It has been 89 years since the world’s first television broadcast. It may not have looked like the future then, with its grainy images and limited reception, but the small box has since been used by world powers like America to influence, impact and ‘Americanise’, if you will, the world.
Buttered and bred on “Queens English”, most Nigerians began to adopt slangs – American slangs – into their vocabulary, thanks to the near steady diet of American cinema and television. Using mass media, America easily sold the ‘American Dream’ to the world, subtly shifting the propaganda around the country’s image to portray it as the global ideal. Just peep the number of Nigerians who queue up daily at the American Embassy, hoping to get a visa to the US of A. Movies like JFK, Malcolm X, The Day After Tomorrow, All the President’s Men, Cider House Rules, etc succeeded in changing political attitudes across the world, refining their views on these concepts: freedom, liberalism, individualism, abortion.
Capitalism is another American export that most countries of the world have bought into. America has basically seduced the world with its notion of a “super-culture”, a culture predicated on tenets of inclusion, equal opportunity and the ability to rise between social classes purely on grit and opportunity. As a result, many people around the world can’t wait to go on vacation in America, own made-in-America products, attend American schools and become an American citizen.
While America through Hollywood is imprinting its national values on the world, granted not all of them positive, Nigeria’s entertainment industry is regurgitating stale, antiquated values such as sexism and patriarchy. The country’s entertainment and mass media industries have grown largely independent of government influence and control and as such have been driven purely by the primary needs to make profit while meeting the audience’s basest needs. IK Osakiduwa’s comments at the 2018 AMVCA are a painful reminder of how educated and supposedly enlightened Nigerian public personalities can hold and spew primitive views. While hosting the event, IK thought it was funny to punctuate Falz’s performance with this demeaning statement:
I wish I was an artiste so that I can have irresponsible girls dance around me like that.”
Now, you would think IK of all people would understand why such a statement is wrong on all levels, but instead, he chose to follow that up with an apology which pretty much reinforced his initial statement.
So first, female dancers are irresponsible? But after some consideration, they are “bad girls”? And this is an apology? Okay o. IK’s slip into infamy is certainly not the first of its kind we’ve seen over here. Before IK was Comedian Ebiye. Back in May, Ebiye passed this comment on IG as Aramide picked up her Headies Award.
She can’t believe it, she probably f__ked for the award #Headies
We wish these were isolated incidents, but the reality is that the largely male dominated entertainment industries are populated with creators who hold these views, publicly state them and allow them influence the content they create.
This is no different from what a danfo bus conductor would say to any female when an altercation ensues between them. It’s crazy that Ebiye (a step or two above a conductor) would think to reinforce the stereotype by trying to pass it off as an ‘off the cuff’ joke. And this wasn’t his first offence. Remember the Kemen-TBoss debacle? Ebiye weighed in on it too. Yup, you guessed right, it was sexist too. We wait with bated breath for the day change will come to Nigeria’s entertainment industry.
Women were asked on social media channels to provide examples of those songs which most offended, upset and disturbed them. The song Blurred Lines was a prominent choice, having already been banned in 20 universities for its glamorisation of rape and sexist lyrics. Other artists such as Michael Jackson and NDubz were singled out as examples, alongside the artist Nelly’s contribution Tip Drill. These examples form only a small part of a larger narrative in pop music that uses sexist lyrics and images. – Engenderings – Age restrictions on music videos – sexism solved? (2017).
It is common to see Nigerian parents forbid their children from consuming Nigerian music. This fear that emanates from listening and watching music videos and of course, the lyrics, stand upon the fact that contemporary music has been so sexualised and violent that it begins to affect the children of adults who internalise these ideas. But, it’s now beyond that. Women are actually the main focus of these songs that we want to thrash them out.
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female“. Johnson argues that:
Misogyny …. is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.
Johnson appositely highlights what really takes places in music studios before songs are released nowadays. Because music is a business and the idea is constantly reinforced that sex is a major catalyst for commercial success, industry professionals are prone to insert suggestive sexual content into everything they create as a sort of fail safe to ensure profitability. Music has so “devolved” that women are now the centre of all music even when the subject of the song is political. No wonder music artists always argue – to defend their brawny misogyny – that fans do not listen to or watch anything that has no nude woman in it. More reason why American singer/songwriter, Kimberly Deal said in an interview, “I’ve said before that misogyny is the actual backbone of the music industry, and without misogyny the music industry would crumble.”
Three 6 Mafia’s controversial ‘‘It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp’’ won the 2005 Academy Award for the best original song in a feature film Hustle and Flow. The song was performed at the Oscars and immediately ignited a storm of criticism for glorifying the exploitation of women.
In my eyes I done seen some crazy thangs in the streets
Gotta couple hoes workin’ on the changes for me
That is somewhat like child’s play when we compare it with the custom in which Nigerian songs sexualise women to the extent that some names have become household names (names used to represent the generality of women) – that is, those women are really so money-conscious that no regular man on the street has the ability to ‘handle’ them, some other times, it is the women being promiscuous and some other times, the appeal is to their bodies using money as the bullet; most times, the end-point is to get them on a bed for sex.
Gender stereotypes are substantial in contemporary popular music, where the representation of women travels the way of trivialisation and marginalisation (Tuchman 1978). It, therefore, remains unusual for women to be presented as self-determining, intelligent, enterprising, or superior to men (Lee 1999). Offensive images are far more common.
Or can we explain any particular reason(s) why songs like the underlisted topped the charts in Nigeria?:
“Show you the money” – Wizkid.
“Caro” – Wizkid.
“Nwa Baby” – Flavour.
“Personally” – Psquare.
“Shake Body” – Skales.
