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Observing Sexism In My Family Chimamanda Adichie Was/Is Right!

“What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?”

Chimamanda Adichie

For a long time, I have observed sexism in my family. And I have decided to address it today. After reading this post, you may think I got angry for a normal circumstance, but this has been happening, in different ways, for years. Why should I be a writer, when I can’t stand up for myself?

Yesterday, my brother(who I am constantly reminded is the only son in the family) decided to cook noodles. I wasn’t home since I am working to save up for college. He took three packs of noodles and cooked them. All for himself. As usual, no one paid attention to him since “he is the only son.” 

Of course, I wouldn’t have ignored him if I was home. However, when I got home, I wanted to make noodles too. I went to the box and I discovered that there was one left. I was starving, working from 8 am to 7 pm. I checked on Friday, they were supposed to be four. I instantly knew it was him and my siblings confirmed my suspicion. 

I confronted him in the sitting room, where my mother was sitting and watching T.V. But instead of feeling remorseful or saying anything, my mother jumped to defend him. 

The following words were said in Igbo but I will be translating them into English. 

MUM: “Why are you shouting at him? He was hungry so he cooked three. Boys normally have a huge appetite so don’t blame him.”

I was dumbfounded. What on earth did she say? 

I replied her.

ME: “But if I had cooked three, you won’t be defending me like this.”

MUM: “You don’t eat as he does. He needs food to grow muscles as a man. If you can eat like him, eat like him.”

Excuse me? Did I ever mention I was allergic to muscles? 

I was angry. It was obvious she would never take my side if I had done exactly what he did. I tried to explain how he could have cooked two, besides, I am older than him and should consume almost the same quantity of food he eats. 

I walked into the kitchen and yet again, I discovered he fried the last two eggs. I lost it. Every ounce of self-control I had, flew out of the window. 

I walked back into the sitting room and began to yell at him. He yelled back, shouting and abusing me with words. I usually cry when I am so angry so I was crying and yelling back.

Within a second, my mum dragged me out of the sitting room. She was yelling at me too. 

MUM: “Just look at you. You are shouting because of Indomie. All the neighbors are hearing your voice. And you are a girl. Can you imagine? Have you heard any of your mates shouting like this? And you want somebody to come and marry you with your bad temper like this?”

Pause! I want to reference a line from Chimamanda’s book. 

“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.”

Chimamanda Adichie

“You’re shouting, and you’re a girl?”

As a girl, I have completely lost my freedom of speech because of my gender? My brother was yelling too. Why was I the only one who was wrong? Can the neighbors only hear my voice? Isn’t he going to get married too? And why is marriage considered the biggest accomplishment for me?

I was crying, sitting on the floor, and thinking of nothing but Chimamanda’s book “We Should All Be Feminists.”

My dad wasn’t home. If he was, he wouldn’t have permitted any of what happened yesterday. He is a disciplined man, full of knowledge, and understands the brutal effect of sexism. As a father of five children: four daughters and one son, he tries to be equal and fair to us all. 

My mother dedicated an hour to talking to me about my voice and the manner I speak. She said I am too judgy and quick to point out errors. She said that people don’t like girls that behave like me. According to her, no one likes to hang around someone who challenges them for everything they do. She said people nowadays like quiet girls who are focused and have great wife material qualities. She explained how her meekness helped her get married early unlike her mates. She concluded by stating clearly that I should never question her, talk loudly enough for our neighbors to hear and I should apologize to my brother.

In my own words, she wanted me to pretend, silence myself, and never say what I truly think.  

Of course, I didn’t. I am not proud or rude to my mother. But I will not apologize to my brother when I deserved an apology. 

I ignored him and cooked. While cooking, I was planning the perfect revenge in my mind. Nothing I ever say in my family is recognized until I do something drastic about it.

I heard my mother’s words over and over again. 

“If you can eat like him, eat like him.”

I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to replay the same situation and watch my mother’s reaction. 

I ate my food in silence and dozed off afterward. If you can recall, I had been working all day long. 

Fast forward to the next day, which is today, Sunday. We were preparing for service and my siblings decided to drink tea.

I was watching my brother as he marched forward and grabbed 7 slices of bread from the entire loaf. Seven!!!!! Everyone else will have to share half of the loaf while he ate half.

My mum was watching him too, smiling. Of course, he needs bread to grow manly muscles. I ignored him. 

I took two slices of bread and that’s when the whole trouble began again.

My mum: Why are you taking bread? I have prepared stew and vegetable sauce. Go and eat that. You don’t take tea because you don’t like milk. So leave that bread so your sisters can drink tea. 

I turned around, looking at my brother who was stuffing bread into his mouth. Five slices of bread remained on his plate but I was holding just two. What exactly did I do wrong?

Me: “This is just two slices of bread. Emma took seven and you didn’t complain. If he returns two, it will be the same thing. And I toast my bread even when I don’t drink tea.”

My mum: He has more appetite than you. Boys eat more food and I have told you that. Stop comparing what he eats with what you eat. Drop that bread. 

