Worldviews Round-up: 6 October 2017: How Not to Be A Boy, How Tina Got Trumped, Divorce and the Real Head of the Marital Home

The head structure [for marriages] falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs.

Tina and Trump

A lot of people are being horrible about Tina Campbell and it’s all because of President Trump! The rumblings started when she posted a Facebook message shortly after the inauguration of the President earlier this year. It was an open letter which essentially said, although she hadn’t always agreed with Trump up until then, now that he’s president, she chooses to have faith that God can use him for the good of the United States. A simplistic approach, perhaps an infuriating one both for those who were vehemently opposed to Trump or for those who don’t have faith – we’re stuck with him now, lads, no point moaning, let’s hope for the best!

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What people objected to most was her declaration that she has chosen to “stand with Trump” but I understood this to mean despite his shortcomings and not to be an endorsement of those shortcomings. Yes, from a faith point of view, Christians ultimately rely on God and not on human beings. However, I do think we should try our damnedest to make sure the best and most just human structures are in place – for instance, try a lot harder than voting for Trump and hoping for the best.

In an interview last month with theRoot.com, she confirmed that she did indeed vote for Trump. She didn’t really like Clinton or Trump but she chose the latter because of some of his Christian views. Now that he’s in office (and cocking everything up massively – she didn’t say that!), she still chooses to pray for him rather than bash him.

Like I say, she’s receiving a lot of abuse and criticism on social media. The fairest basis of this abuse would appear to be that it is irresponsible to vote for someone who appears to be both incompetent and objectionable and say “But don’t worry, God will sort it out!”. Other people question her understanding of Christianity if she was convinced by Trump’s apparent faith . Still others think she has more sinister reasons for choosing Trump – which involve supporting some of his more controversial illiberal polices.

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Trump’s campaign from the start when I dismissed the idea of enough people being stupid enough to vote him in to when it became apparent that he had a fighting chance and it was too distressing for me to watch. It seemed obvious to me that he lacked the experience, competency and something else which some American politicians have labelled ‘statemanship’ to be a president. The latter relates to a certain lack of integrity and tact combined with an unhealthy vanity that made me think people would avoid voting for him to prevent the United States becoming a international joke. However, I obviously didn’t spend too much time researching this point and accepted my lack of understanding as to why he had a big following among the American people.

I wouldn’t have voted for him if I was American and I couldn’t at the time imagine anyone voting for him but it’s also true that I never imagined he would be as bad as he appears to be now. I thought a lot of his ‘eccentricities’ was posturing to make himself stand out from the average politician and that when he was elected, he would do things I didn’t approve of but not in such blundering ways. I also didn’t think he would follow through on some of his more controversial policies.

I can’t understand why Tina Campbell would vote for him but I can understand why she or anyone who voted for him would be surprised that he has carried out certain policies or sometimes behaved as bizarrely as he has. I suppose people also thought that if he was bad, the ‘system’ would protect most citizens. Clearly, he still has his supporters so some people must think he’s doing a good job.

I think the media (including the leftist media and social media) has to bear some of the blame for the success of Donald Trump. The problem is they villify anyone they don’t like with the same level of hysteria – from George Bush, to Mitt Romney and even Hilary Clinton herself when she was up against President Obama. It’s easy to see why Clinton wasn’t popular during the elections– her political career had taken a major bashing at least 3 separate times. First, due to irrational sexism, when it transpired that her husband was serially unfaithful to her and when she stood against Obama and then Bernie Sanders in the democratic primaries. Like the boy who cried wolf, when the press is justifiably outraged about someone, previous concerted attacks will mean that not enough people pay attention . They are now memes comparing Trump to Hitler. I still have hope that Trump won’t get as bad as Hitler but what will happen if an actual Hitler arrives (assuming such a person can sit side by side with a free press), what are they going to compare him or her to then?

As for Tina Campbell, if she did have to admit she voted for Trump (and that’s a big if. I have a few friends who voted for Brexit and their secret is safe with me), her best bet would have been to say ‘Look, I didn’t think he would be this bad. I’m now sorry I did it. I pray God helps out of this mess that we got ourselves into’ instead of tying herself into knots trying to defend her decision. Anyway she voted in California, I think, and Clinton took California so none of this is her fault. Anyway, I don’t care what none of y’all say I still love her (in my Kanye voice).

How Not To Be A Boy and the ‘D’ word

I’ve recently finished reading Rob Webb’s memoir/manifesto ‘How Not to Be A Boy’. It really is excellent and contains genius insights on the negative effects of the gender stereotyping on society. One of my favourite passages, discussing relationship self-help book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that exploded into our consciousness over 20 years ago, is this:

The slight downside to popular books about relationships is that all of them are wrong. Wrong because they all start from the premise of difference: that men and women are so fundamentally, innately, mentally and culturally different that they might as well be considered as two different species from two different planets. If you start from there, you give yourself permission to accept every stereotype you’ve ever heard about men and women. So books like the one mentioned – ….are there not to question the different expectations placed on men and women: they’re there to excuse and reinforce them, usually with a truckload of hokey metaphors and dodgy-looking science”(page 295)

I knew (even without reading it) that Men are from Mars book was crap! Now I have a well-articulated reason why (and why I’m stubbornly recalcitrant when someone starts a conversation or point with “Well what you have to understand, Tracy, is that men and women are different in that….” I bloody well do not have to understand anything of the sort! )

This article, however, is about something else in the book – how divorce changed Webb’s dad for the better. To summarise, Robert Webb’s father was not an atypical working class man in small town (well village really), 1970s and 80s England. Maybe he drank more or was more promiscuous than some but one gets the feeling that the town was not flooded with “New Man” types as they were termed in the 1980s. He was a working class hero who showed little regard for his home, wife and kids, often terrifying the latter.

Had Webb’s dad stayed married, would he have continued to violently discipline his sons and be completely useless around his home? Would he have turned his wife into a nervous mental wreck and drank himself to an early death? Instead he became this self-sufficient man who not only possessed physical domestic skills; he took on mental and emotional tasks domestic tasks. He could run a home! As feminists have been telling us for…well since that woman did that clever cartoon in the Guardian (just kidding forever!), running a home is so much more than handling one or two jobs around the house a day.

Personally I found the fact that he had put in place house rules when 17-year old Webb moved in a heart warming sign that he was a changed man. Also, later in life, he actually had the emotional intelligence and confidence to have a conversation with Webb about his sexuality.

Some Christian leaders, particularly in Nigeria, often denounce divorce as Satan’s plan for your marriage. Anything should be endured to avoid that colossal failure. This is not even about the adultery loophole – something which some Christians either ignore or view as a last resort (presumably after both of your legs have rotted away with gonorrhoea, otherwise you’re just not trying.).

I’ve heard the same sentiment repeated in the West. Fewer people will say to me that a woman or man should stay in a horrendous marriage or relationship but when they start citing the ills they blame on divorce or single motherhood (not on the underlying reasons for the same) – gang culture, violent or sociopathic youth, the drain on public funds – I can’t help but wonder what they are advocating the woman (or man) does in those circumstances.

It seems to me that marriage (and divorce) are not magic words or formulas. Clearly, the ideal that marriages should last forever can’t refer to marriages where one spouse is beating the other to a pulp, humiliating them with continuous infidelity, passing on STDs or abusing the kids. Clearly God didn’t mean for us to stick around through that.

