When Acts of Service Are Gendered

A post about a couple that went for an event trended on Twitter some time ago because the woman served herself but didn’t serve her husband. People said different things. Many people blamed the wife for eating without making sure her husband had food to eat. They saw her as irresponsible, uncaring and some might have said that she was unfit to be married to a man. While I don’t think it was nice that she was eating and her husband wasn’t, I had to think about it from a different perspective as well.

As I thought, I realized that most people judged that woman harshly because certain acts of service are gendered in our society. What do I mean by that? There are certain things that people expect women to do (for example cooking, cleaning, and babysitting) not necessarily out of love or because it is nice but as a duty. People tend to see these acts of service as roles of women in their homes and in society. As a result, there are certain expectations on women whenever there is food involved. They are expected to take charge of making sure that everyone is served and comfortable before they fill their plate and eat.

When the woman doesn’t play by this societal script, all hell is let loose. We don’t see this happen with men. Men are not expected to serve food in any capacity. In fact, when they cook, serve food, or do any of the gendered acts of service, it is seen as a big deal. People heap praises on them and they feel like those men are so nice and so good. And the woman at the receiving end is lucky to have him in her life.

If he doesn’t do it, nothing happens because he is not supposed to do it in the first place. I often wonder, if it was the man that took his food and sat down to eat, would people have lashed out at him? Would they have seen him as the world’s worst husband? Your guess is as good as mine.

Instead of berating the man, people may have scolded the woman. If she is the one that complained on Twitter (like the man did), she would have been called entitled and even foolish for washing dirty linen in public. Some others might have chosen the word disrespectful and asked if she expects her husband to serve her. Most people won’t take her side because they don’t expect him to serve. It’s not his job.

But it is not the same for women. When a woman renders these acts of service, it’s her duty. It is never seen as something extraordinary. In some cases, she may not be appreciated because it is expected. That is why there is always a backlash when these gendered acts of service are not carried out by women.

While I believe the couple above should have communicated better and done things differently, I don’t think we would have been so hard on the woman if we stopped tying acts of service to gender.

What if instead of expecting women do certain things, we are grateful when anyone is helpful and renders any service? What if we instead of worshipping one gender for the same thing we barely appreciate in the other gender, we praise anyone who does good and helps move the family forward? The importance of reciprocity and sharing in partnership and love cannot be overstated..

Can All Women Really Multitask?

Clara, a young mother of two was recently hired in a company she had always wanted to work in. On her first day, her boss asked her to go through the journal that contained his weekly schedule and sort out the important meetings into a to-do list he would work with that week. Important meetings included meeting with clients, doctor’s appointments, dinner dates with his wife, and meeting with government officials and the overall boss. She was to create a much smaller version of the schedule with just the very important meetings.

Barely ten minutes after she got started, her boss called her to his office, gave her some money, and asked her to run to the restaurant just around the corner of the street and get him a can of sprite, a hamburger, and fries. As soon as he gave her the money, she ran across to buy them and then he called while she was there and asked her to go to the post office and pick up some mail. As soon as she got to the post office, she realized that she didn’t have the key to the private mailbag. Out of frustration, she raised her hands above her head dropping the can of sprite and hamburger. Luckily, the can didn’t break or spill but the hamburger fell out of the packaging and was ruined. Her boss called and started asking where she was. She ran through the restaurant, replaced the hamburger with her personal funds, and ran into the office.

“Where have you been?” her boss thundered.

“I went to the post office then I realized that I didn’t have the key then I….”

Her boss cut her off with silence and assessed her from head to toes. She looked disheveled like someone who had been caught in a fight on the street. She was also incoherent and seemed confused.

“Where’s my to-do list?”

“I’m still working on it sir” she replied handing him the sprite and hamburger.

“Why is this can dusty?” he said taking it from her and scrutinizing it.

“Little accident. I’m sorry sir. Won’t happen again.”

“Go and fix yourself up in the convenience. Then, get yourself together. This is your first day so I would let this go. Next time, you come back with lunch, take the mail key and head back to the post office. On the way there, you can sort out some work stuff if you haven’t finished. You are a woman Clara. You guys are natural when it comes to multitasking. Use it to your advantage and achieve more in less time. Go see HR to put you through.”

