This is an open letter to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie inspired by her piece “A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions“
I have to say, I think you are awesome. You’re an inspiration to lots of people including upcoming writers like myself. You are very opinionated and a shrewd observer of the Nigerian situation. You believe we should all be feminists (possibly your kind of feminist). I understand that, so much as it is possible to understand someone with whom I disagree so completely.
Is being a feminist wrong? Of course not. I believe feminists are necessary. Woman should be given equal rights as men. Women should have the same opportunities as men. They should certainly not be discriminated because of their sex. Recently, feminists have really been on it. They are gaining momentum. I can wager that in the next few years, we just might be living in a woman’s world. As Beyonce would say, “who run the world? Girls!” (I know her feminism is not your kind of feminism, it doesn’t change the fact that she is a feminist too).
People are actually listening to women now and I say kudos! However, we must not forget that too much of a good thing can be hazardous. Once upon a time, women didn’t have a voice. The world is full of sexists and misogynists. These people have preyed on and deprived women of much.
Finally, this system might be nearing its ultimate demise. My only fear is that it will be replaced by an even worse machinery that is feminism. I am not against feminism but I feel some of your views are just plain wrong.
Here are my objections. 1. Hostility: I don’t get why some feminists have to be so goddamned hostile. There seems to be this view that if you’re not harsh about the matter, you won’t be taken seriously. When I hear the feminist catchphrase “So are you trying to say…”, I know it’s over. I’m about to be eaten raw by an angry horde (trust me one is enough to feel like a horde) of women for some benign comment I made and God forbid I say that the hostility drives away potential help or at least an open exchange of ideas and opinions that might let you see feminism in a new light. No. It would be chauvinistic to say that. What a pig I am.
In my humble opinion, feminists are prospective bullies. They try to bully men and surprisingly women too. These days no one wants to be accused of being sexist, so a lot of companies, organisations, celebrities and Whatnots do their best to avoid the wrath of the feminists. They do this by being very pro feminist and they go hard on any man caught wanting. The killer here is their hostility to other women!
You say “feminism is like being pregnant, either you are or you’re not.” This is the mentality that leads to feminists or pro feminists putting down women who seem not to be completely with them (what you call feminism lite). I thought the whole point was to uplift every woman, why do the ones who do not conform get put down. It is not a crime for feminists to disagree with other feminists.2. Selfishness: I’m sorry to say, but there’s an inherent component of selfishness in feminism you preach. Women are being taught to think of themselves first because men do it too. Perhaps, for a single lady this is not so detrimental but for a married woman it has the beginnings of disaster. Feminists seem to think that that’s how men are. This is not true. As a man, scratch that, as a person, I feel the urge to provide for my family, to keep them safe and happy anyway I can. This is a natural instinct you feel as a human, it is not specific to men or women and it is not because the Society has made me so. So, if there comes a time when I have to sacrifice for my family, should I stop myself because even though it’s what the society expects, I don’t have to do it? This doesn’t mean they are not men or women who remain selfish in the face of their families’ needs. You spoke of women complaining about husbands who live like bachelors. These men are obviously selfish, causing the women to function as single mothers. Now, imagine actually suggesting women should be this way. It invariably means that the children are doomed.A key aspect of love is that it is selfless …selfless for both man and woman otherwise it doesn’t work. Selfishness on one part or both is detrimental to the relationship and any offspring that result from it. It is not a crime for feminists to put others first.3. Men are villains: This is so unfair and it is becoming too rampant. A woman can shoot for the stars but there is something at the back of her mind if she should fail. “It’s because I’m a woman”. When I first started wrapping my head round this equality thing, it was really scary. Now, don’t start going all “he’s scared of strong and independent woman “. Not at all. All paradigm shifts can be scary.
I know you’re a proud Igbo woman and I know that respect for the elderly is a part of basically every Nigerian tribe. Imagine, someone started a movement that we shouldn’t have to respect our elders just because they are older than us. “We shouldn’t have to be treated differently because we are younger, there is really no difference between us, and we should be equal” That would be scary as well.
I recently saw a video of a man being raped by two women and the question asked was why didn’t he stop them and I remember seeing a comment that read “why he go stop am when he dey enjoy am“. Some countries don’t recognize that a man can be raped, the highest offence is sexual assault.
When aunties kiss baby boys on the lips, it’s cute but if an uncle does that to a girl child, he’s a pervert. A woman can look as much as she wants at a man and it’s nothing but when a man does that, he’s ogling. When a lady is polite to a man (stranger), it’s cool but if a man does same, he must want sex. What a pig! Men are victims of double standards too. It is not a crime to be a man.4. Men who respect women are told off: When I read your letter, I discovered that I could also be categorized as sexist because I am chivalrous. Equality equality equality, have you ever stopped to think that perhaps women could be superior to men in certain aspects. There is a bond between a mother and a child that I can never understand.
For God’s sake, this person used to live in your body. You were literally one. That is a connection you can’t even have with a husband whom is supposed to be one with you but you would have women disregard it, saying “Just because your child lived in you doesn’t mean you can’t be as distant (like a man) as you can.” So If I decide to give a woman respect for being able to do something that I cannot, I must be sexist. I must hate women. Respect for a woman can also come from love. I can love you so much that the need to make you happy becomes overwhelming in me. The reverse is also the case. I shouldn’t have to feel bad because I respect someone I love. “I shouldn’t open doors for her, I shouldn’t call her beautiful, and God forbid I offer to help her. It might imply that she needs help”.
