I was raised Christian. When you are raised Christian and go to church actively, there are certain occurrences about women that will rile your spirit especially if you are a feminist.
For one, the endless preaching about how men are women’s heads. For two, the casual slut shaming that single mothers in the church are exposed to.
For three, the humiliating scenarios that even married women, especially married women encounter in the supposed “House of God”.
I am not forgetting in a hurry how the pastor in my childhood church called a married woman out of the blue, and told her to kneel and thank her husband in the presence of the entire congregation.
The unpleasant image of her kneeling and him saying she must respect him as the “head of the house” is one that has refused to leave my mind’s memory even though I suffer from memory loss.
Now, that memory of women kneeling and covertly being bullied into apologising to insolent men bears a lot in common with my recent read. Titled His Only Wife and written by Peace Adzo Medie, it follows how a poorer woman married into a rich family tries her best to triumph over family expectations and still use her marriage to gain financial independence.
In several parts of the novel however, I realised how women are raised to stifle our discomfort, make room for endless compromise with selfish men and be forgiving of transgressions in the name of letting peace reign.
But the only people who feel peace are those whom women sacrifice our comfort for. Women and girls on the other hand never truly feel peace when we sacrifice, endlessly compromise and apologise when we are not at fault. Instead, we feel resentment that has the quick potential of growing into a hydra head of bitterness.
The only people who benefit from women and girls endlessly apologising for existing, are men and rightfully so because that is the plan in any sexist setup. The more women feel that their place is to cook, clean and never question their male partner’s infidelity, the more men have time to build their careers free of the encumbrances of domestic work and heartache.
Even in the area of career and work life balance, teaching young girls to be apologetic directly affects how they move up career wise. The same women who have energy to fight side chicks and to do all they can to “get a man”, suddenly become timid when it is time to negotiate salaries or ask for a raise.
The same women who act clueless when it comes to organising their lives career wise and abandon jobs in new cities because their boyfriends said so, are all of a sudden energised when the time comes to travel to a prayer conference tagged “Keeping Your Man From A Jezebel”. But why does any of this occur?
Speaking with Elohor, a writer and editor, she says that encountering “fierce women” slowly stopped her from being a “yes woman”.
In her words: “I was raised to be a ‘yes woman’. So there’s being born female syndrome, first born syndrome, first daughter, first granddaughter and then community project guilt all stifling my tongue.
I’ve seen way too many smart and beautiful women try to diminish their light because that’s how they were raised. But then I started reading books and interacting with fierce women and my perspective slowly changed.
Women are raised this way because the world is scared of our full potential. Even with the way we’re socialised to be, watch us thrive. If we are raised to be as audacious as men, the human race would grow extinct cos no one would want to be coupling with these men!”.
Elohor went on to say: “I started building my apology-free life when I started footing my own bills. Now if a loved one (dem no born person wey I no love) tries to push my boundaries, I just don’t respond. I’m in my house, coman beat me. I’ll delete your number and ignore your messages. At the back of my mind, I’m always like, “It’s not me you’re talking to like this.” I don’t let peace reign. Never! Not me. ????
If I see you trying to placate me because I’m after all a woman, I dig in my heels and show you that I inherited the wickedness of my father’s people. Doesn’t even have to be something big.
Even something mundane like telling me to maybe hurry up or do you a favour within your own time constraints makes me automatically slow down. What are you gonna do, beat me?”.
For Adaku, she explains that women may be more apologetic because there are consequences to being assertive.
To quote her: “Women face real consequences for setting firm boundaries. Like every other human being, we tend to avoid that pain and discomfort from the repercussions that comes with setting firm boundaries and that means being more agreeable and polite even to our own detriment.
I find that the more polite and agreeable I am, the more likely I am to be assaulted. I once set a firm boundary at work and got lashed out at by a colleague who I didn’t report to and who wasn’t even my supervisor. I’ve said things politely and ended up in unsavoury situations because people (men) take anything that is said politely as a suggestion while giving off a sense of reasonability and doing what they think anyway.”
The honest reality is that we live in a world where the daring, audacious and brave are more likely to succeed. It is therefore an intentional move when women are raised to apologise for their very existence.
The end result is that young girls grow up into women who wait to be given opportunities and who are afraid to take up space workwise in the name of “humility”.
And that? That is the definition of ridiculous.
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.