So BBNaija 2017 is ending. For the last 90 days we’ve watched 14 Nigerians picked ‘arbitrarily’ to representation of the country’s millennial generation give up their right to privacy and independence and consent to have their every move watched for the entertainment of millions in exchange for a shot at fame and a shot at the 25 million Naira cash prize. It seems like the absolute last place you’d expect anything meaningful from. After all this is the 10th Big Brother show that Endemol and MultiChoice are sponsoring and while others have made stars, none have ever really addressed any sociocultural questions.
Not this year though.
For the second time in a row (the first Big Brother Nigeria premiered in 2006) four of the five finalists will be women. But unlike the inaugural Big Brother Nigeria which went with nary an impact, Big Brother Nigeria 2017 will be remembered because of its women, not its men.
It will be remembered because of Tokunbo Idowu or TBoss, who polarized the entire competition, constantly challenging our prejudices towards certain kinds of women. As a woman with visible tattoos and piercings (something that is vehemently frowned in Nigeria’s hyper-religious climate) TBoss layered personality confused many and infuriated some. She got intimate with the youngest housemate on the first week of the competition and after he left simply refused to engage anyone else. She was at the centre of the season’s sexual assault scandal, after Kemen, another housemate touched her intimately while she was asleep. Her reaction when she was shown evidence of this assault and the events that followed forced many Nigerians to reevaluate what they considered rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Tokunbo refused to conform in any way, to hide her grievances no matter how silly it seemed to other housemates. She opened up conversations about how women are expected to perform humility so that they are not branded as ‘bitchy’ or ‘difficult’, and shattered those stereotypes.
Bisola was quite simply fierce. Especially as regards her sexual agency. As single mother, many didn’t even understand why she was chosen in the first place, and then they were scandalized by the fact that Bisola did not bother to pretend to be what we have come to expect of a married single mother, maternal, quiet and sexless. Her unabashed sexually confused and impressed many and her self awareness mirrored feelings that we have all felt. It also forced us to examine our reactions towards motherhood and how we fail to see women as people with feelings, agency and purpose.
There was also Marvis, who challenged our perceptions of conventional beauty, surprising everyone by making it to the final five though by our standards she isn’t part of the house’s pretty girls. Coco Ice willing to stick to the boys, Uriel whose bubbly personality and memorable Big Brother diary sessions reminded us that women can be goofy and self deprecating without being self demeaning. Then there was Gifty who simply refused to conform to the narrow scope of what we call ‘cultured’ and ‘sophisticated’.
The women of Big Brother Nigeria 2017, put to us our prejudices and stereotypes and shattered them, initiated conversations around the issues that could not simply be dismissed and demanded to be seen as multi-faceted individuals. It will be interesting to see what they do after the house.