DEAR WOMAN; Inhale, Exhale, Be.

The first time I ever processed thoroughly the idea of domestic violence against women was four years ago, and I wrote a short story for Ynaija here that ended with a woman dying from abuse and everyone gossiping about it.
I had always heard stories of men who beat their wives. I had seen women get beaten by their husbands and boyfriend’s on TV. In Uni, gist went round about abusive guys. However before that year, it was only a thing that happened, it wasn’t something I had looked at on the scale of equally being a woman. I had never considered the consequences or what it really did to the mind of it’s victims.

After my story was published, I remember someone sending me a message about how he felt my story was exaggerated. How I was trying to demonise men by writing such horrific piece. He asked if the story was based on an actual event. I told him it was fiction, but that it being fiction didn’t change the fact that women died all the time in the hands of a punching partner. It happened everywhere, even in church. He then asked if I knew any one personally who had gone through such beating and eventual death and that if I didn’t, I had no right to write about it. I told him I didn’t know anyone personally who had died, but that I did know someone in our church who occasionally got back hand slaps. He then told me to tell him her name. I refused and said I wouldn’t. He told me I was no doctor or Lawyer, only a mere columnist for an online magazine and so a patient/doctor or lawyer/client confidentiality did not apply to me. I refused still and the argument went back and forth.
Shortly after this incident, on Father’s day of that year, I wrote a Happy Father’s day note to women who were playing the role of dad in their families on my BBM and this person suggested that perhaps I had issues with men growing up. He told me to dig deep, that he felt I was lashing out due to something a man close to me had done before to hurt me, someone dear, like my dad or brother or an uncle, and I was taking it out on other men with my BBM update and previously exaggerated story.

I was horrified, that this guy would make something that happened to women every where an issue of anger on my part.
That day, I realised that most men would do anything to protect their ego, never mind who gets dragged through the process. This is why a man who beats his wife will continue to manipulate her into thinking that the problem is not him, but with her for continuously doing something to provoke him, to bring out the horrible side of him. It’s never about him. When he cheats, it’s always that the girl seduced him, came unto him and it happened fast. The men who come out to admit that they were at fault are very few. If there was a smaller measuring word for few, I’lld use it.
Let me just say this before going on. If you are in a relationship where you are being beating, you have to run. That’s it.
You don’t have to be a proverbs 31 woman. The proverbs 31 man was not beating her. And no you don’t have to watch the movie war room either. I am appalled at the way that beautiful movie about mentorship and the power of prayer has moved some church leaders into suggesting that fasting and praying is the way to handle domestic violence. Girl, you need to get out. At no point did the husband in War Room beat his wife. No point. Perhaps you truly have a bad mouth as is always the excuse. Your bad mouth provokes him to beat you maybe, but you need to remove yourself from the situation, then go and work on your bad mouth while he works on his anger, but by God, you must first get out. Otherwise, when you die, Linda Ikeji will blog about you and make money. We will write comments and posts to say how wicked men can be and get 100 likes. The prayer coordinator that asked you to watch War Room will pray at your funeral and go home. You will be the only one 6 feet below.

One of my deepest prayers whenever I look at my growing toddler is that her generation will treat women better.
I hear how people say that women need to learn patience from our mothers and grandmothers seeing that they had marriages that lasted years and years and only death indeed put many apart. But if we will be honest with ourselves, many of these mothers endured marriage. The ones that had the audacity to chase freedom are better off for it, but never socially acceptable. They stayed in it because of their children, because society generally laughs at divorced women and also because parents in that era were callous. Yes, callous. They prepared girls for marriage but didn’t prepare the boys they were sending them too. They taught girls to cook and clean from the age of three but told boys they owned the house. They chastised girls for getting pregnant but did nothing to the boy who planted the seed. They forbade girls from returning home after bride price had been received and so women stayed in horrible unions that cost them every thing. Grown women cowered like children before their husbands and called them daddy, panicked when they heard the horn of his car because the soup still needed 10 minutes to cook well. They had no say in the home except in the kitchen. And even there, the man still determined if he wanted egusi and decided if he wanted eba or pounded yam with it. Husband’s whose idea of marriage was for the woman to ask him if he has eaten, who “kept” women at home all day and took pride in going out and coming back to find that she was still there on his leash. Many girls I know as much as they love their parents don’t want a relationship like their’s.
Relationships that look like a shody arrangement. You cook, I eat.
I make a mess, you clean it up.
No doubt some parents exemplified good marriages but the word again is few.