After fixing up her hair, smoothing out her clothes, and making sure she looked office-worthy, Clara went to see the HR, a beautiful lady in her mid-thirties. She welcomed her with a smile.
“Good afternoon ma’am,” Clara said, “The Director asked me to see you.”
“Welcome new one,” she said, “He said you were having problems on the job.”
“Yes ma’am but I’ve got them sorted out,” Clara lied, afraid to admit that she was terrified of receiving multiple instructions at once or having to do so many things all the same.

The HR smiled and offered her a sit. Clara sat and looked up at the woman wondering what she would say and what the outcome of their meeting would be.

“You are married, are you not – with two children, am I right?” the HR asked.
“Yes, ma’am – I’m married with two children” Clara replied, wondering how this was related to her job.
“Think of your job as running the home as a mother and a wife. As a woman, naturally, you have to do so many things all at the same time. You have to cook, clean, bathe the kids, dress them up, attend to their husband, and on workdays, still prepare for work.”

“Yes ma’am,” Clara replied gratefully for the kind of man she married.

“If you have no domestic help, you have to do them all yourself. You can’t spend the whole day doing them because you may have to go to work or church or market if it’s a Saturday so you multitask. You sort the clothes and soak them then you out bathing water on the fire while you prepare the items you need to cook. When they’re ready, you put the food on fire while you bathe the kids and dress them up. Then, depending on how long the food is taking, you could wash while trying to do something for the husband. Every woman is born to multitask but doesn’t just do it at home. Bring that skill to the office too and get so many things done in a short time.”

“Okay, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am”

The HR dismissed Clara and walked back to her desk to meet a pile of work already waiting for her. As she was about to tackle them, her boss called again and asked her to come around the boardroom and take down some notes. He asked her to come with the completed to-do list and the pile he had dropped off on her desk while she was at HR.

After the call, she ran with the pile of work and the unfinished to-do list to the boardroom and was met with disapproval and a backlash from her boss. She went home that day feeling very unfulfilled, frustrated, stressed, and unhappy. She was just relieved that she’d married a man who took running the home as seriously as she took it.
*****

Multitasking, that is, doing more than one thing at the same time, can be distracting and challenging for those who aren’t very good at it. It’s worse when you are expected to be a natural at it and then you’re being told to do so many different (and sometimes unrelated) things at the same time too. Over the years, we have heard people tell a woman that she’s supposed to always multitask because she was born that way. As a wife or a mother, a woman is supposed to be able to start up to four to five different processes all at the same time and carry them out to completion efficiently. The flaw to this multitasking theory is that it puts women in a box and doesn’t make room for diversity or individual differences. It’s good to recognize that while some people are gifted or more disposed to doing things that way, some others just aren’t good at multitasking. This set of people try so hard to keep up with the charade but at the end of the day, the mask falls and they find that like Clara, they’ve made a mess of things.
These days, world-class organizations are beginning to advocate for single-tasking as the new multitasking. This is because when you focus on one single task, your channel all your focus, attention, knowledge, and energy to that task. Then, you are able to work on it without many external distractions until you’re finished completely. Women should politely decline, complain or stop forcing themselves to multitask if they are not very good at it rather they should break down everything they need to do into simple doable tasks and tackle them one after another.

Why Some Women don’t like the term ‘Wife Material’?

A lot of people, including me, have never been comfortable with the “Wife-Material” tag. The reasons are quite glaring.

 

When an average Nigerian calls you a wife material, they mean that you are a perfect definition of society’s stereotypical woman. They see you as someone who is living a script, not necessarily as someone whose personality they admire, but someone who would fit into the descriptions of someone else’s future demands.

 

Wife material, in the view of many, is a measure of how domesticated a woman is. It seems that is all a woman entails as if women should fit into a box the society has designed for them. Sometimes, it feels like being coerced into following some set of rules that one is not comfortable with. It feels as if one’s essence as a woman is subsumed in the definition of the tag.

