legal degree in order to avoid “competing” with my husband, I would have told her to check her ignorance at the door before trying to give me advice.

    When we don’t take time to educate the ignorant . . . the ignorance perpetuates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When a woman is well-educated, has a good job, and a partner who shares her worldview, she can feel as though she’s arrived. However these incidents, which Abiodun described still persist. It is very much a patriarchal society. Education can help break the pattern.

      @ telling your aunt to check her ignorance at the door, many women wouldn’t do that because of a culture of ‘respect’. Those who oppose would listen, nod, smile, and discard her advice 😉

      Great teaching at the Domestic Violence program. Thumbs up!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. When it comes to impunity……. I think the women got the liver than men. We thought we could count on the women to rescue us from political and religious decay but out wishful thinking goads us into subscribing to the Christian Jesus and the bible that suggested women should be quite in church ( and politics) if I must add…..women are too powerful by default to be intoxicated by more powers…..after all is said, even mare seating at home dey still decide the cause of their husband’s action and still control them……so adding that power to the default power with lead to extinction of human race

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    1. Dear Freeman4youth. We have had men perpetuate impunity, corruption and everything evil for centuries and we are still not at the edge of extinction. To hold women to a higher moral standard is clearly discrimination. We have good men, we have bad men. We have good women, we have bad women. We have humans. Hopefully we will learn to treat all humans with equity irrespective of gender, race, religion or language.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Abi, the incidents you describe are so familiar, they blend into the landscape and soon we forget to SEE them. I suppose that explains the angry rants in response to your post.

    Your apology, your defense for womanhood should mute their arguments. It is true that women are making strides. But any woman who lives in the society long enough will have experienced at least one of these incidents. And while we can make laws, it’s also important to change attitudes. Stories like yours make us think; should make us shift. Thanks so much for sharing.

    @ Just ensure he continues to eat your food and don’t deny him sex. Don’t let silly girls who have not suffered with him snatch him from you, lol. This must be a ‘compulsory’ course in Older Woman to Younger Woman Rites of Passage! XD 😉

    @ posting bail, tell me it isn’t true… tell me the officer was just being a jerk…

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    1. Thanks Timi. Its amazing what our socialization primes us to continue to accept. Re posting bail, the police officer was being a total jerk. …however, most officers would do exactly what he did. There is no law barring women from posting bail in Nigeria.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. In my opinion……in every areas, women should be given equal right but in religion and politics…..i say without fear or favour that “We must avoid the mistake we made in pandering to the noise about gender equality; a principle that hammers on the appointment of women into leadership positions but has backfired greatly in the case of Nigeria. From Patience Jonathan, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Diezani Madueke to Stella Oduah, Onyiuke Okereke, Arumah Otteh and Marilyn Ogar, virtually all the women that have had the chance to occupy prominent public offices have ended up a huge disappointment”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Freeman, thanks for sharing your opinion.

      I wonder if the men that have been appointed into leadership positions… the men that have had the chance to occupy prominent public offices, if they haven’t ended up a huge disappointment as well … ❓

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thanks for your opinion….. but im going to ask, which of the male politicians have delivered? Have all Nigerian politicians not ended up as disappointments? Or is Diezani’s & co different because they are females?
      Coming to religion, I must state first that im Catholic but I can assure you that most days I don’t feel like going to church. Im yet to see that peculiar and outstanding thing men bring to priesthood that ladies cannot do. You can agree with me that most of the church’s schools, hospitals and other side arms are directed by the Rev. Sisters. The priests mostly just do masses and preachings. Now, who adds more value to society?

      Like

  17. I believe the empowerment of women, establishing equal rights, and the prevention of violence and injustice towards girls and women throughout the world is the most important civil rights issue of our time. This issue should be given top priority and be the #1 goal of the 21st century. Two leaders in this fight include President Jimmy Carter and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both personal heroes of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s much to ‘fight’ for and there are so many platforms from which to ‘fight’
      Sometimes getting people to see that there is a problem is the beginning of the ‘fight’

      In my view, it’s wonderful that you consider the issues you’ve mentioned to be the forefront issue of the 21st century.

      Like

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