After my last blog post, I pretty much hit writer’s block. I wanted to make another blog post last Saturday, but I was at a loss for ideas. Thankfully, I asked my friend Rita Atalor (the real MVP!) for inspiration, and she came up with the idea for this post. So, as you can guess from the title, in today’s post I will be exploring anti-feminism in Nigerian Twitter* using three examples.
Here’s a bit of background information for you. I was not very active on Twitter until recently, when I created social media accounts for my music (@musicbyrukky). Now, I have a love-hate relationship with this bird app. Sometimes, it’s a good way to relax and read funny or entertaining tweets. Other times, it’s so toxic and annoying! You see tweets that don’t just subtly demean women, but actively mock them for being feminists. At this point, I have really seen one too many anti-feminist tweets.
I’ll give you three examples.
1. Feminist coven.
About a month ago, there was a big story about popular Nigerian musician, D’banj, allegedly raping a lady called Seyitan. Following this, it was alleged that Seyitan was arrested for over 24 hours without charge (yes, you read that right – the victim was arrested), and then handed over to D’banj and his management team, where she was detained and intimidated for a second day. This caused a large outcry from Nigerian activists.
In response to this whole saga, a popular figure on Twitter, Segun Awosanya (@segalink), argued that there is a certain “malicious interest group” called “Feminist Coven”. According to him, these are the people who were making false claims and trying to influence Seyitan. For those who don’t know, a coven is a group or meeting of witches (I promise you, I’m not making this stuff up!). This must really be the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a while.
But one thing I find very amusing about this is that some women have turned this mockery around on its head by changing their Twitter names to “Feminist Coven Member”, or setting their location to “Feminist Coven”. That is a level of sarcasm I can appreciate!
2. Ain’t close to being a feminist.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet that read:
It is disrespectful to ask a girl if she needs money. She’s a girl, she is always broke.
And I was in one of those moods when I couldn’t resist responding, so I tweeted in response:
Perhaps it is more disrespectful to assume that all girls are broke.
There was a particular girl – let’s call her Amaka – who replied to my tweet, saying she shares my sentiments and she also considers it an insult to assume that all girls are broke. Long story short, Amaka started defending me against another random person – let’s call him Dayo – who was saying that I should prove I’m not broke by sending him money (Dayo obviously missed the larger point I was trying to make).
Amaka told Dayo that I don’t need to prove my point to anyone because I owe no one any explanations. In my mind, I was like “yes Amaka – I’m loving this sisterhood!” But when Dayo suggested that Amaka was a feminist, she quickly pointed out that she “ain’t a feminist and ain’t close to being one”.
I was taken aback. I could have sworn that Amaka was a feminist. She believes in the idea of an independent woman, who is not a financial liability to any man. Isn’t that a feminist who believes in gender equality? Perhaps Amaka has a different understanding of feminism, but my guess is that the negativity linked to feminism in Nigeria has made even people who believe in feminist values reluctant to adopt the label.
3. The thought of remarrying.
Last week, another person tweeted that he would feel weird adjusting to a new stepdad if his mother remarried after his father passed away. This opened the conversation about widows and the misogynistic widowhood practices in Nigeria, from requiring widows to shave their heads to making them drink the water used to wash their husbands’ corpses! (Of course, men are not required do to any of these things if their wives pass away.) If you are interested, you can learn more about these widowhood practices by reading this paper.
Admittedly, some of these practices are not very common anymore, particularly in the urban areas. But what really got my attention in this thread was the part about the right of widows to remarry. One tweet read:
If my dad kicks the bucket, the thought of remarrying should not even come close to [my mother’s] thinking faculty.
Imagine the nerve of this guy! His tweet actually sounds like a threat. You can just hear the entitlement coming out of his mouth.
Another tweet read:
The thought of remarrying should never come in if the mother gave birth to male children. The sons automatically becomes [sic] her husband in everything except sexual relations.
Someone asked in response, “Why exclude sexual relations?” Since we want to be ridiculous and say the sons automatically become their mothers’ husbands, we might as well include sexual relations!
It’s crazy how these men think they have the right to say what their mothers can and cannot do. Some were even going as far as suggesting that they would throw their mother out of their father’s house if she tried to remarry after he passed away.
Rita pointed out something that really resonates with me:
The patriarchy doesn’t even stop with your husband – your husband dies, and your sons step in and feel like they have more entitlement than you to a home that you built with your husband.
Honestly, the double standards is really sickening. You hardly hear Nigerians complain if men get remarried after their wives pass away, but when a woman does it, everyone suddenly has an opinion.
Related: Guilty, she is!
And it’s not just the men. Women have also been conditioned to reinforce these oppressive practices. For example, in Igboland it is the women’s association, the umuada, who enforce these oppressive widowhood practices. And don’t tell me it’s our culture, please! Killing of twins was once part of Igbo culture, but no sane and educated person today will tell me that we should uphold the killing of twins in the name of culture. Culture changes over time to reflect changes in shared beliefs and attitudes. Now that we know better, we need to do better for widows in Nigeria.
These are just a few examples to illustrate the level of anti-feminism in Nigerian Twitter. (Trust me, there are many more examples, but I’ve decided not to stray into any area that might land me in trouble!) This is what prompts me to say that we should all be angry feminists – because if this is not a situation that warrants anger, then I don’t know what is. (And before you label me as a stereotypical angry woman who hates men, actually click on the link above and read the article.)
Maybe these people are just making jokes and I’m here writing a serious blog post about it. Maybe I’m getting worked up for nothing. But I doubt it. The truth is that a lot of Nigerians have anti-feminist tendencies, and I believe a major part of it has to do with our upbringing. From the family to the school, we are constantly being conditioned, both implicitly and explicitly, to think in certain ways. So in a way you can’t really blame the people who have these attitudes: when you’ve been taught something all your life and come to accept it as truth, it becomes very difficult – if not impossible – to unlearn that thing.
And even if I am wrong, and these are really just jokes, then we still have a problem. When people start seeing putting women down as something to joke about, it shows a lack of respect for women and the issues that affect them.
Forgive me for sounding pessimistic, but I’ve almost lost hope in this generation. I try not to have pointless arguments about feminism with people anymore (but you can’t stop me from ranting about it on my blog!). I can only hope that we do better for the next generation, and I strongly believe that the way to do this is through gender-sensitive education (on this topic, see this article I wrote for The Amnesty). Maybe when we reform our educational system, then we can raise better students, who will then complement the efforts of their teachers by doing a better job at raising their own children. Until then, we will keep on trying to advocate for gender equality in any way we can.
*By Nigerian Twitter, I mean tweets by Nigerians, that trend in Nigeria.
This might be the longest blog post I’ve ever written on this site, and I’m sorry for ranting – I really can’t help myself when it comes to talking about feminism. If you made it this far, you must surely be interested in this topic. Let me know in the comment section whether you can relate to anything I have said, and whether you agree or disagree with my views – I would love to hear your thoughts!
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