 

When some women revolt against the idea of wife-materialness, people argue that they are anti-marriage. But the truth is, that is not always the case. They are only uncomfortable with what the phrase represents. They are displeased with how it paints women as beings who should only be seen in a given domesticated way. It also suggests that women are to live with society’s pre-written scripts for them. It also depicts sometimes being seen with the lens of how domesticated a woman is.

 

Another school of thought suggests that the tag isn’t in itself entirely wrong, and thus, we don’t need to reject it. Instead, we should redefine it and bring positivity to that tag. Some feel people should envisage the label as connoting an all-rounder or complete woman. They aver that individuals should customize their definition and ignore the typical, stereotypical societal definition. In Nigerian society, a woman who wants to get married would become a wife to a man someday. To get married, she has to fit the profile of a man (his wife-material). This means that the term wife material is highly individual-subjective. What Mr. A wants may not necessarily be what Mr. B craves. A man may not want someone who lives by the script. His interests may lie in a woman who has more to offer his life. He may desire a diligent woman in every area of her life, one comfortable at the workplace and the home front. He may want someone who is an intellectual as well as a homemaker. He may wish to be with someone talented and opinionated. That is his wife-material, his specifications!

 

This is a valid school of thought because we don’t all want the same things, and it is always best for people to relate with those who have what they want.

 

To others, the tag makes their efforts as a self-made human appear meaningless. To them, people view marriage as the highest feat a woman should record in her life. Whatever they may have achieved on their own, does not count. They will end up with another human who seemingly dictates what becomes of them. This group of women disagrees with the idea that only marriage will validate her womanhood. From childhood, the girl-child has been groomed to see herself as a wife. This is why some of the reprimands we experience often had subtle reminders such as, “Is this how you will do this in your husband’s house?” When a woman is impressive, and her actions are fantastic, and we call her a wife material, it seems to reinforce the effect of that stereotype. There was even a funny acronym we used to say when we were younger: the full meaning of WEEK is Women’s Education Ends in the Kitchen. This meant that as females, we were somehow taught subconsciously that all our education was to make us wives. But what happens when people don’t eventually marry for one reason or another? Does this mean all the learning was a waste? Does it mean their lives as women are not complete?

 

I think I would prefer it if people were just appreciative of who you are and what you make yourself into. I think people should admire others and compliment them based on who they are and not based on the stereotypical projection of who they should be.

 

What is your opinion about the tag, wife-material? Do you feel uncomfortable with it, or you think it exudes some modicum of positivity?

 

I would like to hear from you.

 

THE OUTSIDER WIFE

Linda stared at her wedding picture that was framed nicely and sitting beside the bedside table. She couldn’t believe that Derrek had gone too soon. They had big plans. They had wanted to travel the world, expand their business and build a large family. They had wanted to help people in their community. All these were not happening anymore because he was no more here.

She picked up her shawl and draped her neck. Then she stood and looked at her reflection in their huge mirror standing a few feet from their bed. Her eyes were swollen and had dark circles from too much crying and sleepless nights. Although her face faded her appearance, her black dress made her look regal and brought out her beautiful features the way Derrek liked it. Tears streamed down her face. If only he was here to see her now.

She dabbed her face with the edge of her shawl, slipped her legs into the slippers by the door and walked out of the room, down the hallway and the stairs, out the front door to where a cab was waiting. Derrek’s family had insisted on driving off without her. They had been there the day before to tell her of their plans to bury their son. They almost sounded like they didn’t care if she attended the burial ceremony or not because as far as they were concerned, she killed him.

“But how could she?” She thought when all she thought about was him. How to make him happy. How to make sure he got better. What meals he wanted to eat. Even when she realized he was dying, she would have given a kidney to save him. But the doctors said it was not wise.

“Evil thing!” the mother had said when she’d seen her by her son’s hospital bed, “Undo what you have done to him!” “I can’t believe we let him marry you!” his sister had said going through the doctor’s report. “Don’t dare let him die!” his brother had said, “We won’t let you get away with it!”

