Runs Girls and the Sliding Scale of Nigerian Morality

Just to add to this, what *would* happen if a serious ‘socially conscious’ song was written about Nigerian politicians cavorting with runs girls? I think in light of what they are accused of including  looting and mismanaging public funds, corruption and gross dereliction of duties, many people, including me, would question the need to address their private lives. This suggests to me the true importance of the runs girls/prostitution ‘epidemic’. People are quite content to turn a blind eye to it.  The real reason for their outcry is that they are appalled that women would ‘debase’ themselves this way  and that possibly a larger and larger group of women think that this is an acceptable pastime and way to make some cash.

They are worried that girls are getting ‘spoiled’ while boys will be boys, whether its younger men sowing their seeds or older men who pay girls for sex (or they just want to gleefully slut-shame).

I don’t think the runs is great  ( although I can’t see how it’s any worse than casual sex, especially between strangers) or a complete solution  to objectification of women especially in the era of so-called sexual liberation which men interpret as an aggressive right to casual sex (if you refuse, you are apparently trying to manipulate them into a relationship) or older, richer men feeling the need to check whether a young woman is available for sexual services before resuming the normal order of business.

However in Nigeria, casual sex often reduces the social capital of a woman. She’s called a prostitute or a slut anyway and too much promiscuity means that she is not a serious candidate for a serious relationship and a target for very aggressive overtures if not assault. In that case, it stands to reason she would want to gain something other than the sex. It’s not just ‘sex that we both enjoyed’ as men get away with their social capital unaffected while the woman has to sit there trying to find a way to reconfigure her body count….

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Editor’s Note: Twitter outrage has become commonplace (while Facebook has become some form of family friendly place to air achievements, family portraits and unpopular opinions with relative safety). On the upside these ‘outrages’ have effected changes, as more and more people are using this platform as an avenue to hold governments to account and share histories that would have otherwise been lost in obscurity (particularly Black History).

Nigerian feminists have been using social media to educate Nigerians at large about social inequalities and highlight how cis-heterosexual men are at the top of the foodchain, how they use their privilege to keep women and sexual minorities oppressed.

The latest topic being discussed with a lot of passion is the rights of sex-workers/runs girls/side-chics (or the lack thereof). The trigger for this discussion is Falz, a Nigerian musician who embraces social consciousness, (wokeness) served with a side of misogyny.

Tracy in this…

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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

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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

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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.

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Hip Hop and Its 30-Year War on Women

With the onset of groups like N.W.A, hip hop turned on black women.

Self-image is a funny thing, isn’t it? I obviously see myself as the kind of social media participant who is very much in control of her online emotions. Gone are the days of trigger-happy Facebook Tracy. Now I channel my anger into clever, sarcastic blog posts or hoard bits of outrage and under the guise of responding to tweets, release my little nuggets of wisdom (“I totally agree. This perfectly demonstrates…[something which I’ve been seething about for months and have written about in several draft blog posts which never made it on to the actual blog]”). I’m certainly not one to shout at strangers on Twitter and especially not at celebrities!

Well, that seems to be changing. I recently posted an angry rant in response to a tweet by all round dandy R’n’B singer Jidenna…and even more shamefully deleted it. I wish I hadn’t deleted it. I was confused about some of the surrounding facts but at the end of the day it was a tweet not a claim form.

Jidenna’s tweet referred to deceased rapper XXXtentacion. Very briefly, XXX was shot dead on 18 June 2018. Prior to his being shot, Spotify had stopped streaming XXX’s music. The reasons they stopped streaming his music included accounts of horrific domestic violence allegedly committed by XXX against his ex-girlfriend. XXX also admitted to a gruesome attack against a gay inmate who was apparently “staring” at him. Reading this http://www.miaminewtimes.com/music/the-real-story-of-rapper-xxxtentacion-10410980 and other articles, including his ex-girlfriend’s testimony and pictures, I am not at all convinced by XXX’s denial of DV. He was 20 years old when he died and awaiting trial for the DV charges.

Following his death, which came shortly after the revelations of his violent past, his fans naturally showed their grief on social media. There were also a number of people actively celebrating his death with memes, tweets and the like, presumably because of his domestic and homophobic violence. Jidenna’s discomfort over these celebrations turned into a tweet-rant about how we all did stupid things at 20 and how anyone can change (interestingly enough he seemed to accept that the DV allegations were true). He asked where our compassion is and seemed to come to the conclusion that woke twitter, not XXX, were the real villains here. He even went so far as to compare XXX to Malcolm X – apparently a shoplifter and abusive towards women at that age (is it very wrong to point out that, firstly, in no way was the level of Malcolm X’s abuse remotely comparable to that of XXX’s and secondly, Malcolm X did believe women were inferior to men although like Jidenna, he thought they were to be protected or revered or something benevolent that does not quite reach equality?).

A number of people took Jidenna’s point a bit further. T-Pain stepped out boldly with a series of bizarre tweets (‘Look your father in the eye and ask him how many times he’s thrown your mother across the room. The silence is scary, right? Right?’ The silence is because your father is contemplating how much money he will have to contribute to your state-enforced ‘rest and retreat’, T-Pain).

The tweets turned into a familiar attack on the left for replacing “compassion with moral superiority”, for being dogmatically intractable, tolerating no dissent from the party line, holding no truck with oppressive ideas like forgiveness and sympathy (which people keep calling empathy – must look up these words again) and just generally being bad, illiberal liberals. According to these people, XXX may have been bad but so were a lot of people at 20 and we were under some sort of duty to ‘forgive’1 him because of his youth and talent.

