As Women in Africa’s most populous nation use social media to highlight everyday sexism Yomi Adegoke says being a woman in Nigeria is radically different from being a woman from Nigeria.
Wherever we live in the world, and despite being banned from dating for the vast majority of our lives, the vast majority of Nigerian women are expected to be knocked up and locked down by 25.
A woman who burns the rice isn’t a woman at all – and whilst you can never be too covered up for your own good, you certainly can be too smart.
But it was when I was first chastised for wearing shorts on a family holiday in the sweltering heat of Nigeria’s summer that I realised the similarities as Nigerian women between mine and my female cousins’ experiences ended at the expectation we should all wash up plates we hadn’t actually used.
Whilst some patriarchal parts of the culture are easily transported overseas, others more specific to the country are as alien to younger members of the Nigerian diaspora as they are those with no connection to the country at all.
But an eye-opening education on that everyday sexism was offered yesterday via social media.
The hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria took over Twitter yesterday afternoon, with thousands of male and female participants sharing their experiences of gender inequality in Africa’s most populous nation.
#beingfemaleinnigeria means your parents have two extremes- stay in school and WHERE IS YA HUSBAND?
— PrincessTosynBucknor (@TosynBucknor) June 30, 2015
If you get pregnant before marriage, you’re useless.
If you don’t get pregnant after marriage, you’re useless.
— Bunny (@_Alphawoman) June 30, 2015
#BeingFemaleInNigeria “Your husband cooked? And you opened your mouth and ate the food? What kind of woman are you?”
— Bibiire o se f’owora (@yew1e) June 30, 2015
Started in an Abuja-based book club of 10 women and a handful of men, the group were discussing the month’s reading, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s essay Everyone Should Be a Feminist, an adaptation of her now famous, Beyonce-sampled TED Talk.
The talk swiftly turned to the rife sexism faced on a daily basis by women in Nigeria.
“We all started discussing our experiences, and then we thought, ‘This should go to a wider group'”, club member Florence Warmate told Buzzfeed News.
“If no one talks about it, it just escalates, and it becomes a normal thing that happens to everyone. So we wanted to spread this fire.”
The group agreed to start tweeting their experiences followed by the hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria at midday on Tuesday. Since its conception, it has now been used well over 17,000 times.
Nigerian women living outside the country also joined in, relaying tales of women-only curfews, the criticism faced for daring to leave a cheating spouse and the following accusations that they were to blame for the cheating in the first place.
As eye opening as the tweets were, the most important part of the hashtag is from whom it came: it’s refreshing to see a critique on the sexist nature of an African nation coming from those it actually affects.
For too long transatlantic discrimination has been discussed and viewed through a western lens, us tutting and sighing at inequality we aren’t yet rid of ourselves.
As they have made clear to their country, Nigerian women can speak for themselves, thank you very much – and if this hashtag is anything to go by, they intend on doing just that.