Recently, my friend interviewed my other friend for an interview with a fashion company I had interned with. In the interview she was mostly asked questions pertaining to her opinions and experiences on existing as a woman in Nigeria (more specifically Lagos). In the course of the interview, she was asked about the most exciting part of being a young woman in Lagos:
- The question: What has been the most exciting/best part about being a young woman in Lagos?
- Her answer: To be honest, I am ashamed to say it but the best part of being a young woman in Lagos has been enjoying the perks of misogyny. There is a coveted place for the young woman in the Lagos social scene. She is admired, sought after and most especially spoiled. She is the hand piece of every man, young or old, who would like to carve out a respected position for himself on that same social scene. If he goes to a club and he buys bottles worth tens of thousands, what does he need to complete his table? The young woman. If he dates a girl, in order to be respected amongst his friends and the society in general, what is he expected to do? He is expected to take care of the young woman’s needs financially and otherwise. To be honest, as a young woman, it is fun. You understand the perks and you unashamedly or ashamedly (my case) run with it. Of course this makes me part of the problem, but awareness is the first step to fixing it.
To be honest, I think there is a sense of privilege in such statements because the women who even get picked to assume these roles, are the ones who fit into the dimensions of the coveted place the men have allotted for women to compete over. So to say that it is a perk of misogyny, is to imply that everybody who claims to suffer from misogyny, also enjoys these perks- which is false.
As an ideology, Louis Althusser would agree that Patriarchy is popular because it dangles “perks” in front of you but hides the mountain of unbearable/unjust conditions you have to face before you are considered worthy of being considered to receive that perk. Yes, the patriarchy has things that it offers but it only offers them to women who physically fit, or characteristically comply to the rules the patriarchy has set. Those great things offered are not perks of misogyny, they are things we are allowed to receive or find for ourselves without feeling indebted. For instance, what is a drink from a man who meets a woman and thinks she is cool after 10 minutes of talking and what is a drink from a misogynist? How do we know when they are different? How can we understand that both situations do exist in the same reality but are distinct scenarios which are important to separate and not blur?
Without misogyny, we can still enjoy the kindness of people who have more money than us to spend on us…some of whom may also be women like us. Besides, even though many people love to think the receivers of gifts are the only people that enjoy, there is a fantastic feeling that follows “generous” gestures. And like I mentioned, the “perks” that you-my friend- enjoy, definitely don’t reach all women in the same magnitude that the harm and hate does. For example, war is a negative thing, but even in a war, people profit- ammunition makers make loads of money but that can’t be why we say there are perks of war…as if without war, people won’t be able to make money at all.
In critical thinking and speaking, I believe it’s very important to realize that the intention behind what you say does not directly correlate to what you say (i.e, the words you use and if spoken, the way you speak them).
“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”- Albert Camus.
Even killing can be unintentional. Not everybody who is accused of causing death suffers the same punishment because as we all now by now, humans do stupid shit even when they don’t mean to. Consider the difference between Murder and Manslaughter: When it’s murder, the accused is guilty of causing death through premeditated efforts; and when its manslaughter, the accused is guilty of causing death but unintentionally (maybe through gross negligence). But still, how far does negligence go as an excuse when there’s a dead body to be accounted for?
I think it’s important for me as a reader/listener to divorce the content of a conversation from a person speaking outside the context of the whole conversation. While considering the text in context of the whole piece, I think it’s important for me to recognize that people can still harbour views that are problematic even if I’ve never had personal problems with their personalities. I also started out with references to intention because I have seen the interviewee put out remarks of intentionality as a defense to the impact of the statement made. I just want to make it clear, for people to understand, that intention does not prevent manslaughter from happening- when people get negligent, people die from that negligence. What do we do about the body?