She had prayed for him with all her heart because she wanted to have more time with him but fate had taken Derrek anyway. She stared at their house as the cab driver pulled away. Only that it was no longer theirs. He had died and left her at the mercy of his family. She was sure that it would no longer be hers as soon as they returned from the burial to the city. Derrek’s family had made that very clear when they came around the day before.

“Make sure your things are out of here by the time we come back from the burial,” Derrek’s eldest brother had said, ignoring the food she had set before him.

“Yes, go witch! I don’t know what my little brother saw in you. I mean, since you came into his life, you’ve been nothing but a leech!” his sister has added, pushing her tray of food aside.

“Are you happy? Are you finally happy? You didn’t even give him a son to carry on his family name!” his mother said, holding her chest and jerking like someone having a seizure.

Linda clenched her fists as the hurtful words pierced through her soul. It hurt to hear them talking this way. These people she had given up so much for. These people she had worked with her husband to help. These people that she loved so much. They hated her so much despite all she did and they were going to eject her from the house she’d helped build and turn into a home.

Forty-five minutes later, she arrived at his village to see that the funeral rites had almost come to a close. They were already lowering his body into the ground without her. She asked the cab driver to turn the cab around. It was bad enough that they thought she was a witch who married him for money and didn’t have any children. But to bury him like he was never married was more than she could bear. Now home, she fought back the fury and hurt and packed her belongings with the hope that one day, she would forget she was ever a part of this love or life at all.

WILLIAM AND RITA

PREPARING MEN FOR EMPOWERED WOMEN

William and Rita have been married for three years. William has been comfortable with being the breadwinner while Rita stays home and does the chores. Rita has always wanted to further her studies and join the workforce. After the birth and the weaning of their second baby boy, she asked for William’s permission to return to school. He blatantly refused noting that she has no need for more education. He was able to provide everything they needed as a family since he was the man – the head of the house.

As the days went by, William started to become irritated and restless. He would leave for work very early in the morning only for him to return late in the dead of night when everyone was asleep. Sometimes, he tossed and turned in his sleep, startling everyone with his incoherent groans in the middle of the night.

One night, around a quarter past the hour of eight, he staggered home, dead drunk. While he was trying to force the front door open, he fell and lost consciousness. Rita heard the struggle and opened the door. She was shocked to see the limp body of her man. She screamed, calling the attention of their neighbours who gathered in droves, in no time. With their prompt assistance, he was rushed him to the hospital. The doctors rallied around him, doing their best to stabilize him. 

While the doctors were working on him, a programme came up on the TV; it caught Rita’s attention. It was a talk show and they were talking about women empowerment. The focal point was mainly to ensure that income streams should not be paused or hampered when male spouses were away or invalid. 

Rita was fascinated by the concept. Gingered by the discussion, she decided to start up something on her own. Everyday, after dropping off the first born in school, she strapped the younger son on her back and went to look for work. After a few days, she’s got a job as a secretary. She also signed up for a free online program. 

When William regained consciousness, being a workaholic, all he requested were started his briefcase and a pair of polished, ready-to-wear suit. Rita held his lips gently and said, “You’re not fit to work yet, my love. Not for another month or so.” 

William’s pupils dilated in shock. 

In all the times they’d been together, Rita had never touched his lips with her hands. The most she had ever done was to take his hands in hers shyly when she was promising to be with him forever. Now, she was not only touching his lips without fear, but she was also talking back at him instead of scurrying to cater to his endless whims. 

He looked at the tiny tubes running from his veins to the drip stands. “Maybe my sickness is what is making her do this,” he thought. 

Apart from the unprecedented change in her behaviour, he also noticed that every morning when Rita took the elder of their boys to school, she never returned to the hospital until it was time to pick up their son from school.

He was piqued by her seeming “absence” from his side and when he asked her about her whereabouts, she said, “Oh dear husband, I have to work. The company only sent money for the first week. We need more than what the insurance covers.”

Although he didn’t like the idea, he understood. After all, he was sick. 

A month and a half later, he was discharged. He could return to work as well as he pleased only that he had to get more rest so he wouldn’t be break down again. 

As soon as he woke up early the next day, he was surprised to see his wife up already studying. 

“Rita, what are you reading for?” William asked. He never knew her to read anything. 

