World Views 2018 End of Year Round Up

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.

Is Sexuality a Personal Matter?

I saw a strange message on the internet the other day (okay, I’ll admit it was a tweet; I saw it because I was on Twitter, like I said I wasn’t going to be anymore) which said that it is homophobic to say that a person’s sexuality, or to be specific homosexuality, is between that person and ‘their’ God.  At first the criticism struck me as a petulant extension of the definition of homophobia that seemed to insist  “Celebrate every part of my life at all times or you are a bigot!”.   Then I thought about it some more.  At worst, the criticised statement (about being gay and God) suggests that  it is patently wrong to have gay relationships or be gay, but far be it for anyone to say this aloud in these politically correct times.  It could even be seen as a sinister warning that the gay person will eventually find out whether their ‘lifestyle’ is wrong or right when they come face to face with their creator or at least leaving the gay person to battle the whole thing out with their conscience.

The most benevolent translation is that it is acknowledging that certain religious texts, including the Bible, appear to condemn homosexual relationships which of course seems massively unjust since people can’t help being attracted to members of their own sex any more than other people can help being attracted to members of the opposite sex.  The person saying it isn’t sure what the right answer is and is leaving it to the person that has the ‘problem’ – being both gay and a member of a faith which appears to condemn homosexual sex – and God.   It is also an indication that the person saying it is bored of the issue since they are probably never going to feel the urge to have gay sex and  do not intend to discriminate against or take a stand against (or for) gay people in general  – the live, let live and leave me alone in peace ‘lifestyle’.

Image result for gay couples

The obvious problem is that, like other minority groups, (some) gay people don’t just want to be tolerated in the strict sense, they want acceptance and after the persecution they have been and are still going through, some celebration would be nice, thank you very much.  Knowing that someone secretly thinks that their personal lives and a part of their identity may be wrong tends to make them grumpy, regardless of  how friendly that person is and how willing they are to spend time with gay people.

I don’t think it is completely analogous but I compare it to my interracial marriage.  It is rarely expressed to me but there are people who are not very keen on mixed marriages for a number of reasons. Apart from die-hard racists and hoteps (and idiots on Twitter who say they would rather ingest bleach than have a white boyfriend – except they put it more starkly than that), people worry for my husband, and other white men, that he is going to end up with ‘black children’ who presumably they feel that he will be unable to completely identify with on some level.  Image result for mixed race marriages

 

There are people who worry that the children will grow up to be culturally confused.  I’ve heard of  older black people who have had traumatic experiences with racism and aren’t therefore comfortable with interracial relationships and people who doubt both partners’ motives (e.g. the white partner has a fetish and feels he is doing the other partner a favour and the black person is trying forget her roots) .  The bottom line seems to be that, in a world where race is very much an issue, people think we are adding unnecessary complications to the already difficult tasks of marriage or long term partnership and raising children.

I know that these views exist and that some of them come from a more complicated place than pure unadulterated racism and I can sense that some people have unasked questions when I tell them my husband is white.  However, even knowing this, I would completely livid if someone actually voiced their doubts about our relationship now that we are already married – for instance, if they said “Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  Well I would have thought there would be obvious issues but I’ll leave it to you and Iain (and God) to sort out”.  I think this may be how  a gay person, who has come to terms with their personal life and their identity, feels like when someone announces to them that their sexuality is between them and God.

British Asians and the New Gatekeepers of Interracial Relationships

Speaking of interracial relationships, I am beginning to really dislike a common response to news that an Asian person  has started or is in a relationship with someone of a different race, which is immediately wondering  whether there can be any future in the relationship and whether the Asian person can prove they are not just messing the other person about until their suitably Asian spouse pops up from the ether. This wondering always seems to be by people  who themselves are not in and have never contemplated being in a relationship with someone of another race.

The stereotype is that there is some expectation and pressure on people from certain Asian groups to marry someone of their own race, religion, sometimes caste and sometimes from the region of the country that their predecessors came from.  The received wisdom is that if you are dating an Asian person, you need to take this into account and you may want to check their position on this before assuming that the relationship has the potential to lead something serious or permanent.

There may be some truth in this stereotype (leaving aside the grim stories of women who marry someone against their family’s wishes) and, although I don’t think Asians are more likely to lead anyone down a garden path than any other group of people, it is a conversation you may have to have provided that you are in the actual relationship.  Just like the conversations I have had with white guys who suddenly announced before our first date that they “don’t want cafe au lait kids, just-so-you-know” (it was the nineties; they can’t try it now) or who  jokingly asked about my immigration status, the implication being that a good looking woman of African origin, like I was, I couldn’t possibly be interested in them as anything other than a visa mule or African guys who wanted to ensure my women’s lib thing didn’t extend to not cooking on command if the relationship became serious.  Apparently, you’ve got to check these things sometimes.

However I am not sure how this has evolved into strangers or people who are not actually in the relationship – and as I’ve said, who have shown no inclination towards dating someone of another race  – having the gall to ask Asian people what the future holds for their relationship with someone of a different race.  A work colleague was recently harangued so at an office party.  “That’s interesting.” Woman she had only met that evening said ” So what’s the future for your relationship, then, what with you being Asian and that?”  It sounds like something out of seventies sitcom.  Come to think of it, this gumption hasn’t evolved at all.  It has been festering in the background waiting for Tony Blair’s New Labour and its stupid political correctness to go away.  It has been waiting for Trump and Brexit!

Also, say an Asian person does come from a family which has certain expectations in terms of who they partner up with and how.  Are they really an evil manipulator  for taking this into account when looking for a potential life partner?  Other members of society are permitted to consider race, class, and whether their new partner will get along with their family, friends and work colleagues.  Should an Asian person be obliged to, at the first whiff of good loving, rudely shun anything their family, culture or religion has to say about their future marriage to prove that “they are not the real racists after all”?  As long as they are honest about their intentions and the situation (like every other member of every other race always is at every time, as we all know), are they not allowed to take a balanced assessment of all relevant factors when deciding to who they want to settle down with?

I think I’m Becoming Transphobic….

I watched a disturbing video the other day.  It was of a trans woman, who did not even particularly look like a man in drag much less a woman, ranting and raving in a scary manner because she had been misgendered at a shop.  I am ashamed to say that the funniest part of the video was when she screamed about being referred to as ‘Sir’ when in her words “she was a woman” at this point she gesticulated to herself “obviously!!!“.  As someone in the comments section pointed out, what I and all the other transphobic shits found funny was the combination of her very manly or male presentation and her shrill desire to be recognised as a woman.  We almost felt like she should have been nowhere near that surprised that someone (a) called her ‘sir’ and (b) under the extremely loud verbal assault that followed, continue d to nervously stutter ‘sir’.  It was in America.  If I was ignorant and prone to stereotyping, I would guess that it was a part of America where if you heard a loud, angry, deep voice, your instinct would be to respond with a ‘Sir!’.

Image result for video angry trans woman store

That was the funny part.  The rest of the video was tragic and terrifying in equal parts.  It was guaranteed to bring out (and I guess this is why a fair number of people shared it) all the hidden fears about the ‘trans agenda’ including wondering, as one tweep did, if this is what a slightly built teenage girl would be faced with if she misgendered this woman, accidentally or not, in a women’s changing room before being beaten into a pulp and  whether this trans woman, and by extension many more who could be let loose in ‘women’s spaces’, was in fact a raging lunatic, therefore allowing for the conflation of violent manifestations of mental illnesses with the mental health based dysphoria that some claim causes people to be trans.

I personally thought it was the most magnificent display of male privilege that Chimamanda was villified for talking about.  At some point the trans woman talked about ‘taking it outside’ (Hollywood for inviting someone to a fight) to show the salesman just how much of a ‘sir’ she was.   Now there are cis women who are mad enough to invite a man to a physical fight but I think we can all agree that  men tend to feel more confident taking this course of action.  Not all trans women would be evenly matched in a fight against a man, not least because some of then have physically transitioned and not all males are as strong as each other, but this is one bit of male privilege that lingers in society.  It’s not just feeling that you don’t have to avoid provoking violence from men or initiating it, it’s having the confidence to know that if things continue not to go your way, you can beat anyone and everyone who is making life difficult for you (or at least have a good go).  One wonders whether the (trans) woman in the video was angry about something completely unrelated that had happened before she was filmed or had been misgendered several times and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back or had been on the internet practising and performing her ragey reaction to any future misgendering.

I avoided this watching this video for all of, mmm, let’s see, 20 minutes because I knew I would feel this way.  I started out on commenting on trans-issues when I was ignorant but fairly benevolent towards the movement.  I was for instance outraged that people suggested that trans women shouldn’t use women’s bathroom.  I went from curious but supportive to curious to confused to irritated to now seeking out the detail about the worst excesses of TRA actions for the sole purpose of delighting in how terrible it all is.