Again with the sexism. I tried to hide my anger and put back the slices of bread I took. Then I had an idea.

I walked into the kitchen, grabbed my plate, filled it with enough food for me, took three large pieces of chicken, and walked back to the dining table. 

And that’s when my mum erupted like a volcano. 

Immediately, my father’s attention was drawn and he walked in. He instantly noticed the slices of bread on my brother’s plate and asked. 

Dad: Why are they five slices of bread on that plate and you have almost taken half of your tea? How many did you take?

My brother, already sensing disapproval from my father, tried to lie but I told my father the exact truth. 

He was unhappy and questioned my mother. 

Dad: And you allowed him? Do you expect the remaining people to share half of the loaf? 

My mum: At least it’s bread. Your daughter is planning to eat three pieces of chicken alone.

My dad glared at me and I started talking. I was already on the verge of tears, explaining everything that had happened yesterday to him. 

My mum quickly came to my brother’s defense. 

Mum: Boys eat a lot. I know how they are. Besides, Ada will sometimes cook noodles and eat it alone. She wants to bring up trouble with this issue. 

At that very moment, I erupted. My mouth was open, wide, and loud. I was yelling, crying, and thundering every possible word in my head. 

The most painful part of her statement was pointing out that I ate 1 pack of noodles without sharing while my brother could eat 3 alone. 1 against 3 but I was the villain. 

My mother began to yell again. Bringing up the whole issue about my tone. She said I am always angry. “A girl should never be angry and harsh like you,” she said. “You are always talking. Look at our neighbors, how many of them behave like you? Do you have any friends? What is wrong with you? I always tell you to keep quiet and act like everyone else. “

Again. I want to quote a line from We Should All Be Feminists. 

“But back to anger. I heard the caution in the acquaintance’s tone, and I knew that the comment was as much about the article as it was about my character. Anger, the tone said, is particularly not good for a woman. If you are a woman, you are not supposed to express anger, because it is threatening.”

Chimamanda Adichie

My dad calmed everyone down and talked to us. He disapproved of my brother’s actions, my mother’s, and mine as well. He also highlighted some other instances where my mother had completely taken my brother’s side without thinking about how I felt. 

He spoke to us for about 30 minutes but I will only write my favorite part of his advise.

“About Ada, I want you to be very careful with the way you talk and treat her. She is fragile but strong enough to deal with all of these. She is different from her mates and we should appreciate that. You will push her to lose her confidence if you continue this way. Ada, continue to be a good girl, show concern when it is needed, and speak up all the time. You are a very smart girl and you have every right to be angry with what happened yesterday and today.” 

He asked us to apologize to each other and we did.

Conclusion 

“And then we do a much greater disservice to girls because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”

Chimamanda Adichie

All my life, I have been taught to make myself likable to others. To present myself in a perfect way, beautiful and silent like a butterfly. But no one has ever asked if I wanted to be a butterfly. I know that many girls around the world are subjected to this similar experience.

My brother, on the other hand, can be whatever he wants to be. Besides, he is the man with the muscles. 

I do agree. I may have overreacted because of noodles. But my anger and tears have been built up for a long time. 

Every day, I am constantly reminded to be quiet and invisible. I shouldn’t talk so loudly or I would be alone for the rest of my life. I should never say the things in my head because no girl says them and people will think I am weird. 

I remember telling my mother once that I didn’t want to get married early. At that time, I had good reasons. I was repelled, my mother asking me to never say such nonsense. “You should be married before 30”, she said. 

A few weeks later, my brother said the same thing, and guess what? My mother said “Many men don’t marry early today. You have to get money and have a good business or company before..” She was smiling. 

I was struck by this. Didn’t she think I could have my own company? Did she think that the best achievement for me was marriage? Why could he prepare for marriage and I couldn’t? Gender matters everywhere. 

I can’t speak loudly because I want to get married. Well then, farewell to marriage. I can’t have muscles because they are made for a boy/man. Do you have any proof of that? Every day, girls are taught what to do and what not to do but little attention is paid to the boys. Every minute, our self-confidence as girls is trampled upon by society. Why does she do that? How will she do this? When will she do that?  Can’t she see other girls don’t do that?

FEMINISM, GENDER EQUALITY, SEXISM, AND ALL MATTERS RELATING TO GENDER BEGIN FROM HOME. 

When a girl and a boy commit the same offense, the stain will forever linger on the girl. Take for instance, when two thieves are caught. One a boy, the other a girl. Everyone will say “A girl? A thief? Why would a girl be a thief? Who will ever marry her? Why would a girl steal?”

I am not justifying theft. Both parties are wrong. But no one would ask “A boy? A thief? Why would a boy be a thief? Who will ever marry him? Why would a boy steal?”

Everything is dumped on the female. In years to come, she will forever be remembered as a thief. She will be scorned, rejected, and humiliated. If she is lucky, she will get married and hide that secret for the rest of her life.  But the male? He will be forgiven, forgotten, and welcomed. Besides, it’s only like boys stealing. Girls should never be caught stealing.  Why is that so?