“Oh, I have a mid-semester quiz coming up soon,” Rita replied, looking up from her books briefly, “I really want to do well so I don’t have to retake it.” 

“Mid-semester test? I don’t understand. Rita, when did you get into the university? And without my permission!” William asked, scratching his head. 

“I realized I don’t need your permission anymore William,” she replied, “I kept asking for your permission and you never let me. Look where it got us? You nearly died of exhaustion! I can’t let that happen anymore. I’m going to work! I’m going to school! We’re going to handle the bills of this house together and that’s all we have to say about it.” 

William’s mouth dropped as soon as Rita finished his speech. This was definitely not the submissive timid young girl he had married! It was a sober William that went to work that morning. He barely touched his breakfast and he just kept wondering if his government had just been overthrown because of his brief illness. He was torn between fear and awe. Fear that his wife was no longer under his control and awe that she had become a force to reckon with! 

Men living in this present patriarchal world need to be empowered or educated to be able to cope with or handle empowered women otherwise they would feel threatened by women who are suddenly realizing their rights, possibilities and gradually living up to their full potentials. If these men are not educated properly, they would be afraid or perceive the women wrongly. They need to realize that more power to the women, does not mean less power to them. They also need to learn to relinquish control, the need to always be the authority and the need to pretend that everything is fine and the perks that inequality bring inequality. Instead, they need to embrace partnership, equality, humanity and everything beautiful that female empowerment seeks to achieve.

THE WIFE MATERIAL TEST

Daniella’s lower lip twitched as they pulled up at Moses’ family house – a beautiful maroon bungalow. After two years of dating, Moses was finally ready to introduce her to his mother before taking their relationship a step further. She was scared and nervous at the same time. 

“Would she like me?” she asked Moses for the umpteenth time. 

“Of course,” Moses said, turning off the ignition and looking at her. 

She made a face at him and rolled her eyes. 

“I’m serious. Anyone would love you babe,” he said, leaning in and kissing her cheek. 

She forced a smile as she pushed open the car door. She wasn’t fully convinced by Moses’ answers. She’d heard so many stories about the ridiculous things prospective mothers-in-lawput their daughters-in-law through. She was afraid of what her own case might be. 

As soon as they walked in through the door, she met the woman’s disapproving gaze. The intensity of her stare seemed to scrutinize her from head to toe and assess how worthy of her son she was. Moses, oblivious to his mother’s reaction, smiled the broadest and extended his arms to hug his mother. Of course, she recovered quickly and hugged him back cheerfully. 

When they greeted her simultaneously, she replied her son and ignored Daniella. 

At first, Daniella thought she didn’t hear her and tried again. “Good afternoon ma,” she said. 

The woman looked around as though trying to wonder what eerie sound she was hearing. Daniella was mortified. Moses was taken aback as well and opened his mouth to ask his mom questions but before any sound could escape his lips, she pointed at Daniella and said, 

“My son, who is this manner-less girl that cannot bend down properly to greet your mother?”

Moses’ eyes widened. He had never heard his mother talk like that. Daniella looked at Moses for support of some sort but he was too busy looking shocked to pay attention to her silent pleas. She bent herself in a bow and with her voice quivering, she tried again, 

“Good afternoon ma. Sorry ma.”

“Ehen! Good afternoon,” she said, but nothing in her voice suggested Daniella was welcome. 

Still surprised at his mother’s behaviour, Moses took Daniella to his room and put the TV on for her then he went to talk to his mum. But just before he went into the parlour, his phone rang and he had to take it. He excused himself politely and went to take the call. 

Daniella was in the room on the verge of tears. She had desperately wanted Moses’ mum to like her, now it seemed they’d gotten off the wrong foot. Why didn’t Moses tell her that his mother loved to be bowed or even prostrated to? She was not the prostrating or bowing type but she could do it so that the woman would accept her. She would do anything to marry Moses. 

Seconds later, she heard the door handle turn. She sighed in relief. Finally, Moses was going to spend some time with her before she went to face her prospective mother-in-law again. But she was wrong. It was not him at all but her again. Daniella’s face contorted in horror. 

