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.

Friday 13th Spooky and Grim Worldviews Round-up: Everything’s Connected, the Dove Ad and Weinstein and Our Inability To Directly Address the Male Wrongdoer

Everything’s Connected

I think we all get irritated by mass surprise at bad things which should be blatantly obvious.  I’m just beginning to figure out that sometimes the surprise isn’t genuine – it’s supposed to show that what they are surprised at is so clearly wrong that, rather than being angry at the person doing it, they are astonished that the person had the bad judgment to do or support it. It’s what is encompassed in the expression “I’m surprised and disappointed in you for so and so.”

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This piece is partly about the surprise at Tiwa Savage’s views on gender politics – firstly saying that yes women are discriminated against in various industries, but if women want something badly enough, they should be prepared to work harder than men and not waste time complaining. I initially found it difficult to comprehend that point of view but I suppose she means everyone knows that gender bias exists so if you choose to go after something, why bend everyone’s ear about how unfair it is? Just accept the reality or do something else with your life.

I don’t want to waste too much time setting out why I find the above advice wrong. A big part of feminism and equalities is about not simply accepting institutional unfairness or, as it’s more commonly known, prejudice (why don’t, for instance, black people simply accept that they make policemen and women nervous and just be still when they are apprehended for goodness’ sake!?). Her statement also ignores the fact that people can’t just choose not to work or earn money.

Incidentally, what happens to women who don’t want to work or who may find it hard for the very reason she mentioned (and also things like sexual harassment)? They are labelled lazy, gold diggers who deserve everything that men dish out to them and their contribution to the home is simultaneously ignored and taken for granted. Follow a popular radio host who goes by the Twitter name of Cinderella Man if you have the similar views to mine and want to spend an evening tearing out your hair in this order – head, armpit, pubic – and you’ll see what I mean.

She went on to say that while it is okay for women to pursue successful careers, they need to realise men are the heads of the family and submit to them accordingly as men and women are not equal at least not “in the household”. I also disagree with this fundamentally but I find myself more annoyed at the outraged surprised tweets about what she said.

Firstly, if you’ve read any of Tiwa’s interviews about gender, you would know on what side of the equality fence she stands by now. I wouldn’t describe myself as a Tiwa fan but I admire her music, singing and song writing skills enough to read the odd article about her (and, really, who didn’t fall in love with her at the UK X-Factor auditions, apart from apparently her husband who spent quite a bit of time taunting her about her appearance at the auditions).

When asked about sexual harassment in the music industry, she acknowledged it existed but said she was able to avoid it because her manager, who was also her partner, essentially protected her from it (https://www.bellanaija.com/2016/04/tiwa-savage-reveals-how-she-overcame-sexual-temptations-in-the-nigerian-music-industry/).

Not a word about how unjust it is that women have to suffer it. Basically, just get yourself a man who is willing to protect you and you won’t have to worry.

I recall reading an interview (which I can’t now find), prior to her sensational separation and apparent reconciliation, where she states that she considers her husband to be the head of her home. The difference in the recent interview is that she applied the principle to women generally and not just herself. I’m not particularly bothered by that aspect of her statement. I think a lot of my feminist principles should apply to all women not just me. I don’t think feminism is just about supporting women’s rights to make choices (although that freedom to choose is a central tenet of feminism) especially if that choice is steeped in and borne out of centuries of sexist indoctrination. I think that’s how a lot of people feel about their values – however pro-choice they may try to sound to avoid appearing illiberal and inflexible.

During Tiwa’s infamous post-separation interview, where she cited all the terrible things her husband did, she was asked whether he was physically abusive. She said he wasn’t. She also said something like ‘I’m not going to sit here and play the victim and claim that he beat me’. To me, this almost implies that someone who does recount her experience of domestic violence is angling for sympathy and milking her victim status (or just simply lying).