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.  Once in a while I’ll do a purge of the gender critical and radfem people I follow just to limit my exposure to debates about trans horror stories.  Like people who identify as gender critical, I claim not to  wish any trans person any harm and to want them to be happy and flourish (I still believe the rule should be they use the bathroom of the gender they identify with and that they are women with more fundamental differences with cis women than some are prepared to admit but women all the same) but the compassion is gone which is where I think that sustainable and true tolerance comes from.  There is no attempt to see things from their point of view.  And I find their writing annoying, from words they use  like “literally deny the basis of our right to exist” to other words like “are”.

I must fix that even though it is more fun to gasp and tut at the outrageous thing that the next TRA did or blame them for eroding my sympathy towards much more deserving trans people .  Regardless of what I end up accepting as biological fact, I want it to come from reason and not from irrational hatred.

Another thing about that video is the issue of overt  displays of male or, in this case, male presenting anger and the feelings it provokes in me.  The trans woman in the video kicked a couple of things and looked like she was going to attack someone for a short while.  However she didn’t.  And as far as I could see there was nothing stopping her but herself.

Now I can completely understand the fear of overt displays of male rage, especially the fear that it will turn into a physical attack and  and no salesperson or customer should have to put up with the kind of behaviour displayed in the video.  I think videos showing cis women screaming and ranting are shocking but a well built man bellowing is terrifying to watch and there is a good chance that witnessing it would send me scurrying into instant submission.  Women have been known to cease resisting assault on the basis of nothing more than a shouting man.

I think it is a real problem, displays of male rage, how intimidating it can be, what it can lead to, what is intended by the rager and how we react to them.   I just don’t have any clue of what the answer is.  People get angry – is it fair to assume that a man can’t control himself from physically attacking someone because he is visibly angry?  But what if he can’t, why should women or society take that risk?  Should a man always censor himself, having at the back of his mind that if he shouts someone is going to assume he will attack them?  Hmmm….investigations pending.

World Views Roundup: November/December 2018

Speaking of Twitter, I feel like I am addicted to it. I don’t know if I am but I cannot believe I ever thought it was acceptable to incarcerate addicts because ‘if you keep accepting their excuses, how will they ever learn?’.

Twitter Fights and the New Biology

Image result for twitter fight

A few weeks ago, I was dying to jump into a Twitter argument that went on for at least 48 hours. The only thing that stopped me was my staggering ignorance of the topic which was whether sex is a construct and/or a biological fact. Actually, another thing which has prevented me from entering into fights about trans-issues is that, while I’m willing to enter into theoretical debates about transpeople, I’m nowhere to be found when discussions of their persecution arise.

Anyway, during this debate, we, being feminists of West African origin, found a heretic among us, in the form of Twitter handle, @Omogedami, or as I’m going to call her for the rest of this article, ‘Dami’. Dami is an important voice in online feminism. Some people are blessed with passion; others with righteous anger and still others an ability to appeal to our emotional core. For me there is something about the type of tweep who can calmly (almost politely) and methodically take her opponent’s arguments apart, over the course of several days if necessary, that brings out the fan girl in me. It is immensely satisfying when she is fighting ‘on your side’.

This is all very well and good but unfortunately Dami is a heretic. She believes things like sex is a biological fact (described, I think, as biological existentialism  – a phrase with an almost infinite capacity to annoy) and that it is gender that is the problem. At the heart of her heresy is the fact that she does not believe that one has to be a qualified scientist to identify a female member of the human race. Others do. Another handle in the heat of the argument signed off one of her tweets with something like this ‘Sincerely, someone who holds a B.A. in Biological Science’ . I was itching to ask her when she obtained that degree and whether the degree covered anything to do with the recently transfigured biology regarding the sex as a spectrum, but alas I was not brave enough to join the fight.

Well, Dami, I see your heresy and I raise you this piece. Here is what I would have said (and probably regretted afterwards).

Yes, sex is a human construct. So is the chair I am sitting on. So is the thing on top of our head that we frequently call hair. Sex is a construct because humans are assigned one sex or the other based on our genitalia. They also decided one day that the thing on top of our heads and in various parts of our body is hair and that. depending on culture, some people should keep some on and remove some. They could have called it ‘the evil halo’ and mandated complete removal. A chair was put together and it was assigned the role of accommodating our bottoms to save us the stress of standing constantly.  That too is a human construct.

Sex is an essential classification/construct used to separate males from females. Before the days of theoretical online debates and advanced scientific discovery, someone took the gamble that those with penises are different from those with vaginas. And they were right. As Dami pointed out, there are fundamental biological differences between us and those differences dictate how successfully we can fight ‘the other ones’, how we respond to medical treatment, whether we can give birth or not, whether our bodies will produce milk for our babies and who, assuming equal training and skill, will probably win in a race that could lead to a sports scholarship.

I also agree that the intersex exception does not invalidate this classification.  I can now understand the argument that it is wrong to surgically or medically nudge intersex babies towards one of the sexes although I feel confident that I would have definitely agreed to it had one of my children been born intersex. I may set myself a heretical task. I’m going to find out whether people born with ambiguous genitalia have other sex indicators that point, in the majority, to one sex. Now, I know that male and female babies don’t look massively different, but are intersex babies a mish-mash of the sexes with chromosomes flying all over the place and if left to develop naturally, would they really grow up to be a complete mix of what we regard as male and female? Presumably yes, as hormones are also administered but we shall see.

A final word on sex. One contributor to the argument said that she knew someone with XY chromosomes who gave birth to a baby. She was lying (or misinformed). That didn’t happen.

Now on to gender. The consensus, on which all participants to the debate agreed, was that while the sex binary was debatable, the gender binary was bad. I’ve been very careful to avoid referring to gender above. I’ll have to check again because the truth is I use sex and gender interchangeably. I think most people do or at least did until very recently. I don’t talk about males and females, I talk about men and women, usually meaning males and females or even transwomen and transmen if I am not specifically discussing trans-issues. I don’t generally talk about people’s sex (which makes me think of sexual intercourse and also I feel I would cause some confusion and embarrassment two tables down if I start bellowing about ‘sex’ in a restaurant), I talk about their genders.

Here’s my real heresy. I don’t actually think the gender binary is bad in and of itself. Gender may be a construct but again it is a useful construct. I think the vast majority of people would identify themselves as either a man or woman. Even trans people do this and make considerable efforts to present as on or the other.

The first danger of the gender binary is excluding certain non-conforming people or using it as an excuse to persecute trans people. However that isn’t the inevitable result of using the gender binary as a reference point. I’m not sure how much you have to accept as ‘scientific fact’ to not be transphobic but I think a general understanding that while the gender is a useful classification system, the classing of people into boys and girls at birth isn’t the end of the matter is the minimum.

The second and more pervasive (in the sense that it affects me more, of course) danger, in my view, is the strata of sociological and behavioural traits that are attributed according to gender. This branch of ‘science’ has spurred entire industries made out of gendered toys and self-help books; female brains and men from Mars. I think for the most part, it is bollocks (no pun etc) and it has caused immeasurable harm.

I hope it goes away but there’s another new definition of men and women that has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with oppression. Discussion of gendered oppression is important and refusing to acknowledge the differences between trans and cis women can further that oppression. However I don’t agree that a woman is defined by oppressive history. Therefore although some transwomen do act with astounding male privilege, I don’t think that alone disqualifies them from womanhood.

The question I have is what was the purpose of this argument? Was it a scientific debate or is the suggestion that if you don’t agree with the latest re-arrangement of biology, passed down second or third hand through the internet, you are a transphobic bigot?  Is it necessary to replace what we know about human development, to believe that transwomen were literally born female, before we can accept the trans community? I can understand why, if what they are saying is true, an understanding of biology will remove the ‘freak, just a bored over-privileged man indulging a fantasy’ slur but judging from articles (e.g. https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58e1878be4b0ca889ba1a763/amp) I’ve read, what is out there is far from convincing.

Another heresy, this time against the feminists, is I can’t really see the inherent oppression against cis-women in redefining women to include people who identify as women. One fear is that (cis) women will be erased by the insistence that transwomen and cis women are exactly the same. I’ll have to think about that one. I’m not sure that realistically there is any danger that cis-women are going to be erased in the way some ethnic minorities have been done in the past . I think cis women will always be distinguishable from transwomen. Also, I’m still hopeful that ludicrous terms like ‘menstruators’ will quickly fall out of fashion.

