There are lots of gender stereotypes that women have to go through daily even at their workplaces, churches, or leisure places.
I had a friend, Ada, who was in a relationship with a guy everyone could sense wasn’t good for her. He bought her gifts, always called, texted, and wanted her around him.
We figured, by the outpouring of love we saw, that he was probably in love with her, so we cooled the negative thoughts we had of him.
It was at a ladies’ night out that we eventually saw the other side of the relationship.
My friend was trying very hard to keep it together. We had asked a few times what was wrong, but she gave us the usual “I’m fine” even though we could see that she had been sulking all night. But after receiving a text message from him and not being able to hold it in any longer, she started crying. He had been abusing her, not physically, but emotionally.
He had never laid his hands on her, so there were no scars on her body or physical pain, just deep, deep emotional pain.
He never missed an opportunity to insult her, compare her to other girls, tell her how disappointing she was in bed, in the kitchen, or even in physical attributes, and, trust me, my friend is pretty.
Sometimes, he told her how unintelligent she sounded and how he wished he were dating an intelligent ambitious woman. Mind you, my friend is the regional manager of one of the biggest banks in the country. I have never seen anyone more intelligent or ambitious. She was made a regional manager at 26 years old!
All this and more kept her spirits down. Aside from the regular insults and jabs, he was manipulative, possessive, insanely jealous, and very controlling. When he does something wrong and my friend tries to call him out on it, he manipulates the entire situation and turns it on her.
When he cheats on her, he blames it on her. When my friend tries to leave, he sends her gifts and begs and promises to change, which he never does.
The text she received that night was from him. She had caught him cheating again and confronted him via text. He replied with a text filled with verbal abuse.
At this point, my friend had had enough. She went home the next day once she was sure he was at work and packed up all her stuff.
She was done with him after three years.
She’s married now and very much at peace and happy despite all attempts by her ex to sabotage her new relationship even at her wedding.
For a strong independent woman like Ada, she’s been stereotyped as a career woman. I can’t count the number of times she was told that she would never get married or have kids because she was too much of a career woman to have her own family.
Because I am too ambitious and outspoken, I have been told several times by my colleagues and exes that I would never settle down because women like me could never be submissive enough to keep a man. According to them, it is only a submissive woman that men marry.
It is so sad that in this day and age, these kinds of archaic notions are still held by Nigerian society against women. The stereotyping is simply appalling and deeply-rooted in misogyny.
I am very partial to cultural items that directly link me to my root. I love them. I love wearing waist beads, leg chains, leg beads, etc. But guess what? In Nigeria, they have negative connotations and meanings.
My uncle had once promised to give me N50,000 naira if I stopped wearing my leg beads and leg chains as they are only worn by lesbians. “Or are you a lesbian?” he asked me with a snicker of disdain.
Waist beads are seen as “juju” used to hold men against their will. As such, every girl wearing it is seen as diabolical. For me, waist beads are like colorful strands of femininity. They speak of female power.
Waist beads also serve as a symbol of sensuality, fertility and can empower and give a woman confidence. Some also use it for its lifelong use, as a tool for weight watch and loss. When your bead is getting tight, you need to stay away from the carbs.
Waist beads are mostly hidden except for anklet beads.
So how did society suddenly wake up one day and turn something so beautiful, and infinitely magical into something evil and diabolical?
The fact that people think it is okay to assume a woman’s accessory is an accurate indication of anything other than her style is simply backward and ridiculous.
The stereotype that women are weak often leave me so weak. I mean, how would you think Nigerian women are weak?
We hold down multiple jobs and several hustles at once, all the while raising children and taking care of the home. In most cases, women are the breadwinners while also being the homemakers. We do this all by ourselves! Yes, no one multi-tasks like the woman does and that’s a fact! So, how are women weak?
The most ridiculous stereotype I have endured the unpleasantness of hearing is the saying, “women don’t know what they want.”
Please, how is clarity a gender-specific attribute? When did knowing or not knowing what you wanted as a person, become gender-specific?
I remember in 2019 when I had an encounter with the police on my way to my company’s end-of-the-year party. It was late at night, and I was running late. So, I told the Uber driver to kindly take a shortcut. We were almost at the venue, a club in Victoria Island, Lagos, when the policemen at the checkpoint stopped us.
They flashed their torchlight on the Uber guy who gave them his Identification card as requested along with his car documents.
When they found nothing wrong with his documents, they turned their torchlight on me.
The next thing I heard was “ahhhh, madam, you wan kill person?”
I greeted the police warily. I am always wary and scared of the Nigerian police, as they are either always trigger happy or on the lookout for for a bribe.
He told me I would be arrested for indecent exposure and prostitution if I don’t give them some money. I told them that I’m on my way to my company’s end-of-the-year party, and they said it was a lie.
“It’s only a prostitute that would dress like this especially at night,” he said to me. I wanted to tell them they had no right to question my dress choices. Instead, I explained to them that I’m usually a conservative dresser but due to my build – I am very busty and have always had a cleavage with every outfit I wear, whether I liked it or not – and the theme of the party, which was ‘daring’, I had chosen to go with my low cut gown.
I called my manager at the time who spoke to them and assured them of my identity even though I had shown them my identification card.
The gender environment in Nigeria disproportionately tilted in favor of men. As Ogunleye notes in so and so book, “Women have been seen as mothers of men, daughters of men, wives, and mistresses of men and sisters of men; they are hardly seen as viable characters in their own right.” (Ogunleye, 2005, p. 126).
The idea that a woman has to prove to a man’s parents that she can take care of him by going to visit them, clean, cook and do all sorts of chores, is straight up crazy.
The capacity of a woman to take care of a home shouldn’t be tested by becoming a slave. Anyone who lives in a home should be able to take care of it. If I visited the family of a love interest, I would clean up after myself not because I have to prove anything to anyone but because I am a responsible adult doing what a normal human being living in a house should do. I also expect the same of my man when he visits my home. It is just common courtesy and basic decency.
So why does society make it compulsory that women become slaves because they expect approval or want to get married? Some women pretend they can cook, clean, and wash, only to get married and become absolutely lazy. Quite hilarious! A friend once told me that she suddenly lost interest in cleaning after she got married and couldn’t understand why. These days, she operates on the premise that she has paid her dues and deserves the time off tasking chores. She now pays someone to do the cleaning. Problem solved!
So, let’s keep it one hundred! Your woman shouldn’t cook, wash, or do any chores when visiting your family for the first time. It is disrespectful. She’s a guest and should be treated as such. Food should be ready, a clean house and a welcoming atmosphere.