She handed her a list. “Thank God you are here,” she said, “You’ll go to market, come back and make pounded yam with white soup – that’s Moses’ favourite. You will also make melon soup because I don’t like white soup. Jane, Moses younger sister doesn’t eat swallow so you’ll also make jollof rice. Then, when you are done, you’ll help me with the clothes in the laundry.” 

It was a shivering Daniella that took the list and stammered, “Y–Y—-Yes ma.” As soon as the woman closed the door behind her, she let the tears that welled up in her eyes drop. She didn’t even know where to start from. It was not that she didn’t know how to cook. It was that she knew this woman was determined to make her as uncomfortable as possible. 

As she got out from the room to find Moses and ask for some sort of help, she heard the woman half-scolding her son. 

“I know that this is the girl you told me you want to marry but I don’t think she’s good enough for you. I have given her tests to find out if I’m really right about my thoughts. So far, she has been failing them. Better go and look for a wife material o. This ultimate test will tell me everything I need to know about her. If she fails, you can’t marry her!”

Daniella didn’t wait to hear Moses’ reply. She went back to the room, dabbed her eyes, reapplied her makeup, got her purse and started heading off to the market in a town she’d never visited in her life. As she greeted them politely and walked past them, Moses tried calling her back and asking if everything was fine.”Clearly, everything wasn’t fine,” she wanted to scream, “your mother hates me!” Instead, she smiled sweetly and said yes, that she was coming. As she walked out of the door, she sighed – this was most certainly worse than she had feared it would. 

Why are so many women afraid of their mothers-in-law and mothers-in-law to be? Why are they so eager to be accepted by them that they accept all forms of ill-treatment or tolerate things they ordinarily wouldn’t? Why do many mothers-in-law always feel the need to “test” their son’s prospective wives in order to know how much of a cook they are or how domestic they are? Why do they treat their son’s prospective wives like people who are coming for domestic staff or slave/servant auditions? Why do a good number of them make it obvious that they need the woman to earn her worth or the right to be with her son based on how much of a cook she is? 

Isn’t it ridiculous that the only criteria many women look out for in prospective daughter-in-laws is how well they cook and how domesticated they are? Yes, it’s actually understandable that you want to ensure that your son marries the most suitable choice but is being a cook and being domesticated all that a woman is useful for? What about her values and her strengths? What about other important life skills she has or even her personality? Is she the type that brings out the best in your son? What about emotional intelligence and her interpersonal relationship skills? Women should be seen as individuals – human beings complete in themselves not just some domestic help whose other attributes, strengths and skills don’t matter. A woman should be appreciated in totality not just approved of just because she cooks and cleans properly. Wouldn’t it be better if mothers-in-law tried to know the woman’s personality and see why her son chose her rather than treat her with so much disdain in a bid to test her domestic skills?

This article doesn’t support women who pray not to meet their mothers-in-law. It also doesn’t support daughters-in-law who are rude and disrespectful (we plan to talk about that soon). We just women to be seen as more than chores and kitchen. We want women to be seen as people first and we want them to be accepted and valued because of their kindness, their great skills, their achievements, their personality and smartness not just because they’re “wife material”.

STOP THE CRUCIFIXION; SOME SKILLS ARE NOT INNATE

Society puts so many ridiculous expectations on women and sometimes experiencing it or thinking about it drives me crazy. One of the those I really hate is how you, as a woman, is expected to know how to handle a baby perfectly even when you have never had one around you all your life. Nobody takes into account your circumstances. All they see is a failure. A woman who is not worthy to be ‘wifed’. My life experience paints a better picture of this situation: I have a twin brother and we have no younger one so I have never known what it’s like to be actively involved in looking after a little one because we never had anyone else in my house.

Growing up and having to experience life like this has not given me any opportunity or occasion to learn how to handle a baby properly. This skill, like cooking, is not something anyone is born with. You learn from people and when you have yours, you become better at it because you have lots and lots of time to practice. This is why I am always shocked and surprised that people expect me to be an expert at this even though I have never been a mother or had a younger one.