The real danger, to me, apart from the thinking that says we must disregard and deny physical facts in order to avoid oppressing transwomen and that if we do not agree with this new biology, we are not just ignorant or wrong, we are bigots, is the tendency to conflate facts, evidence, emotion and feelings of ‘oppression’ when arguing about science or anything else. You can’t just say you disagree with something, you must consider the hierarchy of the right to disagree which is, in descending order:

  • whether it is your oppression

 

  • danger to women/children/minorities/trans or other vulnerable people;

  • effect on others’ rights;

  • intellectual or scientific reasons and finally;

  • moral or religious reasons

Could we not just accept that trans people exist and have a right to exist, free from persecution and with respect and dignity (and the lack of erasure and all the new woke phrases), and you know, agree that there some fundamental differences between them and cis-women which are sometimes worthy of consideration? At least on Twitter.

Twitter Addiction

Image result for twitter addiction

Speaking of Twitter, I sometimes feel like I am addicted to it. I don’t know if I really am but I cannot believe I ever thought it was acceptable to incarcerate addicts because ‘if you keep accepting their excuses, how will they ever learn?’. I’m now genuinely worried about it. It is sucking up my life, I do it when I don’t want to and I do it even when I know I’ll suffer for doing it the next day. I sometimes resent the presence of family  if it would stop me from ‘doing Twitter’. Whereas before I used to at least attempt to hide the fact that I checked Twitter at night, I now tweet, like and reply with wild abandon at odd hours. I’ve just done it now, in the middle of an article about my Twitter addiction.

I have made some efforts. I have deleted my account for about 1 ½ days after carefully checking that for 30 days, I could get it all back again. The plan was to return on day 21 (pffffft!), when I would be cured of my addiction . I’ve been told that if you can’t stop doing something for at least 21 days, you are addicted. I’ve locked my account for an even shorter period but re-opened it because some stranger just had to see my opinion on his abhorrent tweet. I have checked out books from the library and read a bit of them.

What to do? There are no treatment centres or no 12 steps as of yet that I know of. The harm is real. I’ve sat bleary eyed at meetings, talking nonsense and forgetting the names of the project or site we are talking about, other colleagues and even sometimes my own name. I’ve tweeted in traffic. Yes, you read that correctly. Not just scrolled but actually typed out long answers to debates in traffic (admittedly, it was slow moving traffic, but still). I have piles and piles of admin that have gone neglected because every second of ‘spare time’ in my life is filled with Twitter. I hardly read and am constantly missing school and nursery deadline.

Everything is there – the self-loathing, the whipped submission and the insatiable appetite. I am now supposed to be on a 7-9 pm Twitter diet (which is not working by the way) but sadly I think my only real option is to de-activate my account permanently in the New Year. I am not looking forward to it. The annoying thing is I can’t even say I’m quitting Twitter because it has become ‘too toxic’. People either ignore me or are more polite than I deserve. It has changed the way I speak and think. It’s not been all bad. I am more knowledgeable about many things and have had some opportunities, on one hand, but on the other hand, I now use the n-word (mostly, to myself).

I’ll be spending December blogging about my first attempt to moderate my Twitter use. If I get to it. I note that this is the 1 December and I have not blogged since the end of September.

Opting Out, Pulling Out And Discussions About The Reluctant Dad

In an ideal world, separated parents would just get on with it without any hard feelings or difficulties in communication.

 

Even before the recent exposè by the mother of his first child, Shola Ogudu,  we all suspected that Wizkid had more than a touch of arseholery about his person. His vicious half of the long-standing riff with Davido1, his use of sexually violent language in reaction to Linda Ikeji’s admittedly stupid and malicious reports about his living arrangements, his failure to show up for concerts without apology and the occasional slip in interviews demonstrated that his arseholery is very much informed by Nigerian-style sexism.

I think we ignored (for the most part) his little pop-ups of nastiness because of his talent, his unstoppable rise and his contributions to bringing ‘Naija to the World’. However the 10-page instagram post, which I have not read in its entirety, seems to reveal that he is or can be a cold, sneering, arrogant, narcissistic (Look at me now! I’m famous! I TOLD you the world – and you! – would bow at my feet one day. HA HA HA HA!’) man who uses his ex-girlfriend’s requests for financial upkeep and emotional support for his son to wield power over her, rarely sees his first son and is oblivious to the hurt it would cause the child to see him fawning over his other children in the circumstances.

Unfortunately, having listened to friends and family, read stories on social media and worked in the past as a court clerk for a family law practice, some of his behaviour is not uncommon. It is  probably many an embittered separated father’s fantasy to be able to tell a despised ex-partner  to sod off on a regular basis.  How many men, people, would love to do that with no apparent  consequences?

Some of it however, like his efforts to prove that his son (4 years old at the time) was not gay are so sociopathic and incredible that all I’ll say is this. If you are a Christian and you believe St Paul’s teaching about the fruits of the spirit and the extended version presented by some pastors, this would be a fruit of the kind of pathological homophobic ‘spirit’ which  exists in Nigeria. I doubt very much that it is any part of God’s plan.

The commentary to all the sensation and drama included the typical accusations of Shola trying to trap because he is or was rich (I believe he was a 19 year old struggling musician when she became pregnant but I could be wrong) or that she shouldn’t have had a child if she could not afford to care for the child without his help.

Image result for lion king prepare for sensational news

That last little gem was from feminists and sexists alike and ignored the fact that (1) he has an obligation to pay for the upkeep of his child  (2) it is very difficult, even in countries with free education and health care, to raise a child on a single income.  In fact this particular woman has done very well for herself considering her age and qualifications. (3) if married women’s incomes drop when they have children, what do we think happens to single mothers who don’t have Dad to hand the child(ren) to now and again?

I could go on but suffice it to say that a lot of the criticism strays from a sensible caution to women that, in reality, they are likely to bear the brunt of unplanned pregnancies in Nigeria to presupposing that Shola alone is to blame for the pregnancy and is predominantly responsible for the child.  Wizkid, it seems, should permitted to opt or dip in and out as his career demands.  Despite  being left with the care of the child and therefore less time to make any money, she has been labelled by some a gold-digging, manipulating, layabout  who expects Wizkid to pay for her existence.

Other people (the sensible ones) agree that Wizkid is really not trying but moving from the specific to the general, even with the best intentions, it is difficult bringing up a child with someone you are not with, who you may not like, may have had an acrimonious split with and whose motives you do not trust. Heck, what with parents being two completely separate human beings, it is sometimes difficult to co-parent a child when you are married to the person you love (I’ve lost track of whether the right phrase is ‘co-parent’ when the couple is together or whether it is reserved for separated parents?).

In an ideal world, separated partners would just get on with it without any hard feelings or  difficulties in communication. Both parents would have no interest in or feelings for the other which are unconnected to the welfare of child. Some of the debate I have seen does not acknowledge that this sometimes does not happen. I have mad theories!

Firstly there is the issue of feelings. I am not sure when they ended their relationship but their texts to each other seem very emotional, especially the ones from her. It is not clear whether she just wants a more cordial relationship where he doesn’t bark-text orders at her, she feels that pleading with him and trying to appeal to his conscience will make him actually perform his duties and would make her son feel less abandoned or she wants something more. I would be very surprised if it is the third, especially with his other children, and the fact with each new partner, he moves further and further away from his local dating pool. However one cannot underestimate the social, religious and cultural factors that would encourage her to keep trying to revive a relationship with her child’s father.

Wizkid, on the other hand,  claims to be emotionless but seems to be very resentful of her presence, upset with her, even and punishing her for something. You get the feeling that he wants her to just disappear but is simultaneously deriving some kind of perverse pleasure from her distress.

I can’t deny that a part of me wants Shola (it feels presumptuous to call her by her first name but I’m not going ‘Ms. Ogudu’ my way through this piece like some kind of court reporter for the Vanguard Newspaper) to abandon all attempts at friendliness or even cordiality and be more business-like but I can’t say what effect that would have on Wizkid, her or her child.

This is I suspect not unusual. Even with all intentions of being unemotional, you are likely to be affected by someone you have had a close relationship with. You will be hurt when they are being deliberately hurtful and you may even misinterpret them when they are not. You cannot take a pill and make yourself feel nothing.

On the actual co-parenting, even couples that live together have different views on how to raise a child. However, they at least have the opportunity to discuss and dissect each other’s views. They have enough access to each other to understand where the other person is coming from, if they choose to make the effort. When they are not living together it may be more  difficult to understand why the other person is taking the stance that they are. With the potential for argument,  they may not have the time or inclination to sit down with the ex and dissect their views.

Their priorities are different, as well.  If you are living at home with the child, the home, bills, education, clothes etc are staring you in the face; forcing you to take notice. You notice when the heating goes off or the air conditioner is on the blink or when junior is running around in too-short trousers. Things like that are a bit more remote, I would imagine, when you live away from home.

Image result for bear necessities

Take the example of a (fictional, more amiable) pop star and his ex-girlfriend and child. He may think it is better to invest money in a business opportunity on the basis that it may pay off later making everyone better off. She is aware of domestic needs that have to be taken care of now. He has to take her word for it. He may be distrustful or just not trust her judgment. They never have the chance to have an in-depth conversation about it. It’s difficult. One party often ends up feeling short-changed even though both parties feel they are doing their best. You also have factor in that the non-resident parent may have another home, partner and even children to be concerned with.

Another example is hearing through the airwaves that pop star dad has earned so and so for a concert or other deal.  He may know how much that deal is worth in real terms and how much he gets to take home and how much he has to pay out. All she may know is what everybody knows and what his management wants the world to know in an effort to increase his hype and therefore his value.  I’ll just add that like every other sensible person out there I believe that his child support payments should be commensurate to the paying parent’s wealth; conversely, the courts and I agree that if the paying parent is a low earner, they shouldn’t be driven to destitution by the requirement of an arbitrary level of support.  What I have seen is men who are so indignant that any money paid will pass through the child’s mother’s hands and may be used on some things that indirectly benefit the child like energy bills, rather than things that the child uses directly, that they refuse to work.  It’s a sad, angry world out there.

Then there is the thorny issue of the man who thinks that the woman should have had an abortion and is resentful that she did not. Abortion is not an easy topic for me but I think practically and in terms of the balance of harms, the woman should choose. I also recoil at the idea that a man or even society can demand that women have abortions for any reason. Firstly, having an abortion is an issue fraught with emotional, physical and practical difficulties and secondly, just no!

Forcing a woman to abort  is at least as subjugating as forcing her to carry a pregnancy through. It may not be technically fair but she should choose in this imperfect scenario. And a man ought not to be able to opt out of caring or providing for the child just because he doesn’t agree with her choice because they are both responsible for creating the baby. It’s not as if she gets off scot-free. She is likely to be left with a lion’s share of the care as well actually birthing and nursing the child.

However, I do acknowledge the ill-feeling that a man can have, when this decision is taken out of his control. Yes he should have been more careful with the protection.  They both should have been but the argument that if Wizkid did not want a child with the incumbent permanent relationship with the mother, acceding to her every request in exactly the way she wants him to, he should not have had sex is dangerously close to the one that says Shola should not have had sex or had a child if she was not prepared to be abandoned by him (and a little postscript note, from my memories of sex-ed, ‘pulling out’ is not the contraceptive miracle that some people on social media seem to think it is).

It’s a difficult situation. I myself am in a position where I am financially responsible for someone who I feel made a series of avoidable and unwise decisions that caused the current situation (and I’ve failed to help out with a sibling’s child but that’s another story). I do not think that this is comparable to Wizkid’sand Shola’s situation by any stretch of the imagination. The only similarity is that at some point you have to pull yourself together, do what you can and stop being an arse. I think I spent far too much time being resentful and grumpy about my situation. The other difference is that a child is involved – the only party who is truly devoid of responsibility for the situation – and a reality which cannot be wished away, no matter how badly a parent acts, and which should be the priority.

So, in conclusion, I’m annoying. Just kidding. In conclusion, it is difficult to take care of a child, whether or not you are in a loving relationship with the other parent.  The fact that I can never escape or even take a break from parenthood occasionally fills me with panic.

It is probably more difficult to co-parent when the romantic relationship with the other person has broken down.   I acknowledge that past experiences, hurt and feelings cannot be instantly erased. However, the right thing to do is decide to focus on the well-being of the child. I say this but I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone to decide to do the right only for the other party to continue acting like a Wizk…I mean, a dolt. Even if that is achieved, it may still be difficult and fraught with miscommunications, differing priorities and hopefully moments of joy and love and definitely memories that cannot be replaced. That’s all really except that Wizkid may still be an arse at time of publication but can choose to have some class and dignity and rise up to the occasion.

1During the said beef, Davido was heard saying things like ‘I heard he doesn’t like me. I don’t know what I ever did to him. I just try to be nice to everyone and concentrate on my music. Well if he doesn’t like me, I don’t like him either. I don’t need him to like me…’ to which Wizkid responded “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Frog Face!’ apparently striking at the heart of Davido’s insecurities.

Without Form and Void by Iain Lovejoy

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) or on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17).

I am a Christian; I believe in God and the Bible, but I also accept the overwhelming scientific, geological and genetic evidence that the Earth is several billion years old and that life on it, including us, evolved from the most basic of forms over those billions of years.

Actually no, that’s not quite true: I don’t just “accept” it as an inconvenient fact to be worked round so I can keep right on believing my fairy stories1: I embrace it as a revelation of God’s purpose and a fundamental ground of my faith.

creation

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth isn’t a circle (in the sense of being a circular disc – Isaiah 40:22) and fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17). The authors and compilers of the Bible knew full well that in describing creation they were delving into mysteries they knew little about. Their purpose was not to write a science textbook but to use and adapt the then conventional description of creation to deal with what the Bible is always and ever about: the saving power and plan of God in the world. If you don’t get too hung up on the standard tropes of ancient Near East creation myths, Genesis 1 and 2 are basically the evolutionary story.

Genesis 1 as an evolutionary narrative

In Genesis 1:1-2, we are not told of a world formed whole in its final form, but one which progresses, in which each new stage is formed from and developed out of the last. It starts with a description of the heavens and the earth at the moment of their creation: dark, formless and void. If you read with an understanding of Hebrew grammar, the whole of Genesis 1:1-2 is arguably scene-setting, not narrative, and one may read:

In the beginning when God had created the heavens and the earth, when the earth was empty and waste, when there was darkness on the face of the deep, and God’s Spirit flitted across the surface of the sea, then God said…“ (my translation from the Hebrew text)

And after which the narrative begins.

The author then deliberately has God halt at each stage and admire his handiwork and pronounce it good, and has time pass before he continues: “and evening came and morning came, one2 / a second / a third day etc”. They describe a continuing development of greater order and higher orders of being culminating in the creation of man. Although the author cannot have known the sequence or detail, he has intuitively seen a progression being played out of ever more complex order which we can now begin to grasp in our study of cosmology and evolution.

Genesis 2 as the fall of man

Genesis 23 must be seen as a companion piece to Genesis 1, not a straightforward continuation of the narrative. The authors / compilers of the Bible were not stupid: they must have known perfectly well that Genesis 1:11-12 had already introduced growing plants and 1:20-22 and 24-25 animals before 1:26-28 introduced man, and that Genesis 2 restarts and reverses the sequence, but they did not care. The new story shifts the focus from the whole of creation to man specifically; the details are conventional.

In Genesis 1’s overall narrative arc, the Eden narrative takes place at day 6 when the developing Earth at last produces man as a conscious, thinking being.

Genesis 2-3 is in fact is the story of Israel transformed and universally applied to mankind. The man (Israel) is chosen to be God’s image in the world, is given a beautiful land to dwell in but is exiled from it (as warned) because he has not obeyed God. If this story is to work as an archetype for Israel, Eden must be, like the land of Israel, a special place set aside (and walled off) for the man, and the man must be a creature chosen from out of the rest of God’s creatures for God’s own special purposes.

fall of man 2

The story tells us man is a creature formed from the dust as a creature amongst creatures, but chosen as a race to be God’s image to the world. When he opens his eyes in understanding looking on creation God has built it as a garden for him, until he falls into sin, when he is thrown back into the life and death evolutionary struggle God raised him up to escape from.

The fall of man in Genesis 3 as a figure for creation’s fall

Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To truly know and understand both good and evil must be to be able to contemplate both and choose either: to possess conscious free will. The price for this is that life should not be be eternal perfection but a struggle for resources until death (3:18-20) and to continue on in the next generation in one’s offspring, which Eve will now struggle forth (v16) as the mother of all living things (v21).

If Adam and Eve are taken figuratively for not just the first humans but also for infant creation as a whole, then Genesis 2-3 is not just compatible with evolution, it confirms it: it is natural selection, the struggle of life through the generations, that allows free-willed conscious beings to evolve.

(And there is no doubt that, like Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, Genesis 2-3 is a story, figure, a parable: the authors have left a talking snake in it, for heaven’s sake, how much more of a clue do you need?)

The Seventh Day

If we read in the light of the “book of creation”, the natural world and evolutionary theory, in Genesis 1’s overall scheme we are in day 6, and day 7, when God rests from his perfected work, is yet to come. Reading the Bible through the evolutionary lens, I see mankind as God’s image on Earth, ensouled beings capable of knowing and responding to their creator, responding not only on our own account but as representatives and head of the great sea of life from which we emerge. We are the product but also aim of evolution, as Christ is the end product and perfection of mankind. We were made to evolve into an ever-closer connection with God, and to raise up creation with us, striving towards that glorious seventh day when all will be perfected and at peace.

Iain Lovejoy

1 © Someone On The Internet

2 In Hebrew verse 5 says “one day”, not “the first day”

3 Strictly speaking Genesis 2:4 onwards

IMG_0374

Worldviews On Holiday: Another Celeb Obsessed Post

Wake me up when they start asking Nigerian male celebrities if they are feminists or whether they ‘believe in feminism’.  Until then, #freetiwa, please.

