In this technology-inundated day and time, there are a number of friends I love to call (not ping, not text) so we can talk, like really just talk. Eketi Ette is one of them. When I suspect or know for certain that she’s going through something, I pick up my phone and dial her number. And what should ordinarily be a brief condolent call would always, ALWAYS spiral into a LONG gistversation peppered with humour and edutainment. Whenever I’m about to call Eketi, I make sure my credit is fully loaded, because that woman can sabi gist eh, sotay when that snooty MTN woman intrudes with her robotic ‘Your call credit has been exhausted and this call terminated’, I just want to swear at her and her generations for interrupting a beautiful conversation.
And so, it came as no surprise that following her abrupt exit from the Flash Blackout writing competition, that I’d call her to know how badly bruised she was feeling. But if I thought I was inviting myself to a pity party, I was grossly mistaken. Ma girl was fired up with good humour and gist, and before you could say ‘Here we go again’, we had started bouncing from topic to topic. The wanton bedfellows known as NCC and MTN. The corruption-eroded fabric called Nigeria. The public office of our politicians that is curiously not about service for the people, but about service from the people (Only in Nigeria). Relationships. Marriage (Don’t worry, she wasn’t trying to convince me to get a wife). Religion. Karma.
And finally, women.
To give you a better understanding of what I’m about to talk about, here’s a screengrab from one of Eketi’s Facebook posts that I’d like you to see and marvel at:Are you astonished yet? My immediate reaction, which came as a comment on the post, was:
The male privilege is a recognized societal vice. It is that phenomenon that has thrived for centuries, since the inception of time, nurtured and pandered to by religion and culture, two very powerful tools that orders the lives of most every individual. The male privilege cuts across race, tribe and nationality. It is the reason why the fragile male ego and dictionary terms like ‘manspreading’ are a thing. It is also probably one of the reasons feminism roared to life.
Yes, the male privilege is real and here to stay. And it has begat a lot of evils, like the entitlement of the average Nigerian man.
The evening I had the talk with Eketi, she took me on a tour over the inundation of sexual harassment she gets virtually, in the one place on the social media where all sins are committed away from the eyes of God and man – the inbox. All she had to do was be a woman, a beautiful woman. And the hills were alive with the sound of music privacy of her inbox was alive with the entitlement of the Nigerian man.
There is the presumption that she is a woman just waiting to swoon into the arms of the first available suitor. No, not just any suitor; but this particular suitor who has just sent her a message for her to marry him because God gave him the epiphany that she is the one for him.
There is also the assertion that because of her strong Christian beliefs, she must be wife material. Not just any wife material (no, these things are never that simple), but the missionary wife material. You know, the kind where she is expected to journey with her husband to the far reaches of Gabon because she has the smile and soul to bring hope and Christ to the godless masses.
And then, there’s the examination of the man who wants her to prove that not all beautiful women are proud and full of themselves; all she has to do is get off her high horse and say yes to him.
The common denominator that these kinds of entitled men have is one thing: the ability to transform, once the woman says no, from Enrique Iglesias wannabes to rabid jackals, snarling and tearing at the woman, desperate to wound and shred her self esteem. Suddenly, she’s no longer the beautiful, God-fearing woman who his pastor foretold would be the love of his life. In her place is now the bitter, cold-hearted shrew who will shrivel up and die by her middle-aged years. She is no longer the one whose Facebook posts are so inspiring and whose beauty shone so much, it drew him to her, oh no. In her place is the one he indignantly lectures: “Do you know who I am? Where I come from, women are not allowed to look up, let alone talk anyhow.”
It is almost comical how rapidly the amour turns into an animal. And because I’m a man ho does not know how it feels to be on the receiving end of such unwarranted, unbecoming attention, I laughed. My friend was talking to me about these rigours and I laughed. At some point in our conversation however, I stopped laughing. I’d made one glib remark: “This makes me wish I could become a woman for a few days just so I can know how it feels.” And she gravely replied, “Trust me, you don’t.”
For a long time, I’d always known about the suffrage of women (not in the political sense); I’d always been acquainted with it, but in an abstract way. The way the white man knows about racism, but doesn’t really understand its import. The way a heterosexual is aware of the persecution of the LGBT, but doesn’t quite grasp the travesty of it. I knew about the woman’s suffrage, and yet I didn’t.
But then, the social media gained more prominence and more women, especially locally, began to find their way to rostrums, upon which they gave voice to their convictions, and then I began to understand just how abusive the entitlement of man has been, how denigrating the society wired to the male circuit breaker has been to the woman.
“Trust me, you don’t,” she said to me, and went on to paint the pictures that should make me grateful I was created a man.
There was the depiction of the woman who can sweat her way to the utmost echelons of success, and still fall short because she doesn’t have a husband. She who is in a childless marriage, and gets pressured to answer a Sunday service altar call for barren women, when in fact her husband is the on with the fertility problem. She who is branded a hostile deviant from norm and tradition, simply because she chooses to preserve her individuality by keeping her maiden name or hyphenating it with her married name. She who, upon this, is drilled with suspicion and distrust, should she want to travel with her children, whose passports bear their father’s name and hers of course doesn’t. She who gets patronized when her status as a single mother is perceived, and exhortations for the provision of a new husband are given instead of encouragement for her to be the best mother she can be. She who is overlooked as a potential inheritor of her father’s wealth, chattel which is passed on to kinsmen in the absence of a male heir. She who suffers the malignancy of men and fellow women when she gets up on a dais to identify herself as a feminist.
She – that woman, who makes the stunning transformation from beauty to bitch simply because she said no to the entitled Nigerian man.
I didn’t need to walk a mile in her shoes. All I needed was to glimpse those small-sized stilettos that looked like they’d pinch at my toes, and my journey continued, my journey to comprehension of the pain in the life of the woman, the beautiful woman.
NB: The ‘beautiful’ here is not entirely about the physical attribute of the woman.
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