International Women's Day 2017

“Women should be revered, cherished, championed, protected…”

That’s what some men say in response to gender inequality or misogyny. When put that way, it's condescending and patronizing. We don’t need your reverence any more than the next guy. What women need is to be treated as equal members of the society. What she needs is to be paid just as much as her male counterpart with the same qualifications; To not be judged by tougher standards than the XY chromosomes; To have access to quality health care; To have access to quality education; To be, when her health care choices are being discussed, invited to the freaking table so at the very least she has a say; To be allowed to sometimes fail, and pick herself up like she always does.

I know we often say women can now be anything they want to be. It's somewhat true, yet somewhat false. Like my sister recently said in one of her essays: "There is potential and then there is opportunity." On this International Women's Day, I wish girls are provided with more opportunities to become phenomenal women of their choosing. It would be nice if these opportunities are not thwarted by old, white men who believe the world was a better place when women knew their place. I have heard so much about the movie Hidden Figures, but I’m yet to see it. However, its premise reminds me that you can’t be what you don’t know. If you are never exposed to the concepts or the thought of becoming a scientist, you’d never know you could be one. So I hope girls are provided with opportunities to read more; to learn more; and talk more.

On this International Women’s Day, I particularly want to talk about a sub group of women—black women. Black women…bless their souls have been doing right by this world for centuries, yet they bear the brunt of this society. They are the least paid, most disrespected, most vulnerable to poverty, and they have higher risks of dying from the female cancers. Despite this unfortunate and egregious facts, the typical black woman puts everyone before herself. Too often, they are left out...out of the discussion, out of the boardrooms, out of the feminism movement.

Now, this is also in particular for the black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you. - Jesse Williams, 2016

I am not a parent. But I wish every parent would read Chimamanda Adichie’s Feminist Manifesto. My problem with the society today is the imbalance. We focus a lot on raising and priming the girls to become good wives. But we ignore the boys and never teach them to take responsibility. So they grow up to become jerks. They grow up thinking they are “babysitting” their own children or are “helping” out around the house. Whereas women grow up thinking if a man merely cooks for us, he has just cured cancer. As if the ability to cook comes “pre-installed in a vagina” and so it must be extraordinary for a man to cook.

I find that when women are described as “strong”,  it’s often because they have gone through the worst forms of oppression and abuse (whether physical or emotional) from men. We are taught to romanticize and idolize such stripping of self for others.  Somehow we are conditioned to tolerate and enable the worst kinds of men. But we know better and must do better. I hope that my friends and sister stay away from jerks and bullies and unkind men. Do not tolerate them. Do not enable them.

Do not romanticize suffering. There is NOTHING poetic about a love that breaks your spirit. - Titilope Sonuga, 2016

On this International Women’s day, I  worry about shrinking myself to fit; I want to stop worrying about acceptance and likeability. Is my hair too big? Is it too kinky? Would I be taken seriously? What about my dress, is it modest enough? My birthday was yesterday and as soon as I woke up and prayed, the first thing I told myself was that I would make the deliberate effort to be unapologetically me this new year. I want to be unapologetically Christian; I want to be an unapologetic Nigerian in America or Naija-American; I want to be effusive if I feel like; I want to be opinionated and not worry about coming across as “too extra” or "too much". I want to be me. I’m brilliant and sometimes kind. I’m beautiful and sensitive. Me is awesome. I hope that many Women embrace their "me", however that is defined for them.

In Adichie's Manifesto, she mentioned language and its power. I couldn't agree more. You have the right to call your daughter what you feel like. But check your motives. My own father's term of endearment to my sister and I loosely translates to Chief, Chairman, Queen. I couldn't be prouder of him, even if I tried. My cousin once said on her BBM pm: "Don't call me babe, or hun, or princess; call me Madam Chairman." Seriously, I am Madam Chairman.

Teach her to question language. Language is the repository of our prejudices. - Chimamanda Adichie, 2016

One last thing is to again reiterate the words of Chimamanda Adichie: “You are either a feminist or not. You either believe in the equality of men and women or you don’t”. There is no in between.

No matter how much obstacles they throw our way; no matter how often they mansplain us; no matter how much they judge us by tougher standards than the XY chromosomes; may they always say about us: “Nevertheless, SHE persisted”.

Happy International Women’s day to all the beautiful and extraordinary women I know. You rock.



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