In my work and life as a feminist and woman, one question which I always ask myself is this: “Is equality and the ultimate liberation of women an illusion?”. This is for the simple fact that throughout history women have been fighting against all forms of male dominance and though progress has been made, if I am being honest, when I look at the Nigeria in which young girls are being raised in, I fear that we would have a continuous cycle of women raised to see themselves as inferior.
Now, editing the YNaija series on rape has reaffirmed a thought I have had for a while. If misogyny is essentially the hatred of women and the appearance of anything which bears semblance to femaleness and indeed even femininity, we can advocate against rape but if we do not tackle the root cause which is misogyny, we would only be scratching rape culture on the surface.
The reason the rape of women has persisted throughout centuries, is because throughout history women’s bodies have been pathologised and even worse, there has been an attempt to control women’s reproductive abilities such that if we are not producing babies who would continue a man’s capitalist legacy, we are deemed less of women.
Now, rape is the manner in which silence, fear and shame are driven into women. In order for women to accept that men are in fact superior and in order for women to accept that our bodies, lives and biological abilities are to be in service of everyone but ourselves, the female body is viciously attacked and subjugated through rape as a reminder that though as women we may own our bodies physically, we must live our lives as though we are merely loaning our bodies from men.
It is not a coincidence that in ALL parts of the world including the countries that rank high on gender equality indexes, the reality is that rape and violence against women is still one that governs the collective memory of women. All parts of the world need workers and all parts of the world to a degree are involved in some sort of exploiting femaleness. It is just to be expected that rape and other forms of violence against women would be observed.
So how then do we end rape culture?
We have to end misogynistic practices and all forms of traditions and beliefs that aid and affirm the superiority of men and their entitlement to women’s bodies.
We can’t end rape culture if young boys grow up in a culture where bride price is not just normalised, but one where women’s worth is measured and her “price” is essentially haggled down on the basis of things like “virginity.”
We can’t end rape culture if our most popular musicians in Nigeria have songs where consent is disregarded as a “story for the gods” and yet songs like these are still receiving airplay, YouTube streams and have not been banned by all necessary regulating bodies.
We can’t end rape culture if statements like “The man is the head,” “Divorce is against God’s Plan,” “Denying your husband sex is dishonoring God” and worse, “Women who claim to be lesbian are yet to “enjoy” men.” We can’t end rape culture if the above statements are coming from the pulpit and other religious spaces.
If there is one thing I would however want everyone who followed these series to know, is that we can’t end rape culture and even the molestation of young boys if we keep teaching young children to “Keep your virginity for your husband and for your wife.” By doing this, we have subconsciously planted a seed of entitlement in the minds of both boys and girls.
To end, eradicating rape culture is one that requires collective effort and is infact possible. If we can keep hoping and coming together as feminists to imagine a world free of the hatred of women, I strongly believe that we can also re-imagine a world free of the tool of reinforcing that hatred.
You can read all of the essays in this series by visiting YNaija.com/Specials or using the links below: