Ageing or getting older is something that I have totally and completely embraced. Perhaps because I have struggled literally all my life with my age; people never believe my age. I remember when I was five years old, and my mother took my to Nursery school for my first day at school. I still remember (and my mum tells this story all the time) the teachers exclaiming when they heard I was five, because I was quite big. They put me in the final class of Nursery, and at 6, I went to primary 1. I was at home playing with Lego and extended family until I was 5. I guess I was lucky because although my mum went back to work when I turned three months, there was no need to put me in a creche or playgroup because we had people around the house.
Anyway, fast forward a few years later, my hair developed sprinkles of grey by 8 years old, so much so that when I see old classmates now, they all still ask what became of the “white hair”. They disappeared by the time I hit 20. very odd; not that I am complaining though. I guess what I am saying is that my age was always in question and I grew up hearing people mumble “that’s not her age”, etc. I am writing this post because I read a piece about a successful Nollywood actress, and as usual, I scrolled down to the comments section. If you ever want to feel the pulse of the people, how mean, how prejudiced, how kind or free spirited, read the comments section of newspapers or blogs. The venom, mostly! Anyway, a lot of people argued that she couldn’t be that age, how she was a liar, how they had watched her films for over 20 years. Did it occur to anyone that she was discovered in her teenage years?
Someone in my family hates birthdays because it means getting older, but as I always say every year to their annoyance, what’s life if we do not age? Ageing means we have another chance to be happier, to get it right, to be more fulfilled and to accomplish that for which we are journeying through life. Age is nothing but a number, we are lucky to be living at a time when lifestyle changes and advancement in science mean prolonged life expectancy and a chance to look well. Consider how amazing people like Michelle Obama, Funmi Iyanda, and Maxine Johnson look; all redefining ageing. I am thoroughly enjoying my 30s, and already imagining how accomplished and exciting my 40s will be, the fact that it won’t be until a good number of years, notwithstanding.
Invariably, I do not think it is only about the physical, but also about one’s mental and spiritual well being. I choose to embrace ageing, it’s much ado about nothing.
The idea and appearance of dreadlocks evoke a variety of feelings, including, but not limited to fear, fascination, and the age old stigma attached to it. There is also the weed smoking connotation, some negative pagan symbolism and the Rastafarian movement. Most recently in popular culture, there was the infamous Guillani Ranci comment regarding Zendaya as well as the San Francisco State University incident involving a black student confronting a white student wearing dreadlocks, claiming culture appropriation. So what are dreadlocks and how did we get here?
Bob Marley. Source:www.artcreationforever.com
Dreadlocks are basically thick or light ropes of hair, sometimes matted naturally to form “clumps” of hair, other times guided by twisting bits of hair together until they “lock” and look like, again, thick or light ropes, quite different from strands of regular hair that are combed or brushed regularly. Research shows that dreadlocks date back to 2,500 BC and this hairstyle has been worn by very many ethnicities and religious even if they were not called dreadlocks at the time. According to Dr. Bert Ashe in his book “Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles”, the first recorded evidence of dreadlocks in script is in the present day India’s Vedic scriptures. Therein, the deity Shiva is wearing the style. Ashe argues that the word JaTaa which is used in Vedic scriptures means “twisted lock of hair”. Shiva’s followers thus began to wear JaTaa and it spread to other Indian Sages and Yogis. These holymen wore JaTaa and shunned all worldly possessions to the extent that they did not regard their appearance or the maintenance of hair as a priority. As a result, their hair matted naturally and formed dreadlocks.
In addition to Vedic scripture, there is archeological proof that ancient Egyptians also wore dreadlocks. This is evidenced by mummies which have been recovered with their dreadlocks in tact and untouched. The style is also linked to indentured workers of East Indian origin who were sent to work on sugar plantations in British and French colonies in the Caribbean after the abolition of slavery. Louise Hardwick in the piece “Creolizing the Caribbean Coolie” explains that from 1838 to 1917, over half a million Indians were taken to 13 mainland and Island Caribbean nations as indentured workers to address the demand for labour on sugar can plantations. Some of these indentured workers may have worn dreadlocks as a part and parcel of their culture and spirituality and this may have accounted for the introduction of the hairstyle into the Caribbean.
