Why Toke Makinwa is a poster girl for feminism of a different sort

Toke Makinwa is no stranger to controversy – many might even argue her brand is built mostly on that, and while that may be true at face value it is not necessarily so on close scrutiny. Take the controversy she recently got embroiled in after she hopped on the Stingy Men Association trend on Twitter with her take on it.

The take? That if men are saying they have resolved to be stingy with their money going forward it makes sense for women to also be stingy with sex. “Now listening to Shina Peters “money for hand, back for ground …” she added light-heartedly.

The backlash was instant, vicious and from different groups – many who wouldn’t see eye to eye on any other matter particularly one relating to women.

There are men on one side shocked and outraged that a big personality like Toke Makinwa will put something like that out because “What does that say about her and what she is teaching younger women looking up to her as a beacon of independence?”

Then there are women on another side – in equal agreement, disappointed that Toke would ‘objectify’ herself, what happened to feminism?

Toke had a response – which essentially shut down the input of men on the matter, for a concerned female follower who pointed out that she essentially set herself up to be disparaged by men who will think it is only sex she has to offer. “Let them think whatever, who cares what men think anyway?”

As for the latter, this writer thinks her stance, even if it is just for the bants she later tweeted to say it was, is as feminist as it gets.

Toke herself has maintained an almost schizophrenic relationship with feminism over the years. The proof is all over her Vlogging and tweeting history.

To cite a few, in a 2017 Vlog, the media personality maintained that while men need to be comfortable with women being more assertive, the idea of an equal world that expects women to share financial responsibility on a 50-50 basis is ludicrous.

Fast forward to July 2020, she shared now-deleted tweets asserting that while she considers herself a feminist she is not – what some Nigerians call vocal feminists who disavow respectability in their activism, a man-hater.

Toke is certainly not the poster girl for feminism you will want to have on a podium pushing feminist theory. She is simply a poster child of what it is possible to be in a world being constantly moulded and remoulded by the tireless work of feminist theorists over the years – an independent career woman who owns herself and understands how to play her cards right in a deeply patriarchal society.

The steady progress of Nigerian women in the fight to gain equal rights has been slow in a country whose very constitution is written, “By men, for men, and with the benefit of men in mind,” to hear legal practitioner and writer Timinepre Cole say it. It is to be expected.

Viewed through the lens of global feminist movement – which of course doesn’t do justice to our own varied local history, the feminist movement in Nigeria can be loosely likened to the 3rd wave feminism of the ‘90s.

Loosely because while the fight for gender equality today is multi-pronged – with some of the conversations still about women’s subservience to men in a marriage, some of the key focus remains on bodily autonomy and male privilege, both key elements of 3rd wave feminism.

Beyond the back and forth that borders on politics, it is common sense that relationships are transactional by their very nature. All parties involved expect something for what they are giving, whether that is emotional support, affirming love, better social standing, or money. 

The idea that ‘money’ being part of that transaction is a problem is rooted in a puritan culture that abhors transactional sex in order to protect marriage. Yet even in ‘the institution of marriage,’ money exchanges hand to grant access to the bodies and free or underpaid labour of women in perpetuity. Which begs the question, why is one-off payment respectable but a woman continuously demanding her body’s worth isn’t?

As women and their true allies continue to attain wins in the fight for equality, more women are inevitably bound to break away from society’s shackles of shame and reproach and begin to determine for themselves how they interact with the world and the men in it. If they choose to make sex transactional, then good for them.

The sooner we all catch on to and get comfortable with this inevitable reality, the better it will be for society; now and in years to come.

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