We’re back from our lovely holiday which included a trip to a Cornish hospital with a torn cornea, a conversation with a taxi driver about how to keep intimacy alive when you have small children, magicians, a children’s disco and shedloads of wine.  I’ve also been on Twitter.  A lot.  So much so that I’m definitely taking a break (soon).

IMG_20180809_100708

IMG_20180808_131242.jpg
To demonstrate that Iain is unable to take a bad picture, he was very hungry and grumpy when I insisted on this selfie.

Abandoning all protocol and pretense at sanity, I’ve been sliding in and out of people’s mentions like James Brown and tweeting and liking in the early hours of the morning.  I’ve made political tweets about Great Britain and Nigeria and have been sarcastic at a celeb!  I started writing this post when I was told (in a display of admirable restraint) by a high ranking tweep to go away.

IMG_20180810_121834
Just so you know we weren’t in the back garden the whole time

If nothing else, publishing this post means I can finally end the pin/unpin dance with my last article which went something like this:

Day One:  Pin to Twitter profile

Day Two  (‘Ah Tracy, this is all a bit harsh.  What if he reads it?  What if his mother reads it…?): Unpin

Day Three (‘Ok, it took me a long time to write this post.  I’m keeping it pinned for 7 days and then I’ll take it down.  I owe it to myself’):  Pin

Day Seven (4:05 am in the morning ‘Well that’s that.  I’ve done my bit to spread awareness):  Unpin

Same day (about 13 hours later, having watched a YouTube clip where he said he has a ‘personal problem with prostitution’, full of premenstrual ragey hormones and Aldi white wine.  ‘Right! The post can bloody well stay on my profile page!’):  Pin – more about this mad reaction below.

Day 11: (‘Cripes.  He’s in the Independent.  Better take it down.  I don’t want to be outed as the misguided hater of a young revolutionary’): Unpin

Day 12: (‘Oh look, I have a new follower.  Why should he be deprived of my brilliance? Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it’): Pin

I’ve also formed many opinions on trending topics.

#FreeTiwa

What is the point of asking Tiwa Savage the exact same question about feminism, which she answered in a Beat FM interview less than a year ago, other than to rile up women and feminists everywhere and subject us once again to the tedious debate on whether or not women are allowed to ‘choose’ not to be feminists?  Wake me up when they start asking Nigerian male celebrities if they are feminists or whether they ‘believe in feminism’.  Until then, #freetiwa, please.

tiwa

If  Olamide or Burna Boy were asked the same question,  would it result in one of those lengthy laughing sessions that constitute one of the most annoying sounds on radio?  We all but swoon a male celebrity replies that he can’t really cook, but can manage one dish, despite him saying previously that  he won’t accept anything less than a wife who earns lots of money.

I can’t see us making Nigerian male celebrities nail their colours to the mast on feminism, but, contrary to the way it’s treated, it is not just a women’s issue.  It is about equality all round and requires men’s participation.  Men are (in Nigeria) the principal beneficiaries of the sexist system, dish out majority of the gender-based harm and, apart from  having and implementing ideas which keep women at a disadvantage, have majority of the power so it’s even more relevant to ask them this question.

Out of curiosity, are there any feminist male celebrities in Nigeria?  I’m hopeful about DJ Spinall, not because I’ve ever heard him say anything about women’s issues but because when he was asked about gay marriage once, specifically the nationwide status granted by President Obama, and he replied “it’s all love.”

I’m not sure that he’s ready to burn his bra yet but Adekunle Gold tweets and writes like he regards women to be fully human. It may have something to do with the fact he has a female manager.  There’s the lovely MI of course and the somewhat shaky-in-his-feminist beliefs Banky W.  We don’t ask male Nigerian celebrities if they are feminist but we are shocked (shocked!) when Tiwa repeats views which she has already made clear that she holds (heck, even I wrote a critical article about  the BeatFM interview).

I don’t believe the narrative that women habitually pull other women down, are their own worst enemies, always fight each other etc but I think sometimes we could stand to consider things a bit more carefully before we take the bait.  We can’t be tiptoeing around male rappers and singers who produce consistently sexist music (‘oooooh, I really like him but don’t you think his last 34 songs were a bit…off?’) and lose our collective cool when a female politician or artist agrees with patriarchal ideology into which we have been indoctrinated since at least colonialism.

I say colonialism because some people seem to think that pre-colonialism, most of Africa was a gender-equal paradise.  I remain skeptical.

A Personal Problem With Prostitution

I’ve pontificated about my mixed views on  prostitution many, many times.  I won’t repeat them here except to say I seem to always feel the need to caveat my support for legalising sex work  so people won’t think I’m one of those overly woke people who that think such work is the equivalent of working in McDonalds.

I’ll also say that my views are centered around harm to women individually and as a group.  However, when someone has a personal problem with prostitution and that problem only manifests in shaming and ridiculing women involved in whatever form of transactional sex – but mostly the sugar baby/runs girl variety where women tend to have more agency –  and does not include:

  1. bashing the men who participate in transactional sex or men who use money as a way of attracting sexual attention;
  2. addressing the problem of women being forced into transactional sex by, for example, lecturers who demand sex for grades (or more precisely not unjustifiably failing a woman), or employers who harass their female employees into sex with them or clients;
  3. addressing the entitlement to sex after money is spent on a woman;
  4. addressing the socio-economic reasons why women are drawn to sex work and linking them to their hatred of sex work; or
  5. acknowledging that women carry out real crimes – embezzlement, murder, human trafficking – instead of treating sex work as the most predominant ‘crime’ committed by women.

then, to use Adichie’s reasoning, that person doesn’t have a problem with sex work, they have a problem with women and particularly women having agency and real choices as to transactional sex.

Hating sex workers is wrong and sociopathic but not liking sex work is not necessarily sexist.  It’s all in the detail and the reasons (perhaps 5 generations ago, his ancestors were attacked by a vicious crazy prostitute and her 30 cats.  It could have nothing to do with the usual pseudo-religious and patriarchal reasons).

However, it’s probably more likely  to do with the way we have been conditioned to blindly demonise sex workers, and by extension women we consider to be ‘loose’, and be indifferent to or even sympathise with men who we believe to be caught up in their wiley snares.   All it takes for a nice, intelligent man to have an irrational hatred of prostitution, that only manifests against the women who sell sexual services, is a failure to examine his view of gender roles when it comes to controlling sexual behaviour.

RIP to the Queen

Chain of Fools, Never Loved A Man, See-Saw, Sweet, Sweet Baby, The Night Time, Think, Oh No, Not My Baby, Good Times, Don’t Play That Song, This is the House that Jack Built – I’ve screeched my way through too many Aretha songs not to feel a sharp jolt when I read about Ms. Franklin’s death  (on Twitter).  She is absolutely fantastic and like others have said before me, as well as having an incredible voice, is an exceptional vocalist and musician.  And I’m only just learning about her role in the Civil Rights movement.  Rest in peace, Aretha!  You will be missed and your legacy will continue forever.

Child of the World: Misogyny or A Massive Overreaction?

The thing with rape and sexual assault is, for whatever reason, you are either full of rage about it or you are not. The rage is neither good nor bad and it is not an indication of whether or not you support rape culture or how woke you are. For as long rape continues, the rage will remain. It will be right there alongside us angrily analysing gender politics and rape culture, whenever anybody, be it a stupid comedian telling rapey jokes or a pious rapper, decides to settle on the topic.

Introduction

So, a couple of weeks ago, Falz released his music video for Child of World. I read the lyrics (https://genius.com/Falz-child-of-the-world-lyrics) when the album ’27’ came out last October  and I was so put out by them that I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the song. I wrote a couple of bad-tempered unpublished posts and moved on. I read a few similar posts but most people hailed it as the most socially valuable song on the album.

Now that the video has been released, previous grumblings about Falz’s alleged misogyny, particularly in relation to his numerous songs about the evils of ‘runs girls’ have turned into loud, vocalised outrage. I was a bit gratified that other people have noticed this but  tried to contribute to the conversation in what I hope was a reasonable and even-handed manner.  Unfortunately I just happened to read the lyrics again and filled with fresh rage, have decided that now is the time to write the objective article that I vowed not to be distracted into writing.

Social Media Wars

Predictably, with the Falz dissent came Falz’s super-fans, ferociously in support of someone they deem to be the most ‘socially conscious’ musician in Nigeria. I don’t really understand why there is such a burden on Nigerian artists to produce conscious music or how this will make Nigeria a better country but there you have it. I can understand their outrage, if I’m being honest. Falz is a brilliant rapper and I too feel a constriction in the throat area whenever I think that people are criticising him unfairly. The fact is some people think that he’s a genius and, like Beyonce’s fans, feel real emotion when he is being attacked.

