by Ayo – Bankole Akintujoye
Did Hillary Clinton run against Obama, or get appointed as Secretary of State because the Democratic party said it must be a woman? Was Okonjo-Iweala appointed to the World bank, Minister of Finance under Obasanjo and then Jonathan because the positions were reserved for women?
Let me first state that I expect to be condemned and hung on a stake like our Lord Jesus Christ was by those he chose to save. And like him, I am fully prepared for the battering that will come with this write up. It amuses me and burdens my heart when I see educated women, so called “feminist advocates” come forward to misinform their womenfolk, display nothing but sheer confusionist and distractionary tendencies on national TV, newspapers, and recently, social media.
This crop of women and in some cases men, are so obsessed and desperate about being viewed as “feminist advocates” that they go the extra mile to dish out half-truths and at times outright fabrications in the name of feminist advocacy. These days, we are not even sure what feminism, or gender equality is anymore. From the last I checked, Feminism is aimed at defining, establishing, and ensuring equal social (religious, education, dressing, etc), political, and economic rights for women. Feminism was largely an offshoot of the era of female disenfranchisement, inequality in employment and payscale, gender neutrality in language (French, English and other major European languages), rights to property and other forms of inequality in a then largely patriarchal world.
Most of the issues that brought about feminist advocacy over a hundred years ago are no longer with us today. And different women groups the world over have adopted the name to gain relevance and grants from donor agencies even when their ideologies are contradictory to the fundamental idea of “Gender equality”.
It is true that several African societies still practice Patriarchy. But even the word has evolved over the years. However, I’ll stick to Nigeria for the purpose of this discussion. The Nigerian culture (and I mean most ethnic divides) is a largely patriarchal culture, but then, so is Christianity and Islam. As I said, the use of the word has evolved, and there seems to be a conflict between our western indoctrination and our cultural reality. For example, should we say the Oba of Benin’s stool should be thrown open to women? Or the Sultanate of Sokoto? Or that of the Alaafin of Oyo? How come no feminist advocate has accused these centuries’ old institutions of patriarchy and anti-feminism? If we admit that these are traditions which should not be disrespected with gender equality chants and feminist hullabaloo, then why should we also question the role of the MAN in traditional African families?
Let us first start with illiteracy. How many feminist groups have provided massive education to those in rural communities who still engage in the long abandoned segregationist practices? How can an illiterate woman or man in the core north, east or west understand that the world has moved beyond “women as properties”? How do you blame a people that inherited the belief that women should not hold opinion, ask questions, own properties, but simply serve their husbands? The truth is, the only blame is with our government who has failed to educate its people and chosen to impoverish them over the years. The responsible thing for feminist groups to do is begin to push for the education and empowerment of the rural communities. Not just of the women, as the men also need education to enable them understand that women are not less human.
Now unto politics, what exactly is “gender equality’ in politics?? How many great women in the world got to their positions because of a quota system? Did Hillary Clinton run against Obama, or get appointed as Secretary of State because the Democratic party said it must be a woman? Was Okonjo-Iweala appointed to the World bank, Minister of Finance under Obasanjo and then Jonathan because the positions were reserved for women? Did Abike Dabiri Erewa make her mark in NTA and now in the NASS because of some gender quota?? Did Dora Akunyili accomplish her giant strides in NAFDAC because “the post was given to a woman to encourage them”? How about Condoleeza Rice, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benazir Bhutto, Helen Sirleaf, Obi Ezekwesili, Joyce Banda, and many other women whose names are engraved on the sands of time even in the most culturally and religiously unfriendly climes to women? The lesson this teaches us is simple; the concept of gender equality advocacy is in itself hypocritical. If you believe we are all equal, why not go ahead and play on an equal playing field? Must there be a quota system reserved for women? Isn’t the quota in itself a display of inequality? That women are weaker and therefore need help before they achieve certain feats? Why then can’t we also create slots for men? Doesn’t that also relegate the issue of competence to the background? I am yet to see a truly competent woman who rode on the back of some gender equality slot to greatness!
Now to family, why do we keep living in the illusion that the role of men and women are equal in the family? Why are so-called feminists deceiving our women, and ruining several marriages with their gospel of equality? And why do we keep thinking that a woman who “bows” to her husband admits to inferiority? The truth is that marriage as an African institution has evolved; men are sharing more in financial roles with wives, women are getting more independent and taking charge than before, etc. But all these notwithstanding, ours is a man-is-the-head-of-the-family society. And who says it isn’t working for us? What is to be emulated in western societies where divorce cases are ever increasing? If the Bible and the Quran categorically place the man as the nonnegotiable head of the family, then are we saying God, or the writers of the Quran and Bible are also women haters, or anti feminists? Why then have our self-proclaimed advocates not taken up cases with the religious bodies? Or shall we say the act of praying separately in the mosques, is anti-women? Because this simply implies that we are not equal as far as the two holy books are concerned.
Lastly, Economics and finance. It has become common practice to label every woman doing good in the society as a feminist. And women advocates are always quick to condemn women who denounce feminism. Why is it so difficult for our women groups to understand that there are still strong intelligent women in the society who go to school, beat men in their results, get good jobs, make money, start businesses, and take giant strides without necessarily buying into feminist rhetoric? The biggest disservice that feminist advocates have done to womanhood is to assume that playing on equal terms with men and succeeding at it is synonymous with feminism, and thereby attempting to impose the term feminist on every successful, financially independent career woman. What is wrong with a woman being successful, and still bowing to her man? Why condemn a woman who humbles herself to her man despite her success? While her man also respects her for the good woman she is? Shouldn’t all these be about the woman’s rights to choose what pleases her? Must she adopt the lazy and convenient feminist stereotype image?
My dear advocates, your jobs are needed in illiterate poor communities where female genital mutilation is still rampant, in places where under 15 year old girls are married out on a daily basis without anyone raising an eyebrow, where widows are made to shave their heads and do unprintable things to mourn their husbands. Not in cities where real women are taking up their careers in their hands, where there are equal rights to education and access to employment. Use the grants at your disposal to genuinely serve womanhood, not hypocritical show-off campaigns on the mass media.
Ayo – Bankole Akintujoye is a strategy consultant, political scientist, writer and advocate for social justice. More writings on www.ayobankoleakintujoye.blogspot.com
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.