Although I’m no longer a Christian, there are few things I hate more than the shaming of women in the feminist space who are religious.
This is because when push comes to shove, misogyny doesn’t truly care what religion you profess as a woman before it strikes you in the face.
So I don’t know why it has become okay to allow irreligious men who still benefit from religious patriarchy to insult religious women as not “radical enough”.
There are two scenarios that occur in Nigeria that show me that no matter where you stand it is imperative that we work together as feminists irrespective of what faith you believe in.
The first is the routine harassment and rape of women by the Nigerian police.
In April 2019, members of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board raided a nightclub and arrested an approximate of seventy women and demanded sex for bail and raped some of them using sachet water nylons as makeshift condoms.
It was later revealed that this arrest was on the orders of Hajiya Safiya Umar, a woman who believed strongly in purdah.
Now, I’ve often thought about how when it came time to arrest these women on unfounded accusations of prostitution, none of the men asked if the woman was irreligious or if the woman was one of those insulting Muslim feminists on Twitter.
The “sin” to them was simply being a woman enjoying autonomy in a nightclub/lounge and I put sin in quotes because there is nothing wrong with being a woman.
The second scenario is the manner in which single women find it difficult to rent apartments and buy property. Although it’s getting better, it is still not uncommon for single women renting property to have men who pose as their husbands or boyfriends.
Sometimes, even though it is the woman paying it may be the man’s name who appears as the tenant in the tenancy agreements.
This idea stems from Christian teachings that posit that a woman must always have a male “head” especially in a home unit.
It is this teaching that ensures that many women find it hard to rent apartments.
Not just that, I would argue that it is this same teaching that ensures that daughters are disinherited and marriage is a must where even wives are inherited by their husband’s brothers upon the death of his brother and still written out of wills.
Again, no one really asks what you believe in before housing is made difficult or even before your landlord tries controlling your movements and tells you that you cannot have male visitors. As before, the “sin” is simply being a woman.
Now, I can totally understand criticizing the role that religion has played in the oppression of women. It is a much needed conversation as it helps women make informed decisions on our bodies and lives.
However, I am against mocking women who are working to end religious misogyny or are simply practising their faith. Especially if they are not using their religion to propagate harmful beliefs about women’s oppression.
I say this because men who are free of religion can also be magnificently sexist and even can be abusers as well. In addition, I say this because religion is not the only tool through which hideous beliefs are pushed; afterall, we have women claiming to be progressive but are in tune with ideas from the media that say it is okay for women’s safe spaces like bathrooms to be shared with men.
Speaking with Mimi, a Muslim woman, she explained that religious feminists not only receive bullying from feminist women but also from other religious women.
In her words: “As a Muslim, I just believe that people’s definition of feminism and their lack of understanding makes them judge you when you say you are a feminist.
The way we have been taught, and all of that. Personally, I believe there is a chance to grow and see things differently but it’s not easy for other women; they believe that it’s how it’s done those times(olden days) and it has to continue like that. But life is different now, so I just believe it is a lack of understanding.”
The honest truth is that no matter the debates on faith, there shall always be the existence of faith and non-faith. Not only that, women will always belong to both sides and women still face sexism from the men in both groups.
It is for our best interest that we work together as women to ensure that no matter our personal belief systems, we do not encounter discrimination and harm.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.