People have mocked me because I didn’t know the proper way to hold a day-old baby or yet back a baby. When I tried to hold the baby, they corrected me with so much bile and bitterness that I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. This attitude and expectations from people around me got so bad that when I observed that when I am with people and faced with certain situations with a baby and I am clueless, they start mocking me or making me feel like I am less of a woman. They do not even want to understand where I am coming from. I just get outright backlash. I mean these are things that even experts learn with time. They start seeing me as someone who will not make a good wife or even yet mother. Then, they start chiding me and trying to tell me how I am supposed to know. It becomes surprising to me that they don’t even understand the perspective of teaching with patience and after all she is single and not necessarily had a baby all her life but they just expect the skills to jump on you because you are a woman.

When I confide in people who know me well, they ask me to pretend or show that I can do it. I love learning and I am open to that but that huge expectation is what I do not understand. The subject of reference i.e the baby has been what I do not have or because of upbringing not been exposed to. They even laugh when you say you have never changed a baby’s diapers before like it is a crime. Then they go on to tell me that these are what in-laws are looking for in a wife material: a woman who is already an expert in motherhood or motherly duties and wears that tag with pride as though it is her utmost achievement. They tell me that no one expects you to make mistakes or be clueless about things like this – you’re supposed to make it look as if you were born with the ability to be a perfect wife and mother.

It is tiring. I can never see myself pretending to make myself more acceptable. Isn’t it funny how people expect you to be an expert mother as a woman even when you’ve never borne or held a child in your arms before? When you’re not very good in doing those motherly things like changing diapers, backing a baby, holding the baby properly or feeding the baby, as a woman, they mock you and act like you are the worst person alive or something is fundamentally wrong with your womanhood. Even if this is what we were born to do, why can’t they see and understand that these things are learned? They are not innate or part of a base in the female DNA.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman who doesn’t have children yet not knowing how to change diapers properly. She only needs to learn, that’s all and she will. When the baby comes, there’s a reason why in many cultures, mothers and mothers-in-law come and stay with their daughters who have just been delivered of babies. They come to show them how to take care of babies because it is often assumed that many of them have no prior experience. If someone has an experience beforehand because of her upbringing or the experiences she went through, then, it’s a plus. But if she doesn’t have one, there’s nothing wrong with her. While, it is not bad to encourage learning these things before they’re needed, not having expert mothering skills before you actually become one doesn’t necessarily make you a bad wife or mother.

 

WOMEN WITH ONLY DAUGHTERS ARE NOT LESS; CHILD-BEARING NOT A METRIC FOR DETERMINING WOMANHOOD

“Congratulations Mr Jeremiah. It’s a girl.”

 

Jeremiah hissed at his wife turned, walked out of the hospital and drove off leaving mother and his fifth daughter to sort themselves out. Tears ran down Angela’s face. Why was their having girls her fault? Why couldn’t he just accept that children were not hers to give but nature?

 

****

 

Jeremiah and Angela had been married for seven years. After their fourth daughter, Jeremiah had started withdrawing and becoming distant. When she asked him what was wrong, he didn’t say anything to her. Sometimes, he would get upset at her question and leave the house again.

 

He wasn’t much of a drinker so Angela was surprised when he came home one day, drunk. Their last daughter was barely five months old.

 

“What is wrong?” she’d asked him, kneeling and crying.

 

He’d shaken her off and gone to bed.

 

The next day, she complained to her friends at work. They told her, “See its just because we like you o. But the truth is Your husband is doing this because you have no son. Don’t be surprised if he has a side chick outside. You know that men don’t like to have their lineage cut short.”

 

She’d cried her heart out that night. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing her husband to another woman just because she couldn’t bear him an heir to continue their family tree. After a few weeks of crying and feeling sorry for herself, she started going for medical check ups.

 

“It’s the man’s chromosomes that determines the gender of the baby,” the fertility experts said, “we can give you a few tips on how to increase your chances of having a boy next but none of this is 100% accurate. For this to be effective, both couples should be present.”