Accounts have it that in the beginning of the Industrial revolution in the 1930s, the Rastafarian movement began among the black Jamaican population. Rastafarian movement is said to be founded on the teachings of Marcus Garvey who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 and insisted that all black people should return to the motherland. He encouraged Jamaicans to look towards the African continent to find themselves and be liberated. Although he never practised Rastafarian, he is believed to be one of the prophets of the movement. Garvey spoke of a King who would spring up from the African continent and liberate black people. Thus when the self proclaimed King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of the Tribe of Judah Ras Tafari (Haile Selassi I) became Emperor of Ethiopia, Rastafarians named the movement after him and believed this was indeed a fulfilment of Garvey’s prophecy and prophecies in the Bible. They revered Haile Selassi I as the son of God.
The Rastafarians called themselves dreads, to signify their dread and utmost respect for God, whom they refer to as Jah. God is referenced as Jahweh and Jehovah in some parts of the Old Testament of the Bible. Thus the hairstyle became known as dreadlocks. This movement and the hairstyle garnered tremendous international attention with the explosion of award winning musician Bob Marley on the world stage. Marley was a pro-marijuana Rastafarian as were many members in the movement, believing that marijuana facilitated clear thinking. It is important to note that some Rastafarian sects are purists who believe that any mind altering substance is impure and must not be used or ingested.
There is a second school of thought regarding the root of the Rastafarian movement; said to be an Abrahamic belief founded on three sources; the Old Testament, African cultures and Hindu culture. One thing both accounts agree on is that it is named after the Ethiopian Emperor Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie I) who Rastas believe is God based on the second coming recorded in the Bible. Ashe argues that the followers of the movement tried to model their attitudes and appearance including hairstyle, after the Hindu Holymen who were settled among them as a result of the indentured labour movement of the British Government, and thus began to wear their hair in matted styles, although there may not be an agreement to this among researchers.
Following the popularity of Marley, dreadlocks have become increasingly popular in mainstream particularly among hippies, vegans, New Age thinkers and within the music, art and literary scenes. In researching this piece, it is evident that almost every culture has worn dreadlocks at some point or the other. In some African cultures, wearers of dreadlocks are known as Dada and traditionally wear their hair in locks as a mark of belonging to the goddess or god of the land. Children who are marked as Dada can only have their hair cut when they reach a certain age, with the approval of the chief priest alongside some rites and rituals.
There are accounts that Celts wore their hair like snakes. One is reminded of Medusa in Greek mythology “with snakes for hair”. The Germanic tribes and Vikings were known to wear their hair in twisted locks. Dreadlocks have also been worn by the Monks of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church, the Maori tribe of New Zealand, the Dervishes of Islam, and many early Nazarites, most notably Samson in the Bible where seven locks of hair were said to have given him extraordinary strength until Delilah chopped them off. In many cultures, the religious priests wore dreadlocks because energy and one’s Chi is present in their hair and wearing it in large knots or not cutting it essentially keeps the energy in and keeps one in touch with his or her Chi.
Many people nowadays wear dreadlocks for different reasons; because they like the style, because it is unique, because its natural form gives hair the capacity to grow and thrive. Some are based on spiritual purposes around the Rasta movement, one’s Chi or even religion. I grew my dreadlocks because they are natural and I was tired of putting chemicals in my hair. But more than anything else, because I like the style and the look. Why do you have dreadlocks? Why do you think people have dreadlocks? Is there another group in history that wore their hair in twisted locks besides the cultures and religions articulated?
If you are returning to Nigeria after spending some time in another country, particularly a developed one, be prepared for the reverse culture shock which will surely hit you. First of all, a lot of people will dodge you because they perceive that you are here to ask them for a job. Ha! Then there are these fun points to consider.
1. There is no constant and consistent electricity supply. Be prepared for power cuts and excruciating heat. For example, last night, I spent the night hugging a coke bottle in a bid to cool off and get some sleep. Carry your phone charger around and be prepared to charge it in your car, in restaurants, at work, even in church. Water supply is also a luxury, the city mains in Nigerian cities and towns barely work. People have taken laws into their hands and have what we call bore hole, which is a deep well with a water pump that distributes water to the entire house.
