I recently read a post about the plight of being a female in Nigeria and to say the expectations of women are archaic and misogynistic would be putting it mildly. One only has to look at the recent comments of Nigeria’s President Buhari, remedy
suggesting his wife’s place is in the kitchen as an example. Being of Nigerian descent I have seen this attitude reflected in relatives and acquaintances alike and unfortunately this outlook is more common that it should be in this day and age.
One of the most popular sentiments expressed is that you have to be married by your mid 20’s. Being a woman of Nigerian descent means that you may have a successful business by that age but it is immaterial if you are not yet married. You are expected to go to school and do well. Failure isn’t an option. Getting a C means you aren’t working hard enough. But once you reach the age of 25, ask
the excellence and drive drilled into you becomes a thing of the past. The question becomes when you are getting married and having children. Work isn’t important and ambition is a hindrance to the hunt for a husband. The money your parents poured into that sound education was so that your bride price could be higher I have numerous friends and acquaintances who disclosed that having a certain level of education such as a Masters or PhD increased their worth on the marriage market. Nigerian culture should be past the era where women are considered nothing more than chattel and economic pawns.
President Buhari’s inauguration
As a woman of Nigerian descent the more docile and timid you appear the more respectful you are considered. Having a different opinion means you are a know it all, or that your mouth will get you in trouble one day. Nigerian men are always initially intrigued by your intelligence but as the relationship develops, their ingrained misogyny demands you dim your light, smarts and opinions to cater to the male ego. The expectation after finding a partner is to become a shadow of your former self. Even when there are things you disagree with, the expectation is for you to accept them because that’s just the way it is. Responses to a Nigerian woman wanting to do more than be married and raise children are met with raised eyebrows and murmurs. Sentiments like ‘you can’t dress ‘anyhow’ are also commonplace. An impeccable appearance is needed to catch the eye but once married, the wardrobe comes under scrutiny and is policed for its appropriateness. Despite the progress made worldwide in the world of feminism, its prevalence in Nigerian culture is limited.
The bottom line is you are expected to make your husband or partner bask in his masculinity at the expense of your soul. This notion is even more apparent when it comes to fidelity. There is a term called ‘Yoruba demon’ which is used as a blanket term for Nigerian men who are famed for being serial cheats. I have witnessed many friends and acquaintances be cheated on only to stay because cheating is what men do. Infidelity in a relationship is expected and counted as part of the ups and downs of the relationship. An engagement ring is the prize you get if you manage to stay by his side. When you hear ‘she’s been here for me through it all’ it’s code for I cheated over the years and she stayed ‘She smart, she loyal. Major Key alert’. How is it that now more than ever when women have more choices there is still a section of society that limits them?
Women of Nigerian descent are forever trying to please their families so they won’t be considered problematic. Character seems to be a by-product and how good you are a woman is judged by whether you can cook clean and do laundry. Not all women of Nigerian descent’s lives are dictated by these edicts but I hope that in time, those that do, are able to break free and forge their way in this modern age that we live in. There is a choice and I hope these women chose and live for themselves.