 

She begged Jeremiah to go with her to one of the sessions so that they could learn what might work for them, give them a child and save their marriage. He refused to go. And asked why she was blaming him for their son-lessness. That period was so difficult for her. She begged and begged. Reluctantly, he agreed. They took the advice of the expert. Within months, she conceived. They were both very excited.

 

 

Feeling very lucky and optimistic, Jeremiah cheered up. He started coming home more often. He stopped drinking. He even brought gifts for her at random and would compliment her cooking and peck her occasionally, something he hadn’t done in four years! Angela was happy with the change. She felt like when she did when she first met Jeremiah. Everything was perfect.

 

The pregnancy was uneventful. It didn’t give her problems like any of the last ones did. It was so obvious that this baby was a miracle baby. He was so healthy. She was barely sick or weak. She didn’t tire easily like other pregnancies did her. They bought baby clothes and kept special things for the baby. On the day of delivery, Jeremiah had to go somewhere. When he came to the hospital, he drove in with a new car about to welcome his wife and first son home.

 

When he walked into the maternity ward and he was told, “It’s a girl!”, he just turned and walked away. He refused to settle the medical bills. For days, He refused to take his wife’s calls. When he finally did, it was to tell her he will pay for the bills but she was never coming back to his house. She should carry her and her five girls and find where they would be living.

 

Why do people see a woman who has only female children like she has done a world of wrong to her husband and to society? Why do people keep blaming the women for giving birth to girls all the time when science clearly tells us that it is the male partner that determines the gender of the child? Why do we act like girls are not children who deserve to be celebrated or accepted with joy and gratitude? Why this inequality? Even yet why do we feel like a woman who is sterile has no value? Some families will even disregard the opinion of a woman who has not even given birth in her husband’s house. She is not less of a human or woman after all. Sometimes, the issue could be from the man but why do women keep being the victims? In my local language, there is a saying, obinrin ma ri aye wa ooo (Indeed, this world for women).

 

Girls are children. Girls are enough. A woman who has no male child is not a bad person. She has done no wrong and does not deserve to be treated like an outcast or ostracized. She doesn’t deserve to be abandoned or kicked out. She doesn’t deserve to be seen as less. A woman has value regardless.

 

Let us accept our girls the same way we accept our boys. Let us understand that true legacy is not in who you leave to carry your surname but in the impact you make in society. Let us focus more on being better people, living full meaningful healthy lives and contributing to society than getting upset or treating women badly when we can’t or are not able to have male children.

 

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) according to World Health Organization (WHO) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Furthermore according to this health organization, this procedure has no health benefits for girls and women. From statistics, this act is prevalent in 29 countries in Africa including Nigeria and Middle East.

Why would a fellow human be made to suffer all in the name of culture, why will someone be made to go through excruciating pain all because culture has to be practiced? Everything all in the name of culture, why must women be prey for cultural excesses and barbaric acts. Most cultural acts are just being really unfair to women. Culture, can u please be enhanced or are you static. No, I would say because these cultural practices are made by men therefore can be changed but then why are these changes not forthcoming. Yes, we have been seeing them but then to what extent. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been an area of interest burning in my heart. This is definitely as an element of gender inequality; a form of subjugation and inhuman treatment of women in the society.

Culture in itself is not bad, it should be an element of appreciation and not of injustice

La Fille (The Girl)

Breast ironing, female genital mutilation, sexual violence, arranged marriage among others are what a girl child goes through in some communities.
Yes I vow
to the blueness of my ink
to stop madam cash
from trading our daughters for jewelleries
our mothers of tomorrow
Yes I vow
to the scars on my heart
to tarnish senator kasalis integrity
our 13 year old mother-made-girls
concubines at his villa
Yes I vow
to humanity’s groans
to punish mama alero
for pounding aleros breast
brutality in the name of protection
Yes I vow
to the terror in my voice
to format education schemes
for putting our ladies at the back row
our intelligent genius
Yes I vow
to the blood that flows through my veins
to stab perpetrators with words
for drowning our females in inferiority
the giants of the fu
ture
Yes I vow
to abeke my god mother
to hold on to the fight
for female leadership
it is my war, it is our War
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#GenderEquality#
#GirlChildEducation#
#Girls
#SustainableWorldForWomen