I won’t debate these points at length – I’m not sure I’m knowledgeable enough to. There are so many questions starting with the bizarre assumption that majority of people can relate to XXX’s damn near homicidal psychosis, a natural discomfort at seeing people openly celebrate someone’s death, why on earth people would have ’empathy’ for a very bad person, whether it is fascistic to say that anyone who mentions how apparently talented he was hates women and as stated above whether it’s now wrong to refer to the sheer level and depravity of his abuse or whether all abuse is equal.

What this case highlighted to me is how little regard American hip hop, and to some extent RnB, and its artists have for women. Specifically in relation to this incident and has been proven time and time again, these artists have no qualms about working with abusive men. As long as the abusive man in question is popular enough they will continue to be impervious to his abuse. As this article shows http://www.vulture.com/2018/06/a-complete-timeline-xxxtentacions-controversial-career.html, a number of artists weren’t discouraged by the tales of XXX;s stupendous violence from working with or copying him. Kendrick Lemar even threw a hissy fit when Spotify stopped streaming his music. This has been the case with Dr Dre and the distinctively unrepentant repeat-abusing Chris Brown and will be the case with Nas and Fabulous. The only thing that may make other artists pause is the possibility of any public backlash .

It is of course artists’ prerogative to work with whoever they want (and I reserve the right to my private, dark opinions) and they are free to ‘rest in power’ XXX into the devil’s arms if they want to. What I found particularly enraging about Jidenna’s tweets is the pious admonition of people who can’t mourn this man’s death or even those who are happy he is dead. He does not consider whether these people may have been DV survivors or watched their loved ones perish at the hands of an abusive man. Armed with moral and spiritual blackmail, he jumps to the conclusion that they are liberal posturers desperate to prove their wokeness. He preaches the power of redemption, not by providing a scintilla of evidence that XXX has changed, but by referring to a completely different man, a man who died over 50 years ago and whose memory is supposed to evoke unquestioning loyalty.

Actually I don’t believe he jumped to the conclusion. I think he is completely indifferent to XXX’s abusive behaviour and only framed his tweets in that way, I think, to add the appearance of morality and even-handedness. And then to add insult to injury, he threw in some shallow wording about respecting women and how he is thinking about XXX’s and other domestic violence victims. This is of course crap since there wasn’t a peep from him about DV prior to this man’s death. He, like many of XXX’s fans – celebrities or not – seemed annoyed that something as trivial like violence against women could stop a young rapper’s career. As you know, every time a rapper fails to reach his full potential, no matter how much vile crap-spouting that full potential entails, an angel loses a wing2 .

Perhaps I’m being harsh on Jidenna . It’s safe to say I have never warmed to him; not sure why –  is it the arrest scene in the Classic Man music video or the fact that he apparently is not going marry a woman who can’t cook jollof rice or just the almost lethal levels of grooming and styling? So much of so little consequence to choose from. Whatever the reason, I’d obviously just been waiting for an opportunity to unleash a tirade at him and that’s enough reason in itself for deleting my tweet.

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But more seriously, as tweep Kim Love says, it seems like since the 1990s with the onset of groups like N.W.A., American hip hop has turned on black women. In songs they’ve called us every name under the sun, spoke proudly of domestic violence and rape, demonised us, dehumanised us even – we are now female dogs and garden implements – dissected us, divided us into body parts, dragged us by our hair, put us on leashes, slid credit cards through our butt cracks…the list is endless. And it’s getting worse. There is conscious rap and religious rap but as I told my husband (who came into our marriage fully prepared to argue against hip hop to the death with me and has done so admirably notwithstanding his false start of angrily questioning me about RAGGA song ‘Boom-boom Bye’) not all American rappers are misogynistic; just the successful ones it seems.

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I can’t figure out whether it was because of genuine hatred or just a convenient sacrifice. I watched a documentary about hip hop once that suggested that it was an antidote to all the saccharine love songs by Luther Vandross and the like. So…just an afterthought then. This would explain why I was one of the few people silently and bitterly cursing Ice Cube as he gave his impassioned speech to Bill Maher about the latter, as a white man, not being able to use the ‘N’ word. ‘Black people are not going to allow that anymore!’ he wobbled – one of the pioneers and reasons that women are customarily referred to to as bitches and hoes.

It’s astonishing that black women put up with it for so long. We done more than this – we’ve internalised, endorsed and distributed it. We wouldn’t tolerate tweets which are a tenth as derogative but feminists are happy to be fan girls of rappers who spread these vile and harmful lyrics in the name of art. I think we might have got distracted because of the initial push back from white Americans; perhaps we were fooled into thinking we, black men and women, were in this together. Now that mainstream has embraced hip hop, and people have tacitly accepted that it is impossible for them to publicly condemn hip hop without being accused of an act of racism, these artists have exported wholesale their lyrical artillery against black women.

Off-stage, the story is the same. Rappers are beating, harming and disfiguring their significant others as least as much as other men. It’s certainly not a case of only using those lyrics on stage. It is, for many of them, who they are. The stories keep repeating themselves.  The ones who don’t are often illogical, rampant sexists or are  not concerned enough to distance themselves artistically from abusive rappers.