In fact, Tiwa’s views on marriage could be detected throughout the entire interview.   She appeared less outraged that her husband was chronically and openly unfaithful to her than she was that he was unwilling to contribute financially to their home and the upbringing of their son. This demonstrates how important his role as breadwinner (even though she was earning far more than he was) and head of the family is to her. Also not only did she go back to him, majority of Nigerians advised that she should do just that or expressed hope that God would heal their marriage as if his infidelity and appalling behaviour was inflicted on them by some unconnected third party.

In the light of the above, I think it’s disingenuous for people to pretend to be shocked at her views especially when we know how many Nigerians view marriage in this way. It’s everywhere – from the pastor preaching about disqualifying a future wife because she can’t cook to the fact that many future wives will be expected to kneel before their husbands, in their traditional marriage ceremony, to show that they will serve and obey him.

I think because Tiwa has spent some time living in the US and the UK people expect her to be more liberal about women and wives’ roles. She most certainly isn’t but there are numerous Pentecostal churches in the UK that teach what she said in that interview and even in the good old Church of England, you can still choose, as a woman, to vow to obey your husband. I fundamentally disagree with her but I am not shocked. I don’t even think she’s mad or bad for these commonly held views.

However, another type of surprise that irritates me more intensely is from people who hold these sexist views and then are shocked when bad things happen to women. You know, people who practice the big 4 anti-feminism pillars – Devaluation, Demonisation, Dehumanisation and Objectification of women (throw in Stereotyping for good measure) – then are shocked when the natural consequences of these are played out in society.

Those who think a woman is inherently worth less than a man and are surprised when Boko Haram buy, sell and use young school girls as if they were disposeable property. People who write entire catalogues of music demonising women as unreasonable witch like creatures who will suck you dry just for the heck of it and wonder why they have to appeal for support for domestic violence charities. People who sing/rap/joke that you are entitled to reject a woman’s ‘no’ if you (a) buy her food (b) flirt with her more than once at a party and she flirts back (c) see her wearing a short skirt (d) tell her in a reality show that you like her and then she has the temerity to fall asleep while you are in possession of an erect penis and are shocked when young teenage girls are subject to extreme and horrific sexual violence. People who state that domestic violence is bad but if a woman provokes her husband, she shouldn’t be surprised if he reacts then are themselves surprised when a girl is burnt to death by her boyfriend.

Terrible things start with questionable mindsets. Just a word of warning. Everything’s connected.

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Missing Something With Dove

Dove recently had to apologise for an advert. I was aware of the social media outcry before I ever got a chance to see the advert which has no doubt now been withdrawn. It showed a black woman lifting off her shirt to reveal a white woman. Further investigation has shown that the white woman lifts off her shirt to reveal a Latina or Asian woman. The advert was for hydrating cream.

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Twitter – from prominent celebrities to my favourite tweeps (I’ve definitely decided that ‘tweeps’ is a word) –  descended on Dove with some energy. Ava Duvernay and Gabrielle Union (otherwise known as people a lot brighter than me) asked what Dove could possibly have been thinking of when they approved the advert. Gospel artist Lecrae fired off a snippy tweet which said something like ‘I know you don’t need my 2 cents, but guess what? You’re never getting it again’. The advert was compared to racist posters from the bad old days for bleaching creams, soaps and potions showing black kids getting rid of their ‘dirty’ skin by bleaching themselves into lighter, happier, foolishly grinning children.

One singer tweeted ‘What bothers me is that the black woman agreed to this. Am I missing something?’  Well, plainly, yes. Although I find it difficult to explain how odd it is (and why) that her first reaction would be not against the institutional and corporate racism the advert apparently represented (if you agree that the advert was racist) but against the black woman who modelled in the advert and whose knowledge, circumstances and control of the final product she knows nothing of.

I however might be guilty of missing something bigger. I am not sure I fully accept that the advert was as racist as has been suggested. The outcry was about the implication that the black woman shed her undesirable skin to become a white woman. Then came the revelation of the Latina woman.

I’m not sure what the intention was but I find it hard to believe that in 2017 (even with all the white supremacy horror stories emerging from  Europe and the US ) Dove, or whoever manages their advertising campaigns, really intended to show that black was bad and white was you got after the improvement that came from using their product. No doubt someone in the company should have anticipated the response  that would be evoked by the image of a person removing black skin to become white but I think this shows more than anything else not only a lack of diversity at the company but of any kind of ability to judge the impact of their campaigns especially in light of complaints about their recent adverts.