Funnily enough, when I was younger and people told me repeatedly that marriage was hard, required compromise and sacrifice and I would have to be TOUGH and focused for my marriage to survive, I thought they were talking about the regular stuff. That is, two different people, most likely different personalities, coming together with their life experiences and baggage, struggling through life with its ups and downs – jobs, money or lack of, illnesses, kids, caring for elderly parents, the lot.

I knew how often my close friends pissed me off (and how often I annoyed them – something that I can’t really understand even today if I’m honest). I imagined that if you had to live with the same person for 30 to 50 years, you’re bound to take a deep breath once or three hundred times during that time period. I thought the ‘struggle’ was learning to handle conflict and hard times with love, patience and kindness.

Imagine my shock when I realised that what these fools were hinting at was that as a woman I should be prepared put up with my husband’s deliberate and calculated efforts to hurt me. I think, for me, that may be taking Christian literalism to the limit and beyond. Incidentally, the converse way these people found to irritate me was to tell me (with what my paranoid mind thinks is a hint of a threat in their voices) that, because my husband is not a dick, that I am very lucky indeed that I found a ‘good’ man. I find this additionally annoying because I think my husband is wonderful, BUT NOT BECAUSE HE MANAGES TO RESTRAIN HIMSELF FROM CHEATING ON AND BEATING ME. And not even because he shares the domestic load in the home that he lives in. This is no less than what is expected of me. But I’m lucky because Men are from Mars.

Marriage (in Nigeria): Head, shoulders, knees and toes

The issue of submission in marriage has come up again, this time in response to a singer stating that, while it’s acceptable for women to pursue success in their careers,  they need to realise that the man is the head of the home. The usual derision, via Twitter, has ensued. There is also a lot of support for her point of view with people asserting that no organisation or institution can function without a ruling head or quoting ‘God’s word’ (or Biblical text twisted and misinterpreted by patriarchal society – article loading on that one).

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Feminists have expressed dismay questioning what makes a man qualified by default to be the head of the family and stating that a lot of men aren’t fit to head anything, much less a home. Of course, I’ve been in people’s mentions like a social disease and of course said people have been ignoring me like said social disease. Hmmph!

I have so many questions starting with why does anyone have to be the head? What decision is so important in a marriage that it requires someone to surrender their status as an equal adult human being and not just as a one-off – the idea is to maintain the woman’s inferior status at all times to be ready for that critical decision which will be the making and breaking of the marriage and which has to be made by the head of the home? In fact, what decision or indeed any process of marriage is made better or more efficient by this blatant inequality?

I’m not sure why marriage is being compared to a business model, but it should be obvious to anyone that the head/neck business structure is not the only structure in the world. In fact now that I think of it, I’ve heard of partnerships, companies and directors, employer and employer but I haven’t heard of the head and neck structure. I suppose it’s comparable to senior manager and junior manager if I’m to avoid being obtuse about it.

People keep saying ‘you can’t have two captains in one ship’ but no one explains why. There is no reason for or logic to the head/neck structure and the only consequence seems to be gross unfairness, equality and the reduction of the woman’s humanity. It provides an excuse for the man’s rage when a woman – who is also an adult and has comparable qualifications and life experience as him and in fact often times does the practical job of running the home – dares to defy him. It creates a situation where a man is waited on head and foot because of arbitrary biological reasons; it allows us human beings to indulge our dark side that derives pleasure from treating fellow human beings as if they are less than us. It also allows women to irrationally blame men for circumstances beyond both their control because as the ‘head of the family’ they are somehow magically supposed to fix things.

There has to be above all love, respect and kindness in any marriage. If you don’t have that, the marriage is probably going to be knackered no matter how many Fortune500 business models you put in place. The head structure falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs. How you can know that they fundamentally disagree with something or have deep concerns about it but ‘put your foot down’ because it’s your right.

Respect comes in because you value and trust your partner’s judgment. Incidentally, the whole head thing starts to unravel at an intellectual level when people start saying things like, choose a good ‘head’ but even if you don’t remember he’s still the head. Therefore if your husband is prone to making bad decisions, you should submit to him driving you and your family into rack and ruin because he’s the head. Oh I forgot! If all else fails, pray. Pray that he starts making good decisions. In the meantime, watch your children suffer. This rarely happens, doesn’t work and is the reason why this head thing is a crock of crap.

If it’s compromise and sacrifice is required, I still don’t understand why people have to add that extra layer of discourse and oppression which is involved in labelling the male partner ‘the head’. I don’t always agree with my husband’s viewpoint but I consider him to be inherently sensible and to be acting in good faith. He feels the same about me. We always manage to resolve our differences in a way that we can both live with – sometimes I convince him; sometimes he convinces me; sometimes one of us gives in. Neither of us would be comfortable doing something that the other has a major problem with. Not many decisions are worth overriding someone’s concerns and esteem. If we can’t agree, the priority is our relationship and not the decision.

Worldviews Round-up: 9 September 2017: Politicians on Abortion, the Art of Criticism and Simisola the Album!

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’ and other news…

Politicians on Abortion

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’.  The most controversial was admitting that he thought abortion was wrong even in cases of rape and incest, in accordance with his Catholic faith.

His statements remind me a little of Tim Farron’s resignation from his position as leader of the Liberal Democrats earlier this year. Tim said he found it impossible to live as a Christian and lead the party. According to him, the press hounded him because of what they considered to be prejudices that inevitably flow from his evangelical Christian faith.

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There was some evidence of this alleged hounding. In a number of interviews he was grilled about his views on abortion and gay relationships. He wasn’t allowed to get away with saying he supports people’s freedom to do what they want to or that he voted for this or that freedom or  that it was his political views, not his personal beliefs, that were relevant to his campaign.

Nope. He was asked to state categorically whether he thought these things were wrong. He was quoted scripture and asked whether he believed and accepted the quotes. Just answer the question, Tim, do you believe in this, yes or no. Simples. Perhaps a bit too far but the silly, sad and immature part of me chuckles inside when (some) Christians decide to graciously and liberally admit something or the other is a matter of personal conviction and not state or even societal censure. To our bitter amazement, we find that our new position is not enough, times have moved on and we are now required to endorse whatever it was that we thought went against Christian teaching. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M STILL A BIGOT?!? I ALREADY SAID GAY PEOPLE WOULDN’T NECESSARILY BURN IN HELL!!!” (silent, internal screaming of course). I’m working on being a better person.

I suppose Rees-Mogg’s answer had the superficial merit of dealing with the abortion issue precisely although I note that he firmly shifted the responsibility for his response to the Catholic church and its teaching instead of his personal understanding of Christianity and the Bible.

Being a Christian, I’m not going to pretend to be shocked by Rees Mogg’s views (even though I strongly disagree with them  – let’s make that clear from the outset!).  Neither will I pretend that I’d find it easy to answer a question on abortion.  If I was asked about abortion, I’d have to say that my answer has 6 parts and I’m afraid I’d have to dogmatically insist on outlining each part in every interview.

The first is what the Bible says about abortion. Nothing, as far as I know. It does affirm the sanctity of life, starting with the commandment “Thou shalt not kill’ – but this is in the context where many many lives are taken seemingly with God’s permission or complancency (much like today but it’s more complicated than that really). There is also a strange story in the Bible of a man ejaculating outside his dead brother’s wife (while having sex with her obviously or else the story wouldn’t really be strange at all).

