I feel like I’ve been talking about and debating this question a lot all week – what is an African woman? However, I feel it would be remiss of me not to pen a few words about it here. Like one very fine Africanfinest mum commented when confronted with the FB post that sparked the question, “I’ll keep this short”, but make no bones about my feelings on the subject. This is my fifth draft of this post as earlier versions were not very clean.
What are we talking about?
Recently videos and posts made or written by a handful of the menfolk have been either sent to me or popping up on my feed (wow look at me using social media language). I usually pay little attention and scroll past said rant, brushing it off as unfortunate but standard inability for one side to see it from the other side’s view. This one in particular by Mr. Stephen Chidiebere Ikebude just went a step too far for me. After calling on African women abroad to stop breaking their marriages (title of his post), he proceeded to question us on if we are still African or have forgotten what it means to be African? If by chance your curiousity is piqued and you want to read his full original post/rant, the link is here.
So it wasn’t enough to paint a one-sided picture of the female seemingly bossing her man about, not respecting him and not being submissive, he had to attack our identity and cultural affiliation as well? Like I said earlier, I’m going to keep this short.
What does he know about being an African woman, and what does that even mean? Is there a special code that those of us who live abroad have somehow missed? His definitions of Africanness for the female species suggests submissiveness, not competing with your husband, not feeling or acting like you’re better than him because you earn some or more money than him. Also on his long list of un-African behaviour are:
- instructing him rather than humbly offering an opinion that he will disagree with,
- becoming a single mother,
- daring to complain about doing household chores and not giving him a accolades when and if he “intermittently helps out”,
- not treating him as lord every second because of the sacrifices he has made (because you haven’t made any sacrifices yourself). etc, etc.
Apart from the fact that I hate generalisations, I’m just going to stop regurgitating what he wrote before I throw up.
What has changed?
Last I checked I am very African. I look African, sometimes dress African, can speak an African language, eat African food, celebrate and promote the beautiful aspects of African culture wherever and as much as I can. I’m very proud to be African, and I’m pissed that anyone would think that by not ascribing to his warped model of behaviour this makes me un-African. Are all aspects of African culture right? No. Are all aspects of every other culture right? No. As we grow, progress, adapt and evolve in our ways of living and thinking, the prayer is that we (as individuals, and as a society) shed as much of the bad as we can, and move forward embracing the good. We are in an age where those who previously did not speak up perhaps for fear of societal push back, or believing they were doing the right thing by keeping quiet and accepting unfair treatment, now realise they no longer have to and shouldn’t. In my view this is what this man, and every other that supports or applauds his rant has a problem with.
He presents no view in his argument from the female perspective. Not one. It is all, “the female has done the male wrong”. No question or insight into the probable causes for her actions. They (African women) did and are doing them (African men) wrong, so they (African women) need to be fixed. What about him? Is the blame really from one side only?
I personally think, and am overjoyed about this change, and see it as a good thing. In this case it means more women are finding their voice, and using it. Granted some misuse it, and when that happens it shouldn’t be applauded, but that’s the same regardless of if you are male or female. Fair should be fair. If speaking up, standing up for oneself, and being “woke” makes African women un-African in his eyes, then so be it.
Check yourself, before you wreck yourself
There are so many wrong statements and assumptions in his ode that I don’t have time or patience to address today. I’m just going to end this by encouraging any reasonable human being to consider the points below.
- No reasonable woman, African or otherwise will deliberately work against or sabotage her happiness. We can be complex at times but we’re not stupid. No one would choose to be a single mother. However if push comes to shove and if a man is breaking a woman’s soul and spirit, some are now brave enough to take on the difficulties associated with being a single mother, for the sake of their own sanity.
- Women naturally multiply what you give them. So if you as the man gives a little good, you get big good back. You give crap….., well you do the math. I love the now famous quote by Erick S. Gray Whatever you give a woman she will make greater. Sums it up in one.
- Women naturally sacrifice. It’s part of that nurturing spirit that God gave us. Many will take and take, and endure, and endure, until they can take and endure no more. If a woman is speaking up, and complaining, hear her out and try to see where she’s coming from first. Do this before you assume and/or conclude that she is just unsubmissive, unruly, culturally uncouth, and working against your progress.
- Times have changed. In most homes both male and female are now breadwinners. If both are working, both should share to some extent other tasks that come with building a house and home, supporting, and helping each other along the way. It’s just common sense.
- Many men conveniently forget that many African women abroad do not have the same support many African women in Africa have. We don’t have a maid, driver, nanny, cook, or private tutor for the kids. Yet we’re still expected to go to work and earn a living, look after the kids and everything concerning household chores on our own without help from men folk. Really? Any male that agrees that this is fair has that “male entitlement syndrome” which if culturally African needs to be thrown on the trash heap named “Incredibly Obsolete”. I love this Instagram post by Baba Folarin which I stumbled across and need to frame to hang up on the wall.
I’ve gone on longer than I had planned, but let me finish with this. To all the amazing men who are committed to partnership, mutual respect and appreciation of their wives and partners, my anger is not directed towards you. Those of you who are doing well, we see, and appreciate you. Not just this generation, but even in the older generation, there are men who have not followed the norm of maltreating their wives, and we celebrate and appreciate you. Please help us teach this generation and the ones to come, that when you focus on working with your wife to outdo each other, in loving each other, WE ALL WIN. Men win, women win, our children win, society wins. For those who persist in “male entitlement syndrome”, please refer back to point 2. above and the quote there (make sure you click on the link) to see what you will get in return.
We need to keep having these types of conversations. If you’ve got an opinion on this, please don’t just sit on your hands, speak up. Let’s debate, have a dialogue, look at issues like this from different points of view so we can learn how to get along. This has wider implications for our society as a whole, in terms of the way we treat each other, and what we then pass on to our children through their observance of us.
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