I’ve keenly followed the stories of Royal Fathers publicly beating their wives, State Governors using the instruments of state to oppress theirs, Senators indulging in under-age marriages and Fathers impregnating their 12yr old daughters. Sigh!
I listened to the ongoing chatter on Facebook and yesterday I read a particular comment that generated one of the greatest internal expressions of rage in my 30-odd years. I was so incensed that for the first time ever, I felt like physically slapping someone – the offender. I felt like forming a line of slappers – I would give the first slap, then push him on to the next slapper on the line and the next and the next…you catch my drift. What did this unfortunate individual say? He had the audacity, the gall, the effrontery, the sheer temerity to say that the 12 year old girl was probably dressed provocatively and that ladies should stop dressing in a manner that seduces men. HOW DARE YOU!!! Exactly in what manner can a 12 year old dress that would cause her father to continually rape her till she eventually gets pregnant? What basis does a father have to even entertain amorous thoughts towards his daughter, even if she were to run around stark naked in the house? God…please give me that man to slap!
But wait; let me backtrack a little, because my anger didn’t just begin. I was in Lagos a few years back when the notion of controlling “indecent dressing” began flying around. This move was championed by the First Lady of Lagos State (with all due respect). For a brief spell, young women were afraid to wear what they liked. I’ve also listened to the rumbles in the Senate about an Indecent Dressing Bill. I’ve heard about the stickers that read: Only Prostitutes Dress Like Prostitutes. None of these actions are about protecting the rights of women; they are about CONTROL and legislating behaviour. If they were about women’s rights and ennobling women, there would be stronger Child Marriage Laws, more stringent rape laws and fathers wouldn’t rape their kids! During that season in Lagos, women were bundled into Police trucks and raped because they dressed “indecently”. Young girls enroute nightclubs were stripped of their clothing in public. In my humble opinion, legislating behaviour is akin to stitching a woman’s labia or enforcing a Chastity Belt so she can be chaste.
The abuse of women in Nigeria has been going on for a LONG time – the instances have just not been well documented or publicised till now. The Walk Against Rape (WAR) had a following because women were getting raped. The V-Monologues hit a nerve because we know the stories presented actually happen in real life. When I attended the Vagina Monologues a few years ago; during the introduction by the organisers (Kudirat Abiola Initiative for Democracy – KIND), it was stated that all the stories presented were REAL stories submitted by women. While they are dramatised, the stories themselves are real. These things have been going on for decades and we must speak up and take action to put an end to them. No more sweeping things under the rug.
The so-called issue of “indecent dressing” must be contextualised. In Rio, Brazil where everyone dresses like their enroute the beach, we don’t see the Police randomly grabbing and raping women. In Dubai, an Arab State, the authorities recognise that it is a melting pot of different cultures. While I wore my shorts and spaghetti straps boldly and without fear, I was respectful of the culture and made sure my shorts were of modest length. It wasn’t legislated; it was a choice I made out of respect for the culture. In my Alma Mata – Unilorin, there’s a big sign at the bus stop, with pictures of what NOT to wear. In a tertiary institution? What arrant prejudicial nonsense. In Nigerian villages where the women go about topless, I don’t see the men losing control and raping them left, right and centre.
The truth is if you have a problem with the way people dress, you shouldn’t seek to forcefully change things by legislating behaviour; you should understand the “why”; respect people’s free will and if you so desire, give them other options to consider. Today’s dressing is deeply rooted in the concept of “cool”. It is a cultural thing. Trust me, if Beyonce were to decide today to start wearing turtlenecks and baggy trousers, women would follow suit even in our hot weather! After all, Kid Cudi made big goggles cool!
You can provide young people with an alternative cultural reality and ALLOW THEM TO CHOOSE! Stop seeking to force them to bend to your antiquated viewpoint or will. Stop fermenting bile and advancing your agenda (Hear me oh Senate).
Just think, what would kid’s television programming be without The Disney Channel. The organisation decided to promote family values. It was a choice they made and paid an economic price for it even selling off Miramax Studios (Remember the Kill Bill movies), because it didn’t fit their ethos. Today, parents have a choice of Disney or the more aggressive, violent cartoons on the Cartoon Channel. Disney didn’t just talk or condemn, they provided alternatives. Kanye West decided that instead of the “tits and ass” music video genre, he would do conceptual, creative videos. The West Wing is perhaps one of the most intelligent TV series I have ever watched- combining conscientious leadership with practical everyday executive decisions. It provided an alternative for those who’d rather not watch Nip/Tuck!
What we need in this world are people who will not seek to force others to their point of view, but who are willing to WORK, yes WORK to provide other alternatives for people to choose from. If you’re not satisfied with the quality of radio programming today, start your own radio station. If you’re not satisfied with the manner of dressing, start your own clothing trend and get celebrities to wear the clothes to make them popular. Use the tools of pop culture to advance alternatives.
It will take immense creativity, hard work and sacrifice. But you must stop towing the line of “if you can’t beat them, destroy them”. Rather get in the ring and show us how it can be done. I was at an interview the other day and MI recounted how some of his fans openly scorned him for participating in the “Maga No Need Pay” video. Some people will taunt you for not towing the populist line. You may be laughed at, but in the end you’ll impact people.
I therefore salute Gbenga Sesan and the entire Maga No Need Pay collective.
I celebrate the numerous artistes on the Notes2Note video, who are reminding the Youth that they can have values and still be cool.
I salute Chude Jideonwo and the Future Project Crew who celebrate young achievers and are breeding positive activism through Enough is Enough Nigeria.
I salute Brave and Creative people everywhere who DO SOMETHING, providing credible alternatives to what is popularly accepted.
I salute you all and comprehensively despise and denounce the Hypocritical who talk but do nothing. May this generation never remember your names.