Obviously hip hop is not responsible for violence against women nor is it the first kind of art that has normalised this violence. However, as illiberal as this sounds, I think almost 30 years of this has had a real effect on relationships and especially how black women are viewed and devalued. I read screenshots of conversations that go like this:

Boy (heartbreakingly young): ‘I like the way you look. Please come and hang out at my apartment’

Girl: ‘No thanks’

Boy: ‘Fuck you, you bitch hoe! I’ma track you down and…..’ (insert your fave’s preferred act of violence)

This is what I think women should do. I don’t know how sexist British rap is but as far as American rap is concerned the default position is not to support any particular rapper until he has proven himself to be an ally or not harmful to women. Listen to the entire album – for free of course as buying it rather defeats the purpose. Give them two strikes to vent at failed relationships and then they are out. These men care about themselves and the industry and that includes any abusive man who can escape any consequences of his abuse against women. It’s time we start doing the same. But no one will listen to me of course……

1I’ve put ‘forgive’ in inverted commas since XXX did not do anything to most of the social media commentators. The way to stop people from saying that they are glad that a man, who may very well have ended up beating women to death, is dead is bring up the irrelevant concept of forgiveness. This is supposed to fill people with remorse and drive them to demonstrate their capacity to forgive by forgetting their outrage at the alleged DV and and continuing to support and buy XXX’s music, presumably.

 

2The part in italics is stolen wittiness

World Views Round-Up: About the Royal Wedding and New Music

I write about last week’s royal wedding, the album About 30 and Falz’s ‘This Is Nigeria’.

The Royal Wedding

The royal wedding was last week and I found some of the opinions and takes on it to be a bit strange. I think it’s great that our beloved Prince Harry has found love. It’s also great that the couple were in a position to have such a stately and lavish wedding that was watched and adored by millions. As with William and Kate before them, it was like watching a fairytale come to life.

royal wedding 1

In terms of the wider picture, yes, it is a sign of progress that an American person of colour is now part of the royal family. I can’t deny that this would have been unimaginable just 50 short years ago. The same reasoning applies to the fact that she is an older divorcée.

The sentiment that the wedding ‘gives black women hope’ is obviously offensive and ludicrous but I’m mostly over my outrage – although I did tweet at Alex Jones who repeated it during the commentary to the wedding (she didn’t reply proving that she is committed to remaining an ignorant simpleton).

It’s the ‘this is what you have to do to became a princess’ takes that got to me. The advice included being a feminist, renouncing feminism (which Meghan Markle apparently did by giving up her career for Duchess-dom) and, of course, making sure that your first stupid marriage doesn’t work. But really, even if the princes (or every male with one drop or more of royal blood in England) decided to re-marry a minimum of 5 times each, how many women (even white women, Alex) have a shot at marrying into royalty?

Also, in respect of giving up feminism, the analysis of exactly what she’s getting in return – i.e. a bigger platform for her charity work – doesn’t hold water. May I go on a little side rant? I discovered during the many interviews in the course of the coverage that the end goals of one of the charities supported by the new royal couple are giving a disadvantaged group a ‘voice’, a ‘bigger platform’ and a ‘chance to change the world’. Yeah, I’m definitely not donating to that charity.

It seems to me that Meghan Markle’s decision to give up her career is less about any kind of forensic weighing of pros and cons and more about the realities of falling in love and deciding to marry a member of the British royal family. It’s clear that being part of the royal family is a demanding, scrutinised task if you choose full participation. It would be noteworthy if you didn’t and you retained your original profession, especially as a woman but it’s far more usual to give up your career and immerse yourself fully in your new role. Nothing more to it, I think.

The race takes were less annoying. Like I said, it’s impossible to deny the signs of progress – including the royal family having to deal officially with racism, previously conveniently ignored, and the slightly more diverse official wedding photograph. It was heartening to see the couple bring a bit of African American culture to the wedding, if only to thumb their noses at people who are incredibly grumpy that Meghan identifies as mixed race instead of black.

Some takes and jokes were a little out there. It’s not that the wedding will change race relations; it’s that the wedding is a reflection of how society has changed for the more inclusive – a rather cheerful reflection given the race shenanigans going in both the United States and the United Kingdom. I also don’t accept that the ‘black elements’ of the wedding was a cynical ploy by the royal family to use black culture to remain relevant. If it was, judging by the tormented looks on their faces during the sermon (which I was astonished to discover was less than 14 minutes long – it seemed to go on forever!), they were definitely failing to keep up a convincing performance. The jokes about Harry’s previous girlfriends were sexist and in poor taste.

Nigerians uniquely took the opportunity to complain that Nigerian brides, in comparison to Meghan, wear far too much make-up on their wedding day. The theme was taken up by sensible and less sensible people. Debates raged as the twitterazi couldn’t decide whether to blame the brides or the make-up artists for this assault on their senses and whether brides had trial sessions or not; turning even (religious) feminists against (choice and sex positive) feminists.

From my limited experience, I can make two observations – yes, Nigerian make up artists can be a little heavy-headed and no, this doesn’t have anything to do with the royal wedding.

About New Music

About 30

about30

I’ve finally got my new computer to download my iTunes library; thus permitting me to listen to About 30, the new album by the saintly and gorgeous Adekunle Gold. When I told my husband this morning that ‘it’s actually really good!’, he asked why I had bought it if I thought it was going to be bad. It’s not that I thought it would be bad but I have a theory about the apparent disappointment that sometimes comes with second albums, especially when the first album has been so well-received. I’m pretty sure this theory is not originally mine.

Firstly, the artist has had an unlimited time period, I think, to write their best material for the first album but, conversely, is under pressure to replicate their success in a shorter space of time for the second, often leading to shoddier songs. Secondly, even if the album is as good as the first, their audience is no longer in awe of their particular type of music. If their second album is too similar to the first one; they are accused of ‘not growing’. If it is too different, they have abandoned the original sound that endeared them to the world in the first place – striking the right balance is a difficult challenge.

