By Obani Obodo
The silent war between the genders, the BATTLE OF THE SEXES; the quest for dominance in this world, which by some is a male chauvinistic one, is fast being drawn to a lasting close with the victors – the Women, the ‘weaker sex’, holding their heads up high, maybe not giving a battle-cry but sure are smiling at their progress thus far. The war is one being waged against the male folks to make women live free from violence, poverty and gender inequality.
The roles of women through the ages, in Nigeria has been on a constant roller coaster of evolution, however, it is the reflection of the women folk being synonymous with oppression, marginalisation, deprivation and their recognition pushed aside as irrelevant to say the least that is quite disturbing.
In the pre-colonial epoch, women were charged with responsibilities of social and economic importance. They were also expected to be significant wage earners in the family. To that effect, there was division of labour, and these were along gender lines.
Women had to take care of the family; this include staying at home to cook for the family, sweeping of the family compound, mat weaving and being loyal to their husbands. The husbands in most families were seen as the king of their entire being, the owner of them all and he had every right to their bodies. As such, Nigerian men didn’t value the economic contributions of their wives. They didn’t view the woman’s job and household work as important especially tasking. Essentially, Nigerian men consistently took their wives for granted.
Given that the traditional African household and community was a patriarchal one and in fact still is till date, through folklore, women had some form of respect in the fact that they engaged in food processing which allowed them to do some form of trading and it earned them some respect and affluence.
In the traditional Yoruba system, some women involved in heavy trading were even given chieftaincy title as iyalode – queen of ladies. It is a title that is synonymous with ambition, reliability, strength, independence, and professionalism. In the pre-colonial era, Nigerian women were an integral part of the political set up of their communities.
For instance, in pre-colonial Borno, women played active roles in the administration of the state, complementing the roles played by male counterparts. Through it all, the men still impose virility and masculinity everywhere they go and in everything they do in relation to the women or opposed to them.
Women in Nigeria today, unlike the pre-colonial days, have sought out gender equality and respect from men and tried to form the ideology called FEMINISM, to claim their rights to be recognised. Popular female author, Chimamanda Adichie is one of the strongest ‘activists’ for this cause.
Notable women with seemingly daunting feats in Nigeria are; Okonjo Iweala, late Dora Akunyili, Hajiya Bola Shagaya, Mo Abudu, Ibukun Awosika, Uju Ifejika, Folorunsho Alakija, and some in the world are; Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the list is endless.
There has been a lot of uproar about the entertainment industry being filled with sexism and male chauvinism and that doesn’t leave enough room for women in entertainment to shine. Studies made in Hollywood in 2015 made it known that ridiculously few films were being made with female protagonists and worse, there are no women in directing and producing roles, however, there are likely to be some few in ‘below-the-line’ positions.
British actress Emma Thompson, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, said that “Not only has there been little improvement when it comes to sexism in Hollywood, it’s actually gotten worse”.
Maggie Gyllenhaal also mentioned a problem- women over the age of 25 hardly had roles to play. A producer told her that at age 35, she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man.
Nigeria, being a nation that is filled with ‘the morally righteous and religious people’, the theatre which should be what mirrors and reflects the society, actually leaves a lot to be desired. Things like immorality, prostitution, ‘rungirl-ness’, indecent dressing and a lot of things that ‘exploit’ their sexuality are displayed. These, in my opinion, do not portray ‘The Nigerian Woman’ in good light. Also rape is somewhat being preached in some movie plots, a certain movie makes a woman to later in the movie, fall in love with her rapist.
Some others say that if a woman dresses indecently, they are defenceless to rape. A typical feminist would frown in disgust at these movies.
With modernism and more creative scripts, women are now being recognised. Many of such women that have risen above the ‘stereotype’ are; Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Stephanie Okereke Linus, Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, and Kate Henshaw amongst a few.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde held a private screening of her new movie Alter Ego that she produced, for top Nigerian businessmen and politicians at the Film house IMAX in Lagos. She posted it on her Instagram handle where she stated that the important personalities in attendance included; Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, ex-governors Donald Duke and Otunba Niyi Adebayo, and also the managing director of Shell Nigeria, Mr Osagie Okunbor.
This is a very high achievement for her and I would say a big accolade to her and yes, Nigerian women in entirety. I foresee greater heights for women in the entertainment industry if the tempo set by this remarkable event is followed through with same passion.
AN ODE TO WOMEN
The Weaker Sex
Weak, lazy, a follower and subordinate they bestow to me
Always a girl in your sight is all you see
The strength of thousand women before me,
My opium, my partner, you only, let me be
The weaker sex
Through intense pain, your sons and daughters I bear
My eyes still sore from searing pain
At night your body weight I bear upon my breasts
I was born a woman, weak and distressed
Like a deep blue sea you will never know my depths – my strengths
The weaker sex
I am a woman, I am bold, I am strong, I am wise,
I cradle the world on my bosom
I am adorned with pride and strength,
The lion-kings of our forefathers worship at my feet
But instead of seeing it as it is, arrogance and insubordination you see
I am that woman with curves, looks and intellect
I am that woman…
I am not of the weaker sex.
© Obani Obodo
By Obani Obodo