I read someone’s laughable comment about how girls are mostly single these days because they refuse to do house chores. Can any statement be more daft? Is being single a sin?
See, the only reason to aspire to marriage is if it will be beautiful. If you are stifled in your marriage you can go back home. It doesn’t matter if you had a very elaborate wedding less than a year ago. If your parents are the callous type who say you shouldn’t return home because disgrace…because bride price has been paid… because it’s not done in Yoruba land and all other sorts of because’ , please look for a trusted friend. Being single again after being once married does not define who you are.
My friend just turned 30 today and she’s with her closest family. She finished her Masters degree with distinction from a prestigious University last week. Two or three years ago she survived a horrible horrible horrible illness and surgery. When she woke up this morning, she went to play/relax on the beach, her mom is baking her a cake, her dad got her a beautiful present. Her family is taking her to dinner later. When I asked what it felt like turning 30, she said “I feel content, in every way possible.”
This nearly brought me to tears. I couldn’t doubt the sincerity those words came out with.
I’ve known her a while now and even though she talks of a future with a mansion, a husband and upwards of 10 children running around, she’s not killing herself for being single. She’s not conforming to standards that faceless, nameless people set for women.

You are allowed as a woman to aspire to anything. You can do a Masters and Phd before getting married, you are allowed. You can buy yourself a car or house before getting married, you are allowed. You can marry straight out of University, you are allowed. You can decide to have children or not have children, you are allowed. You can have a caesarean. You can get out of a toxic marriage, you are allowed. You can hate cooking and cleaning, you are allowed. You can earn more than your husband, you are allowed. You can work while he supports from home. Everything is allowed.

I am now more than ever before convinced that men who insist that only women must cook and do house chores are mentally unstable. We often call them traditional men, deeply rooted in culture. But that as I have realised, is another ploy to protect their ego, something to divert attention and make it sound like a well thought out idea. But no, such man is unstable. And we all know that unstable men are prone to violence. So girl, RUN for you dear life.

Marriages definitely take a lot of work and sacrifices from both partners, but not cooking shouldn’t land you in hospital. Earning more than your husband shouldn’t precede thoughts that you are sleeping with other men. And most of all, shaming women for being single at a certain age is evil.
I am shocked that my generation still deals with all of these. I’m ashamed even to be in the same generation as such people. I want to see the parents who raised them and taught them such wickedness, but our children will do better hopefully. May they later write about us and wonder how the hell the idea of who washes plates and who cooks or who earns more was at any point in time up for argument.
May their women not have to give up everything. May the women in the next generation be allowed to just be.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Joy says:

    excellent! excellent! excellente!! Marriage is not an achievement in any way or form, don’t be fooled by the certificate you receive on the day! Again it is not an achievement.. Yes,marriage offers great companionship and partnership (PARTNERSHIP). It is a new responsibility you CHOOSE to take on when you are ready. You are responsible for the person you marry and vice versa and the children that come along. It will add to you and it will take away from you… Very nice piece Tope! you’ve hit the nail on the head!!!!

    1. eclectictope says:

      I wish parents will stop pressuring their kids and stop equating marriage to getting a degree or passing an exam.

  2. Made says:

    Yes ooo @ allowed to have a car.
    When i told my aunt to get my car, she expressed concern about the restriction it will place on my ability to find a husband (never mind that he should do the finding…lol). Even now that I am forging ahead to get the car, this belief still tries to shape the car I get.
    So I’m expected to get a saloon car and not a SUV cos apparently the SUV will intimidate any man.

    1. eclectictope says:

      Hi Made, thank you for sharing this with me. Please buy what you want. Please buy a jet if you want it and can afford it. Any man that feels intimidated by your type of car is the type you don’t need.

    2. Damilola Demehin says:

      Dear Made, any man intimidated by your car would definitely be intimidated by your dreams, your goals, your desires, your vision and your drive.

      I doubt if you would want that kind of man in your life.

  3. Victoria says:

    Well said tope…very well said!

    1. eclectictope says:

      Thank you for reading my love.

  4. isidada says:

    Lol… Your insight is so true. I remember telling my mother’s friend that I am going to get a PhD…she said it will be a barrier to me getting a hubs, I said no ma, I will just have to settle for a guy who is more successful than I am. She said…. Hmmm…I hope it’s in naija…I said no…. Its in America…. She replied “Awon to wa ni America n wa oko/even American girls dey find husband” and I told her “nigbayen nko? /what then?, my own will find me!” na so She shut up . with that being said, I am a woman, I am single, I will one day have a fantastic hubs and family who will love my dreadlocks and my western ideas, but for now ain’t bothered. Nice write-up Tope.