The second (and third) is I would describe myself as pro-choice but (apart from the obvious exceptions like health of the mother, rape etc) probably also a little anti-abortion. I absolutely do not want to live in a society where choice is taken from women but would rather they chose not to abort. I don’t think, for example, it’s wrong to speak to a woman about other options if she has asked for an abortion and wants to listen. I don’t think abortion is killing a baby; I do think that provided a certain age of the foetus – it’s ending life – or at least a tiny spark of life.

Incidentally, extreme members from both the left and right don’t think you should mention exceptions. The left think that any mention of exceptions suggests that some abortions are more deserving than others and chips away at the inalienable right to the choose and the right think that nothing justifies ‘killing a baby’ – not what happened to or what would happen to the mother. Both sides are mad.

Fourth: Abortion shouldn’t be but is politicised and I do not want to live in a world where the people who want to criminalise abortion get their way. A lot of them are largely interested in controlling women and with their constant campaigning for removing or reducing  welfare, sex education and access to contraception;  they are also mad.

Fifth: My views on ending a life involve, I must admit, a healthy dose of ignorance on my part especially the science bit. I’m very vague on this issue. I don’t for instance think taking the morning after pill is ending any sort of life. I start thinking that way when the embryo/foetus is around 6-8 weeks and has passed some kind of test in my head.

The second area of vagueness has to do with late abortions (which I understand are very much in the minority) and the brutal way it has been described. I can’t help but wonder if the foetus suffers pain. I ought to look it up but I’m afraid if I do, I will be drawn to one of the more extreme camps – probably the anti-abortion people. I think the law in the UK probably contains the right balance:

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith –

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
(b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
(d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

Yes, a foetus’ life may be important but so is the mother’s, in terms of the physical and mental effect of continuing the pregnancy. And also,  at the risk of sounding dramatic (and unoriginal),  I do think we have to question the outrage at a Western rape victim terminating a pregnancy if we are willing to accept the risk of refugee children, babies and unborn babies perishing at sea because of  immigration laws and statistics.

Finally: An analogy. Between my children, I had a miscarriage. I opted to remove the foetal matter by a D&C. So muddled was my mental state that I actually wondered if I was in fact having an abortion. I’m mad.

It became clear that the embryo/foetus was dead when I was 11 or 12 weeks pregnant. It turned out, from its size, that it had in fact died at 5-6 weeks. The reaction to my miscarriage is probably how most people would reasonably react to the termination of a pregnancy if the thorny (and very relevant) issue of choice wasn’t involved.

Even my most Christian, anti-abortionist friends (I’m not going to call them pro-life because really who isn’t pro-life?) didn’t treat me like I had lost a baby. Even the most convicted pro-choice/abortion people didn’t act like I had simply removed a bunion. There was a recognition that a huge part of my grief was about my hopes and aspirations for the pregnancy and baby. But there was also an acknowledgement that I had lost something outside of myself – the beginnings of a life or a child.

I suspect that had I had a still birth (defined as losing the foetus after 28 weeks of pregnancy) and the closer I got to term, the more  I would have been treated as if I lost a baby. And if I had lost a baby, then I guess I would have just lost a baby.

I wonder, had I chosen to terminate at the same time, say between 5 and 11 weeks of pregnancy, because of the viability or health of the foetus, would my (alright!) pro-life friends have accused me of killing a baby? I usually try to be even- handed but I can’t think of a comparable example for my pro-choice friends.

The Art of Criticism

M. I. and Osagie Alonge’s discussion on the recent Loosetalk podcast episode  has caused a bit of conversation. When I write about people, I try to imagine them reading it (even though at the moment there’s not a hope in hell…never mind) and I hope this helps me to avoid being too vicious. For me, in that episode, M.I. was a vivid reminder of the human face at the other side of every critical article or review.

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So I know what I got from the discussion  but I’m still trying to understand what either party achieved, especially by airing what appeared to be an unedited version.  M.I. obviously came out better than Alonge in many respects. I don’t think there’s any need to dwell on Alonge’s sweary outbursts as I’m sure he’s still ‘conking’ himself in private about that. I did find it amusing (alright, very funny), that when M.I. started to criticise one of Ayomide Tayo’s articles, he was met with loud hysterics before he even got to line 2 of his critique.

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No one really likes criticism.   It’s disingenuous to pretend that despite his friendly, chilled online persona, M.I. is in reality a raving egomaniac (just) for objecting to the treatment his music has received from Pulse Magazine. Some of the same people tweeting that if M.I. cannot take criticism, then he shouldn’t release music, will either send you a snappy retort (along the lines of ‘go and write your own!’) if you disagree with their tweet or produce a long thread on how you are trying to erase the validity of their experiences and existence. No one likes criticism. It’s just that we have accepted or assumed that part of a viable music industry includes a credible music critiquing/reviewing arm.

However, I don’t agree with M.I. when he says that critics should 1) understand the difficulties he has gone through to produce a record 2) somehow pay homage, in every critique, to his or 2face’s legacy in pioneering the current Afropop/beat/hip hop movement and 3) should criticise with the objective of supporting (not ‘bringing down’) the Nigerian music industry.

All that is suspiciously close to sycophancy. Music review in Nigeria should be the same as everywhere else. It’s not easy to define but, apart from avoiding gratuitous rudeness and insults, what I expect is some expertise both of music and the market and some level of objectivity. I’m not saying a reviewer is not allowed to have an opinion of the artist but I’m a bit cautious about reviews when it is clear that the reviewer either adores, idolises or hates the artist.

Alonge is very knowledgeable and unrivalled in his passion for hip-hop (particularly African) but some of his statements about M.I. and other acts  make him sound like a deranged obsessive fan. I’m very familiar with ‘the deranged fan’ being one myself (and currently having an object of my obsessive fandom). The deranged fan has moved on from simply liking, loving or approving of the music and now wants the artist to do exactly what he or she thinks they should be doing (despite, like me and perhaps unlike Alonge, not having a clue about making music). I mean he was talking to M.I. like M.I. was losing him, personally,  money by the way he was running Chocolate City record label.

I’m also not convinced by the justification for harsh criticism which is that it is needed “to make our artists do better”. The “we love them but we just want to make them better” narrative is bit too paternalistic for me. I suspect that we don’t all really have any vested interest in making artists better as such. If we don’t think they produce good enough music, we are free to drop our opinion and spend our money elsewhere. Presumably, it was this instinct to make our artists “do better” that drove Nigerians in their hundreds to Simi’s Twitter page during the AMCVA awards earlier this year to tell her they didn’t like her dress.

Speaking of Simi, I’ve bought the album Simisola and it’s  fantastic! Now I’m off to  listen to the album obsessively until I can find something in it to write a good, long, moany article about. Have a good weekend!

simisola

Whose Vagina Is It Anyway? – a discussion on Christianity, feminism and the concept of virginity

Choice or Wrong choice? What position should faith feminsim take on the V-word?

The scandal!

Twitter is up in arms again (at least it was when I decided to write this post)! It’s all about actress and comedian’s Yvonne Orji’s decision to wait until she’s married before she has sex. Yep! She’s a card carrying Christian virgin and proud of it!

 

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The feminist outrage

Some people, feminists included, are somewhat annoyed at this news. They profess not to have a problem with celibacy as such, they just condemn the idea of holding on to one’s virginity as a patriarchal concept of preserving oneself for ownership by a man. Just in case, like me, you’re not sure what that means, I think it has to do with presenting yourself as a gift to your husband on your wedding night, unspoiled and (relatively) untouched. I guess it does imply ownership and potentially more worryingly, your husband’s control over your sex life even before you’ve met said husband.