2. You must have two phone sim cards because you see, one network will shut down, and you will miss that job interview. You will also miss that contract you have been sowing for. Equally important is the purchase of 2 different internet sources, don’t believe the adverts on billboards. Some poor naive JJC actually believed something about one provider and bought their modem because of an advert hahaha. A word is enough for the wise.
3. To drive here, forget the driving rules you learnt during the theory and practical tests that you managed to pass “in abroad”. To drive in Naija, you better play those car racing games on your Ps3 or whatever series your neighbour allows you to partake of occasionally. The practice will help you to effectively weave in and out of traffic appropriately and dodge the owners of the road. Traffic rules and traffic lights are discretionary, pray that your instinct proves useful for when to and when not to obey them. If you like, try walking casually across that zebra crossing on the road. You will be dead in minutes. You may find that the drivers prefer to speed up upon approaching a zebra crossing, it means “move move move”.
4. When you go into the banks, restaurants, government offices, you are an annoying relative who is disturbing them. Forget all that nonsense about you bringing your business, or your tax paying their salaries (do you even pay tax?) Are you the only one? This is a country of 170 million people (methinks there are more of us), someone else will bring business to the banks and restaurants and airlines. We are so used to being treated badly that we just get on to it. Have you had the waiter watch and discuss Chelsea, while saying to you “Order nooow” and then ask for a tip? Have you had a local airline delay and cancel their flights without saying a word to their partners. Be clear about what you want and insist on it. Goodluck…
5. Sorry if you look foreign i.e have an accent, or look fairer than usual. Better get a tan quickly and learn to speak with a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa accent, whichever comes to you naturally or prices will keep going up.
6. God bless you, or we thank God, or God is faithful, does not mean that man is good or that woman should run your business. People pray to God and rob you at the same time. Religion in Nigeria does not translate into goodness. Don’t be deceived.
7. If you are a woman, you are fair game. Why have you not married? Why have you not had children? It is well, etc. Everything male will flirt with you and treat you as fair game. You may have a bit of respect if you have children in tow or a ring on your finger, but men will act weird; old, young, married, single, colleagues,etc. Be prepared.
8. Your old mum or dad will be treated with tremendous respect and kindness. Our attitude towards older people is very sweet, unless they have dementia, then they may be a witch and their senile rambling is them confessing their witchery and all the people they have killed.
9. There’s no need to discuss religion, women’s rights, or anything progressive such as online shopping for groceries (meat, vegetables, God forbid, are you not ashamed to buy meat online? If my wife does that, I will chase her back to her father’s house, etc). “It is not our culture” to do anything differently than the everyday norm in Naija.
10. Finally, there is a huge sense of entitlement that you will notice. That person did not help me. He did not employ anyone. When I was struggling, that my uncle went and bought another car, he wants to be the only rich person in our family. Maybe he bought the car because he works very hard and saved to buy himself a nice car?
Finally, if you are female, and a man tells you that he loves you (as you may hear without knowing anything about the person and vice-versa) thrust one or two plastic gallons or cans into his hands and ask him to prove his love by buying you a minimum of 10 litres of petrol for your car, and another 10 litres for your generator, nobody has time to do love where there are significant queues for petrol. I rest my case
It was a drive from Abuja to Asaba. I was fortunate to be given a free ride in an air-conditioned vehicle by a kind middle aged couple who were friends of friends. The couple (or maybe it was just the man) had requested a service from a taxi driver whose usual airport pick up and drop off services he used quite regularly. I never learnt what this service was. His instructions were not quite followed properly.
“Such a fool, that man. Simple message, he could not deliver.” He fumed at the wheels.
“Oh forgive him, if he was as smart as you, he won’t be a taxi kabu-kabu driver.” His wife rubbed his shoulder as she spoke the words.
“I know! Anyway, he is lucky I did not meet him when he arrived to deliver the news. I would have slapped him a few times.” He said.
