Unlearn The Idea That Women Must Be Saints

Sometime ago, I was on a Twitter Space where we were discussing electoral violence against women voters and politicians. It was an enlightening conversation with some women in politics sharing their experiences and possible solutions.

Towards the end of the Space, there were contributions from listeners on the Space. In true Nigerian man fashion, a man came up and said that women should not expect to get things in politics simply because we are women. 

He went further to imply that women had to work hard and be free of blemishes because we have to set an example as politicians.

I have often thought about that Twitter Space anytime I see people on Twitter say that women in politics have to set examples or argue about corrupt women; this even when most of Nigeria’s male politicians have histories of corruption and are still being voted into power.

Why are the standards for women higher than those for men? Why is it that women are expected to be saints who can make no mistakes especially in politics? Is it truly from a place of genuine care for a nation when people say they won’t tolerate bad female politicians? 

Or is it from a dislike of women in politics especially if these same people defend the past actions of corrupt men in politics?

This expectation that women must be saints extends beyond politics. That is why people cannot comprehend it when a woman cheats and feels no remorse for doing so. It is because they have internalised the belief that only men can cheat using explanations like: “Men are polygamous in nature” and “All men cheat”. So when a woman cheats it topples the balance of who should be at the receiving end of nonsense and who should be dishing out nonsense.

Is this to say cheating and corruption are okay? No it isn’t. It rather is to question why there are double standards for men and women. Moreso, if women are raised and expected to be more mature and more morally upright than men, why then is it okay to leave the leadership of a nation in the hands of those who do not “mature faster” than women? 

Furthermore, if women are raised to be more responsible, why then are women paid less? The math isn’t mathing because if women are held to higher standards then there has to be benefits to being held to those higher standards.

I personally don’t want women to even be held to higher standards than men. I want women to be treated as fully human. This is such that treating women as fully human means recognising that women can display traits such as corruption and bad behaviour without such things treated with more shock because a woman has done them.

It is because we see women as people who must be saints, that when a man has a female boss who does exactly what other male bosses do a la shouting and being firm, he ends up complaining and even telling her that he has her “type at home”. 

To give another example of how we hold women to saintly standards is the way we treat female musicians who are mothers or married. Lots of male musicians have children and wives and yet still sing about meeting girls in the club and most have almost naked video vixens in their videos.

However, when female musicians do the same to celebrate their sexuality, all of a sudden, the think pieces on how they are a shame to motherhood and women roll out. This is as though the children were not conceived through sex.

In a truly just world, there won’t be double standards for men and women. There won’t be the expectation that only women must be blemish free as a requirement into politics. That will not exist because women will be seen as human and not as those of a higher moral standard.

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