feminism in Nigeria

What Does Feminism Really Mean to Nigerians?

The topic of Feminism in Nigeria is widely misunderstood! I think apart from convincing the people around me that Yemi Alade is the most creative and hardworking female artiste in Nigeria (yeah I said what I said, lol).

Convincing people about the cause of feminism without tagging me as a misandrist is one of the hardest discussions I always have to deal with. Countless times I try to teach people on my social media, especially WhatsApp that feminism is not about hating men. It is so frustrating that it seems like people intentionally refuse to learn which should not be so.

I mean there shouldn’t even be an argument because it’s the factual thing to know.


And just like how I try to make people understand it’s not just because I love Yemi Alade that is why I see her as the most creative and talented but it’s because it’s so obvious she is.

Same applies to how I make people understand that I’m not just supporting feminism just because I’m a woman; even a man can be a feminist it’s just the right thing to do.

When you see how underestimated women are in the society, how they are being violated and abused. How women are segregated just because of their gender, you would want to lend a voice.

But for some reasons many people don’t seem to understand the concept that they begin to misinterpret as an entirely different stuff. Feminism has been greatly misinterpreted that some Nigerian women mistake feminism for misandry.

They are now seen as merely frustrated, heartbroken, angry for nothing, nagging women, and more words have been used to qualify them.

They also contribute to the misconception of feminism. As a matter of fact, I don’t think any good words have been used to qualify feminists in Nigeria.

As a result of this, we need to understand the difference between feminism and misandry.

Feminism vs Misandry

What does Feminism mean?

Feminism is a social theory or a political movement that criticize gender biases about women. It argues that political, economic as well as social restrictions on women must be removed in order to bring about equality of the sexes in all aspects of life.

In other words, feminism is all about genders having equal rights, privileges as well as opportunities. It is a strife to empower women to exercise their full rights as a member of any society they belong to. Feminism is a fight against women’s violation, sexual harassment, rape, toxic masculinity, girl marriage, genital mutilation, and so many other issues women are facing in society.

What does Misandry mean?

Misandry on the other hand is contempt or hatred for men. Misandrist due to past experience they might have had with men, hate them completely.

Differences And Similarities Between Feminism and Misandry

Both concepts have different meanings, feminism is a political movement against gender inequality while misandry is more or less a personal prejudice or hatred towards men.

A feminist can be a man or a woman, a feminist can still love men and marry one but misandrists are more radical than that, and would always slam men no matter what.

Psychologists have reported that misandry can be a result of what a woman has witnessed in her life. Rape and abuse victims especially at an early stage, women that have been heartbroken severally, girls that watched their fathers beat their mothers often are all likely to become misandrists if care is not taken.

The Types of Feminists in Nigeria

The Renowned Ones

Like Chimamanda Adichie who have written books based on feminism like; Dear Ijeawele (A Feminist Manifesto), Purple Hibiscus, Americannah, and so many others books that have been internationally recognized.

We also have Amina Doherty, Florence Ozor, Molara Ogundipe, Ayesha Imam, Margaret Ekpo, Flora Nwapa and so on. These women have talked about feminism mostly through their articles, tweets, blogs, book, or even works of art.

The Controversial Gang

Like Toke Makinwa, Linda Ikeji, Tonto Dikeh, and so on who are often “dragged” by so many on social media because of their view on feminism. A few months ago, popular actress, Genevieve bagged insults because of her view about feminism.

The Activists

I love to call these ones OGs because they are the major contributors to the real cause of feminism in Nigeria.

Recently during the EndSars protest, a particular group of young Nigerian feminists called the Feminist Coalition has exhibited so much support to the cause of the protest. They donated money and meals to the protesters, and set up a volunteer legal aid to help wrongfully convicted protesters.

Not only that, this group is a group that fights for equality for women in Nigeria. It has a focus on financial freedom, education, and engagement of more women in public office. They do all these through fundraising, peaceful protests as well as a social media organization. They are also one of the most popular groups on Twitter.

We have Aisha Yesufu, a renown activist, she has always been known as a woman that speaks out when something is wrong about the country. She has led and participated in protests in Nigeria like;

  • BringBackOurGirls protest.
  • SayNoToRape protest.
  • EndSars protest.

It’s like this woman fears no one, she always speaks the truth and stands by her rights.

The Radical Ones

These ones that take feminism to another dimension. A perfect example is Temmie Ovwasa, aka YBNL princess, OMG have you been to her Twitter and Instagram page? Let me just say her find her…interesting!

A person’s feminism approach can consist of two or more of these aforementioned types of feminists. I mean a feminist can a renowned as well as a controversial one, he or she can even be an activist.

Was There Ever Feminism In Nigeria Before Recent Times?

If you are wondering if there’s an history of feminism in Nigeria, YES! YES!! YES!!! There have been many feminists in Nigeria even before the colonial era in Nigeria. We’ve had many feminists, just that they were not familiar with the word.

These women are so powerful and influential that they made a change in the system. They are women everyone knew during their era till this moment because they would always be mentioned in the history of Nigeria, I call them Queens!!