I remember being very still when I heard this. I was outraged and shocked that the people I was travelling with held this point of view. This was over 10 years ago; they were older than me by over 20 years. Therefore, as is the norm with Nigerian traditional values, I did not challenge this outlook. But it came back to me today because I heard this view expressed again, this time about a waiter.
Isn’t it incredibly pompous that that some regard themselves as somewhat superior based on occupation, social standing, wealth, qualifications, or worst still circumstances in life? Nigeria is an incredibly class conscious society. Should the “human-ness” of others be categorised based on these social constructs or just as bad, based on financial standing?
I have found some other countries to be incredibly class conscious societies as well, but at least, there is some semblance of a social system which provides equal and regulated services to all and sundry; whether rich or poor.
These services include great quality healthcare, transport, and security services, although of course having a family name or upper class connections and some wealth, may mean being bumped up school lists, or cutting the waiting lists and paying for private healthcare or flying a private jet to France instead of being stuck at Calais as a result of strikes in France or the “swarm” of migrants attempting to cross the channel tunnel.
However, the police will respond to an accusation of an employer hitting his employee, and justice will follow its due course in the United Kingdom for example. In Nigeria, try reporting your employer to the police. The police, for the most part, will dispense justice to the highest bidder. Good luck to you as the series of events unravel.
There will always be people who seem to be in less of a social standing than us, or seem less intellectual, or are more qualified, have a higher IQ, are better leaders, better looking or have their lives seemingly together more so or less so, than you. That this man is a taxi driver, so what? Someone has to do that job; he could be more liquid than you are, (not that this matters anyway), with a better quality of life even. How do you know that this is not a two or three year plan to the next phase of his life? This man was a branch manager of some micro-finance bank at the time. But he did not start out as a branch manager. Most people do not come fully formed. What was wrong with being a taxi driver? Everyone has a different goal; I would never work as a branch manager of a Micro-finance bank.
I wanted to say all these as I sat in the back of that car, particularly to the wife for her patronising line. I find that those who seemingly preach “peace” but are only actually being very patronising and institutionalising these attitudes, are just as bad as those who treat those whom they perceive to be in a lower social standing, with contempt or abuse.
I remember feeling annoyed and ashamed that I did not speak up for that taxi man. He failed to deliver on the errand to which he was sent; big deal. The solution is simple; don’t use his services any more. This is the sort of belief system or social system that brings on abuse even in domestic relationships.
I have been meaning to do a piece on the modern day slavery that is the so-called “housegirl” arrangement where women keep children in their homes as housekeepers. These minors are then expected to look after the children and run the home. We are talking about a 10 year old who is barely able to look after themselves. This child will make mistakes because he/she has been given the mandate to supervise a household that they neither have the capacity nor the maturity to manage.
The result is a lot of physical and emotional abuse and violence meted out on these housegirls by madam. What did you expect? Can you trust your child at that same age with such responsibility? Will you send your child to clean and wash and scrub other peoples’ home and look after babies unsupervised? The fact that women have allowed this to go on is beyond me and quite irresponsible. I hear the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIB), the Nigerian agency working to do exactly to end all trafficking and child labour related crimes, has developed a massive campaign around this. The agency reported a total of 130 cases relating to human trafficking and other related cases in the first quarter of 2015. Over 20% of that related to child labour. Read the report here.
Our societies are almost obsessed with the idea of respect bordering on fear. This respect is not necessarily earned or extended to all human beings, but is leveraged on the basis of age, social standing, material possessions and religious affiliations, or its hierarchy. It seems to me that everyone deserves to be respected to begin with; young, old, rich, poor, white, black, Christians, Muslims, atheists, humanists, and all the different kinds of people in existence. But this is not true in practice.
The concept of “nkali” is one that is so embedded in our culture that nothing seems to supersede it; not moral obligation, not our overly-religiousness, and certainly not the state with its weak regulations and even weaker enforcement. It is an Igbo word which when loosely translated means “to be greater than another”. In our society, people are treated quite badly depending on where they have found themselves in life and there is no recourse to justice. Anyone who tries to stand up for him/herself is regarded as disrespectful.
