Misogyny is a deep rooted sickness that manifests its symptoms in the most subtle and brutal of ways. It is covertly diluted into religion, sewn into the fabric of our culture so much so that we have become blind and numb to it, conditioned to look the other way. For its victim though, the numbness is temporary, masking suffering for as long she can, staying quiet for as long as she can until memories are triggered and all she can do is remember and cry and remember and cry and remember.
I remember when I was a child, I forget how old now but I see the memories like scenes impressed in my mind. Most days after school, the driver would tell me to wait till there was no one there and do what he showed me, he had taught me how to stroke him, because I complained to him that my jaw hurt the last time.
I remember the computer technician that typed for my father, his hands moved through the keyboard quicker than anything I had ever seen and I wanted to learn, one day, I asked him to teach me and was confused when he started touching me, he sat me on his lap facing the keyboard and rubbed my body on his, first slowly, then vigorously and when he was done, told me not to tell anyone because he wouldn’t teach me again, I never did because I really wanted to learn.
I remember a neighbor, furiously barging into our home, shouting and asking for my first brother because he had touched his young daughter in ways a child should not be touched, I saw my parents come to his defense, calming his rage, keeping my brother from him. I remember being there, watching silently, wanting to say ‘he did the same thing to me’.
I remember my father entering the kitchen one day, he saw my brothers there and told them to leave because the kitchen was no place for boys, I was left there alone with my mother, she looked at me with sadness in her eyes but couldn’t say a thing.
I remember my mother kneeling and weeping, begging my father to forgive her while he berated her for daring to confront him about the woman in his office he spent more time with. I remember he punished her for months, seized her car keys and sent out of his room into ours. One night, she woke up in tears and with heaviness in her chest, banged at his locked door, asking him why he was so cruel, telling him she deserved better than this, he shouted insults at her from the other side of the door but never opened it. She sat on the hallway and cried so much and I cried with her, for her. I had never seen her so broken and it broke me to see her in so much pain. My father came into our room the next morning and told her to take her ‘fucking children’ and leave his house.
I remember years later, kneeling and crying in front of my father, I wasn’t the daughter he wanted me to be — one that stayed in the kitchen with my mother, proving valuable enough to one day sustain a household. I guess he’d had enough so that day, more than most other days, he berated me to my core and disowned me saying that I no longer deserved to be called his daughter.
I remember asking my brothers if they’d ever had to kneel and cry before my father, they said they never have.
I remember suffering through the rejection and depression, finding unhealthy ways to cope until I had run out of options and put my mind to work. I set up a small design studio and earned enough to sustain myself. I’d bought a used, blue, Volkswagen and had to keep it a secret so word wouldn’t get to my father because it would add to my trouble. I knew I had to leave so I found a place much like a shoebox and one day, a dear friend helped pack my things into my struggle car and left. I cried my first night there, there was no power with mosquitoes for company but I was at peace, finally freed from the oppression and expectations of who I should be as a woman, able to define my own life and be the fullness of the self I knew I was.
I remember my mother saying that I was the cause of the family problems by moving out and was made to feel guilty for leaving a home that didn’t accept me and consistently broke me, a home I tried to hang myself in but failed because my soul wasn’t ready yet. She reminded me that it was not right in our culture for a woman to live alone because that lifestyle was only suitable to men. She said I would intimidate a potential suitor and advised me to move back if I knew what was good for me. Aunties and uncles called to drum the same sound and I was always left in anger and tears because they somehow did not understand the depth of my suffering.
I remember being policed for how I dressed, never revealing too much skin lest I loose my worth or seduce a man into raping me.
I remember reading about a bill submitted to the Nigerian National Assembly on gender equality and women’s right that finally addressed penalty for abuse towards women as currently, there is no law against this. It was denied.
I remember waiting for hours at the office of a fuelling station to get fuel in my keg after it was suddenly banned, the boss of the station walked in, saw me waiting and says to me ‘fine girl, you look like my type’ he then instructs someone to get fuel in my keg and continued his advances through my silence and disgust. He left after I said nothing to him, I just stood there with a blank stare, feeling helpless but making sure not to show it. The other man came back with a full keg then asked me ‘are you single or married’ I said single and he replied ‘That’s why you were here all day, you don’t have a. husband to cook for so you don’t have work.’ I remember telling my myself not to cry in front of these men but when I got home, I cried so much that my eyes were sore and my chest began to hurt.
I remember sitting with a group of young men, listening to them while they talked about women like they were tennis balls, one of them proudly calling himself ‘Yomi Cosby’ alluding to the fact that he races through them. Another talked about how he was the ‘executioner’ and was praised by the other for it. I tried to correct them and explained that their words and behaviour was simply unacceptable, I tried to show a perspective that would tug at their compassion but I was met with such ignorant resistance with ‘Yomi Cosby’ saying shit like ‘the man is the breadwinner’ and how his dick would go soft if he ever saw a woman physically defending herself.
I remember dating a man who said he didn’t think he could be with a woman more successful than him. Implying that he wanted a woman that was independent enough to sustain herself but not too much to disrespect his ‘manhood’.
I remember having a conversation with a man I thought more of who referred to the women he had been with as ‘scraps’. Unfortunately, I was one of them but I thought I’d meant more and probably, so did they.
I remember being told it was best to be a virgin as a woman because it was the only way I would be assured marriage — the ultimate purpose. I don’t remember this same message being drilled into men.
I remember rereading the Bible with clearer eyes and saw through the conditioning. The story goes that the man was created first, made in the true image of God who also happens to be personified into a man. The woman came after, formed from his rib bone to be his companion when God saw that the man he made was lonely. She then lead the man astray with an apple and they were punished severely for it. I tried not to sulk over the fact that I actually believed this story of human existence but through seeking truth, I found that the Bible was just a book, (first printed in Gutenberg in 1456 and spread through the world because of the invention of the printing press) a compilation of carefully selected scriptures mostly written by men. It explains why all the lead characters were men, all the disciples were men and why Jesus, the saviour of the world, was a man.
I remember reading a chapter from the Quran on women and it was the most shocking and heart breaking thing I had ever read.
An-Nisa 34. Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them, refuse to share their beds, beat them, but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means. Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.’
I remember crying over a video of a 19 year old girl being stoned to death in Afghanistan because she found love outside a marriage she was forced into.
I could go on remembering but I’ve run out of tears.
It’s hard to heal from a wound that is picked at everyday by the ways of this world. Still, I hope for a world where my daughter and her daughter is seen and honoured for the light that she is, unbound by the narratives of who she is not. I hope for a world where women and men can equally coexist, aligning together in purpose and love, soul in soul, focused on the light ahead and fuelled by the light within.