However, I was astonished that respected feminists and allies also praised and couldn’t see the problems with the song. They were conspicuously silent during the short period of backlash and counter-backlash. You can always tell a good debate by the number people who feel compelled to keep quiet to avoid being caught up in a mob – that’s what I say. Other people also expressed genuine bafflement at the outrage.

Incidentally I have kept a tally, in terms of likes and retweets, between Team Falz and Team ‘Falz Is A Sexist Little Shite’. Team Falz is winning judging by the retweets although there is a sneaky Team FIASLS tweet which may have more retweets than the most popular Team Falz tweet but I’m not sure I should count it as it doesn’t mention Falz by name. I am aware that this is not the most accurate way to judge the competition since sometimes people retweet to mock rather than endorse the original tweet.  However, I think any further analysis of the tweets would mean my descent into madness over this issue has finally become irreversible.

The Hard Questions

So! Is the song sexist? Is Falz sexist? Why are we so invested in the answers to these questions? Also, what is it about mild-mannered Falz that occasionally evokes such frenzied bursts of public outrage? Tracy investigates…..

The Lyrics and Story

Okay, the lyrics are graphic and triggering (I have hesitated to say this out loud because I don’t want to sound like I’m censoring his art) and the storyline is so clichéd that it would make a 1990s Nollywood director blush but is there anything actually wrong with the song? Is Falz not entitled to tell a story, dumb it down and sensationalise it as he sees fit like anyone else?

I will freely admit that very few fictional accounts of rape pass muster for me in terms of whether the triggering is justified by the story or message. I didn’t like it when Adichie dropped a rape scene into Half of Yellow Sun and I ain’t going to like it when Karashika Boy drops one into an album but even taking into account my personal bias, I do think that some of the lyrics are extreme (and by extreme I mean vile and disgusting) and I find it hard to explain why:

Uncle please stop…Shhh be silent Uncle didn’t stop till he broke the hymen”

“She don dey look for the thing she dey resist before
She never had a daddy figure so she need the love (?)
Uncle peter don create a beast he can’t tame the storm (???????)
She like make e rough, she can’t have enough
She met some ladies wey go like rub shoulder
On some quick business with a high turnover
Say if you ride the stick, you go ride range rover”

The first line above sounds like the imaginings of a rape by someone very unfamiliar with the topic with the kind of detail that can be harmfully triggering or be turned into a rape fantasy. It would take an extremely good point to justify such detail and as it turns out the song almost has no point at all.

Also, what the heck does “Shola ti mature, gbogbo body ti di large size” mean in English? Surely he hasn’t thrown in a reference to the victim’s figure. Not in a song about rape. Please tell me he hasn’t.

It appears that director Kemi Adetiba has tried to make something more out of the song by including captions  like ‘rape is never the victim’s fault’ in the music video. Well, who but a complete idiot could think that this particular rape was the victim’s fault? She was in her room, in the house she lived in when a trusted relative forced himself on her.

I once watched a trailer of a Nollywood film or series where a woman, played by Adesua Etomi (W), appeared deranged by her desire for a married man. She made it clear to all and sundry, including his wife, that she intended to continue a sexual relationship with this man for as long as she wanted to. She stalked the couple and subjected the man to unwanted sexual attention (it turns out that any sexual attention from your mistress in front of your wife is almost always unwanted – go figure). The characters ended up in a criminal court case as Etomi’s character accused the man of raping her when they were alone somewhere.

I don’t understand the jump from pursuing an affair to the rape allegation and of course, nothing, including any previous sexual relations between the victim and the rapist, negates the necessity of consent. However I can understand how this story could, in Nigeria, start some kind of discussion on how rape is never the victim’s fault. A man creeping into his niece’s room, on the other hand, is a bit bloody obvious!

As the lyrics above illustrate, the terrible thing that the victim becomes is a person who (1) likes sex (with the added unnecessary detail that he means rough sex – whatever the heck that means) and (2) starts to have sex for money which results in abortions and an HIV infection. She doesn’t, for instance, become the kind of person who empties a machine gun magazine into a crowded theatre.

I have no doubt that being sexually assaulted can have a traumatic effect on a person and may even change their sexual behaviour but the fact that he chose these fairly common things and doesn’t explain how they are inherently wrong to make his grand contribution to the issue of sexual assault makes for a very unimportant and clichéd tale and shows his warped thinking on the subject.

People have pointed out other aspects of the song. The girl laments that she has let her mother down when it is she who  has been let down by relatives. Nothing is heard of the uncle but of course the story follows such an obvious line that the missing detail about the uncle can only be a flash Christian conversion and the uncle clutching his wife’s knees, wailing that he will ‘never follow devil again’ before gratefully accepting a large plate of jollof rice from her. No, not jollof rice, it has to be some kind of starch and soup, eaten with his hands to show his astounding humility.

Falz is entitled to tell any story he wants to and the path from good girl to runs girls to abortion and HIV to activist is, however implausible and unevolved, just a story. One reason for the anger, I suspect, is that it reinforces what people think of as a sympathetic rape victim – virgin, not fraternising with strange men etc – therefore not disturbing people’s comfort with seeing a so-called bad girl being harmed. Worse than that, it attempts to distinguish the characteristics of a good girl and bad girl based on the very flawed assumption that a woman is to be judged as good or bad  by her sexual behaviour.

Gender Issues

The song touches on four very important gender issues and reduces them to a hodge-podge of mawkish sentimentality, pity and judgment, I’m afraid. Social media informs us that so many people are dealing with memories of sexual assault and abuse. It happens at every age, every where and to every type of woman with various degrees of sexual experience and values. Rape is not committed just by monstrous uncles but by thousands of young men who think that a girl stepping over the threshold of their house is the equivalent of signing an irrevocable consent form and men who think that buying a girl food or paying her bride price grants them  inalienable rights over her body. Falz knows this – he appears to be good friends with Nigerian comedians who advance and joke about these ideas. It’s committed by school boys who have made a pact with each other and lecturers who threaten to fail women who won’t have sex with them.

I don’t expect him to rap about rape culture (what a fun song that would be) but I expect him to speak about rape as if he understands that rape culture exists or not to speak about it at all. We don’t all become runs girls, we don’t all require redemption. We don’t live our lives completely driven by the experience and the most basic research could have shown Falz this. If we did, a high percentage of Nigerian women would be non-functional. It is always there in the background and in the forefront as we hear of more and more stories of rape; as nothing seems to be getting better. We don’t need someone telling us to ‘rise above our circumstances’, we need society to buy into concentrating on making it stop.

As to runs girls, there are conversations about agency and transactional sex and whether marriages and our more conventional sexual relationships have an element of the transaction about them. On abortions, conversations about reproductive rights. There is an entire television series on HIV and safe sex. There was no need for and no value to this triggering nonsense.

The Man Himself

I’ve watched quite a few Falz interviews and listened to a lot of his music because I am a fan. The most obvious thing which is now being pointed out about is his obsession with runs girls. This song might have passed under the radar if (1) Someone else sang it (2) Falz didn’t turn the victim into a runs girl and spend an entire verse lamenting the evils of the runs girls lifestyle or (3) he didn’t decide to make such a big, bloody production of it all.

When I started listening to Falz, I did notice his contempt for runs girls and women who didn’t fit his definition of a good woman – women who bleach for instance. At first I assumed he just thought that it was a clever thing to write about. That such women were an easy target and perhaps he didn’t expect to be challenged on it in sexist Nigeria . To be honest, I didn’t really expect him to be a feminist. If all Nigerian entertainers were feminists, that would probably be an indication that the gender issues in Nigeria are not as dire as they are made out to be. In my naiveté, I compared him to American rappers who wax lyrical about bitches, hoes and harming women who don’t behave

However the lyrics seem to be getting worse, as with Lekki Girls and even comedy rap Faize Yi, and it does make me wonder whether there isn’t something more to it. Also, I’ve noticed that it is frequently in the background of some of his non-runs girls songs – the girl he loves who doesn’t ‘drop for the cake’; the workaholic who ‘prices her body’ in the evenings.

I don’t know what his issue is with runs girls is.  It is however noteworthy (has been noted in fact on Twitter) that the male characters in his songs are often wildly promiscuous and don’t, according to him, require similar bashing or an idiotic backstory to justify their actions.

Actually contrary to the various rumblings about him and his mates and runs girls (said with startling confidence), he seems to have very specific standards for women that he would consider dating. These interviews , (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBBd-viX4hM, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ8Hnavvo5Q) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZKJlLNZNTk, show that he is blasé about his observations that ‘body count’ is a matter that is judged differently between men and women. Also, he appears to be highly suspicious of Nigerian women who aren’t themselves rich. The interview with Beat FM contains (just in case you can’t be bothered to watch it all) a long, self indulgent whine about why he is still single and the state of Nigerian women.