Geert Hofstede’s power distance index goes into a little more depth in his work on cultural dimensions. Nigeria (and other countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) which is struggling with development in spite of incredible resources, features very highly as a country where the power distance index is very high. This “nkali” is quite commonplace in countries steeped in inequality and poverty; the wealthy, elite, political class and the powerful do not want a distribution of power. No surprise there. But also those most affected by inequality, seem satisfied with servicing this inequality instead of standing up and demanding for change and what is rightfully theirs. Nobody wants to be dubbed ‘disrespectful’. We see this manifest in governance in Nigeria.
When I thought about this incident, the one thing that captured the essence or the ripple effect of this “nkali” besides Hofstede was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”. In her talk, she discusses the reality of treating people in a certain way, because we know only one version of who they are, and depending on what that version is, treat them with condescension, amusement, or in the case of this woman who was making peace with her husband, patronising pity.
It is often quite startling to see others treated in a certain way when because we have preconceived notions about them or are more fortunate than them. So we do them “favours”. I hear some of this ‘favour’ when women talk about giving housegirls access to the same pots from which their children are fed, and paying their school fees (in a community school with the worst ranking and the lowest fees nonetheless). As though treating people right was a luxury instead of a necessity.
Another example of “nkali” is the book ‘My Mercedes Is Bigger Than Yours’, written by Nkem Nwankwo and published in the Heinemann African writers series. This book tells the story of Onuma and portrays the wastefulness and opulence seen in the city slicker. However, the moral superiority held by the rural dweller quickly diminishes when the chiefs in the villages are shown to take advantage of the desperate and poorer migrant labourers.
There is a chance for exploitation in every human being. This is why one hopes that factors such as teachings of faith, leadership, consequence, or a reform and necessary evolution in cultural norms which have outlived their usefulness, will begin to tip the balance of inequality in our society.
However, the real solution is yet to be seen but may include a steering that boosts economic growth, a social services system and infrastructure development that can close the gap in inequality, and act as a leveller.
The principle of “nkali” breeds human rights abuses, resentment, terrorism, poverty, disease and general instability. Realistically, “nkali” will always co-exist with human nature, but there needs to be fundamental change in us as individuals, our common humanity must be more important than our differences. Most importantly, the government must empower an incorruptible, well equipped and knowledgeable police force and judiciary system to deliver redress and consequence for injustice and abuse.
Nigeria is an emerging economy, considered as the fastest growing economy on the continent. Yet according to numbers from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), over 61% of Nigeria’s population lives under $1 per day. In the last four years, the country has gone through a steady battering, with raging terrorism in the North east, and a failing infrastructure that means the cost of business and livelihood are at an all time high. In the last couple of years, corruption has also been significantly high and amnesty granted to politicians who were known to have looted from the treasury.
Fast forward to March 2015, Nigerians voted for what has come to be known as change. President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office on May 29th, 2015 and he promised in his inauguration speech, to prioritise the tackling of terrorism and the improvement of infrastructure. He has spent his first two weeks in office travelling to some parts of West Africa and to Germany; to discuss the strategy for fighting Boko Haram and to engage with world leaders at the G7, respectively.
Nigerians have very high hopes, particularly given the poverty that is rife in the country. Imagine the shocker today when the realisation hit, that this may be business as usual. The realisation that politics is indeed a quick avenue to rob the country and enrich oneself. The Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives in Nigeria are very well paid. Indeed they are so well paid that the 8th National Assembly which has recently been sworn in will allegedly receive the sum of NGN9billion which is about 28 million pounds for wardrobe allowance. No statement denouncing this has been issued by the National Assembly. Nigeria is spending this much to clothe the members of the National Assembly, yet we receive international aid. This is incredibly shameful.
In other words, the Senators will receive about 21.5 million naira each, while the legislators at the House of Representatives will receive 17.5 million naira each, all for clothes. The question is; how is it that a country which still receives aid from the countries in the G7 is giving about 60-70,000 pounds each to its senators and lawmakers to buy clothes? This is the annual salary of members of Parliament in a country that gives Nigeria aid. Nigerians are waiting and hoping that President Buhari intervenes in this and puts a stop to this wastefulness, vulgarity and mismanagement.
