Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have many times come under huge criticism in many forums across social media in Nigeria for being a feminist and promoting feminism, sometimes even by women. Most people lack deep understanding of what feminism entails. The part that most men who have problem with feminism in Nigeria worry about is that of equality in marriage. When the West has come a long way in advocacy for women’s right, Africa is quite lagging behind. Most men cannot comprehend how they can be equal to a woman in marriage.
In virtually all Nigerian culture I have studied, man is the head of the family and the head places the woman below the man. This cultures, now influenced by both Christianity and Islam, is still strong. This is what influences debate when you talk feminism in Nigeria.
“Why should feminist tell their man to do domestic work like washing plate, cleaning the house or cooking?” Someone once asked me. Now if you leave in the West it seems simplistic and ludicrous. In most cultures in Africa, a man cannot do that, it shows weakness. Others would say the wife or the girlfriend has used native doctor to cast some sort of juju on the man. This little thing influences men thinking.
Most men wouldn’t have a problem earning the same money as the female counterpart in their work place if the woman is qualified. But women are expected to be respectful to their husband, not necessarily subservient. The being in charge thing, that perception, is very important to men. And they would back it with all sorts of culture, traditions and religion.
When quite a handful of young people now understand and agree with feminism, a woman trying to assert it would be seen as too modern, rebellious and unladylike.
Most Nigerian men want a woman who would be both a career woman and a housewife and by being a housewife, they want her to take care of the home, the children and all domestic affairs. If you recall the Nigerian President once relegated his wife’s duty to the bedroom and the other room when she went to the media to criticise his closest allies in the government who she blamed for being responsible for influencing most of the appointments in the administration and men who control her husband. In response to the media, in front of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world today, President Buhari waved off his wife as a woman who’s only duty was to take care of him, her duty belongs to the bedroom and the other room, whatever that means.
Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that aim to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unfairly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.
Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages, equal pay and eliminate the gender pay gap, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to ensure access to legal abortions and social integration and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Changes in dress and acceptable physical activity have often been part of feminist movements.
Most men see feminist as women who want to be equal to men and they cannot comprehend it because they don’t think men and women are equal.
When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can do her thing promoting feminism in the United States and across the West, it is going to be pretty difficult to convince most Nigerian men, who would argue that a man and a woman can never be equal.