Twitter has been the platform for accompanying trailblazing moments in feminism and women’s rights such as the millennial answer of #YesAllWomen and the even more confrontational angles of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and #ReclaimTheBindi from fearless Black bloggers and Southeast Asian women. Yesterday, from the one of the motherlands of Africa, women from Nigeria tweeted blunt, to the point, real-life snapshots of what it is like to be a woman in a country that continues to regulate them to second-class treatment and rights. Collectively, they were armed and ready under the hashtag of #BeingFemaleInNigeria.
Emotive yet powerful, the movement was spearheaded by an Abuja-based Nigerian book club, after they had read “happy feminist” author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s influential We Should All Be Feminists. (This is the same work from Adichie that Beyonce famously sampled in the middle of her headstrong song “***Flawless“).
All fifteen members of the book club felt emboldened by their Adichie inspired conversation about the sexism Nigerian women have excruciatingly endured for too long. Member Florence Warmate was moved to create #BeingFemaleInNigeria.
In a white-hot interview with BuzzFeed, as #BeingFemaleInNigeria trended high on Twitter, Warmate spoke on initially hoping the message would resonate greatly worldwide.
“We all started discussing our experiences, and then we thought, ‘This should go to a wider group. If no one talks about it, it just escalates, and it becomes a normal thing that happens to everyone. So we wanted to spread this fire.”
And it did. The tweets exposed all the facets of sexism Nigerian women face including sexual abuse, violence, indentured-slave type expectations, and classic “weaker sex” accusations such as a woman’s place being the kitchen and not the workplace and living life as just a human breeder.
Twitter users were definitely clever and brave in their responses to #BeingFemaleInNigeria. But it was an uncomfortable reminder that for a country so artistically rich, too many still find it plausible that somewhere within their culture, treating women as less than human, or as tools, is normalized.
As the hashtag shed a wider light on the struggles of Nigerian women that in 2015 should have already been obsolete, did it also possibly nod to the Western notion that African countries do not and cannot live as advanced, progressive or well-off as the average American or even their those in the nearby U.K.? After having just viewed the entire season 1 of the web series An African City, that follows a group of educated, ambitious, say it like you mean it African women in Ghana, I can’t help but feel that after the awesome feedback to #BeingFemaleInNigeria, I also want the reality of African women living their lives on their own terms, whether sexually, through their careers, mentally and emotionally, to supersede the idea that African women are still undervalued or sheltered.
I know that in a era where the vicious Boko Haram have kidnapped our sisters and the revealing hashtag above exposes the strides that have to be made, let it be known that African woman are just as strong and capable as women in California. What is stopping many women from being great is that the culture and country like Nigeria is still–to put it politely–too stubborn to make the change. So many are acutely aware that treating women as second-class is wrong. What is the point of giving women a hard time in wanting to get an education? Do you not see the tears in her eyes that shows she’s tired of not being viewed as an equal? What will it take? As Warmate hoped, a viral message like #BeingFemaleInNigeria is now a part of the necessary actions to uplift Nigerian women and African women out of the outmoded grounds of sexism and into the real world. A “world” where they achieve being a daughter, a child, an entrepreneur, talented artist, a mother and wife if they please and most importantly, a well-rounded and free woman.