Furthermore, considering that Nigeria’s 2015 budget was approved by Goodluck Jonathan the former President, one understands that this wardrobe allowance was not fundamentally instituted by the Buhari government. However, he is the President and has the authority to dispose of certain wasteful parts of it or to review it, thus we shall hold him responsible.
Finally, recall that Nigeria is heavily reliant of oil and gas for 99% of its revenue. The 2015 budget was laid out using the revenue number of $70 per barrel. Since the price of oil has not risen above $64 per barrel since its crash to about $40-$45 per barrel last year, this government must begin to cut back, it should be running an austerity government. The economy must be run efficiently with as many cuts as possible where feasible. This ridiculous wardrobe allowance is one of such costs which should be implemented. Nigerians are watching President Buhari closely to see what kind of policies, economy and country he will run.
In the last four days, the story of the American woman Rachel Dolezal has been discussed extensively in the media internationally. Rachel was until yesterday the President of the Spokane chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She is also a Professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. In addition, she was the chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission in Spokane, a position which she no longer holds as the Police department has issued a statement suspending all cases being reviewed under her committee. Slowly her life has literally fallen apart and all these positions have gone.
Rachel Dolezal, who was previously married to a black man with whom she had a son, was born to white parents and is biologically white. However, she has claimed to be black for at least 10 years, claiming a mixed race heritage through an African American father. Rachel is a very well educated woman who attended Howard University; a historically black college, on scholarship. Her parents leaked the story of her faked identity. They tell of a submitted portraiture as part of the application to Howard University. The submission mirrored an African American identity and earned her a full scholarship.
Her parents are as concerned and baffled as the rest of the world as to why Rachel chose to denounce her heritage and con her friends and community into believing she was a black woman. She changed her appearance with tan and braids and kinky curls, in order to look mixed race. There has been a cry of outrage from African American women in the United States accusing Rachel of white privilege. She sued Howard for discrimination, saying she was deprived of certain opportunities there because she was a white woman in a historically black University. In the same vein, she reported several racial threats to the police in Spokane, alleging abuse because she was a black woman. The discourse points to a deceptive platform being used to achieve all she has. Her ‘blackness’ seems like a cloak which she puts on and takes off as she wishes.
She is also being accused of stealing opportunities which she did not deserve from the minority on false pretences. Rachel Dolezal is a very accomplished woman and her biography is impressive, even for a white woman in middle class America. It is even more so impressive for a black woman at her age. The furore surrounding the ‘outing’ of Rachel is one which revolves around integrity and identity. There is an overwhelming acknowledgement that she could not have achieved what she did, had she not claimed to be a black woman.
The question of identity crises is one which is all too familiar to mixed race children and adults. But even more so to women of black heritage in a country such as the United States of America where they constitute a minority. Black women in the US have come through a difficult history of prejudice, deprivation and a struggle for acceptance in a society with stereotypes such as the angry black woman, and mockery or unpopularity of the black woman’s features of thick curly hair, large hips and full lips. These features have only recently become popular. Thus, black women are outraged that this woman has masqueraded as a black woman, yet has not lived the agony, the rejection and the discrimination faced by black women in America, even at the hands of the men within the African American community.
However, others have suggested that perhaps this is a conversation which the world needs to begin to have. This could be a discovery of an identity crises stemming from what could be a new state of being “trans-racial”. Some members of the transgender community have been outraged by the comparison that somehow being transgender a la the Caitylin Jenner experience, is in some ways one and the same as the having a transracial experience; if indeed there is any such thing. The argument is that gender and race are different, that being a transgender has to do with gender dysphoria, which is an actual condition, whereas there is no such thing as racial dysphoria.
One could argue that this is the first emergence of any such public occurrence of one declaring to be the opposite of their phenotypes, and believing very strongly in it. There are already outcries of mental health problems. We do not know this, and this brings to mind the arrest and incarceration in an insane asylum of American Joseph Lobdell (born Lucy Ann Lobdell) who was born a woman in the early 19th century, but believed himself to be a man and lived as such. Perhaps there is such a thing as identity confusion and a certain strong affinity to a particular group of people. If a man can declare “I am a woman” and vice versa, and have the support of the world, why can’t a white woman declare “I am black” and vice versa?
