With the calamitous downfall of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, and the springing up of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, we are currently living in a critical moment of culture. More than anything, I think it’s a wonderful time to be alive, even for Nigeria’s entertainment industry as we now feel emboldened to filter what we consume. It won’t be out of place to say we are woke, as evidenced by the number of sexual assault experiences that have been published by women on social media, and most recently this Oprah-induced story following her iconic, president-worthy speech at the just-concluded Golden Globes.
And the conversation around sexual misconduct and harassment is still on-going. On Friday, beleaguered singer Kiss Daniel came out to clear the air concerning his 2017 hit Yeba on Twitter. Before then, we have had our suspicions about the song’s seemingly problematic parts – the fleeting, non-lyrical dialogue where a clearly uncomfortable woman says “Uncle stop touching” and the man flippantly replies with a “Sorry madam” as an apology. Unlike the full-on, rapist language used in Olamide’s Story for the gods released in 2014, which drew cultural backlash and forced the song into media oblivion, Kiss Daniel’s Yeba is built with a mild sensitivity around consent.
D song teaches our ladies to speak out against wat they haven’t consented 2 nd 4 d men to realise dat if a lady says No, No means No. Apologise nd don’t go further, hence d reply by d guy…”sorry madam” D fact dat a lady agrees 2 dance wit u doesn’t translate 2 sexual consent https://t.co/LbfJuowJbI
— KISS DANIEL (@iamkissdaniel) January 12, 2018
But the song doesn’t combat harassment or sexual assault or rape culture. More to the point, it doesn’t fix anything. Unsurprisingly, what Yeba does through Kiss Daniels’ tone-deaf, feminist-adjacent explanation on social media is that it burdens women with the responsibility to speak out against sexual harassment. And, unsurprisingly also, it enables men to render shitty apologies as an escape when they are called out on the issue. We are in the full swing of apology season, where most high-profile sexual misconduct allegation case was met with a corresponding, performative apology from the accused. In fact, this stream of apologies became so much that it led to the opportunistic release of the apology app called Sorry, created by former news anchor Greta Van Susteren.
The video for Yeba, directed by the talented, prolific Clarence Peters, is fashioned after time periods that evokes nostalgia and culture. Through it, and even now, I was able to critically analyze what that problematic dialogue in the song was all about. The scene showed a traditionally-dressed woman and man dancing and while this is common in clubs and parties, it is conventionally always the case of men invading the spaces of women in such social atmospheres. And in Yeba, Clarence Peters blurs consent away when we see the dancing couple at first. They dance mutually until when the woman gives the man his first warning for inappropriately touching her. “Sorry madam” he says, an off-the-cuff apology to excuse his behaviour. And when he doesn’t heed to the warning, the woman turns and shoves him to the floor.
Imagine a broader, nuanced scenario where the man seeks consent before even dancing with her and respectfully operates within the bodily limitation he’s been given. Yeba was released mid September last year, barely weeks before the Harvey Weinstein scandal hijacked the news cycle, and imagine Kiss Daniel tweeting that he didn’t realize how collectively problematic “Uncle stop touching” and “Sorry madam” will be, and rather uses his platform to teach men not to harass and rape and that rendering an apology doesn’t invalidate the actiont that has already occured. It’s a quick fix, but never a cure. Sexual misconduct and harassment still flourish because they are deeply entrenched in oppressive systems that subjugates women. And, more than ever, women are fearlessly speaking out in solidarity. But men aren’t listening because they can always say sorry, one sexual misconduct at a time.