A personal essay the dangers of silencing of women as a means of preparing them for wifehood.

By: Mavis Michelini

“Nne, you burnt the food again. Is this how you will be making a mess in your husband’s house?”
What I say: “I will be more careful next time.”
What I really want to say: “Who gives a damn about a man I don’t even know yet? Can’t he cook for himself? And why must it be his house? Am I not allowed to have my own house? Please. If I get married. My husband will cook the kind of food that I can’t cook and it will be OUR house.”

“Nne, look at the way you are dressed. Don’t you know that men will think you are a prostitute?”
What I say: “All right, I’ll cover up.”
What I want to say: “You mean all those boys whose mouths are still stained with breast milk think they can tell me how to dress? So as beautiful as I am, I should cover myself in a burqa so that men won’t look at me like a prostitute and try to touch me inappropriately? How about you tell those men to take their eyes off my body? I don’t judge them when they walk around shirtless, neither do I assault them when I see their trousers hanging low. I have never grabbed a man’s penis just because he brought it out to pee right in front of me. I’m a respectful person. I live and let live. So tell your son, your brother and your husband to, please, leave my body alone.”

“Nne, you shouldn’t go for postgraduate. Don’t you know that men don’t like women who are too educated?”
What I say: “I will do my masters after I have gotten married.”
What I really want to say: “If you want to marry a low self esteemed unintelligent man, suit yourself. But I want to finish my degree, go for my masters and even for a PhD. I want to reach the apex of my education and I will not slow down or pause for any man. If men think that too many degrees are not good for a woman, I also think that too much ego is not good for a man. Each person with their own. You can settle with your illiterate, I will go for an educated man.”

“Nne, this car and this apartment are nice. But don’t you know that men don’t like women who are living too comfortably?”
What I say: “I’ll tell them my parents paid for them.”
What I really want to say: Poverty is not a virtue and there is no special reward for those who choose to suffer instead of enjoying the fruit of their labour. I worked hard to be where I am today and I want everybody to know that I have made it. That car is just my point of start. One day I will buy an even more expensive one. You are having a heartache over a mere apartment. My dear, Banana Island is my destination and that’s just for vacation. London and Paris are there too, so I need to earn tons of pounds and euros. Then I’ll move to LA. I want to be Johnny Depp’s neighbour. But you can enjoy your bedroom in your father’s house. Since that’s where you want your husband to come and meet you, remember he might also send you back there when he becomes fed up of you.”

“Nne, you are always acting like a boss. Don’t you know that a man is the president, while the woman is his first lady?”
What I say: “I’ll be more subtle about my confidence.”
What I really want to say: “Nigeria is a tiny country. I don’t want to be the president of Nigeria. You see, I want to unite the whole of Africa, Asia and America and become the supreme leader of the A-Con – “con” for continent. So because I’m a woman I should allow someone who’s not as competent or as smart as I am to make decisions concerning my life because he is a man? What makes him special and is he not from planet Earth? Is he not 50% ovum and 50% sperm just like the two of us? Wasn’t he conceived in a uterus just like the two of us? Nor be from the vagina the two of come out? Nor be breasts the both of us suck? So explain to me why, if we all followed the same steps to get to this world, I should have to take a step back for a man to rule in this world? I will go as fast as my legs can go, I will create as much as my brain can create and I will speak as much as my mind can bear. Leadership is not a matter of genitalia. Number One has no gender.

Since we were born as females, we have been hearing a lot of these absurdities but, in order to not become ostracised and punished, we have also been holding back a lot. I am angry. In fact I am furious. The things I read and the things I hear; the things I get told by people make me want to rip off my bra. Is it a curse to be a woman? This world is not a man’s world. I have a right to this world as much as anyone else. Gender shouldn’t matter. If I work for it, I deserve it. I am my own person, I am my own mind and I am my own head. I don’t need to be disciplined. I don’t need to be controlled and I don’t need constant reminders that I’m a woman. I already know that I am a woman. My period is enough reminder. Every day I get out of bed and I think of food, work and money, just like the man living next door. I am a female human and you are a male human. That’s where the difference ends.
I am tired of being monitored. I’m tired of being scrutinised. I am mad that I have been stripped of my humanity. I can’t be sad, I can’t be angry. I can’t even cry. Why?
I made the decision to speak up and nobody can threaten me into silence any longer.
I made the decision to speak up and nobody can threaten me into silence any longer.
I am Angry. But now, I am Tired. I no longer want to keep mum and I NO longer want to let the sleeping dog lie. I am WOKE so wake the sleeping dog up too. Let it know that Feminism has arrived in the Dark Continent and it is here to stay. Whether it likes it or not.

Image credits:

Art Direction

Adeola Naomi

Photography

Wonuola Lawal

 

Jess, Chelsea, Roxanne, and Aline

 

Humayra & Monica