So the advert was possibly ill-thought out in that someone failed to see all the possible angles but would the outrage have been avoided if the order of the models were reversed? Or is that what I’m missing – the subconscious arranging of the models? Also, even if you leave out the third model, what were they advertising that would change black skin to white? Was it bleaching cream? Or was it about feeling so unattractive that you may as well be black?

So the initial reason for my scepticism is the idea that any company who wants to make money in this day and age would show an advert with such a blatantly racist message. But then, Dove’s apology confused me. Why not just say what I’ve said above – ‘Didn’t you see the other model, dummy? What you are accusing us of doesn’t make sense as we clearly don’t sell any kind of skin lightening product? And by the way, how stupid do you think we are?’ Are they completely clueless and scrambling around even now trying to find out what was wrong with the advert? Is someone at this moment, in a late night meeting, tentatively putting up his hand to ask “Do you think they are angry because we pulled her hair back too tight?”.

Their vague reference to ‘missing the mark’ makes me think they either don’t take any race complaint seriously and simply patronise with apologies or there is something more offensive about the advert that I’ve completely failed to grasp. Perhaps I have a cooned-out blind spot when it comes to Dove. I didn’t even notice the ‘normal to dark skin’ gaffe until someone pointed it out in a blog post.

Why can’t we address the male criminal?

The recounting of sexual harassment committed by Harvey Weinstein is scary and depressing. Although we all know about ‘the casting couch’ and the fact that Hollywood and all of showbiz, a highly desired career destination for a lot of people, has the power and privilege to hold on to its sexist and sexually violent heritage more tightly than other industries. That heritage is evident with every creepy criminal that gets exposed, the fact that gratuitous nudity is required of actresses like an added tax,  that often times the only acceptable ‘fierceness’ from female pop stars is the sex positive, male-gaze benefitting, half naked, completely non-threatening kind from a woman or quite often teenage girl who ‘owns her own sexuality’ (whatever that means), it’s there when Rick Ross says that if he spends too much money on an upcoming star, he’ll be tempted to expect sex in return.

There are several imaginative reactions to it the Weinsten scandal and I was distressed by a tweet that blamed actresses, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, for not coming forward earlier and preventing the same abuse being repeated with younger women working in Hollywood. I shared the quick, strong disagreement with the tweet but it made me wonder, why we are so reluctant to directly address the male criminal or perpetrator when it comes to sexual crimes or just generally horrible things that are done to women? We discuss the women who are victims, the women who are not, the criminals’ significant others, look for ways to prevent the situation happening again, we theorise and hypothesise about sexist systems that allow these people to thrive but we rarely face the man squarely.

I have mad theories! Firstly, perhaps there’s almost not a lot to say to someone who’s been caught or admitted to doing something terrible. Even the most well-reasoned and articulated rant runs the risk of eliciting the response “Thanks very much for that. Can you now tell us something we don’t know?”.

I think the focus on what the victims did, did not and could have done comes not just from sexism but from the need to distinguish the circumstances of these crimes as a way of assuring ourselves that it couldn’t happen to us.   I’m not saying there’s no point taking in ever taking precautions or recognising signs but bad things, especially when they are propped up by institutional sexism, racism or any kind of prejudice or unfair system, can happen to anyone. The most effective protection is changing society. By immediately focusing on the victim, we are sticking our fingers in ears, shutting our eyes tightly and saying “It can’t happen to me! I don’t care! I don’t care! It can’t happen to me if I….”

This delusion that victims are somehow to blame or scrutinise for not protecting themselves and others and internalised sexism is perhaps what makes it much easier for me to focus on the female victims instead of the male wrongdoer – in this essay on Tiwa Savage and not Tee Billz and in previous pieces on Tina instead of Teddy Campbell, Hilary instead of Bill Clinton, Beyonce instead of Jay Z.

Everything’s connected. I told you.

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