He is put out that women he meets often want to be openly associated with his fame or (and even I was shocked when he described this behaviour) want him to appear in their SnapChat stories!!! Even asking is indicative of deviousness. My conclusion from watching the video is that he requires a prospective girlfriend, upon meeting him, to focus immediately on the inner him (who she doesn’t really know much about) and put out of her mind any thought of his fame, wealth and talent (which apparently aren’t part of the real him). A woman who expects him to spend money on her is a no-no. Very idealistic in a country where women are sexually harassed, discriminated and shamed, for not being wifely enough, out of money making opportunities.

His open contempt towards runs girls is unfair and demeaning to them. It encourages us to think of them as less human – the hop to deserving of harm and not deserving of sympathy is not a long distance. It is also harmful to women in general. Imagine, if you will, a white singer who constantly sings about the bad things he thinks goes on the black community. Oh, but he is not singing about all black people – only the ones he thinks are bad. Would that have the effect of demonising and dividing the entire community or not?

There really isn’t that much to link between being raped and being a runs girls. And being a runs girl isn’t the evil thing that Falz thinks it is. I personally don’t think it’s great and I certainly wouldn’t want us to concentrate so much on protecting the validity of sex work that we accidentally leave swathes of women with this as their only career option (“I don’t know what she is complaining about? How is it different from working in, say, a Nigerian commercial bank?” How indeed.) but there really is a better discussion to be had about it before he plonks it in the middle of his moralising song.

Another thing I’ve noticed from his interviews is that his activism isn’t accidental. It’s highly unlikely that he is going to say that he was just telling a story in Child of World. The screenshots I’ve seen of the video, complete with the trite captioning and his outspread arms, definitely give the impression of spreading a message. But even if it did not, when asked about the song a Pulse Magazine interview, he made it clear that he wanted to speak about the societal problem of sexual abuse. He didn’t do a bad job in the interview- https://www.pulse.ng/entertainment/music/falz-rapper-talks-about-27-album-m-i-abaga-s-fix-up-your-lives-more-interview-id7532629.html. The only glitch was when he said the “upside” of it all is that sexual assault victims can always “bounce back”. Apart from being hopelessly inept phrasing, yes we do survive but we still think it’s a terrible thing and we still want it to stop happening to other women.

The interviews about ‘This is Nigeria’ also shows how serious he is about being an activist (as stated in this critical article about Falz – https://thenerveafrica.com/19168/woke-falz-this-is-nigeria/). In his view, things are messed up in Nigeria, people like him need to talk about these things and anyone who disagrees with him is guilty of something- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1HjXdELuhM and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6u-ELxvWlM. It’s just that sometimes he, and other well-to-do socially conscious young Nigerians, get it wrong.

His detractors have asked him to concentrate on Yahoo boys instead of runs girls and his supporters have retorted that he has taken shots at Yahoo boys actually. Firstly, he talks about runs girls about 78 billion million more times than he talks about yahoo boys. Secondly, when he talks about Yahoo boys or other poverty driven crimes, his thinking is still confused.

He was lambasted for some very mild comments about praising known fraudsters in music in June 2017 and since then he’s spoken and sang about the topic more boldly. Fraud is of course bad and rich Nigerians seem to be aware of the need to make some kind of reference to political leaders who put Nigeria in the position that it is in. However they happily conflate all the issues and conclude that if everyone would just stop stealing, then everything would be alright. But it wouldn’t, would it? The rich will still have their loot and the poor will starve to death.

Peep the pearl clutching in his interview with Wazobia Max, linked above, – Do you mean to tell me that people actually commit property and theft crimes in a poor country with a chronic lack of opportunity??? Who would have thunk it?.The song ‘Confirm’ tells us how how you can go from being a plantain seller to flying first class if you hustle honestly but in reality, this is very difficult even in a relatively stable country and this kind of thinking in Nigeria is the reason why people give all their money to rogue churches in hope of ‘breakthroughs’ and ‘blessings’.

Falz is obviously very passionate about some real issues and I generally try not to be critical about his efforts especially in light of  the unnecessary pressure on Nigerian singers to be overtly political. Unfortunately, I don’t really believe, I can’t believe having read the lyrics to Child of the World, that rape is one of those issues. I think this song is the worst combination of his excesses – the desire to write a worthy song mostly for the sake of appearing ‘socially conscious’, too little research to convince me that he has any real interest in this subject, his failure to examine his own gender bias and his sometimes deficient activist tactics.

Why does it bother me/us so much?

Okay, I don’t like the song but why do I feel unreasonably aggrieved when somebody else likes or praises it. One obvious reason is Falz’s influence. He is not as popular as some of the other Afrobeat entertainers but people take him very seriously. He is at pains to emphasise his legal qualifications, perhaps because he uses poor people’s accents to promote his art. I see tweets demonising women for asking for ‘Something Light’, for being Karishikas (such a vague concept that it could include virtually any woman) or for being a ‘Lekki girl’. It’s even more disheartening because of his good guy image.

Also, I’m annoyed that, in his eagerness to cover every topic that he’s not qualified to cover, he could not take some time to do the basic research to dismantle rape culture just a little bit before producing this ridiculous song. Most of all, I’m glad some attention has been brought to his shortcomings, even if Team Falz won the Twitter war in the end.

But I have to admit that there is an element of irrationality to my reaction and the reaction of others. Even this post is a little incoherent in places. I can’t say I don’t understand why some well-meaning people are surprised about the backlash. However I have resisted the temptation to edit my anger out of this article.

The thing with rape and sexual assault is, for whatever reason, you are either full of rage about it or you are not. The rage is neither good nor bad and it is not an indication of whether or not you support rape culture or how woke you are. For as long rape continues, the rage will remain. It won’t always express itself properly or say the right things but it will be right there alongside us angrily analysing gender politics and rape culture, whenever anybody, be it a stupid comedian telling rapey jokes or a pious rapper, decides to settle on the topic.

 

Mothers vs Daughter-In-Laws: A Misogyny Hangover?

Why do we spend so much time raging and plotting against mothers and daughters-in-law who we haven’t even met?

I wonder what I would do if I had one of those Nigerian mothers-in-law. You know, the ones who want their sons’ wives to kneel at every occasion of greeting, who think they have the right to scream at and even hit their daughters-in-law, who think their sons’ new wives are unpaid domestic help? How common are they anyway? Is this another narrative designed to portray Nigerian women as demons?

MILimage1

I’m hoping, at least, that the evil Nollywood mother-in-law is a caricature which has been exaggerated for entertainment (much like the evil Nollywood daughter-in-law who instead of saying “I don’t like the way that you are speaking to me”, snarls inexplicitly “If you mess with me again, I will kill you!”). One clip that recently1 made the rounds on Twitter is from a film featuring a younger Funke Akindele-Bello. Her character’s husband tastes a meal she has prepared, coughs dramatically and complains that it is too spicy.

“I’m sorry, honey. It was a mistake.” she says sadly, abandoning her comedy accent and emphasising first syllable of ‘mistake’, late nineties/early noughties Nollywood style (incidentally this was the second time I’d heard Akindele speak without her comedy accent. The first  was at the 2016 AMVCA awards. Before then, I had, in a very patronising way, been congratulating Nollywood for promoting an actress with a strong regional accent contrary to their previous obsession with Western accents. Imagine my shock when she gave her thanks for the award and announced in a transatlantic accent “You guys rock!” The whole thing has gone full circle and posh young Nigerian entertainers, who were educated in foreign, elite and/or private institutions, are at pains to demonstrate with their accents how close they are to the average Nigerian. Ah…the joy of a completely unrelated rant!).

Anyway, back to the film. Seconds after Akindele delivered this line, her character’s freshly-faced mother-in-law burst forth from the kitchen, armed with a fully cooked alternative meal for her son and an arsenal of insults and aspersions about the wife’s upbringing.

What would I do in that kind of marriage? I doubt I would do the right thing which is either to get a divorce or politely refuse to respond to such treatment, enduring whatever physical or verbal abuse may come my way as a result. I think I’d either become a slave or a psycho. Either way, there’s a high chance it would end with murder and mayhem, after a few long years as slave-Tracy and very quickly as psycho-Tracy or maybe at the funeral of said mother-in-law when someone comments that I don’t look sad enough.

I think with the state and society sanctioned inferior status of women in Nigeria, it’s easy to think of reasons why a mother-in-law would wield her power over her son’s wife. It’s possible that, having had to put up with similar treatment as a daughter-in-law herself, she feels it is only fair to flex her muscles when someone is stupid enough to marry her son. Her time has come, as we used to say, but the serious point is that it is very common for an oppressed person to seek to emulate their oppressor when dealing with someone on an even lower rung than them.