In any case, Rachel’s lies have ruined the more constructive and enriching discussion which may have come out of this saga. Her parents believe her struggles with identity emanate from their adoption of four black children when she was a teenager. Both of them, whom she cut off from her life and the life of their grandson, for fear of her cover being blown in her community, have said honesty and therapy are the best way forward for Rachel. She may not need therapy, she may just be light years ahead of the world. The debates around identity do not end at gender, they also include psyche, heritage and culture. .
There are people who have come from one culture, but feel a certain affinity or are deeply interested in the cultures of other social groups. This may be considered significantly different from some black women’s love of long luxurious hair extensions which have the same texture as the hair of white, Asian or hispanic people. It may also be different from the butt implants and enhanced pouts preferred by some white women. How then does this compare to Caitylin Jenner’s honest declarations on Diane Sawyer’s show, and Michael Jackson’s bizarre transformation? It may have been easier to expand on the discussion and make the linkages even in the acknowledgement of the differences, had Dolezal presented herself without the associated deception.
Dolezal’s misrepresentation of herself has now put her preference to be called black on the back burner. It has also belittled what seems to be her otherwise significant contributions in the civil rights movement. She has worked in social justice and advocacy for at least 10 years and the NAACP lauded her consistent commitment to the advancement of coloured people in America.
There is no question about the serious personal identity issues which she has and it will be interesting to see her and the experts make some sense of this when the furore dies down. The world is a big place and a shrinking community all at once. Self expression in the free world is absolutely important. One can be whomever or whatever they wish to be, with honesty. In reading the summations in the media and speaking to people, one can infer that Rachel Dolzal would have been welcome to be true to an identity she felt comfortable with. If Dolezal had been honest, perhaps she would have been embraced, as long as she was honest, and the transition was done with an acknowledgement that someone who was indeed the opposite of what their visible social construct was, in that situation cannot necessarily understand the experience of people who have lived it all their lives.
By now, you have probably heard about the media personality/vlogger Toke Makinwa’s breaking news. Her husband cheated on her with a woman who is now pregnant for him. Neither party has released a statement confirming or refuting the story. For the last two days, there has been twitter and instagram fuelled frenzy going on regarding the Toke and Maje marriage.
The couple dated for 12 years and have been married for just 1 year and a few months. Personally, I think this is sad and the couple should be left alone to deal with their problems, or lack of, because we all might just be speculating.
However, I believe that there is a reason why this is such big news here. Toke is an “it” girl who has truly worked very hard within the Nigerian media circuit. She hosts an early morning Radio show on Rhythm FM Lagos, and hosts a regular weekly vlog which discusses relationships primarily on youtube. Beyond that, she hosts events, and is now a brand; many commercial brands have signed her up as an Ambassador. She’s gorgeous, hard working, and quite fun to watch and listen to.
Toke is a brand and thus literally every event she attends, every endorsement, every media or tv appearance ends up on social media and on blogs. This is good for her business, because in such a short period of time, she has become a household name. This means she works hard, hopefully she smiles to the bank. But this visibility in a young woman who is neither an actress nor a singer, is one which Nigerians seem to love and hate all at once. You will see why.
So why has Maje cheated on her? There really is no known cause of infidelity in marriages, there is a long list of potential factors. Infidelity in relationships could be seen as high blood pressure in humans. Sometimes there are certain pre-dispositions, perhaps not exactly genetics in this case. These predispositions may have to do with individual values, society’s expectations; including abhorrence or acceptance of certain behaviour. There is also the question of consequence or lack of it.
Nigerians are very religious. One who does not pledge allegiance to a faith in Nigeria is in a minority and is often ostracised. The non-religious in Nigeria is considered weird and suffers proselytism. However, Nigeria is also a society where religious beliefs are separate from values. It is a place where moral standards and family values quite commonly apply to only women. The world is an excellent place to be a man, but an even better place is Nigeria.