Others are concerned about the unrelated link between a ‘woman’s worth’ and her virginity. Somehow being a virgin means a higher value should be placed on a woman. Still others lament religion as an oppressive force bullying women into repressing their natural sexual urges. Finally, I have heard criticism of the concept of sexual purity – the implication that sexual activity soils and therefore damages.

In all honesty, there is some truth to these criticisms. Historically various cultures, whether Christian or not, have placed value on a woman’s virginity and chastity . There is for instance the practice of virginity testing on the wedding night. Even in cultures where the wedding did not take place until the woman became pregnant (I understand that this was the practice when Mary married Joseph – the sequence was engagement, pregnancy and then wedding to avoid childlessness), few of them would have celebrated or even agreed to take a (previously ) sexually active wife.

One has to take into account that in historic times, girls were married off at a fairly young age. Perhaps sexual activeness at that age carried the risk of some kind of physical damage. Or perhaps ancient cultures were also bastards to women (like everyone else) .

A big part of feminism and sexual liberation (apart from tackling sexual harm to women) continues to be to (1) ending double standards between men and women when it comes to sexual activity (2) reversing the thinking that a woman’s personal sexual choices and sex life are matters of public shame – slut shaming and his evil twin brother who decides whether a woman is a victim of sexual assault based on how she’s dressed and how many sexual partners she’s had in the past (3) allowing women to acknowledge and express themselves sexually (4) and yes, ending the practice of determining a woman’s ‘worth’ by her sex life, past or present.

I must confess, I take issue with the whole ‘woman’s worth’ concept. It makes women seem like commodities and plays into the good woman (or ‘queen’ – a word I’m beginning to despise when not used to refer to actual monarchy) /bad girl division. People make commitments, behave honourably or badly, are compatible with you or not. That’s how you decide whether you want to be with them. They are not priced or awarded points as if they were on display in a supermarket. Anyway!

The Christian perspective

It is likely that the reasons for Orji’s decision are nowhere near as sinister as the above. In modern charismatic churches, both men and women are expected to abstain from sex before marriage. The thinking is that sex is a special expression of a certain type of love (romantic, I suppose, but that word feels too shallow) that God intended for us to undertake with one person in the context of marriage.

As to how some Christians apply it beyond their own personal standards and stray into ‘judging’ others, most (media-savvy) people would say “It’s just my personal belief. I’m not imposing these standards on anyone” then (in what seems to me like a slight shift in position) “I’m not judging !”  In reality, it often goes beyond personal belief. Just like choice feminism has been roundly condemned in relation to this issue, ‘choice Christianity’ is, I suspect, not really credible in many charismatic churches.

The general belief is that if sex before marriage is wrong, it’s wrong for everyone or at least every Christian. Some churches may see at as a personal conviction, in that they do not expect individuals to account to some deacon or pastor about their sex lives, and may even tacitly accept that some church couples who are in a long-term relationship may be ‘doing it’. But generally in these churches you are not supposed to announce and publicly celebrate the fact that you are having sex before marriage.

I started attending the Church of England after I got married (so the whole sex before marriage wasn’t really my problem by then ha ha ha). I’ve not heard the prohibition against sex before marriage actively advocated in C of E . Much will depend on the individual church of course -for instance Holy Trinity Brompton is one of the biggest and most charismatic congregations of the C of E, as far as I know, its founder, Nicky Gumble, believes that sex should take place within the confines of marriage.  In the churches I’ve attended, it’s not unusual for the vicar to be openly accepting of people living together and producing babies before marriage. Perhaps someone has a word in private.

The issue is not without difficulty in the church. There is some discontent among Christians who reject promiscuity but wonder, when they find themselves involuntarily single in their late 30’s and 40s, whether the rule against sex before marriage has prevented them from forming compatible relationships. Some women (especially as there always seems to be less men in churches) find themselves completely disillusioned with the whole thing and wonder if they have wasted the ‘best years’ of their lives waiting for this ideal of a sex-less relationship (their mood, I suspect, turns especially sour if it turns out the married pastor has been schlepping the single choir mistress the entire time but I’m hoping that, despite the media sensation such events generate, that this is relatively rare) especially when there appears to be no direct Biblical authority for the rule (although plenty of implication and Biblical context).

It doesn’t help that some pastors take it too far and preach all kinds of weird analogies for the consequences of sex before marriage. My favourite went something like this: when two people come together in sexual union, they somehow mould together so that they are incomplete and damaged when they are ‘ripped apart’ – a bit like cookies or cakes which, meant to be separate, have (wrongfully and annoyingly!) migrated towards each other on the baking sheet while in the oven, formed an unsightly whole which you first try and break apart and disguise the flaw with icing then abandon the idea and end up eating them standing up, cursing, in the kitchen.

The above is to demonstrate their belief that sex is an act which invariably has emotionally and spiritual consequences as well as long term effects. My main problem is with presenting these theories as if they are undisputed Biblical law when at best they are interpretations sometimes tenuously based on scripture.

My general perception is that a lot of active Christians have managed to overcome whatever reservations they had about having sex before marriage although few would defend promiscuity as being within Christian beliefs or ‘God’s plan’. It continues to be a difficulty in the church, especially in light of the very different standards of secular society, and I’m not sure how consistently or effectively the rule is followed.

Most importantly….my opinion!

I’ll get to the two things that disturbed me about the feminist outrage. The lesser is the hypocrisy of some feminists in supposedly rejecting choice feminism in this context. An example is a tweep (she may even be what another tweep described as a ‘thought leader’ with her 19k followers – I’m not jealous at all) who has been pro choice feminism about a number of sex positive things. Such were her bizarre conclusions that she had me exploring radical feminism like:

giphy

I was shocked (shocked!) to hear her condemn choice feminism when it came to Orji’s virginity (I don’t know if Orji is a feminist but the issue is whether feminists can justifiably assert that her position is inherently patriarchal or whether this is one of the choices that feminism should absolutely protect ).

This tweep was quoting anti-choice-feminism threads with not a hint of irony or qualification – as if her previous pro choice/sex positive feminism tweets didn’t exist. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood her. I regularly follow and unfollow her out of exasperation/sneaky admiration/envy (I’m afraid I’m one of those ‘unfollow and scroll’ people. I’ll unfollow because some tweet annoyed me, check on the tweep’s timeline to see “wha’ gwan”, follow again because “ah she/he doesn’t seem that bad”, get annoyed by another tweet…ad infinitum).

The bigger issue is linked to my own personal experience. I never fully accepted that a sexually active person/woman was soiled or that sex before marriage was necessarily damaging. I have been and am a bit suspicious of the claim that it is a sin because of lack of a direct Bible quote.  I am a bit wary of promiscuity, partly because I’d like my partner to be faithful and I think what keeps you faithful is commitment and self-control, which is built through life experiences (as opposed to ‘love’ and the fact I’m so much woman he won’t go elsewhere).

However, what really bothered me was the fact I never felt I owned my sexuality. I always felt that when I was dating, I owed it to society, to men, to be sexually active when they decided I should be sexually active. I never even got a chance to make my own objective decision and (much like my eating now) after a while I had completely lost anything resembling a natural instinct in my 20s and early 30s.

