By Kiana Chineyere Eke (Junior)
As far as religion and science are concerned, men and women are both the same species—human. But in Nigeria women are not considered to be equal to men, in fact they are often referred to as subhuman, submissive and second class to a world of dominating men. This dates back to pre-colonial Nigeria, where women were considered to be subordinate to men. Their role in society was to fulfill domestic duties. This coincides with how women are treated in the United States, but on a larger scale. Gender equality is an issue that needs to be addressed until modified in a grand aspect. In a variety of countries feminism is looked down upon because women being ambitious and wanting better for themselves is not a social normality until now.
Women in Nigeria have been, and still are in a losing battle with their culture. Their culture views
men as an untouchable superhuman and women as a powerless sub-human. A woman’s role in this country has become limited to sexual and domestic labor; working in the fields, carrying loads, tending to babies, and preparing food are just a few of the many jobs that women do in Nigeria. This integrates to what women in the United States do as stay at home mothers, cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking care of the kids and home. While men going out and working is seen as ideal for not only our country but other countries as well. Young girls not being seen as future doctors, lawyers, and teachers, but are being told that they will make a good wife and great mother. Phrases like those are forms of oppression, keeping women at arms length in a world where men are being driven to achieve above and beyond. Not only in Nigeria are young girls being told that they should marry a rich husband, here in the United States that is something we are supposed to strive for in order to have a great life. That in itself is wrong, women and young girls especially should not be seen as second class to men.
In Nigeria religion is an important factor in people’s lives. But religion is also twisted in this country, it allows “female illiteracy, idleness, early marriage, forced marriage and rampant childbirth in spite of looming health risks.” Women are being viewed as property, someone who is only worth being a wife and raising children. According to African Postcolonial Literature, around 40% of women are married under the age of eighteen years old. Parents marry off their young girls in order to get money and land from the soon to be spouse, the marriage benefits the family but the young girl is now unable to get an education and potentially work. This is a problem, instead of having these young girls wanting to achieve more than marriage, they’re being forced to be seen as subordinate to men. Women simply are thought of as nothing more than a caretaker, which could be proven as incorrect if they were given an equal opportunity at an education as males are. Women are at an intellectual disadvantage, having only a 59.4% literacy rate compared to a 74.4% mens’. This is what limits women from branching out, not having an education forces young girls to get married under the age of 18 to ensure that they’ll have stability since they can’t obtain it on their own.
One prime example of women being seen as inferior to men can be seen in the family structure. My father, George Eke for example feels that men are in fact superior to women in a lot of ways. He explained to me that life in Nigeria is very different than in the United States regarding gender spheres, “If you do not possess the ability to provide for yourself and your family, you are not considered a man in the eyes of my people.” Many males feel this way, that them being dominating is displaying actions that males should all possess. Being a “man’s man” involves running the household, which means being financially stable, and dominating those under him. Eke explains further that in Nigeria there is no such thing as stay at home fathers, men work and the women run the household until the husband returns from working. From my experience, I have seen the radical difference from a Nigerian home to an American one In Nigerian homes women are treated more like property than life-partners. The husband controls the household in every way and dictates what happens and when it happens.
But not all men think the same. A variety of males feel that the reason women do not strive to be better than their limitations is due to the foundation of society. “When men are really strong, he’s called a man’s man, but when women are viewed as strong they are considered derogatory names,” said Lucas Kelleher a Cultural Studies teacher at Senn. He’s studied gender spheres from all over the world, and discusses that traditional views, gender roles, social limitations, and expectations are the reasons women do not strive ahead, and become unequal to men in a lot of aspects.
When discussing feminism, women are not the victims entirely. By not fighting for what we want, we are oppressing ourselves. The blame shouldn’t be thrown down just on men, women are to blame as well. Sheryl Sandberg nominated the most powerful women in technology this year explains in depth how women subordinate themselves. How we, as women, should want more for ourselves instead of expecting more. “I don’t pretend there aren’t biological differences, but I don’t believe the desire for leadership is hardwired biology, not the desire to win or excel. I believe that it’s socialization, that we’re socializing our daughters to nurture and our boys to lead.” Sandberg illustrates that we as a society are forcing nurturing attributes on our girls and building our boys to become leaders, when in reality we need both male and female leaders who can nurture as well. If we stop categorizing everything into a male sphere and female sphere progression can surely happen.
Men and women should be given the same opportunities, be able to have the same aspirations and viewed in the same way men are when being leaders. In The United States and Nigeria, women are treated as second class to men. If women not only demand equality, but actually work at it, feminism can become more than just a women’s movement, it can become the evolvement of society as a whole.