Suffice to say, the feeling even among some women and many men (at least if the tweets are anything to go by), is that Toke is responsible for her husband’s infidelity because she was at events all the time. Apparently, Toke also partied constantly, and was not available to Maje. He loved and respected her so much that he channelled his “missing her” energies into impregnating another woman. He could have done something more honourable if she was not available; leave respectfully. She had that career before they married just over a year ago, so he knew about her brand.
She probably feels a sense of shame at this time, but one can see why. There are people are mocking her on social media. The cheat should be the brunt of these jokes not the wife (although there have been a few angry women on his instagram comments sections). She is also double mocked for hosting a vlog where she discusses how to find and keep a man, how to spot a “side-chick”, and the types of men to avoid. Never mind that most of her vlog posts are girl next door-chatting-to-my-girls satires. So yes, she is responsible for her lot in life, she must be mocked, and perhaps in her next life, reconsider having a career. But even doctors can become infected. Oncologists are sometimes diagnosed with cancer too.
I wonder then if all career women, including surgeons, new resident doctors who work impossible shifts, broadcasters and journalists who have to chase down stories, or politicians and activists all have unfaithful spouses? I wonder if researchers who often travel to present papers, or conduct significant bodies of research have been presented with news of the pregnant ex? Perhaps international development experts, bankers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, in essence women with demanding careers who are shattering the glass ceilings, all have trifling spouses?
How about women? Do women with husbands who have been working in these careers for the longest time possible cheat on their men? Do we can blame their husbands for their lack of availability? I was irritated by calls to her to become more available to Maje because it fosters a sense that somehow, we know it all. We are insiders in their routine, in their home. That we know their story. But I was even more put off by the gentle chiding of him by both women and men alike regarding the use of condoms. Does condom use mean it is no longer infidelity?
“Couldn’t he have used condoms? Did he have to get her pregnant,” one tweet questioned.
The video above is one of Toke on a panel discussing men and cheating. In analysing her thoughts and views, it is clear that she urges restraint in telling a woman that her husband is cheating.
“It may ruin your friendship, because the woman does not want you to know what goes on in her home. She will probably stay with the man,” she says.
She reflects briefly on an experience she had where she confronted her husband (then fiancé) on rumours of “someone else”. So what does this mean? Did she see this coming? Was it something that had occurred in the past that she had forgiven and moved on from?
The condoms statements on twitter bothered me the most. Is this an acceptable norm in society? Just as long as you do not get caught? This story should not be so important but it has become so. This is because it has triggered a conversation that we did not have before. A conversation about careers and women and fairness in the narratives that will become a legacy for our children.
I believe it could certainly mark a fundamental turn in how Nigerians perceive what is good and what is not when women are involved. Could this mark the turn of the tide where women are accorded the same level of humanity as men? I may be dreaming, but it may well form the foundation or the quick start to how we perceive women or society’s treatment of and perception of both sexes. Does a double standard exist? Absolutely. Can we see past our sentiments and recognise a fundamentally flawed psyche?
Invariably, it will be left for Toke to decide if she can move on. She must decide whether to carry on with him or to move on with her life. I have a feeling that she will heal and bounce back. She seems to be doing so already, appearing on radio this morning. Hilary Clinton seems to be doing alright; she could be President of the United States. If she wins, the man who cheated on her will be standing beside her at the inauguration. He will be former President and First Man. Hillary Clinton describes herself as “arguably the most humiliated woman in the world”. When asked about recovering from the Monica Lewinsky saga and forgiving her husband, she said “forgiveness is hard”.
12 years of one’s life is a very long time. Whatever reason Maje had or not, for being unfaithful, Toke is unequivocally, the victim here, the “injured party”. He should be ashamed and remorseful for what he did. He deserves a Tiger Woods type of shunning. The other woman deserves shunning as well, she very well knew he was married. Perhaps he didn’t quite think she was good enough to share his life properly, why else did he marry someone else and return for a dip in the pond?
Hopefully Toke will find succour with family and friends and decide what she can live with.
Ramblings of a Recently 30 Woman, Project Management Professional, International Development Enthusiast, Globetrotter, Writer and Happy Shutterbug®