by Bisi Olaleye-Fayemi
We have too many women reading too much meaning into everything and agitating about anything, like the television commercial in which a joyous father of a newborn yells into his mobile phone’s mouthpiece; ‘Mama na boy o’. To them, such an advert constitutes an offensive patriarchal mindset.’
‘To be a feminist, if not a defect, is at least a fetish; like porn. The feminist is that woman who dulls down to an artificially created set of sexual-political sensibilities, in order to satisfy her emotional lust for being perpetually ‘oppressed’…like porn addicts, paedophiles, rapists and racists, such woman is an emotion junkie – infinitely handicapped yet propelled by her lust for unearned benefits…’
And it goes on and on. There is a Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The first time I read this very troubling rant by Olatunji Ololade against feminists/women’s rights advocates was three or four years ago when it was serialized in The Nation, a leading national newspaper in Nigeria. I think one of two things must have happened. First scenario – Olatunji probably got so many horrified responses from women, it gave him a serious high which took him a long time to come down from, hence the need for another shot of adrenaline. The second possibility is that he did not get enough push back the first time, so he became emboldened and decided to up the ante.
In the interim, Olatunji became an award-winning writer, receiving CNN Multi Choice African Journalist awards back to back, as well as other local ones. Of course we are always proud of our fellow country men and women when they bring home well deserved laurels, it is great to have something to celebrate about Nigerians other than news about us being perpetual scoundrels.
After wincing and grimacing through the January 2016 version of what passes for Olatunji’s analysis of the state of gender relations and women’s rights activism in Nigeria, I have decided to raise a number of issues with him in the form of some unsolicited advice as follows:
Olatunji needs to take his responsibilities as a leading journalist and writer in Nigeria more seriously. Research, analysis, reflection, empathy and empirical evidence are critical to any nuanced understanding of an issue as complex as feminism and gender relations. The quality of debate you have in private spaces is not the same as the one you place on the pages of a national newspaper – in all its three part, problematic glory.
I advise our award winning brother to do more reading. The more writing you do, the more you have to read. Olatunji needs to read the work of Nigerian feminist thinkers such as Ifi Amadiume, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, Bolanle Awe, Ayesha Imam, Ronke Oyewunmi, Amina Mama, Bisi Aina, Simi Afonja to mention a few. He would also do well to look at what other African women such as Sara Longwe, Abena Busia, Sylvia Tamale, Awa Thiam, and so many others have to say. These women, alongside scores of others, have worked to produce a body of knowledge and thought on African feminist theory and practice. The summary of their definition of Feminism is one of a global struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression. Their analysis includes not only a critique of white, western feminist hegemony, but also serves to create a unique space for the conceptualization and practicalisation of a feminism that resonates with the lived experiences of every day African women.
One of the greatest contributions of African feminist thought, has been its insistence on locating feminist discourse within Africa’s historical realities of slavery, colonialism, globalization and marginalization. In essence, you cannot talk about an empowered woman in Africa without liberating her entire community from poverty and lack of opportunities. This includes the men and boys in her life. Some of these women I mention are my teachers and mentors, some are peers, and they are all my friends. Most of them are mothers, wives and grandmothers. I am sure none of us ever dreamt that a day would come when a privileged, educated African brother would liken us to ‘porn addicts, paedophiles, rapists and racists.’
Mr. Ololade needs to broaden his analytical horizons. Patriarchy is real. It is not in our minds. It has never simply been about Men versus Women. It is about the use of male dominated institutions and structures such as politics, religion, education, economics, culture and tradition to create a universe in which one gender becomes superior to the other. Olatunji said women made a big deal out of a seemingly innocuous ‘Mama na boy ‘advert. Even his fellow men understand why the fuss was made. Let us call the new baby boy John. In some cultures, on the 8th day of his birth, a goat will be killed. If the baby is a Mary, they will kill a chicken for her. John will grow up to be the first to have a shot at education if his family is poor. Mary will have to learn how to be a good wife because that is where her career prospects will lie, if she is to lift her family out of poverty. Perhaps Ololade missed the drama we all witnessed, approximately ten years ago, when a wealthy politician celebrated the first birthday of his first son after five daughters, with the gift of a Rolls Royce to the little boy. Yes, Olatunji, ‘Mama na boy’ means something. (To be continued…)
Mrs. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a renowned feminist, women’s rights activist and wife to Minister of Solid Minerals,Kayode Fayemi.
Olatunji Ololade responds
Re:Beasts of no gender…
There is no gainsaying Mrs. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi and her peer raised valid points reflective of their politics in response to my serialised article, “Beasts of no gender.” However, I reiterate, like I stated in the first part of the article that it is not an attack on women but a condemnation of feminist-misandry, the desperate politics and towering monstrosity of man-haters pretending to be pro-women.
Adeleye-Fayemi has since asserted that she deliberately feigned ignorance of the thrust of the article in order to score a point against the writer. She disclosed in subsequent conversation with the columnist that, while she is aware that certain self-confessed feminists pervert the cause of feminism by engaging in misandry, she needed the author to know that it was insensitive of him to generalise in his postulations which categorised progressive African feminists with misguided feminist-misandrists.
I see nothing wrong with feminism without its blemishes just like I see nothing wrong in the patriarchy without its shortcomings. We are hierarchical animals. Sweep one hierarchy away and another will take its place. The feminist movement thus flagellates between its campaign for women’s rights and an insatiable lust to replace the patriarchy with matriarchy. This is understandable as nature fluorishes by hierarchies.
But as there are hierarchies in nature, there are alternate hierarchies in society fostered by survival of the fittest. Nonetheless, in Nigeria’s patriarchal hierarchy, there are protections for the weak. We simply need to weaponise them against the vile in patriarchy. Nigeria evolves even as you read, to protect the interests of every human constituent, the vulnerable girl-child, boy-child and woman in particular. This is good news.
I understand that no form of patriarchal stricture could vitiate or supplant the traditionally-vested roles of a woman as mother, wife, vessel of life, nurturer of character, provider and conscience of humanity. Thus the need to protect and seek an expansion of the rights of the female folk within the ambits of fairness and probity.
This is one of the reasons I engage in crusade journalism. With total humility, I stress that, my CNN African journalism merit award for “This marriage will kill me – Tragedy of Nigeria’s child brides,” addressed the evils of female genital mutilation and Vesico Vagina Fistulae (VVF) on underage girls forced into marriage in northern Nigeria. Most of my award-winning stories addressed vile cultural practices and atrocities being perpetrated against the country’s vulnerable divide comprising women, the girl-child and boy-child in particular. There is need to highlight this fact at the backdrop of injudicious feminist rage at my serialised article.
I understand that misandrists that fall in the bracket I likened to ‘porn addicts, paedophiles, rapists and racists’ and other emotion junkies would naturally pick a fight with me. I also appreciate Mrs. Adeleye-Fayemi’s maturity and brittle wit in all of these. Like most progressive feminists, she expressed her dissatisfaction like a mature human seeking to prick my emotive faculties. But many others, in juvenile fits of exuberance, sent hate messages and incoherent vitriol. The latter remain the bane of the feminist cause.