Nigerian Feminists in History Past

  1. Queen Amina of Zaria

She was a powerful warrior that fought many battles for her kingdom, Zaria. Queen Amina also established many Emirates to usually pay homage to her kingdom. She fought so well that to become one of the most prominent commanders and rulers at a time when it was prohibited for a woman to rule.

There is hardly anyone that doesn’t read or heard about this her exploits. Well unless you went to a school you weren’t taught the history of Nigeria.

  1. Queen Iyoba Idia

Was another famous woman in the Benin Empire. She fought for her son right to the throne and redefined the political and economic structure of the Benin empire. She also invented art and traded with the Portuguese then. The Iyoba Idia mask is one of the most known masks worldwide.

  1. Madam Efunroye Tinubu

A successful businesswoman from Abeokuta who established herself so well in Lagos that she become one of the most important people in the Oba palace. Not only that she was also one of the kingmakers. Her statue is erect at the Tinubu square in Lagos island, she is also popular as the first woman to own a car in Nigeria.

  1. Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti

Another woman I have high respect for. A teacher, a political campaigner, a woman right activist. This woman is arguably one of the greatest Nigerian feminists ever, fighting for many women rights including the right to vote. She was the woman that led thousands of women for a protest against unfair market taxes in Nigeria.

This queen has once caused the suspension of the Alake in 1949 (Ee shock you too abi, LOL). The mother of the popular musician and activist, Fela. A supporter of her son’s criticism against bad governance in Nigeria. No wonder her son was a genius and a legend as well. You can’t have a mother like her and not be a legend! Also, she was the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria and was known as the “Lioness of Lisabi”.

All these women changed the status quo and challenged men that view them as a mere woman that just cook and clean. They became historical figures that till now no one hasn’t heard their stories unless you went to jabajantis school.

Challenges Limiting Feminism in Nigeria

To some Nigerians, feminism is a pointless concept that is not possible to happen in Nigeria. The worst part of it is that some women slam feminists too, they tag them as immoral women that want to control and dominate men.

Be mindful of your feminist posts on your social media if you don’t want to be called a misandrist who wants to cause mischief.

I once overheard fellow women saying “feminists are just confused women”. I shook my head when I heard this. In my mind I said, “you guys are the confused ones”.

The fact that some Nigerians are conserving and patriarchal is not helping matters, we still believe it’s against our culture for women to rule the society.

The situation is better in West and South than the North where educating the girl child is a struggle. The practice of phallocracy is so rampant that women don’t even have a say in their family not to talk of the whole society.

I see no reason why women would have to deal with so many restrictions, for crying out loud we just as important as the male gender in the society. As a matter of fact, women have always been the pillar of the society, without women the society can’t function well.

So why favor one gender than the other? Why regard the female gender as the weaker ones just because men are physically stronger? What about mental strength?

Conclusion

Many women in Nigeria can perform equally like men, yet may not be taken seriously as the way men would have been. We have women like Mo Abudu CEO of Ebonylife Tv.

Tara Durotoye a renowned beauty entrepreneur, Ibukun Awosika the chairman of Board directors of First bank PLC, Kemi Adetiba a well-known filmmaker and video director. All these women have achieved so many things.

Interestingly, some people fight these issues without knowing that they are feminist. Some feminists refuse to count themselves as one due to the negativity attached. They would rather have people call them humanists or activists, I was once like that too.

I want people to know that Feminism in Nigeria is a result of the total imbalance in all aspects of the country. There wouldn’t have to be feminism if there weren’t so many ridicules and violence thrown at women in the first place.

According to Trust.org, Nigeria is 9th most dangerous countries women in the world, can you imagine!


In the Nigerian legislative system, we have just 7 women out of 109 senators in the House of Senate. In the house of representatives we have just 22 women out 360 senators! Our president once said, ‘a woman’s place belongs in the kitchen and in the other room’.

Women face sexual harassment and sexist remarks almost every day of their lives. They suffer;

  • Rape
  • Subjection to early marriage, especially in the North
  • Circumcision.

We need to eradicate all these inhumane practices, they are the reasons we need feminism in this country.

 

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About Author

Mariam Obaijoko
Sociologist, writer, historian, and activist; Mariam Obaijoko is the author of Ashabi and Campus Lovers (one of Unilorin Best Fiction Of 2019). Now a full-time writer, she has published several articles and write-ups on social issues, feminism, lifestyles, and many others.

2 thoughts on “What Does Feminism Really Mean to Nigerians?

  1. At first, I do tackle people most especially feminist anywhere I see them be it online or social media platforms but later I realized been a feminist is actually something that will help in making our society a better place for all irrespective of gender and other things. It’s obvious many people are still ignorant of what the true meaning of feminism encompasses and why they should encourage people to join the movement, or stay aside, rather than discouraging those that are involved already. I must commend the writer of this great article, she has indeed done alot and I believe by the end a lot of people will learn, unlearn and relearn which will make our society a better place for all to live. I can’t wait to live and enjoy in a country that works for all irrespective of who or where we came from most especially gender discrimination, it matters a lot.

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