Unlearning Sexism

Straws on the Camel’s Back: Part 2

From the first light of birth, Nigerian females are taught that life is unfair and there’s nothing one can do about it. You are taught to be complacent and subdue yourself before the male. They are stronger and more authoritative than women; therefore, they are worthy of all respect and servitude. Your mother, aunties and employers all knowingly or unconsciously subscribe to this philosophy: it is a woman’s job to be inconvenienced and a man’s job to reap the fruits of said inconveniencing.

I have always felt the inequality troubling but I learnt to label these feelings as premature teenage rebellion and tried my best to dismiss them. Over the years, my reasoning has evolved drastically and blossomed into something quite contrary to the Nigerian mentality. I now understand that the only difference between the sexes is anatomy – everything else remains the same. However, although the visible shoot of understanding has begun bearing sweeter fruit, the roots remain unchanged with its hairs sinking deeply into the core of my being. In other words, I – like many other Nigerian females – have been programmed to be sexist against my very self. Regardless of what I profess, this underlying sentiment still lingers. Returning home exposed an array of attitudes and automatic practices that I thought long defeated. I am now at war with my preconditioned mind to unlearn the so-called cultural values.

I say daily, “I am equal”. It is a dose needed to purge my psyche of the rotten parts of culture. I am not against culture. Indeed, it is impossible for a group of humans to coexist without a distinct way of life creeping up and taking shape. Nevertheless, cultures are forged by wisdom as well as ignorance. It is the cultural ‘values’ influenced by ignorance that are constant thorns in my flesh projecting microscopic hooks that make them difficult to pull out. Ignorance is a silent, parasitic affliction that twists and bends the lenses of one’s eyes to produce a distorted view of reality.

Two weeks ago, I overheard a conversation between a man and his abusive brother-in-law. He cited the husband’s masculinity as a reason to restrain from hitting the wife. Really?! I never knew ‘masculinity’ was a deterrent against domestic abuse. He said the word as if to say ‘crowning glory’. No talk of love, peaceful conversation in marriage or even crime – just his majestic masculinity and her feeble femininity.

I am tired of being sentenced to certain tasks because I have breasts and not male genitals. I am irritated by people’s assumptions about my preferences because “every girl loves heels and long weaves, don’t they?” I am maddened when I’m repeatedly advised to find a good man to take care of me so I won’t have to worry about anything in life. Above all, it scares me when I find myself thinking the same.

The fact that my biology is still considered subordinate. This is a straw on the camel’s back.

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