I’m pleased to report that I don’t think this album has any of the above problems. I honestly thought, having bought the first album and then heard the intermittent singles Call On Me, Only Girl and Money, that the second album would be more of the same. I was prepared to put up with it because of AG’s beautiful` voice and above-mentioned saintliness and gorgeousness. However, he has somehow managed to strike…well, gold (I can assure you that AG has never before and will never again hear this particular pun about his music). My favourite songs so far are Yoyo, Mama and Mr Foolish (honourable mention to ‘Back to Start’).

This is Nigeria

Falz has also released his video and song version of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ called ‘This is Nigeria’. Reactions can be roughly categorised like this: the vast majority, I’d say over 85% and that includes me, think it’s really good, creative and clever and the rest are griping about it.

The complaints range from the fact that Falz didn’t use symbolism or as much imagery to the alleged shoddy production of the video (?) to disrespect for Christian and Muslim religions to something else that even I can’t understand but sounds suspiciously like trying to prove how clever they are by refusing to be impressed by Falz – someone who ‘woke Nigerian twitter’ insist continually and aggressively is the cleverest thing to happen to Nigerian music and only the truly thick can fail to agree with everything he says. Incidentally, if there is any general antipathy towards Falz, I suspect this type of thing is the source. Like Beyonce and the Beyhive, I think that he will rise above it all and the world will continue to appreciate him for his brilliance.

thisisnig

The negative comment which has attracted the most gob-smacking is the accusation that he copied the concept from Childish Gambino’s video and song. Yes, that’s it. In a clear remake of the song, using the similar music, choreography and cinematography, a large group of people have decided to make political capital out of the fact that it’s kinda like the original, isn’t it?. Some people have grumped that he has no right to complain about yahoo boys if he is just going to steal someone else’s concept (proof that some people will NEVER EVER get over his yahoo boys comments) and wondered whether he obtained all the necessary copyright permissions (something that, as long as he doesn’t try to pass off the concept as his own, is actually none of our business). This reaction has provoked a pained video response from the man himself in which he couldn’t seem to decide between his comedy accent, pidgin English and regular English, sometimes switching mid-word, and more than one embittered ‘lol’ type tweet from him.

Somehow amongst all the contempt (as demonstrated above) that I have for the criticism, I have unwittingly fallen into the category of ‘haters’. This is how it happened. I retweeted the video as soon as I saw it – a simple reaction to a brilliant video, especially since I hadn’t seen the original. I didn’t actually see the negative comments at first, because I follow woke Nigerian twitter mostly; just the responses to them. I searched ‘falz’ to try and understand the furore, started reading unrelated tweets about how sexist some of his music, in the way that he and fellow ‘clever’ artist, Ajebutter, demonise women, is. I was so delighted that other people finally got it that I started liking these comments indiscriminately, trying to find the one that encapsulated my thoughts most precisely. Therefore my handful of followers, if they pay any attention to my tweets, may be forgiven for being slightly confused as to how I feel about Falz (I really like him and his music but his sexism discourages me in a way it wouldn’t if it came from someone like Wizkid).

Falz said in his response that the video is “moral instruction”. He  is a brilliant writer but his attempts at moralising sometimes fall flat mostly because he has a gender privilege blind spot and like the vast majority of well-to-do Nigerians, is quite classist. ‘This is Nigeria’ is actually one of his successes as far as moralising is concerned. He hasn’t said anything that he hasn’t said before, but he says it very well in the song. He understands that it’s not enough to pass on the message; he still has to fulfil his artistic obligations. It’s a great song and video.

As for being unique, he approached the song in a different way from Childish Gambino (and if he understands ‘This is America’ completely, then Falz is a much more intelligent person than me). As far as I can tell and having watching some explanatory videos, ‘This is America’ is directed at the distractions of celebrity/insta/popular culture (black or not) with an undercurrent pointing to the disregard for life and freedoms in America, presently and historically, while Falz took a more straightforward approach of pointing out various ills in Nigerian society.

Both are good. Falz’s is not better than Gambino’s of course – don’t be silly – you only have to see this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_LIP7qguYw to appreciate that the original version is as intricate as Falz’s is literal. And there’s nothing wrong with either approach. Well done everyone. Wehdone.

The Aziz Ansari Story: Me Too or Not Right Now, Grace?

I must admit I’ve not read too many #metoo stories. I’ve read a few. Not only do they make me fear for my daughter simply because she’s going to grow up to be a woman, they are just too depressing. Don’t get me wrong – they are absolutely necessary. The attacks, assaults and harassment have clearly been going on for too long and have been accepted not only by Hollywood but in a way by the rest of society – an illustration is how the reaction to the term ‘casting couch’ is usually salacious amusement instead of the outrage now being expressed at the #metoo stories.

However, one of the most depressing things about watching man after man being accused is the feeling that the more the numbers stack up, the less likely it is that any individual is going to face tangible consequences. It’s almost like a statement I read in an account of a genocide which said something like ‘if all of us do it, then none of us are guilty/wrong’. At the very least, not everyone can be punished in any meaningful way (why am I so obsessed with punishment?  I don’t know).

Not only does the chance of justice for these women decrease but compassion fatigue starts to set in. The only thing I can wearily wish for is that even if no one is punished, whether by criminal prosecution or even socially or career-wise (beyond the initial fleeting moment of embarrassment when the media is all over a particular story), at least there will be a change of culture. A bit like the expenses scandal but with far more personal, harrowing consequences (just watch Uma Thurman’s response to a question about #metoo for an idea of the pain that this sexual violence has caused women).