“Fia” – Davido.
Apart from the sexist-inclined nature of Nigerian music, there also seems to be this idea that the true definition of success is ‘money in the pocket’. The basic truth is that the industry is money-driven and its credibility is marred by stories of bribery and corruption. More reason an upcoming artist might prefer to skip having a deal with a record label and instead proceed to an ‘investor’.
There is a glorification of internet fraud so much so that the lifestyles of charlatans are praised on popular hit songs.
When you grow up without anything in your pocket, and in a system that denies you of a means to turn your circumstances around, your options are very limited. It’s a cold, cold world on the streets and when most of the examples of successful people you can see and touch are those who’ve found ways to cheat that cruel system, the red pill of crime and short-cuts is so much more enticing than the blue pill of an honest living.
With music birthed in those conditions, there is a tendency to celebrate those who are able to make it out as local legends, even if they got there by criminal means… while in Nigerian street music, the G-boy has been king of the underground for a long time – Chiagozem (2017).
No doubt, Nigerian music is making waves, home and abroad but, most of its journey is in the wrong direction. This probably informed Falz’ reaction to 9ice’ “Living Things”:
You are an entertainer in a position as a role model to younger ones coming up and in your musical record you are greeting all the yahoo boys, you are greeting all the fraudsters, calling their name personally, hailing them, wire wire mo fe cha che. All this culture you are making the young ones think it’s cool to do it, it’s not; you are destroying our future.
As an entertainer sing about something that can help our life, paint a picture, tell a story, don’t glorify fraudulent behaviour it’s not good. The glorifications of Internet frauds have no place in our music, but it exists as reality because where there is fame, dirty money is attracted to it.
In “Living Things” 9ice starts with “owo ni kan lo le she oo” – only money can do it; solidly affirming that there’s no life without money. 9ice ends the song calling out the names of Nigerians with questionable wealth. Towing the same path, Small Doctor releases “Penalty” starting with “If you no get money, hide your face” which is an attempt to force people to look to illegal means to succeed or, are we going to argue over Olamide’s “Prayer for Client” with the lines:
Mo n hustle bi omo ale
Bere mi ni malay
Bere lowo awon promoter to ti bami pade
3 million for ibadan don do me
500K UK e no do me
We understand that music lovers will always want to dance and jump and all of that, but there’s no time when it was mentioned that sexualisation of women should be the main subject or that fans only want to hear what some pastors preach in church: money success is chief, no matter the means.
More so, as it relates to black magic (juju) and movies in the Nigerian entertainment space, the Yoruba movie industry, popularly known as Yollywood readily comes to mind.
While it is unarguable that the “sub-main” industry has grown in leaps and bounds from its first production in 1988, “Ekun,” such that it can even hold its own as a sole movie industry against Nollywood and other national industries across the continent, Yollywood is not without its flaws.
In these movies, it is a common thing that solutions to family challenges, work issues and the likes in Yoruba movies are predominantly derived from fetishism and in many cases, these solution seekers are always women who would do anything to find the answer to their problems.
Most worrisome is the fact that these movies also depict blatant sexism and portrays rape culture in a light that one may be forced to second guess the thoughts of the scriptwriter on the intended message or morals of the project when the movie was being made.
While this aspect is not peculiar to Yollywood, like its Nollywood counterpart, women are portrayed in a light that doesn’t fall short of outright misogyny.
On the other hand, both Nollywood and Yollywood are guilty of producing plots preoccupied with wealth and the glorification of marriage values, with the latter serving us consistently, movies with themes where women would do anything to become married including falling in love with their abusers.
In a 2010 article published by Cosmic Yoruba, titled Rape Culture And Sexism In Nigerian Movies where the author describes a typical scene from a Yollywood movie:
“Naturally the house girl was conflicted, she needed the money for her brother’s surgery but her religion was important to her and sleeping with her employer would be going against it. In the end, she slept with her employer and got the money but it was too late because her brother had died already. Being a good girl, she returned the money her employer had given her and one way or another as the movie progressed, he ‘fell in love’ with her.
The house girl was resistant at first and there were all those obstacles! For one, there was her employer’s fiancee who took any chance she had to remind the housegirl of her ‘place’ (i.e. lowly status) and there was the good Christian boy who wanted to marry her even though she was not ‘in love’ with him. The movie ended happily of course with the housegirl ‘falling in love’ with the man who had not only sexually harassed her while she was his maid but also had bribed her into having sex with him. Did I mention that he also hit his girlfriend?
“Another problem is that of class/social status as shown in the movies. Basically rich men and princes get to do whatever they like and it does not matter what they do to poor women because in the end the women are going to ‘fall in love’ with them anyway as women are highly susceptible to Stockholm syndrome and give birth to sons that will continue their husband’s lineage.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Nigerian entertainment and art industry. TV shows like MTV Shuga and Jenifa’s Diary have continuously challenged the stereotyped nature of thinking within the country. Many Nigerian men have been groomed to believe that women are trophies to be won and battles to be conquered so they see nothing apparently wrong with catcalling and rape culture.
Funke Akindele’s Jenifa’s Diary features three LGBTQ persons. This is big because it is helping to change public perception about LGBTQ individuals. For example, in MTV Shuga, viewers are informed that consent is key at every point during sexual intercourse and the fact that someone agreed to a sexual intercourse before, is no right for the other person to force or coerce them into it at other times.
Books like Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay With Me and Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives help depict the pain women are forced to go through in marriage due to childlessness and the patriarchal nature of Nigeria.
Nigerian entertainment and art industry may have more negative influences than positives but the only way this can change is when the media begins to demand more from the people in these industries and by making them accountable.
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