I was completely unreasonable for ‘making him wait’ for any period of time/until I felt comfortable, I was manipulative, I was withholding, I was wasting his time, I was trying to force him into a serious relationship/marriage. I was too easy (when I finally said, “ah screw it/me”). I wasn’t making enough effort. As soon as I expressed an interest in a guy (not all my exes), I felt he was watching my vagina with a proprietary eye, waiting for me to give him what was rightfully his.

It wasn’t just the men. From my ‘non-waiting’ girlfriends, the advice seemed to be you had to have a strategy for determining whether he was serious or not. Once you decided he was serious, give him the most exotic, exciting booty he had in his life in order to ‘keep him’.

My waiting friends advised me to resist, resist, resist so that God would reward me with a good Christian husband. The problem was the potential Christian husband seemed to come from a pool of arrogant young men, subject to sexist indoctrination of expecting submission from their wives, who were very much aware of their special-breed status and WHO DIDN’T SEEM TO LIKE ME.

I was completely lost and I behaved very strangely, and sometimes badly, indeed during those lost years. All these people that say Orji should make her sexual decisions free from patriarchy, religion or this, that or the other; I wouldn’t have known where to start. From the moment I entered into a relationship, I felt burdened with the job of managing other people’s expectations about my sex life.

I didn’t know what I wanted until I said to myself “HALT! I am what I am. I am a product of my contradictory upbringing (my mum wanted me to be fairly chaste but not so ‘frigid’ (a sexist, entitled, rapey term) that I drove away a prospective husband), personal experiences and my religious beliefs. If I’m going to change, dismantle everything about the above, it’s not so some man can have access to my vagina or so some women can have some kind of collective validation about their own lifestyle. I YAM WHAT I YAM. Feminism felt natural to me. This does not”.

This is why I am bothered enough to write this post about some of the feminist discussion on this issue and on sex generally.  I’ve seen tweets describing the decision as sad. Before Orji, I’d previously seen a tweet saying that women should grow up and accept they are sexual beings (it’s the ‘should’ that bothers me). The brilliant ‘Dear Ijeawela/Feminist Manifesto’ says it is disingenuous to pretend sex is an “only in marriage” act – it is for some people (through choice obviously, most people are physically capable of having sex outside marriage).

There is of course the type of sex. One feminist suggested that a girlfriend who does not digitally/anally manipulate her boyfriend is not a real girlfriend (I bloody well hope she was bloody well joking – as an aside, I’m led to believe by Twitter that if I was young and dating in 2017 I would regularly be expected to ‘eat ass’. I’m ashamed to say that it took me a very long time to realise that this is not just crude slang for oral sex and personally the thought of it has shaken my liberalism a bit).

There’s probably nothing wrong with the  bum stuff and I’m a complete prude.  However, the serious point is that I’m alarmed to see that feminists and entitled men (from the left and the right unfortunately) saying some of the same things. Give it up (and in accordance with some pornographic fantasy of what is supposed to constitute good sex – I recently re-tweeted the article by Jean Hatchet about the pressure teenage girls are under to have anal sex) at THIS point or you are damaged/brainwashed/being bloody difficult.

My fear is, under the guise of a collective war on patriarchy, we are attempting to force on Orji our own ideas about sexuality and to be totally dramatic about it, co-erce her into sexual activity. I wouldn’t describe myself as a choice feminist – I think feminism is a global tool to fight inequality and oppression against women (and I don’t think sex work is ’empowering’ FFS) but individual sexuality needs to be left alone. It can be so complex and scary with so many people trying to lay claim to female sexuality. So much harm has been done in the execution of the idea that a woman’s vagina is collective property, of collective interest. There is so much entitlement in that area that feminism must march towards individual choice, in my view.

Patriarchy and sexism has done more harm to women’s sexuality than feminists can probably conceive of. But for me, there is something inherently terrifying in trying to co-erce a woman into sexual activity for her own good and for the common good.

Sunny Sunburn Holiday Blues: My Silly Holiday Article

…..like others before me, I would ask a question about fake tanning and then spend the next few moments concentrating on nodding vigorously to convey great understanding, instead of listening to the answer

suntan pic 2I don’t understand why fair-skinned (white) people ask me about tanning, sun protection, sunblock, sunstroke, sunscreen etc. I know, I know, black people, even ones as dark as me, can get sunburned or sunstroke. I got burned myself once, long before I knew what sunscreen was.  Nevertheless I’m frequently confused and uncomfortable during the questioning.

I’ll give you an example. My husband got sunburned on very recent holiday. How? He went swimming without a T-shirt (he’s very fair). While taking off his clothes in preparation for bed, he asked “What do you think?”.  I confess, if he had been speaking, I wasn’t listening and I certainly hadn’t been watching him undress (the very thought!). “What do I think about what?”, I replied absent-mindedly, not turning from what I was doing.

“I think I’ve been burned” I looked at him and his torso was so red I thought he’d suddenly gotten very angry (but not in his face). “What’s that???” I yelped. “Ask your mum! She’ll know what to do! Should I call her now? Alison!…(we were vacationing with my mother in law)” “Nah. Don’t do that. She’ll get worried.” “What even happened?” “I forgot my t-shirt, didn’t I?” (“Yee-es?..” we heard Alison call faintly from the other room -we didn’t but it would have been so cool in a farcical type of way, no?) “Weren’t you wearing sunscreen?” “No”.

It’s usually at moments like this that I want to opt out of the sun conversation. Firstly, I’m scared of giving the wrong advice. I don’t know what to say! I don’t want to tell someone not to worry and have them wake up the next morning looking like bubble wrap or vomiting, fainting on the Tube or bowling over while singing in the church choir (all real examples) hours or even days after their encounter with the sun.

Also, I want to (or don’t want to, as it happens) ask, well, why didn’t you put sunscreen on? You are at risk of ending up with biblical scale blisters, your brain boiling away in your skull, raw peeling skin and utter misery and you couldn’t spare 3.4 minutes to apply sunscreen. You wouldn’t show me your arm, scraped to the bone, and say “Dude….if only I’d remembered to shut the door before the car starting moving…this really hurts”.

Bizarrely, when I was still studying, I heard of someone who was badly sunburned. He hadn’t used sunscreen of course but had taken the time to slather baby oil all over his body before hitting the beach which made the burns worse…. Stories like this make me afraid that when confronted by a sunburn victim, the first thing that will flow out of my mouth is a series of judgmental questions.

However, by far my worst fear is that the only real thing I feel like saying will emerge which is “I don’t know! I don’t know! Go and ask your fellow white (fair-skinned?) people!!”  I frequently felt like this when I lived in a house share with a girl I’ll call ‘Emily’ (‘Emily’ and I fell out eventually but not over sun issues).

Emily was very fair. From time to time, she used to ask my opinion on her adventures with fake tanning lotions. I was not of course the only woman in the house. There were 2 other women. I was the only black woman. I may be off here but I think her logic in asking me was flawed.

Firstly, as far as I can remember, she never managed to achieve anything that I would call a tan. This may be a problem of perception for me. If I looked closely, I noticed some additional colour on her elbows and knees but I had to look for quite a long time. Having peered at her for an uncomfortably long period (I should have just lied once she started talking about tanning but again I was probably scared of telling the wrong lie as I really did not know what I was talking about), I felt I had to say something.  That something had to be somewhere between my true opinion (too cruel) and what I thought she was expecting to hear (lacking in believability). I could never quite grasp the words I was looking for so ended up saying things like “Errrrr….well! You’ve clearly been done something there!” or the very daft “Did you do it for a long time?”