I did read the Ansari story though. I think majority of people would agree on two things. Firstly that he committed no crime. The second is that he was definitely being a creepy dickhead that night. Less people may agree with the second statement but I still think they would be in the majority.

Opinions will probably be more divided on whether he should have been publicly shamed. Was it necessary for the world and his dog to know that his post-date routine is to disrobe completely the second the front door clicks shut behind him, require the other party to do the same and then spend the rest of evening directing any and all attention, queries and commentary towards his crotch? Is that what’s going on out there? Never in my decades of reckless, mixed-signals, problematic, I-know-I’m-a-Christian-but-I-sure-do-love-the-D-but-then-does-this-mean-I’ll-fry-in-hell dating have I encountered such strange behaviour.  Yet lots of women have told similar stories of average guys behaving this way.

Another more important question is whether this story really should be a natural, logical extension of the #metoo revelations. In other words, is it right to try and attach this story to the #metoo movement, a movement about how powerful men have, imagining that having any woman they want is a reward for their so-called success, attacked, degraded, dehumanised and just generally made life a misery for women who are just trying to get on with their jobs, or is this a different story altogether?

The reason I say that fewer people would agree that Ansari acted reprehensibly is that this story is as old as, at least, modern courtship and dating. I heard the much derided term ’emotional rape’ in high school in the early 1990s in relation to US college campus rapes and sexual misdemeanours. Emotional rape was alleged when a male college student technically obtained consent, after coercing and breaking down a girl who clearly did not want to have sex with him. Quite a few people took the view that if she said ‘yes’, did not say ‘no’ or did not protest by some kind of physical manifestation – screaming, shouting, moving or running away – then ‘it’s on her’.

Other people are more sensitive to the more subtle issues. One is that once it appears that a man is unwilling to accept a negative response, some women will choose to avoid the risk of a more violent attack by unwillingly consenting to sex. Yes, a man will not and should not be successfully prosecuted if that happens, but it really does come to something when a woman’s choice, on a date, is to run out or unhappily acquiesce to sex. No one can sensibly say that the guy who opens the door and says “Run then! Run for your life!” (like a 1980s action film villain) is a good guy. Even a world weary “Well if you don’t want to have sex with me, I’d rather you’d leave my flat this second.” would raise a few eyebrows much less continually pawing a woman until she flees.

Another issue is the confusion she must feel, when the mask slips off a nice guy that she is attracted to and has herself been lusting after. The mask is one of mutual care, or at least admiration, and respect; not using any means necessary to sleep with her as if she were nothing more than a sex doll.

On one hand I really  don’t understand the mechanics of ploughing relentlessly with one’s quest for sex, whether  in a casual encounter or a committed relationship, when it is abundantly clear that the person they are with does not want to have it with them.  This is especially because I reject the premise that male lust and sexuality is an uncontrollable object that can be involuntary unleashed at anytime up to the point of sexual attack (remember how we believed in ‘blue balls’ until we realised it was a load of gaslighting nonsense?)

However, the way we approach romantic and sexual relationships makes this story unsurprising. It comes from the left and the right. From reactionary socially unreformed meatheads’ point of view, a good girl not only does not have casual sex ; she does not put herself in a position where someone might think that having sex with her may go unobserved. If she does, well, there really isn’t any escape for her – if she has sex enthusiastically, she is a slut, an object of vicious gossip and potentially a target (if she’s ‘giving out pussy’, why isn’t she giving it to me? What’s wrong with me? WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!?), if she doesn’t, she’s a prick-tease; if she complains about sex obtained by coercion, she is trying to ruin the life of an upstanding, promising young man.

From the left, which is where I understand Ansari comes from, I have noticed an almost aggressive entitlement to casual sex. Once there is an acknowledgement of mutual attraction; there is pressure and almost an obligation to consummate that relationship immediately. This pressure doesn’t always come in the form of a horrible ‘date’. It’s there when it is suggested that a woman who hesitates about when to have sex or whether to have more unusual forms of sex is a brainwashed prude; when liberal men shout about how virginity is a SOCIAL MYTHICAL CONCEPT/CONSTRUCT (is it your virginity?); when they are extremely grumpy about a decision of someone with whome they have no interaction to remain celibate for religious or other reasons; when they meet someone who posts sexually explicit tweets and immediately demand sex or sexual acts from them; when they demand naked photographs as of right; when their immediate response to being asked to go on a date by girl is ‘will you be on the menu?’

All this frenetic sexual expectation doesn’t come with any commitment (and I accept, without equating it to coerced sex, that people can also be wrongly pressured to enter into a committed relationship which they don’t want to be in) or even friendship, of course. If a girl asks for this prior to sex she’s not only being silly, she’s manipulative and clearly needs deliverance from the thorough brainwashing she has received in the past. Some girls like this but I really do think some of these men need to move away from the idea that the sexual revolution was solely for their benefit.

From the left and the right, we are left with this confused idea about male sexuality and of course, as several have pointed out, the damaging notion that the woman responsible for controlling not only the sexual temperature in any one encounter but the man’s sexual response.

It’s not enough to say no or not yet, she must not let him touch her if she isn’t prepared to go ‘all the way’. A lot of the talk about mixed signals is not that the man mistook her crossed legs, complete with hand over her crotch (different story) as a sign that she was about to collapse with lust; it is that once a woman crosses a line sexually, she must accept the entire male response whether she wants it or not (not) and no matter how clear it is to him that she didn’t want it. If she kissed him at 7:05 pm, then she must vaporise at 7:30 pm to avoid being taken against her will or pestered out of her sanity. Illogically, if a woman likes a man and lets him know, she should always be on the alert for him to launch an attack.

