The objectification of the Nigerian woman starts early. Phrases such as ‘good home training’ and ‘if you don’t learn how to do this, what will you do when you get to your husband’s house where there’ll be nobody to help you’ are frequently used to get girls to do some domestic task or other. Funny that there’s no equivalent line for guys. I have never heard anyone say that a guy will struggle in his wife’s house or even be sent back to his father’s house because he doesn’t know how to cook a traditional soup or do some kind of housework.
It seems to me that Nigerian girls are raised with the interests of other people in mind. Namely, the goal is to produce a caretaker for a hypothetical man in the future. In fact, one could say that childhood is viewed as a preparation for marriage at which time, a woman is expected to go into some man’s house to his benefit and to the credit of her family. Because of course, there is no greater source of disgrace for a Nigerian woman than being a wife who does not know how to cook, does not properly entertain her in-laws and the battalions of people that turn up at her house or does not produce grand children on command.
A girl is judged as a good or bad daughter on the basis of how ‘domesticated’ she is. Nothing is as valuable in a Nigerian girl as her domestic skills and willingness to submit herself to the service of others. Not her intelligence, her ideas, her creativity or her curiosity. None of it matters as much as whether she is viewed as a ‘good’ potential wife. Even if she is being used, she is expected to grin and bear it because that’s what a good woman would do and she is after all in training to become such a person.
What message does this send to young girls? Does it say to them that they are valuable for who are they are? How crushing to the confidence to hear that your fantastic grades, advanced degree, position at work or success in your business are not as important as the value that some guy (or his family) places on you because you can cook a good pot of soup.
Marriage is supposed to be the pinnacle of achievement for a Nigerian woman. It often comes across to me that Nigerian parents think they have failed if they do not get their daughter married off and producing babies. Something is wrong with a girl who does not hasten to accomplish this ‘achievement’ and by extension, something is wrong with her parents for raising such a daughter. Perhaps this is why there is so much pressure on young women to get married (even more so than any desire to have grandchildren).
I am not knocking domestication or marriage. However, I am against raising girls to believe that their value lies in what they do for other people. I think that the skills involved in keeping a house running are important for everyone, male and female, but setting a child up for success should mean that they receive training in more than these skills. What about literacy, computer and financial skills for girls? When will Nigerian culture value this training not just in its sons but also in its daughters?
* The above is a description of some observations I have made about Nigerian culture. The attitudes discussed are not true of everyone.