After a few back and forths, Emily would usually say something like “Don’t worry it will come out in a few days”, leaving me with questions. The first one, of course, is why ask me today then? The second – what do you mean it will ‘come out’ in a few days? Did you apply it to your skin or to your internal organs for it to slowly emerge during the course of a ‘few days’? I realised after a few of these Q&A sessions that fake tan is not like foundation. If it was, it would probably wash off. I still didn’t understand how it works though. Does it stain the skin? WHY DOESN’T IT SHOW ITSELF IMMEDIATELY? I suppose I could google it now if I wanted to.

Another housemate – we’ll call her ‘Kerry’ – once applied her fake tan too liberally in preparation for a sunny holiday. I wondered briefly why the real sun wasn’t good enough. I suppose even I could understand that she wanted to look tanned and sexy on arrival (she was quite sexy anyway) but she also told me that applying the fake tan would somehow enhance and speed up the tanning process for reasons which eluded me even as she was speaking.  This may be partly because I was so scared of appearing ignorant that, like others before me, I would ask a question about fake tanning and then spend the next few moments concentrating on nodding vigorously to convey great understanding, instead of listening to the answer

Kerry already looked very tan on her way out. When she returned, a combination of the sun and her fake tanning cream had turned her luminously orange (how?) and apologetic. “Sorry” she said to no question (or perhaps to her mind, unasked questions) “I overdid it before the holidays. It will fade soon” ????????

Domestic Violence: “But…What If She Provokes and Provokes till He Snaps?”

Obviously there are healthy ways to disagree and really two adults should not be shouting and screaming at each other but this is a separate and distinct conversation from the line of DV which should never be crossed.

 

 

There are some statements or even questions that I struggle to give a comprehensible response to, not to mention coherent argument, because I am so filled with rage. An example is when a woman is badly injured or killed in a domestic violence case and some bright spark comes out with “What did she do to provoke him?” or the cleverly worded “I wonder why he was so angry” or “We must also teach women not to provoke men” or whatever nonsense  Empress Njamah and ‘Silent Night, Christmas Lights’ Edochie spouted recently.

What triggered this essay is finding a Youtube clip from 2014 of ‘The Banky and Tiwa Show’ (who knew?) on Domestic Violence (“DV”). The clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5rXRywENCE) contained just a 45 second segment of the episode, which included, among Basketmouth’s comedic ranting about how parents should teach their daughters martial arts, Banky W asking something like this ‘but what if a woman pushes and pushes and pushes her husband and one day he just snaps and hits her?’.

Banky! BANKY! My chest (as they say on twitter these days)! I now realise that on the issue of gender equality, I’d put this man on a pedestal far higher than any other Nigerian entertainer simply because (1) he enjoys cooking and (2) he once posted a picture of himself carrying a #heforshe card on instagram.   I was actually sitting  in front of my computer like a lemon waiting for him to shrilly denounce any kind of DV in any situation in his usual earnest American manner.

Now I don’t know how the show ended. It’s very possible Banky said that under no circumstances should a man hit a woman (and presumably he was, during the clip, in ‘investigative mode’ and ‘asking the hard questions’) so I’ll concentrate on breaking down my  discomfort with the provocation/DV debate.

If I was on the show  I would ask for a definition of provocation. I can only imagine 3 scenarios. Firstly, physical violence by the wife; secondly constant emotional and verbal abuse by the wife (what Empress Njamah called ‘mental abuse’ causing me to now hate drum and base music because ‘its mentallist, innit?’ Stupid woman) or the far more common place scenario of two very angry spouses having an absolute howler of an argument.

In the first case of physical violence, no one should be hitting anyone in a relationship. As a woman if you hit your spouse or partner, you are  committing DV against him. This is just as heinous as him committing DV against you.

There are reasons why the spotlight is on DV against women. There are far more cases of DV against women. Women are more susceptible to DV because they are usually physically weaker than their male partners . The bigger reason is that it is an institutionalised form of sexism against women. Not only is it justified by upstanding members of society, sexist views of women actually increase the chance of DV. DV, as a societal problem, is partly a result of women being demonised (‘she will run wild if you don’t control her’),  infantalised (‘so that she will not misbehave’ – although men are also infantalised because they apparently cannot control themselves and are ‘like babies’), dehumanised (reduced to servile, submissive, domestic, child bearing/rearing property) and devalued.

I found this neat summary on the web:

On pages 45-49, Gary quotes from a pamphlet written by Dr. John Barger in which Barger admits abusing his wife but claims a complete transformation. There’s no way to hear his wife’s side of the story because she passed away from cancer.

Dr. Barger writes, “It’s easy to scorn women and most men do. We see women as physically weak, easy to intimidate, bound to the menial tasks of motherhood, emotional, illogical and often petty. Or…..we scorn and hate them for their commanding sexual power over us…”1

But DV does happen to men; there’s no doubt about that.  Hitting is a line that should not be crossed (even if he cheats; even if he lines dem bitches up wall to wall. If he cheats, LEAVE lol. I know folks ain’t tryna hear that but that is another article) other than in self-defence, defending someone else; possibly excusable if you’ve just witnessed him attacking someone more vulnerable but you are not technically acting in defence.

Another reason for not hitting is that it normalises violence in your relationship and in a physical fight, the man is likely to win. Again and again and again.

What should a man do if he’s hit? Ideally, I’d say because he’s stronger, getting away and if necessary, restraining the woman should be sufficient to defend himself. But I really wish more men would leave  for this kind of behaviour. I phrased my last sentence like that because, certainly in Nigeria, it seems very few people would advocate a man ending a relationship or a marriage because his partner slapped or hit him. This is probably partly rooted in patriarchy – the assumption that a husband should be able to ‘control’ his wife, a fully grown adult.

So no it’s not an excuse to beat seven bells out of your female partner, but, in the immediate aftermath of being punched in the face, who can say how anyone will react?

On to verbal assault. I’m thinking of abusive behaviour here. Someone who insults, demeans and belittles their partner constantly . It is still not a reason to hit your wife/partner. However if your partner is being verbally abusive it is a real problem and grounds to end the relationship. An illustration is the irrepressible Nunu in #BckchatLdn who said if I insult your mother, you can insult my mother back. You can’t touch me. I completely agree but if your girlfriend or wife is constantly telling you that your mother is a bitch, that relationship is probably on its way out.

Let’s move on to what people usually mean when they say that a woman is ‘pushing her husband’. You have two very angry people; communication has broken down; they are arguing in a hurtful and destructive way; they are both pushing each other. What people mean when they say the woman “should stop pushing her husband now. Can’t she see that he’s already angry?” is that she should defer to the fact that he can end this argument any time he wants – with one punch.

Because if not for that, her logical response may very well be ‘I’M angry. He’s PUSHING me. Why don’t you tell him to stop??’  Obviously there are healthy ways to disagree and really two adults should not be shouting and screaming at each other but this is a separate and distinct conversation from the line of DV which should never be crossed.

provocation image 2

Banky framing the question like that was, to my mind ,putting DV in the mix of normal, whether good, bad or regrettable, behaviour in a marriage. She buys groceries. He mows the lawn. He leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor. She spends too much time on the phone. He slaps her. She…Hold up! Hold up! What was that last one again??

In reality, couples do provoke each other. They do. Sometimes deliberately and sometimes not. If you constantly fail to flush the toilet or plan half a dozen holidays in one year without your husband and children, you are likely (rightly or wrongly) to get the tongue lashing of your life, which an observing stranger might find shocking to witness.

