Nigeria is a patriarchal society with many people including women, having no knowledge of the rights of women and how to treat us. Feminism, not only in Nigeria, is still a highly controversial issue that people frown on due to the surrounding misinformation and misconceptions.
The concept of female bosses or women who earn more than their male partners in a relationship is one that many men in Nigeria cannot come to terms with. This is because it is not a concept that they have experienced, so (like many other concepts) is going to be difficult to understand.
Without going too far back to the time of our ancestors, women from the generation of the baby boomers (1944-1964) and gen y (1965-1979) mostly just have jobs to ‘keep themselves busy’. They are not a generation that saw the need to work to survive, because they were only supposed to be home keepers and wait for their husbands to provide. There were rarely any career/businesswomen.
In her Ted Talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a popular Nigerian feminist, made some intense remarks about women:
“You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man.” If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, you have to pretend that you’re not, especially in public, otherwise, you will emasculate him……”
….“Because I’m female, I’m expected to aspire to marriage; I’m expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important….”
…“I know a woman who decided to sell her house because she didn’t want to intimidate a man who might marry her….”
With the increase of education in Nigeria, many women have learned not to want the same kind of lives our mothers had. We are constantly defining our lives for ourselves & living it but society is constantly telling us “no.” We get called bad, irresponsible, unfit to be wife materials by men and women alike. In Nigeria, women have been indoctrinated into the idea that being a ‘wife material’ is the greatest achievement a woman can get. Once you don’t fit into that idea (the idea of being a ‘perfect woman’), you are sneered at and basically doomed.
Many men who are used to the way life was made easy by the patriarchal society are threatened by feminists. Those men have had their confidence built on the backs of women. If you find such men in relationships, they might not want the following things for their women:
- They don’t want them to pursue any advanced educational degree higher than what they have.
- Women they are in a relationship with are expected to cook, clean & pick up after them because doing chores is demeaning to them. Somebody actually asked this question on Twitter recently. Is it right for a husband to carry his plate to the kitchen after eating? If doing chores is demeaning to men, you have to ask why it is not seen as demeaning to women too. The life of a woman is probably built for demeaning things.
- If their wife advances in their career to earn more, they’d try to discourage or sabotage them. If they don’t succeed in sabotaging their wife’s success, they would usually continue with their antics until they ruin their own marriage. But guess what? People would usually claim this marriage ended because his wife earned more. So this woman would become divorced & be blamed for it.
- They’d never want other people to see them as “small” in their relationships. They’d do anything to maintain this status. The woman also will never forget who wears the pants & will remind others of her husband’s masculinity, any chance she gets.
If a woman has a natural advantage over them, men in Nigeria are threatened by that and also the concept of equal rights between men and women. I used to have a friend who continuously told me that women are the ones who are supposed to give 70% in a relationship. It means the man’s commitment is about 30% & the woman’s 70%. This was what they observed from their parents’ relationships & what they would wish to have. What shocked me the most and why I said “I used to have a friend”, was because this person was a woman herself.
A word that most Nigerian men enjoy using when referring to their relationships is “submission”. Women are supposed to submit to their men because tradition and the religious books say so. They forget that the same bible passage mandates men to also love their wives just like Christ loved the church & gave his life up for it. They forget that kind of love is nearly impossible just like that level of submission is hard.
So yes, it’s true! A lot of Nigerian men are threatened by feminists & the concept of equal gender rights. If a woman doesn’t fit the wife material stereotype, the society turns against her & some men get scared off.
To improve feminism in Nigeria, we should start with re-orientation and teaching. It is very important to start early. Boys and girls should be enlightened about respecting a female and giving her room to grow and reach her height. While making sure her rights as a human being are protected always. A good foundation in feminism is going to teach people to not be scared off by feminists.