Feminists do not require assistance, after all we are equal. A major problem of feminism is analyzing everything with the intention of finding something wrong with the way women are treated. The legendary musician, 2baba has a song about women being suspicious of men in relationships and a featured artiste on the song sings “if you dey look for something, you go find plenty something trust me“. It is not a crime to respect women.5. You don’t need men: You must be independent. This is good but there are additional behavior that seem to be attached to it. They say no tree makes a forest. Feminists teach women not to depend on anyone (especially men). This is at best, incomplete. Women should be able to depend on men and vice versa. Once again I cite the motive for such that is love. There is an inherent interdependence in any true relationship. When you seek to break your dependence on your significant other, the relationship becomes unequal in favor of the woman. That is not equality. These days women can never accept that they need a man. Now I won’t say that you can’t do it alone but I say that you don’t have to. If you love someone and you say “I don’t really need you though”, is that love?Nowadays, a woman is made to feel shame because she depends on her husband for certain things. If you’re honest, you would realize that there is a certain loneliness attached with being a feminist, all in the name of being a feminist. It is not a crime to feel safe or protected by your husband.6. Even though women are different from men, they must not be treated differently because they’re equal: This is really more of an inquiry on my part. Do feminists even agree that men and women are not the same? If no, then are you serious? If yes, then you must understand that there will be instances when women would be treated differently. I speak specifically of the treatment of a girl child in a family unit.
Almost every other day, I hear of vile and abominable acts suffered by female children. It’s sick. Grown men raping children. It’s despicable. Studies have shown that majority of victims of sexual abuse are girls. You speak of parents not giving girls as much freedom to roam about as boys do. What did you expect? I might not be a father for some time but I know that if I am ever blessed to have a daughter I would treat her specially… and yes I would do it because she is a girl. I won’t let some pedophile take advantage of her because I want to raise her just like a boy. If anything, I think it’s a bit unfair to the boy.
The studies do not say a boy cannot be abused. Boys are more likely to suffer from this difference in treatment because people feel that they are not in danger of such things. The question shouldn’t be that girls are not given as much freedom as boys, it should be that boys should be sheltered more because they are also at risk of being preyed upon. In other instances, a boy can spread his legs as wide as he wants because he wears trousers and the like. Girls should not, because they regularly wear skirts and dresses but if you’re wearing shorts and trousers then you can spread your legs too. It is not a crime for girls to be different from boys.7. Feminists fight for all women: Honestly, this is the whole point of this article for it is the great lie that has eaten into the society. You don’t fight for all women to be free to choose who they want to be. You fight so they can be free to be a certain way. The moniker for feminism is “say no conformity.” Different is normal. Guess what, normal is normal too! If a woman is a president, a lawyer, a pilot, a footballer, an engineer, a bus conductor, a miner, it is a good thing. More power to them but being a stay at home mom should also be good thing. If it’s really about levelling the playground so a woman can be “anything” she can, then she shouldn’t get grief if chooses to be a house wife. I agree with you about society trying to bring up women to make them feel certain things are expected of them and that if they don’t get these things, then they are failures. It is wrong but just because the society pushes you towards a certain direction doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to head in that direction otherwise. Don’t you see that that is the beauty of equality! “It doesn’t matter that you want me to do something, I’ll only do it if I want!”
There is a chapter in the famous Harry Potter books where Harry is worried that he has no specific skills to defeat the villain and his teacher (Dumbledore) tells Harry the reason he will win is not because he’s the more skillful one but because he has “chosen” to fight the villain for the sake of his goodness and not the pain he has suffered at the hands of the villain. He asks Harry
“Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!”
“I’d want him finished,” said Harry quietly. “And I’d want to do it.”
So, imagine, please, just for a moment that the society hadn’t tried programming you to want marriage, how would you feel about marriage now? Think!
The point is, you can want something on your own even if others want it for you also.
Feminism has come to stay. It’s just funny that, a housewife who watches you on TV has to feel guilty because she’s “conforming” even though she’s not. A woman should be able to feel proud when she accomplishes things of which men try to claim exclusivity. She should also be able to feel proud of being a helper to her husband, she should be able to feel proud of being called “Mrs “. Shame on you for shaming women who are not “different “. This is why I say feminists are misogynists too. You don’t like “old school” women. To each his own. It is not a crime for a woman to want what the society also wants.
At the end of it all, I want to make it clear that I agree with a lot of the things in your letter. I agree strongly about Chizalum taking reading seriously. It’s a major key. I also agree with you about her learning to reject likeability. It is pertinent that you understand that this is not an anti-feminist article. It is a contribution to feminist movement. As I have said the world would soon become a feminist haven but I am worried that some women would still be considered second class or not good enough if they make choices that do not conform to the “feminist” ideals.
You should be true to your words of equality, not just equality between men and women but between women and women too. I agree that Chizalum should be exposed to Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Linda Ikeji, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She should also be exposed to women like Olori wuruola who have made a choice to take pride in being wives. Feminism is necessary, otherwise men would have no regard and no consideration for women as human beings but we might just end up in a situation where only a certain type of women are considered as people by both men and women. I believe we should accommodate every kind of woman. None should be scorned for their choices. It is not a crime to be a feminist.
Ogbewe Famous Amadin.