Of course, in an ideal world the offended party will explain in a calm way why your behaviour was unacceptable. In real life, spouses argue and something usually ‘starts the argument’ The message out there should simply be DV is unacceptable. This should ingrained and instilled in everyone’s head.

While we work towards getting better at communicating, DV shouldn’t be presented as something you accidentally slip up and do in the course of marriage – you know, not very nice but it happens.. It is deal-breaker. It leads to atrocities and abject misery. It’s usually more about control than losing your rag (except when you lose it because she dares DARES to disobey you). By the time it gets to death or serious injury, the victim is barely existing as human, a long term prisoner of terror and has learnt a long time ago not to ‘provoke’ her tormentor. He still attacks her regularly.

The question on the show was ‘should a wife stay or go in the case of DV’ (is that one even a question sef?). My answer is a marriage with DV, a relationship that has descended into violence, is not worth sustaining. The marriage is already over. Somebody just needs to do the paperwork.

1From the website ‘A Cry for Justice’ – review of Gary Thomas’ book – A Sacred Marriage – full review here – https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2017/05/17/gary-thomass-book-sacred-marriage-a-review-by-avid-reader/

Trending on Twitter: 4:44 and The Serial Cheat Who Really Really Really Loves You (Honest!)

The mad assumptions, the nonsensical talk that it is some sign of strength and character to resume such a crazy relationship and the lack of consequences it has for men – it’s not just about choice.

This post is everything I said I wouldn’t write when I started this blog – it’s short, angry, impulsive and judgmental.  However it’s an issue that has been tormenting my brain for a while now.  Somewhere between respecting women’s choices and trying to avoid blaming them for all that stems from being cheated on, has evolved this poisonous ideology that  (1) a man can cheat on you multiple times and still love and respect you and have any interest in being married/together/in a monogamous relationship (2) that staying in these circumstances (when you have other options) is a viable, sane or even admirable choice.

To give some context to this rant, it has been triggered by  Beyonce and Jay-Z’s relationship and particularly his recent album and song 4:44.  No one really knows what is going on between those two but Beyonce’s 2016 album, Lemonade, more than hints that he cheated on her and the album 4:44  seems to confirm he has done so multiple times, in creative ways and against the backdrop of multiple miscarriages and stillbirths.  All desperately sad.

I’ve managed to avoid the kind of commentary that assumes that Beyonce must have done something wrong to make her man cheat or that a woman who considers leaving her marriage for infidelity is failing in some way.  (I’ll give you an example of this:  In the reality show Mary Mary, about the gospel group of the same name, we discovered that Tina Campbell’s husband  had been consistently cheating on her for 9 out of the 14 years of their marriage.  Leaving Tina’s reaction  aside, I was struck by what her sister said in an interview about the matter.  It was something to the effect that women who wouldn’t consider forgiving (forgiving means resuming the same relationship of course) in the same circumstances were perhaps “not really serious about their vows in the first place”  When I say ‘struck’ I of course mean livid).

I’m not talking about  that.  I’m talking about feminists and womanists and seemingly sensible women effectively saying the only relevant factor is the decision that Beyonce chose to take.  Anyone criticising that choice is being patriarchal and is trying to tell women what to do.

I’m going to assume that a large part of this is because the subject is Beyonce and for some of her followers (which includes me!), the  default mode is to jump to her defence and analyse later.   But the thing is I’ve had this argument several times.  I thought I was going mad!  I’d almost reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must be ‘missing something’ and decided to park the issue.

To illustrate, I’ll share a few thoughts I jotted down while thinking about the intersection between my feminist beliefs and my Christian faith:

  1. Infidelity – This is an interesting one. I’ve always felt salty when a man cheats and, in my culture and within members of my faith, the woman is told that the right (or patient, loving, however you want to put it) thing to do is to forgive the man. Forgiving in this context means taking him back and resuming the relationship. This has irritated me to the extent that I can get very grumpy indeed when the woman does end up taking the man back. I feel that the man has somehow gotten away with yet another thing in a man’s world.

In reality, it’s an individual and personal choice, regardless of my own (dim) views on  infidelity. It’s when people try to promote the idea that it is a Christian woman’s duty to keep the family together by carrying on with the marriage, regardless of how she feels, that it becomes a social and feminist issue. There are so many things wrong with this point of view that whenever I try to write them down, I inevitably forget some points. Forgiveness is a central part of Christianity but it does not necessarily mean resuming the same relationship. If a church treasurer is caught stealing money from the church, most churches would ‘forgive’; few would put him or her back in the same position.

Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it is not freely given; if it is done out of duty, emotional blackmail or societal coercion. Infidelity is a breach of one of the sacred vows of marriage – it is not just a ‘mistake’, an imperfection, comparable to being negligent with housework. Imperfection has nothing to do with it – it has to do with an act not a characteristic or a weakness. The person who carries out the infidelity breaks the marriage; the person who files the divorce is just doing follow up admin. If the couple decide to continue being marriage, they should be re-starting rather than resuming the marriage in my view.

However the most distressing thing for me is dismissing the level of betrayal, hurt, lack of trust etc that a woman (I say woman not because only men cheat but because only women apparently are expected to gloss over infidelity when it is done to them) feels when she is betrayed this way and not only failing to acknowledge that some women cannot just ‘get over it’ but shaming them for this.

These are the kind of reluctant compromises I’ve been making in my head.  Until salvation came in the form of one tweeter (tweep?) who goes by the name of ‘Nigerian God’.  After his tweets, well, this article is really not necessary (but I’m going to write it anyway).

Firstly, this shouldn’t even be a feminist issue.  Looking at it objectively, a person who is supposedly in a monogamous relationship who cheats repeatedly is not interested in being in that relationship.  In fact, he’s already out of the relationship and you’re just there to provide food, shelter and water (in a manner of speaking).  One indiscretion I can perhaps wrap my head around, but multiple times?  You’re in that relationship on your own.

The only reason people are questioning this logic and finding excuses and “mental gymnastics” around this issue is because of how society is structured.  Specifically, a man is seen as a prize and it’s a woman’s job to satisfy all his needs including keeping him in a relationship that he’s not interested in.

It’s not that I don’t agree with people who say that we are wrongly focusing on the woman’s reaction.  They say don’t tell women whether to stay or not, tell men to act right. But there’s no point in telling men to act right if there’s no consequence to them acting wrongly.  That’s where the woman’s reaction comes into it.  You can condemn all you want with your words but if you’re taking them back  your actions are saying that they should keep on keepin’ on.

Simply reducing the matter to choice is ignoring the centuries of conditioning that has led to this even being a discussion in this day and age  in a supposedly monogamous relationship where both parties apparently care deeply for each other.  And then people have turned it from a discussion to a virtue; from a virtue to a requirement for all women who are serious about their marriage.  A huge reason why these men keep getting caught out like this (and assuming, contrary to what I think, that they do have any feelings for their partners) is not because they are any less sensible than women or they mature slower, it’s because they get away with it.  It is feminism’s job to attempt to redress that balance in my view.

What about Beyonce?  Is she just living her life, as several tweets have declared, with no responsibility to use her marriage to teach anybody any lessons?  Two problems with that.  Firstly, she has proudly declared herself an enabler of women empowerment and received whatever accolades and criticisms that has come with that declaration.  More importantly, she chose not only to share this story but to literally make music out of it.  Music that is supposed to be ‘real’, that is supposed to be inspiring.