Also, quite a lot of Nigerian women seem to find disrespect from their “fellow woman” very difficult to bear. Add to this a very strong culture of respect for elders and a lack of tolerance for disrespect, or even disagreement, from a younger person and the fact that a young person is supposed to treat their parents, their friend’s parents and therefore their spouse’s parent with the utmost respect, and one can easily see the potential for some serious abuse of power.

I’m not saying all Nigerian mothers-in-law behave badly towards their daughters-in-law but judging by some of the stories even positive behaviour can be benevolent rather than good. The stereotype goes something like this: the daughter-in-law is only rewarded if she is the epitome of respect and subservience and a potential source of unpaid labour at all times. She must always be delighted to see her mother in law. She must never forget to call her ‘mummy’. She is expected to anticipate that her mother-in-law can act irrationally at any time. She herself is never granted any leniency to have a bad day. She must communicate any complaint she has through her husband.

If, and this is a big if, any of this is true in a substantial number of marriages, I marvel at the things I get away with with my own mother-in-law. I also get very suspicious when a Nigerian woman starts praising her daughter-in-law (I’m mad, I know). What has she had to endure to merit such praise, I wonder? I’d almost be more comfortable if she said ‘Gosh, I love my daughter-in-law but she really can be a bitch sometimes’, I feel like at least that the daughter has been allowed to be human.

Now I’m a hundred percent sure that many Nigerian mothers-in-law are kind, gracious, respectful and loving and don’t only respond to extreme subservience. But if you are an African woman reading this, imagine this scenario. Your daughter-in-law has just had your new grandchild, is wretched with sleepless nights because of a colicky, constantly-feeding baby, raw bleeding nipples and the fact that she can feel her tummy dragging her C-section stitches every time she tries to get comfortable in bed. Now let’s say she responds with a bad-tempered ‘Not right now, mum!’ or ‘Can it!’ when you ask her ‘won’t you do your hair?’ (I’m not judging; stupid questions happen to all of us). Would you be more concerned that she is so overwhelmed by the experience that she has acted out of character or the massive disrespect that has come your way (apart from worrying, quite naturally, that this will become accepted behaviour on her part)?

In The UK

It’s easy to point to reasons why there’s this dysfunction in mother/daughter-in-law relationships in Nigeria but it also exists in the UK and presumably the rest of West. One reason is, despite my use of the word hangover, the misogynistic reasons that may apply in Nigeria were firmly entrenched in Britain not so long ago. Of course, a substantial part of Britain’s diverse population is made out of 1st and 2nd generation Africans (and Asians) and some of the more traditional attitudes regarding marriage and this particular relationship persist. But is the modern-day division just (or even) the result of misogyny or are there other psychological factors at play?

All I can say about my own mother-in-law, apart from the fact I love her dearly, is that she’s extremely generous, liberal and tolerant. I try to be courteous and loving but am allowed to have bad moments and days. Having said that, the relationship is not without its difficulties in communication. We’ve had different upbringing and life experiences that have made me more protective of the children than perhaps she would like. I’ve been told by other women that they found their relationship with their mother-in-law to be tricky. One day my mother-in-law surprised me by telling me she hated her own mother-in-law!

Complaints on Mumsnet (or Netmums) and blogs are more subtle than Nigerian examples – they are complaints of manipulation, power struggles especially regarding the kids, implicit undermining and of course criticism about how mum keeps the house and raises the children. Issues that have come up include whether mum should stay at home or work (subtle, very subtle “Oh I don’t blame you for not having time to do so and so. You career women are so busy. In my day, I just led a simple life and took care of my family. Simple old me!” and other declarations of war) or whether babies should be breastfed and for how long.

I read an article in which the author expressed her lack of comprehension at her own need to explain to her mother-in-law in explicit terms exactly why she disagreed with suggestions by the latter. I can relate. If a friend makes a suggestion that I don’t like, I can fob it off with an excuse without expressly disagreeing (while secretly thinking that she’s lost the plot). If my mother-in-law makes one, it seems absolutely compulsory to tell her expressly that I don’t agree and give a reason (or 300) why. Very odd. Perhaps I feel that if I don’t say something now, whatever she has suggested will become the absolute rule. An almost opposite problem is friends tell me that while you can tell your own mother to go away, you can’t do that with someone else’s, even your partner.

Modern Living

There are clearly other reasons here that have nothing to do with sexism. A lot of people point out that while you choose your partner, neither you or your mother-in-law (who I will call ‘MIL’ for the rest of the article) chose to be in each other’s lives. The portrayal in pop culture of mother and daughters-in-law at war may mean that there is among polite people, a determined effort to make the relationship work (not all English people. A work colleague told us that her mother-in-law tried to punch her at her wedding. I never got the full story but there was something about her playing the guitar and singing at her own wedding that appeared to tip MIL over the edge. What kind of resentment must have been building up in MIL for that to happen? And why wait until the wedding?). You have to act as if you are in love with each other from the day you meet and it can be a shocking realisation when the mask occasionally slips.

Another reason may be a tension between MIL’s and mum’s needs. In modern UK, mum is often juggling work and a number of hobbies or sidelines she may have as well trying to live up to high standards of motherhood in a society where people are very sensitive to criticism. What she may want (or thinks she wants) is support from MIL on her terms. MIL may be retired and may have less mandatory obligations. Yes, she wants to help but she also wants to feel that she matters. She wants a stake in her grand children’s upbringing (which may be interpreted by daughter as wanting to re-live her glory matriarchal days; children  can of course bring out wide cracks in the pretend love affair that MIL and mum have been engaging in since husband introduced the woman he was going to marry) but she also wants a relationship with the family. Often times, what is seen as criticism is a desire to contribute more than anything else.

Gender Issues

However, I do think there are some gender issues (of course I do!). Someone on Netmums thought the difficulty that a poster had with her mother-in-law stemmed from the fact that her son defers to his wife in a way that he hasn’t done to his mother since reaching adolescence. This seems like a fairly plausible theory. But if this is the case, why doesn’t it happen more often with fathers and sons-in-law? That would make sense because people push around the theory that sons are more attached to their mothers and fathers to their daughters (snotty as I am about such gender-based generalisations, I must confess that when my daughter started talking she referred to my husband as ‘Daddy’ and to me as ‘Daddy Tracy’). Why aren’t fathers-in-law upset that their daughters now defer to their husbands? Is it because men are more likely to defer to women (and sneakily pass on all the labour) when it comes to household and baby matters, than the other way round? Or is there some discomfort, linked to the stereotype of the conniving, shrill, emasculating wife (every mother’s nightmare apparently ), that makes MIL uncomfortable about seeing her son ‘defer’ to his wife?

Digging deep, I also think there’s something in the re-living of the matriarchal days. This is probably dying out to some extent as people born in the 1970’s and later are becoming grandmothers, but it almost goes without saying that some of today’s mothers-in-law lived in different times. Their role was firmly centred around the family and the house and it created a definite sense of identity for women. Modern women want an identity outside the home but at the same time desperately don’t want to miss out on the ideals of motherhood even though in reality, we may be overwhelmed by work and our unfair share of domestic labour. MIL may, seeing us, miss the sense of identity that came with being the grand matriarch.I’m convinced that the above sometimes pits mothers-in-law and daughters against each other.

MILimage1

Bizarrely the resentment seems to start even before they meet. How many hours did my friends and I spend as young girls trying to figure out our reaction to terrible things that our mythical evil mothers-in-law would do to us? Oddly enough, being a mum, to a 6 year old son, I feel quite stressed out when I see the same thing on Twitter. Threads are written about how mothers should take responsibility (including and up to being imprisoned) for their sons’ bad behaviour and how it is the mother’s fault if the son is domestically useless. They may be right but why isn’t any blame being laid at the dad-in law’s feet? The risk is that these women, while being fully prepared to go to war with their partner’s mothers, will be kind and over-indulgent to their future father-in-law and so the circle of men avoiding responsibility begins again. Men are allowed to opt out of this seemingly petty conflict.

Stereotyping doesn’t help either, like the evil mother in law cliché (this is thankfully dying out too), as it also demonises and ridicules older women, who having exhausted their ‘sexual and beauty capital’ have nothing to offer society except for comedy fodder because of their apparently weird and irrational ways.

I hate that this division exists. I hate that I am more likely to challenge my mother-in-law than male relatives when they are being patronising to her. I must work on that. I’m not entirely sure that passing any difficulty through your husband helps. Not only does he sometimes definitely fail to communicate accurately and effectively; why do we have to participate in this childishness  which seems a bit like the adult equivalent of passing notes in class? Why shouldn’t mothers and daughters-in-law be able to speak freely and respectfully to each other? It all adds to the pitting and dividing of mother against daughter-in-law, woman against woman.

1‘Recently’ at the time of first draft