    1. eclectictope says:

      Lol. To read book now is intimidating. Many men claim they want smart women and not women who would be liabilities to them yet can’t handle ordinary phD.

  5. Nikki says:

    Lovely Lovely Piece Tope…Even after being married to someone of another tribe, straight outta Uni, with a good degree, quite happy and content etc, I still get the tone that i could have done better for myself marrying a rich Ibo guy…
    (There should be a “Keep Calm” statement from your piece, that could be…Keep Calm and be Your Own Woman, ladies you’re Allowed!!)
    You’re right that despite the fact that these parents esp. the moms are enduring marriage, they still want us to conform to the outrageous standards they were subject to…anyways my eyes are on the blokes my Siblings wud bring home, Ibo or not… He has to treasure my sister for who she is.
    Finally, that guy you mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t have dignified him with any answers.

    1. eclectictope says:

      The endless vicious cycle hurts me deeply. The fact that many women who went through this horror still push their kids into marriage. Its sad.

      Truth be told, I did regret wasting precious time trying to defend my work with that guy.

  6. magnumidun says:

    “I wrote a Happy Father’s day note to women who were playing the role of dad in their families on my BBM and this person suggested that perhaps I had issues with men growing up. He told me to dig deep, that he felt I was lashing out due to something a man close to me had done before to hurt me, someone dear, like my dad or brother or an uncle, and I was taking it out on other men with my BBM update and previously exaggerated story.” actually some of your write-up sounds quite audacious and feminist ;in any case, we are all entitled to our opinion . Tope we actually have some male species with exemplary values and believes as well as some female species that I dare-say are genuinely an embarrassment , you could work on a piece that also represent the aforementioned. You have raised delicate points, but I believe there are some issues that can be handled with tact, and the answer is not “run,run ,run” safe for physical assault, especially “You can hate cooking and cleaning, you are allowed” I think a woman who is not keen on such chores can be tactful enough to cover-up for that in several ways . Ehn Ehn! I have another point o! Any guy who exhibit any form of violence, wouldn’t have developed that attitude suddenly, some babes sees this green and red light obviously and still plunge head-long in it, for stupid reasons like blind love (Abeg love wear Google e even shine tourch-light) or plain covetousness . May God help us all.

  7. Bimpe says:

    EXCELLENT! EXCELLENT!! EXCELLENT!!! My thoughts exactly. Nothing omitted! Just one and that is, women sometimes propagate the gospel of some of these horrible miss match of expectations. Most mothers still expect their girls to be ‘obedient and cowered’ to their husbands the way they did and would even give you scriptural backing. They obviously don’t read such scriptures from the beginning and put them in perspective. I don’t blame them anyway. Culture and tradition have have so skewed their minds that no one (men and women alike) views women beyond only nurturers and door mats.

  8. Damilola Demehin says:

    I am deliriously happy reading this article. O ti to geeeaa. Enough is Enough. I once had an unpleasant experience with one brother i met in church. I blocked him on my WhatsApp messenger because i could sense all kind of male chauvinistic attitude and i was in no mood for any unnecessary Africa Magic drama. Less than 5mins afterwards, this guy sent a stinker; a stinking stinker. I surprised myself and the guy by not responding. A couple of weeks later he calls saying he has forgiven since our theme for that month is Love and Forgiveness. I laughed in my father’s native language. FORGIVEN ME?! For doing what exactly?!

    I write or say some things and i get reprimanded because they think i am bitter. Yes I am bitter, very bitter gan sef. I am bitter about women going through all kinds of abuse just because of a title in front of their names. I am bitter that most of these women suffer at the hands of not just their husbands but his family, both nuclear and extended. I am bitter because i am not allowed to have lofty and even loftier dreams like my brothers and even when i do i cannot talk about them because my husband is the one that would determine the course for the rest of my life. If having these dreams and desires of wanting to be an individual whilst being married is what makes a woman bitter, then by all means, i am very very bitter woman.

    I see a lot women put their lives on hold because they want to be married. Aunty, you gats to wake up and smell the akumu biko. Your husband might be in that Australia where God is asking you to go do your Masters. Desire to be married but don’t put your life on hold because of it.

    Be committed to bettering yourself.

    And if by chance, you are in an abusive relationship and you think you need deliverance; what you need darling is empowerment and enlightenment and maybe a correct brain-realigning-igbati from a fellow woman. Flee from every appearance of evil, not just demons but people as well.

  9. Dammy A says:

    Been so long, feels good to be back here. And you my dear Tope, you nailed it again. I actually feel I wrote this piece (but nah, you are the writer by birth). There is nothing more to say, you took the words right out of my heart of heart….

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