On the man’s part, sex is viewed as something he takes so his goal is to keep trying until he is gets it or is physically stopped. It’s a sign of prowess when you, as a man, ‘get what you want’ and ‘don’t take no for an answer’. Maybe debatable when it comes to your job or chosen vocation, but whose crazy idea was it to extend this principle to a woman’s body?

The difference between Ansari’s story and the #metoo stories is that in the former both people liked each other – or at least had some attraction for each other. ‘Grace’ may have had sex with him at her own pace had Ansari not being singularly focused on his almost unstoppable goal of having sex with her that night (again, why? Why that night? Why was that so important?). The issue is co-erced consent in that context.

In the #metoo stories, it was very unlikely that the women involved were remotely interested in Weinstein and the others. These are stories of men wielding their power over women and womankind in general for a range of reasons – from the right to have any woman they want to the dark and perverse pleasure in violating another protesting human being. There are some similarities but the main one is that they involve powerful and/or famous Hollywood men.

So, me too or not right now, Grace? I think probably somewhere in between. I definitely think Grace’s story, or a version of it, was one that needed to be told. Whether attempting to lump it in with the #metoo movement  is effective or detracting remains to be seen.

Addendum – 19/1/2018

I try to resist the urge to change blog posts too drastically once I’ve published them- if only to avoid stealing other people’s ideas and cleverly  weaving them into my original post.  In this case, however, I feel it’s worth commenting on one of the opinions that has been expressed on this matter.  Quite a few people are saying that they too have experienced bad dates like this one (some a lot worse) and what they did was leave, not try to turn them into incidents of sexual misconduct.

Fair comment but if this is an implicit acceptance that Ansari’s behaviour, as described by Grace, was bad, I’m confused about why society tolerates and accepts this kind of bad behaviour from men.  Not just a random person from the internet who turns out to be bad  – but also average men and nice or good men.

People have queried why she went into Ansari’s flat in the first place on a first date (my bet is that they would have posed this same question even if he had attacked her).  Well, why wouldn’t you go into Aziz Ansari’s flat? He says, writes, acts and produces the right things about women.  He seems such a  lovely, cuddly, decent person.  As a public personality, he has more than some to lose if he acts badly.  Why would anyone be afraid to go home with him, even if you could interpret his speedy exit from the restaurant as a desire for sex?  Is it because, as a man, he is expected to activate ‘beast mode’ at any time?  In that case, can we really complain about the ‘men are trash’ hashtag?

In fact, I can’t think of any actor or male celebrity (except for the ones who have been exposed obviously), whose image is not so carefully tended, that one can expect horrible behaviour from him once you cross the threshold of his residence.  They all seem such completely reasonable and left-leaning, right on types.  Not Tom Cruise with his Scientology (didn’t he stop to help a car accident victim, when the accident had nothing to do with him?), Russell Crowe with his gruffness or James McAvoy with his gleaming forehead.

Maybe Mike Tyson.  If it had been Mike Tyson’s place that ‘Grace’ had gone into after their date,  even I might have left this blog post for another feminist to write.  Go upstairs after a date with Tyson?  Is she mad???? Is she?  We are told he is a reformed man, that his rape conviction was decades ago and we should not judge him on his past actions.  That’s apparently why we have no right to complain when we see him on our screens.  Why should we assume that we are tolerating a man in the public eye who everyone accepts will turn into a monster if he is left alone with a young woman?

So which is it?  Is it that Hollywood and TV-land would have nothing to do with these men, who have made ‘mistakes’ in the past, if they were still the same overtly female-harming men or that they really don’t care about what the person has done or is doing as long as he can bring in the ratings?  Are all men prone to turning into, at the very least, ‘bad dates’ if you catch them on the wrong day, and are therefore potentially trash, or should we treat them like inherently decent human beings and stop lumping them with the same label?  If someone had said, before this incident happened, don’t go anywhere alone with so-and-so nice, woke actor, because as a man  and based on no other evidence, he can and will exhibit highly questionable sexual behaviour, would they have been vilified as a man-hater or not?

Questions, questions.

Simi vs Third Wave Feminism

….besides I’m not sure that the pervasive need to ‘pepper’ one’s enemies through one’s physical appearance would allow anti-beauty feminism to flourish in Nigeria.

Nigerian feminists (NFs) on Twitter have Simi to thank for my frequent dive-bombing of their comment sections.  I discovered them when an NF reacted after Simi reproduced a conversation between two women which went something like this (according to her):

Woman 1: This is my view

Woman 2: I don’t agree

W1: Shut up, what do you know? I’m a feminist”

Simi complained about W1 disrespectfully dismissing W2 and asked “Is this feminism?”

simi face

The NF rightly pulled Simi up for using the tired old arguments – women are their own worst enemies, women are super-critical and disrespectful of each other, if we women can’t agree, how can we hope to gain the respect of men? – to denounce feminism. I agreed with the NF of course. However, it has to be said that in terms of sheer arguing skills, Simi won the day. Her best line – “Let’s just say I speak for women and you speak for feminism” – was almost as poisonous as the insincere ‘lols’ that laced the entire conversation.