A woman who is not married at 40 in Nigeria will hardly go anywhere without being reminded that she is getting old and lonely. A man on the other hand is rarely bothered. Society makes that woman feel like a failure. When we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal. 

Men and women are different. My brother and I are different. He eats more and I don’t. He has muscles and I do too. He can eat four packs of noodles and I can too. He can yell and I can too. I will not be cornered because of my gender and the stereotypical beliefs of the world. 

“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”

Chimamanda Adichie

Girls can’t do this, girls can’t do that. I am a person, not a gender. I am Anita, not a gender. I am a female but that does not define or limit me. Our world has evolved but our idea of gender has not. I can do what most boys of my age can’t do. And for some reason, society frowns at that. Gone are the days when physical strength is a sign of maturity. 

As I always state, I don’t believe in labels. When someone asks if I am a feminist. I simply say “I am an equalist.” Everyone, Male or Female(regardless of how they came about to be) should be treated equally. Men and women are not equal. As our fingers are not equal, so is no one equal. But we should be treated with equal respect, love, and attention. 

Don’t praise your daughters for dressing responsibly. Praise both your daughters and son. Make them understand it is required from both parties. 

Don’t teach your daughters the value of preserving their virginity if you are not going to teach your sons as well. Respect and STDs are not one-sided. 

 Don’t stop your daughters from yelling if you won’t stop your sons. 

Don’t force your daughters to cook for your sons. If your sons are hungry, they should learn how to cook. Matters of the kitchen are not governed by gender or the ability to conceive children. Besides, most great chefs are men. What are your sons waiting for? 

Don’t force your daughters to marry early if you won’t force your sons to marry early. 

Some of these instances are not appropriate but the point is that equality should be a new way. 

I know homes where boys are not allowed to wear pink clothes or shoes because they are colors for girls. With all due respect, our world is moving at a very fast pace but our mindset is not. 

I know a male friend who isn’t permitted to chew bubble gums. Why? They are for girls, very wayward girls in fact. How backward our thoughts are! 

From today, we should learn that gender is not a limiting factor. In our classrooms, leadership should not be affected by gender. In our homes, gender should not be remembered except when necessary. In our offices, the person more qualified to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the more creative, more innovative. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, innovative, and creative. 

My voice will continue to be heard. I will continue to say the things in my mind. I will continue to speak for the girls who cannot. I will yell for thousands and our thoughts will shake the earth. 

I hope you find the confidence that you seek to speak the truth. Male or female, I hope you voice your opinion. Do not let the stereotypes or your culture stop you from being yourself. Gender doesn’t define us, our minds and several other factors do. Your power is your radical self. 

Gender equality should not be seen as a women’s issue. It is an issue for the entire world.

I am not going to limit myself or stop myself from doing what I love or is right because people don’t believe I can or I should.

I will stand up for myself, and by doing so, I will stand up for every being. That’s what a true equalist will do. But who is a true equalist?

An equalist is anyone who fights for the equality of all men and women. Who speaks for both genders and believes we are all one. 

Adanna Anita

9 thoughts on “Observing Sexism In My Family Chimamanda Adichie Was/Is Right!

  1. Very nice and thoughtful post. Many people need to understand that gender has nothing to do with common sense.

    Regarding the indomie 😂, I totally understand. When you pile up things,it takes a little push to make them scatter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I love this. You’re very right. Gender inequality and stereotypes are a constant in Nigeria families, especially in families with ‘only sons’.

    I’ve had experiences similar to yours with my younger brother (who also happens to be the only son) when it comes to house chores, and my mom just says: ‘So I as a girl an waiting for him to come and do so and so?’ And after, she complains that my brother lacks manners and is lazy.

    Even in relationships. Nowadays, people take it as a norm for a boy to have more than one girlfriend – a ‘main babe’ and some ‘side-chicks’ – but they expect girls to sit back, be good-girls and tolerate the rubbish. The excuse being: ‘boys will be boys’.

    Equalism is a social mindset that should be promoted globally. But it’s sad to say that in the Nigerian context, it’s going to take a lot more time.

    Awesome post, Adanna. You have my five-star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    P.S: I’m also the ada. My other Igbo name is Adaugo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Being an only son should not stop African parents from acting right. Gender equality starts from home, and so far, African parents are doing a horrible job.

      The concept of equality will take time but it is worth fighting and striving for. Thank you for visiting. I have been reading Harry Potter and I have completely forgotten about everything else💖💖💖💖

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Society prefers to ignore issues related to gender equality. Whenever women try to speak up for themselves, they say we are being dramatic.
    People need to actually understand that gender matters concern everybody, Male, Female or whatever it is one identifies as!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hate it when women are tagged or called loud for speaking their mind or voicing their thoughts. But when men do it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

      Gender matters everytime!

      Thank you for visiting and commenting 💖💖💖💖💖

      Like

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