Grooming For a Life as an Object of Service

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.


6 responses to “Grooming For a Life as an Object of Service

  1. I really liked this post. First off, let me say that my mother received a top notch education. Her brother and sisters were pushed to educate themselves as a means to open opportunities for themselves. I think that came from the fact that my maternal grandmother had to quit school to care for her siblings when her mommy died.

    Anyway, coming from a family that pushes for education in children, regardless of sex, it was always funny to hear conversations from people who would admonish girls because they couldn’t cook. “Who will marry you if you cannot cook?” I know women whose parents discourage them from getting PhDs because they fear that no man wants an “over educated” wife.

    Like you, I believe that girls and boys should be pushed to excel in education. I also believe that girls and boys should learn how to cook, clean and handle responsibility. I don’t believe that this attitude is uncommon, I just think that the most vocal amongst us are the ones who espouse contrary views on what a Nigerian woman is supposed to be.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this and get me thinking.

  2. How cool to have SSD as my first commenter. I am glad you found the post thought-provoking. As someone whose parents emphasise education I also find interactions with people who view women as domestic objects quite interesting and sometimes frustrating because they feel perfectly justified in applying that same viewpoint to me.

    I like hearing about families like yours because I think it’s easy to become very focused on the absurdities one encounters and forget that there are many other people out there who recognise the same issues and are doing something about it. Hopefully we are heading for a time when your mom’s upbringing is the norm in Nigerian society but we won’t get there unless more people re-consider their assumptions about the proper upbringing of a girl child.

  3. So this is a very thoughtful and intelligent post and I’m glad that someone shares the same opinion.

    I am one of those bad girls that cannot cook, does not like cooking, and has no intention of cooking when she gets married.

    Whomever God has given the talent to cook should cook but abeg count me out.

    Also, it is infuriating how Nigerian girls are conditioned to be servile and self-effacing in favour of men and society. It results in the women being the greatest perpetrators of social ills against other women. 😦

    • I see you’re one of the can’t cook, won’t cook brigade. I’m sure you’ll have had people (sometimes ‘concerned’ strangers can hassle one even more than family) lecturing you about that. You made a great point about women perpetrating social ills against other women. I think it’s true. Perhaps I’ll do a post exploring this particular thought. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Very well said. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always been surrounded by strong, independent women who followed their own destinies and do not exist merely to grant the desires of men. But this is so true of our society as a whole.

    Girls are trained to give, support, give and keep giving – as long as long they are giving to others, supporting others, doing nothing for themselves. Boys are brought up to pursue their own goals and destinies. It’s sad, and I really hope the young people that are starting to raise children can do things differently.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I also hope more people take a different approach to raising their children. Like SSD said, there are more people that believe in the capabilities of their children regardless of sex than it would appear. One thing that I find interesting is people that encourage education in their daughters but at the same time emphasise domestication and self-sacrifice. Talk about sending mixed messages!

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