An African Woman’s dilemma: to kneel or not to kneel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


 I am Feminist. I am also African. So I identify as a Female African Feminist.

 (P.s. Not all feminists are female)

As a Female African Feminist, there are more instances of clashes between our African culture and our identity as feminists, than our western counterparts; whose cultures have evolved to align better with gender equality and female empowerment.

Sometimes, it is plain difficult to use “African”, “Female” and “Empowered” in the same sentence.


***

Last week, the picture above and the accompanying comments (naturally) caught my busy mind’s attention.

As a background: Mrs. Uduak Onofiok-Luke (“Mrs. Luke”) graduated with a Doctorate Degree in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Calabar in Nigeria last week. Having received her Degree, she knelt before her husband and hugged him, while crying.

‘Our’ side of the internet went on fire. ‘Facebook was on fire. The focus shifted from the acquisition of an additional degree by this beautiful person. The flurry turned on something else: her kneeling pose.

Two sides of ‘the argument’ quickly emerged:

The first side – the ‘anti-feminist’ side - commending her for her humility, and urging all other women to emulate such humility and display same to their husbands.

The other side – the sudden ‘feminists’ – condemning her for kneeling, and advising her to adopt better ‘dignifying’ postures in future. "Why should she kneel?" “Why could she not jump? Or smother with kisses? Or hug? Why kneel??”

(I hate how Social Media has made everyone the CIA… pre-occupied with everyone else’s private events).

There are too many other problems in this world. There is Global warming. The Chibok girls are still missing. ISIS is still… well, being ISIS.

In Nigeria, the Naira is still at N335 = $1 at the parallel market.

And the Nigerian National Assembly has struck down the Gender Equal Opportunities Bill.

(We will still come for them. Soon)

So my first inclination was to simply retort to online ‘debates’ on this with a one-liner: Mind your business.

But the debate raged on.

My busy mind wonders:

We are not privy to the nature of relationship she has with this man, her husband. Their struggles. Their friendship. Whatever sacrifices that her husband and the whole family had to make for her to achieve her dream. To become a “Doctor”.

What is her background, her culture? What is her orientation?

Or is she a natural ‘kneeler’? Perhaps, the best way she knows to communicate certain emotions is by kneeling.

I'll be a willing example..

Growing up in South-West Nigeria, it was the culture to deep one’s knees when greeting or receiving things from one’s seniors. Till date, I sometimes find myself (subconsciously) deeping my knees when greeting really older people.

This does not mean I cannot engage them on an intellectual level.

Or that I am afraid of them.

Or that I am a humble person… with a humble nature.

Or that I am subservient to them.

It is an acculturization of my personality, which culture I do not perceive as harmful to me, I have not found harmful to me, and have thus not identified the need to purge myself of.

It does not remove anything from me; it does not change who I am.

Similarly, I had learnt over time to kneel when I have genuinely offended someone I love and/or care greatly for.

Towards to end of last year, I was in a pretty bad mood, and took it ought on someone I cared for.

The next time we met, I went down on my huge knees, and sought forgiveness.

Has my kneeling reduced my feminism? Has it diminished my self-emancipation? Am I now enshackled in perpetual slavery and subservience to her??

Or is it “ok” because the recipient of my kneeling was a she?? Would I have been selling out on the fight for equality if she was a “he”?

In the case of Mrs. Luke, does her kneeling make her less human, less of herself than it should? Does it diminish her capacity as a woman? Does it affect any of her God-given rights, as recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and African Charter of Human and People’s Rights?

Does her kneeling now make her eligible for the “most humble” award?

I think not.

It is no use wishing all Nigerian/African “women” were “humble” like Mrs. Luke, just like it is no use wishing all African males were President of the United States like Obama.

(I wish I had found Obama before Michelle met him. Sigh.)

Mrs. Luke’s kneeling could be born from a place of gratitude; joy; love; ecstasy; happy bewilderment. Her kneeling may well have nothing to do with humility.

It is a personal act which she did, for her alone.

And for the “sudden feminists’ Mrs. Luke’s kneeling for her husband does not diminish her or her achievements in anyway. It does not reduce her intellect, or take away her acquired PhD. It is not a ‘sign’ that the struggle for Female Empowerment in Nigeria has come to an unsuccessful, abrupt waterloo.

It does not translate to her subservience to her husband. If it does... who cares??

It is THEIR life. Their marriage. Their relationship. It is the both of them who have to live with each other, and who identify how best to communicate with each other

Rather than focus on the (non-existent) implications of her kneeling pose, we should instead applaud the added feather to the strides Nigerian women make, and use same as additional arsenal against our (mis)representatives at the National Assembly, in order to ensure the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill is passed.

***

I have day-dreams of the day I acquire my PhD (it scares the hell out of me!)

I toy with the idea of rolling from one end of the floor to the next in my full doctoral garb, in appreciation of the support structures who made it possible for me to become a "Doctor", without having to dissect a single dead body.

It would not translate into me being the poster-woman for humility.

It would not translate into me being subservient and/or being “dis-powered”. 

It would just be the interpretation of the emotions I would be going through at the time, emotions felt and understood by only me. (Although, there is the possibility it may also be interpreted as my ‘screws’ getting loosed)

I am Feminist. Yes.

But I believe in Live And Let Live.

Let Her Live. Abeg.

Paz,


Meg.

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6 comments

  1. Nigerians are funny but can be quite weird with their thoughts. Once my husband is part of an achieved dream, I'm so prostrating in appreciation because I know some men won't do so much for their women. And you are right, they definitely have a story and maybe that's why she went on her knees. Nice post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walahi! I will probabably do caterwauls, and end up in a praying mantis position (Hehe!)

      Thank you Ollie.

      Delete
  2. Nice write up 'Mrs Publisher'. I enjoyed every piece if it.

    Honestly,we look forward to you recieveing your doctorate without administering panadol to any patient.lol.

    Long live my busy mind. Keep it up.

    Kenni700

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol!! I look forward to the doctorate too ooooo!!!

      Thank you.

      Delete
  3. You know the hard part of this entire matter is that humility is often interpreted as weakness when it is one of the most strongest characters to master.

    praise God for grace and He alone knows the heart and mind of man

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    Replies
    1. Amen Bro! Humility is not a sign of weakness. If a person wants to be humble, we should let them be.

      Delete