The second time I associated Simi with feminism was during the AMVCA awards earlier in 2017 when she received criticism for her choice of dress. I could understand why she was annoyed – it was a clear illustration of why, if you wouldn’t walk up to someone in a party to say you hate their outfit, especially after you’ve witnessed numerous people doing the same thing, you probably shouldn’t do it on Twitter. After a series of tweets, she said something like ‘Isn’t it funny that it’s women bashing other women?’ prompting the great and good men of Twitter to parrot a seemingly endless string of similar sentiments – gleefully pointing out that women are unnecessarily bitchy, insecure and critical implying (and sometimes expressly stating) that this is the reason it’s hard to take them seriously.

amvca
AMVCA 2017 (Photo credit:  It was on Simi’s Instagram page so maybe one of her mates….?)

I thought the furore over the dress, which was nice but less formal than a lot of other dresses at the event, was ridiculous. However Simi’s reasoning didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, the dress was criticised by both men and women. Secondly, so what if women were critical of the dress? What is the implication of her tweet? That if women can’t support each other, how can we trust them with equality?

Denying the women the right to disagree in the name of sisterhood is itself an attack on women’s freedoms.  Men are allowed to disagree; I don’t hear anyone suggesting that Nigerian men under 30 don’t deserve equality just because Wizkid and Davido can’t get within screaming distance of each other without scrapping like two alley cats.   It would be nice if we could stick together on important issues but our emancipation cannot be conditional on some kind of false show of solidarity.

Also, doesn’t Simi’s stance have the potential to become circular? If, in the name of female solidarity, there can be no reason for a woman to criticise another woman, what right does Simi have to criticise other women for criticising or  having an opinion on her dress and round and round and so forth and so on. Anyway, Simi herself has made fun of other female media personalities – Gifty, for instance (under legislation which states that if you speak in a false accent to entertain people, it has to be an exaggerated Nigerian accent rather than a Western one). It doesn’t make her a bad person. It makes her a human on Social Media just like the people who criticised her dress.

The third stage (or wave? given the title of this article) came after her album listening party. When the album was released, I included in one of my blog posts, a sentence poking fun at all the outrage at her AMVCA dress. I was flabbergasted when it started again, this time by an NF reacting to a blue party dress she wore at the listening party. This was followed by several tweets addressing, as during the AMVCA event, her defiance in “refusing to dress properly” – not just by feminists of course. It was then my sympathies shifted more firmly to Simi’s side.

blue dress
Blue-Dress-Gate (Photo credit:  Not sure.  At the album listening party so another friend, perhaps…)

So what is it with NFs and Simi? Not only do they grump at everything she wears, they never seem to celebrate her achievements1. I too was disappointed when she declared she was not a feminist. Not because I expect Nigerian artists to be feminists (ha!) but because she had previously tweeted a few things about male privilege and patriarchy. I quickly got over that. Yes, she doesn’t identify as a feminist and she appears have beliefs about relationships that I haven’t held for a long time. However, she is one of the few Nigerian female singers who seems like a truly independent spirit beyond being fierce for music videos, being ‘all about her money’ and shouting at everyone else before quietly submitting to their husbands in some very strange marriages indeed.

afrima
AFRIMA 2017 (Photo credit:  Still not sure.  You see when you type in certain words in Google…)

I’m delighted that the current army of young Nigerian feminists exist. They campaign about so many important issues from domestic violence to rape to equal marriages, education and provision for young disadvantaged girls, and sex education. They’ve taught me so much. However, for some of them there is an element of their feminism which is appears to be quite man/sex/beauty focused and I wonder if this causes some of the apparent antipathy towards Simi.

Let’s start with the beauty issue. Traditionally, feminists rejected the insane value, to the exclusion of almost everything else, patriarchal society placed on women’s looks and sex appeal. The peak of that rejection was feminists deciding to reject the concept of beauty altogether. They wanted nothing to do with beautifying themselves or wanting to be attractive. Clearly that was not sustainable and attitudes softened. Women who were and/or wanted to be attractive could do so without betraying the feminist within (and without). It was okay to like beauty even if we recognise the stranglehold that the beauty industry has on the female self-esteem (besides I’m not sure that the pervasive need to ‘pepper’ one’s enemies through one’s physical appearance would allow anti-beauty feminism to flourish in Nigeria).

Now it seems that one of the pillars of modern feminism is that all women have a ‘right’ to be beautiful. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this article but the dark side, as illustrated by the reaction to Simi’s choice of outfits, is that we’ve come full circle again. A disproportionate amount of attention and expectation is placed on a woman’s styling but this time it’s apparently for her own good and not for men .

As it turns out, Simi is beautiful and she does make an effort with her styling. Personally I think she is stylish but the point is that she actually goes out and gets herself styled. She doesn’t roll out of bed and turn up to an event. If we were talking about someone who is making a statement out of not making an effort (as would be her right), this would be a different discussion.

The Twitter anger and disdain is directed at the fact that she doesn’t spend all her time and money running around in circles like a deranged, headless chicken trying to figure out what specific clause of the fashion police’s lookbook she has breached. She has been reprimanded for being stubborn, not heeding advice and generally dressing badly on purpose. She clearly makes an effort but when there is still criticism she directs her energy at the reason she’s in the public eye in the first place – her music.

This kind of thing has plagued women for centuries. If one was to be paranoid, I would agree with several feminist activists that the idea is to keep us busy trying to maintain the body weight of a 12-year old, keep wrinkles at bay in our late 50s and obsessed with expensive, impractical clothes so we don’t notice the important things. Or it may be plain old commercialism. Whatever it is – do it if you must but I’m not entirely convinced that it is an essential part of feminism or even femininity.

