Next week, I will sit in a bus that is speeding along the tarred road. The trees will hurry past us, their leaves wobbling like an Agadi, elderly man and I will listen to contemporary Nigerian music blare from the lips of a car stereo. Perhaps, it will be the head bobbing Osadebe songs, or the feet tapping Onyeka Onwenu’s. But next week, a young woman will leap into an already sated bus and because of my gender; I will be required to bid her my seat. I will not.
This is a feature of gender equality.
I know that when I had been born, ecstasy purchased a bird patterned wrapper at Balogun market, permed her kinky hair, smeared her face with talcum powder and then danced, jerking her behind this way and that into the margins of our yard. I know that she had arrived hand in hand with her best friend novelty whose essence was lucid in the delight with which everyone treated me.
I know my father had sent letters and messages home with the cliché “Join me and praise the lord!” or “He has done it again!” before the “It’s a boy” part of the message.
Of course the Doctor at the medical centre shook his hands with rehearsed joy, a joy pressed into his persona like Vaseline because of constant repetition, because of how often he said a raucous “Congratulations!” when it was a boy child before pressing the slip containing the hospital bill into the too joyous father’s palms.
I know, too, that my Aunts had sashayed into our yard, that their mellifluous voices had been raised in those Sunday Igbo songs “Onye we anyi Imela!” and that they had taken turns to cradle me in their arms with awe stricken faces as if I was some rare Christmas present.
Eight days later, some Pastor probably laid his hands on my elfin form and proclaim good things. “You will not be one of the bad boys, you will not bring your parents shame!” and the congregation would chant “Amen!” in that tenor of too much concern that masked indifference.
They did not ask of the bandit who was cooked to crisp at Mushin the previous week, or the fresh school leaver abducted by EFCC for Yahoo Yahoo. They did not ask if the former wasn’t the son of some renowned Pastor and if they both at some point weren’t prayed for like little me too.
Certainly, if it had been a girl, the prayers would have been altered, the pastor would mumble words called tongues and the choir would croon “Anointing fall upon me!” as if such lofty anointing wouldn’t kill the little girl lying in pink swathing clothes if it did fall on her. The Pastor would say also with too much seriousness “Your name will not be counted amongst the prostitutes” and little me lying on the marble altar with squares that shown like pocket mirrors in the afternoon sun would understand from the partiality in prayers, my first concept of gender inequality.
Feminism in its incompleteness will tell you only about women who have solely existed in the silhouette of men, only about women whose mothers have relentlessly massaged the blisters of their understanding with balms of marriage and finding the perfect man.
The sermons of gender inequality, I reckon, stems from the credence that one gender was superior to another, the belief that in the market of life, the girl child, the woman was the inferior good.
The feminist would whine about how women have been counselled not to get too much money or no man will marry them, how their over concerned Mothers and Aunts and Colleagues shove books with obvious titles into their handbags-KEEPING YOUR MAN or HOW TO ALWAYS HAVE HIM COMING HOME, whine about how the Man has always been the decisive point in the success scale of a woman’s life.
But if gender inequality incubates the infant of one gender making every decision with a perpetual reminder in the rear of the other, if gender inequality incubates the infant conceived from the intercourse of contemporary beliefs, then I, the boy child is a victim of gender inequality too and not the perpetrator.
When I first started to learn about women, I saw them only as equivalents, as men who had to wear skirts and loved to make small talk. I saw women as equals on this race of life, who had equal opportunities, similar opportunities. And so this means apparently that I was as a child a feminist, like one who is a Christian but has never read the bible, I was a feminist but I had never read its bible, in fact I did not even know feminism had a bible.
Later on, I grew shedding off the skin of these conceptions. I grew into a civilization that had a blue print for genders; I had my own share of the meal of gender and society pushed into my hands with or without my consent.
For this reason, I have gone to school, sat up in school, I have studied all night and tried to make better grades, not merely because I want to be successful but because it guarantees my receiving any woman at all, it guarantees that when I do have that “wife” she would have a better future, been told “Get too much money or no woman would marry you”.
I have been fostered to be sinewy, assertive, to be the man of the family or as my advisers would add with a sneer “You would wash your wife’s underwear”.
Further along this broad road, in the shade of money making for my wife and children-I would trot underneath the callousness of the sun trying to get a job, I will drive hours and receive many rejection letters. I know it is I whose tag of “Father” would become a synonym for “Naira notes”, yet I have not complained.
The feminist would say-A woman has lived her life constantly against the backdrop of marriage, but dear, I too have lived my life against that backdrop.
The feminist would say that women are not given sufficient attention, that women are derided in the society, but what if the synopsis of the glitch is not that women are given less attention but that the men are given too much attention?
For if we are going to talk gender inequality, we should talk all of gender inequality.
Today, I will paint the portrait of gender equality. I will tell the feminist that it entails a society in which I am breadwinner by choice rather than obligation, a society in which it is no longer demanded of me to paddle relationships, in which it is a decision for me to saunter into your Father’s yard with cartons and cartons of schnapps and dry gin, a decision for me to talk about football with your bald, voluble and grizzled Uncle’s, not a responsibility- A society that is bereft of the conventional male benevolence towards women.
Quite ironically, I am a feminist, not because I think women have been neglected by the society, or because I am ignorant of Masculinism, not because I think either that women have exactly been treated as equals in the face of men but because I believe we are first focusing on the impartiality of the society towards the women before the men.
Tomorrow, I will listen to Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists again and read Onwutuebe’s didactic pieces on happenings. I will bob my head to Beyonce singing Flawless and still will wonder how we can say we preach gender equality when feminism solicits only for women’s rights and not equal rights.
And well, this in the end is the entire purpose of satire. Think about it.