Now, she’s an artist, she can sing about what she wants.  However to deny the influence this will have on her followers is to divorce yourself from reality.  As uncharitable as this sounds, perhaps she should have kept this mess to herself.  Or better yet, maybe we should scale back the importance of celebrity role models and concentrate on enforcing the fact that women deserve better than a serial cheat, no matter how sorry he says he is afterwards.

Finally, continuing from the theme in my excerpt, I’d just like to say something about the misery and depression this kind of enforced ‘forgiveness’ plunges women into.  I don’t care how many adultery seminars Tina Campbell holds, I strongly suspect that choosing to stay in the first place is mainly a result of a combination of lack of self esteem and societal conditioning.  The kind of love that means you can maintain an intimate relationship (not talking about sex here) with someone that has no regard for your body, the devastation he causes you by his actions and your very soul is alien to me and like some kind of ‘ride or die’ atheist, I don’t actually believe it exists.

Having forced yourself to stay, what kind of relationship will you have?  What kind of trust do you want to build again? You are either not allowed to refer to the indiscretion again because you have supposedly ‘moved on’ or you constantly think of or mention it and feel a burning resentment.

Take Beyonce for instance – Jay Z implies on his album that it was his cheating that caused Solange to  turn on him in the infamous elevator attack.  Now that it has all come out, some tweets have reaffirmed their approval of that attack.  I was one of the people who were shocked by the footage.  And I still think it’s wrong even if Jay Z did cheat.  I don’t even think it would have been right for Beyonce herself to attack him.   Violence is no substitute for the normal reaction to a grand betrayal of your trust – leaving.  People make all types of excuses for women to ‘choose’ to stay but when you have to set your sister on your husband just to make him see the error of his ways, you may just be better off on your own.

Even these confessionals make me suspicious.  Supposedly re-energised and re-vitalised in her marriage, Tina Campbell spent a good couple of years dragging her pillock of a husband all around the US to make him repeat how he cheated on her multiple times.   Is this really the reaction of a forgiving and peaceful heart?

The mad assumptions, the nonsensical talk that it is some sign of strength and character to resume such a crazy relationship and the lack of consequences it has for men – it’s not just about choice.    It’s more about the kind of thinking that says a woman is less than and lucky to have a man.

Trending on Twitter: Falz, Yahoo Boys and the State of Nigeria

This is rapidly becoming old news  but I thought I’d add my tuppence worth.  Falz gave an unusual (for him) interview a couple of days ago. He criticized musicians for glorifying fraudsters in their music. He said that such music encourages young people to think fraud is the thing to do, musicians should honour their status as role models, and was especially critical of singers who name fraudsters in their songs. Nigerian twitter has linked his comments to 9ice’s single, ‘Living Things’ as he appeared to quote some of the lyrics.

Coming from a relatively ignorant angle (I’ve neither been a victim of fraud nor of the type of anti-Nigerian prejudice that assumes all Nigerians are fraudsters), this seemed a reasonable statement to me. However the social media backlash had me wondering, did Falz say something wrong?

First came the badly written tirades. Did the terrible grammar and writing mean we could dismiss the authors as idiots or simply yahoo boys defending their trade? Or had Falz struck a chord among working class people –  people who are unlikely to have access to well-paid jobs in Nigeria, because of lack of connections or influence, or who will struggle to have his kind of career without investment from dodgy money? Some of the very people who Falz mimicks when he puts on his comically exaggerated Yoruba accent; who with a little money and opportunity may well turn to internet fraud for whatever reason (although I recognise that people from all classes in Nigeria engage in internet fraud).

Then came the twitter intelligentsia and ‘woke’ twitter expressing disbelief that anyone could possibly criticise Falz for his comments. Despite their condescending put downs and over-egged, ostentatiously dumbed-down authentic-Nigerian-twitter-speak (“Is Nigeria ok?” “I tire oh”), I found myself unable to fault their logic.

Then came the more articulate attempts to defend 9ice. Toni Payne, Fumni Iyanda, and some poor guy on a timeline debate (“I quit!” he declared “I’m overwhelmed!”). They made some good arguments but didn’t quite get there, for me, in terms of putting together a convincing defence.

I should mention that 9ice popped up once or twice but didn’t do a good job of defending himself; if indeed you feel he had to. “Erm…the song wasn’t about glorifying internet fraud. It’s about…oh yes..it’s about going to work in the morning….you have to be in the realm”. In his second attempt, possibly buoyed up by the online support he had received, he asked Falz to report anyone he had mentioned in his song to the EFCC if Falz had the evidence to do so.

I’m going to dedicate some space to the very special people who follow Falz on Instagram. They seem to hang around his page waiting for him to make any kind of political or social statement just so they can shout at him about his father. I thought Femi Falana was just a human rights lawyer myself. According to Instagram, he is a thieving, villainous rogue who, armed to the teeth, went from polling booth to polling both during the 2015 general elections, forcing people to vote for the APC. So vicious were the comments that I actually caught myself indulging in some victim blaming (you finished annoying everybody and you now went to put your face on Instagram – to borrow some Nigeria-speak from woke twitter – yes, of course I do it too.  You’ve never heard of a hypocrite?).

However, there was some real emotion in the Instagram comments. People said how dare you, Falz, with your privilege and your opportunities? HOW DARE YOU?!? ‘Yahoo’ fed me and my sister, sent us to school! Despite the misery that internet fraud causes for millions, I must admit the sheer hopelessness in that last statement got to me a little bit.

One of the questions that Falz’s fans asked him on instagram was who do you think attends your highly priced concerts? Who can afford your tables of 10 for one million naira but yahoo boys and corrupt politicians (the consensus appears to be that the latter are the underlying cause of crime in Nigeria but not of course an excuse for internet fraud)? In those circumstances, can you really afford to criticise internet fraudsters?

Now the point has been made that Falz wasn’t having a go at internet fraudsters as such, but saying, gosh guys, let’s not glorify fraud in our music. Things are bad, maybe crime is inevitable but that doesn’t mean we have to act like it’s a good thing; a viable moral choice.

Having absorbed the above information, what’s my (still ignorant) view? I don’t think Falz can be sensibly criticised for his comments. I do think however that people sing and rap about all kinds of crap and other people have their personal crusades. Nigerians’ reputation as internet fraudsters is clearly one of Falz’s bugbears. You can’t really blame him. He has made himself clear on the matter in many of his songs and was recently almost denied entry into Kenya because of completely unsubstantiated claims that he and his mates were fraudsters (shouldn’t have let big-boneded Shody carry the laptop then, should you? Ha ha).

However other people with other bugbears could pick at the lyrics in Falz’s songs. As gender equality is my current crusade (had to find a way to crowbar feminism into this article), I could object to Reminisce’s lyrics in Falz’s song ‘Clap’, or Olamide’s first line in ‘Bahd Baddo Baddest’ or even Falz’s character in ‘Soldier’ who is essentially telling a woman that she has no choice but to date him. Couldn’t it be said that  these lyrics are glorifying violence against women or at least  chipping away at the necessity of consent?

So long story…less long, I think Falz made a reasonable point but I think he could have had a more complex, sophisticated discussion about it. Perhaps one that didn’t involve him telling his colleagues what to sing (“Tell a story. Paint a picture”) and perhaps one that didn’t involve him using the same accent which identify those who have been robbed of opportunity because of the state of the nation.