It (almost) goes without saying that the hysteria over Simi’s style is not replicated when it comes to her male counterparts. It is simply noted that they have dressed up for a gig and their performances are rated.

We should think about the inequality this could cause. If  Simi is indeed in a relationship with a fellow musician or entertainer, they are both presumably making some money out of show business. They both need to invest in their art and their brand and that includes their personal appearance. He is free to spend a reasonable amount of money on his look (so even if he was single, we can confidently rule out Basketmouth) and use the rest of the money for other things, paying for his band, caring for himself and perhaps relatives, saving.

Simi, however, is expected to focus an unreasonably large part of her income on either her clothes or, since she apparently doesn’t have an ounce of dress sense in her head, an endless succession of stylists. If for some reason, the music money slows down or dries up, guess who is going to have less financial power (or to put it plainly, a lot less bloody money)? Yep! the woman again. Because of ridiculous beauty standards imposed on her.

A final word on beauty is my intense irritation at the idea that Simi’s talent has to accompanied by a specific amount of styling. It is noteworthy that Blue-Dress-Gate was started up by someone who had either not listened to the album that the blue dress was worn to promote or decided that the album was not worthy of comment. Great. We’re back to the place where nothing a woman does is worth considering if the right ‘look’ doesn’t accompany it.

Sex. Fortunately, Simi’s participation in the #forthe_____challenge and criticism of Nigerians substituting ‘bae’ for ‘dick’ has given me a tenuous hook to briefly discuss the sex-related part of modern feminism. It is very tenuous because the person who criticised the substitution didn’t mention Simi but did, during the AMVCA dress hysteria, produce (in an extraordinary display of ‘chook-mouth’edness unlike this vital and informative article) a long and unnecessary thread about the importance of ‘dressing like a star’.

I can see how the #forthedickchallenge would appeal to the sex positive demographic. The challenge was to rap about all sorts of crazy things you would do ‘for the dick’ including going against your principles (if it sounds like I’m being snotty about it, you should know I wrote one myself which I was advised, by kind friends and relatives, not to post anywhere). This may be seen as empowering in a sex positive kind of way because it reinforces the kind of thinking that insists women are as up for it as men, if we accept of course that men are uniformly up for it (which we don’t by the way).

Sex positive feminism evolved from the feminist idea of breaking down sexual-gender stereotypes that assumed that ‘men will be men’ , true ladies will be chaste and a woman who seems to like sex or being sexy is abnormal, bad and/or deserving of harm. I suppose substituting ‘bae’ for ‘dick’ is less dramatic and empowering in that way. #Forthedick is a new way for a woman to ‘own her sexuality’ and #forthebae is just another woman saying she will do anything for her man.

Now on to the maddest part of my theory – the man-centered bit. Just to provide some context, it’s not that I don’t think that men are important to feminism. Most feminists will relate to men in some way and require some reciprocity from men for feminism to work in a sane way (and if men didn’t exist, I guess there really wouldn’t be a need for feminism). But I think there’s a middle ground between man-hating and the type of neo-liberal feminism that is obsessed by the way women are viewed by men, where the ultimate triumph is to be able to push your feminist-ally male partner in the face of anyone who poses the question, usually accompanied with this infuriating emoji 🤔, as to whether any feminist can hold down a successful marriage (trust me, it’s hugely satisfying). It just puts men at the centre of everything. If a man says a woman is fat, he’s given so much negative attention! How powerful would it be just to ignore his comment because it doesn’t matter what a random man says about a woman he has no interaction with?

My mad theory is that, as a result of internalised misogyny, there is some resentment among some women, possibly including feminists, about the kind of woman Simi superficially  represents. Small in frame and voice (apart from singing voice), eternally youthful, seemingly easy going and low maintenance, financially if not emotionally,  perhaps they think she is the embodiment of the feminine ideal that modern Nigerian men seek out in their attempt to combine the best parts of patriarchy and feminism to their advantage (“Let’s see now, she has to bring in 90% of the household income and do 180% of the housework. Sexually liberated, of course, as long she doesn’t mind me sending strange men pictures of her naked…..”).

Perhaps that is a bit far-fetched. I do think that if a male artist said half the things (the good half obviously) that Simi says about gender issues, he would be an untopple-able hero. There seems to be an element of male centred feminism that criticises Simi but heaps praise on a Nigerian male celebrity simply for not overtly being an asshole or because he had a few (entirely male-benefitting) seemingly liberal ideas, seeks to make Hugh Hefner a feminist icon (I still can’t get my head around that. “RIP Hugh Hefner” – a man who made his entire fortune out of sexually objectifying women).

As for the beauty and style criticism, it seems to have taken on a life of its own – not, I hasten to add, predominantly sustained by feminists – Tablecloth-Gate, Canvass-Gate, the reference to her clothes as “rags”, the comparisons with Rihanna’s unconventional outfits and so on. Some people find it amusing, some find it outrageous, it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility that some people criticise because of the potential likes, comments and retweets such criticism will generate. The great and good men continue to twit away at their ‘bitchy women’ narrative which means there is now an edge of defiance to the commentary. Personally, I find it uncomfortable, exasperating and bordering on bullying but then again, I’m still trying to find my place in faith feminism, radical feminism, Nigerian feminism, choice feminism and 1st/2nd/3rd wave feminism – with their various virtues and shortcomings. What do I know?

1  I say ‘never’. Since the first draft of this article, I’ve noted at least NF coming out in her support and defence. Also, as I’m technically an NF, I suppose this sentence isn’t literal…but you know what I mean!