I have woman beaten onto my back
female sewn into my skin
weakness embroidered into the thing
that makes me me
-excerpt from poem, The God Called Woman by Adeyele Adeniran
The walk from the shuttle stop at Yaba to Tejuosho can be either fast or sluggish, most times fast depending on my anger level and irritation. Sometimes sluggish based on my exhilaration. These men there are like grown mosquitoes seeing the women they bite for the first time – offending, complementing, harassing then justifying. These men on my walk back home from school freak me the way ants crawl on the skin into the shadow of one’s belly. Their moldy hands forming all over one’s skin, lips moving to spit condescending forms “Fine girl” “This your breast, I like am” “You are my type” “You’re good to toast” Toast what?! Toast bread?! Every day women are made to feel like objects, every day women face sexual harassment from unwanted comments about their body to feeling the weight of a man call her nasty simply because she refuses his advances.
I am in a society where a man would give me ‘compliments’ at the mall with an “I love your body” and I am expected to say “Thank You” as if my whole life depends on it. Why? – because it isn’t wrong for a stranger to tell me he loves my body, that of all the things I am, he sees me simply as a figure – an object to be precise. An unknown man complimenting your body or any part of you is not a good thing, it is a red sign, foremostly, it’s insulting and extremely degrading. This uncultured fool will say “Baby, how are you?” around 6:48 pm while he is on a bike and you’re walking innocently by the roadside, his eyes undressing you, expecting you to say hi back!
Sometimes I sit and I ponder on everything everyone says and how they’re just words spoken to the breeze, how many of us don’t practice what we preach. How plentiful ‘public and speech activists’ are, yet, when I come out with my story of sexual abuse and harassment, with how it takes a toll on my psyche and wellbeing, people tell me sorry like I told them I fell.
I don’t expect much. It took me five years to call myself a feminist, and I know how much I hid from the thing that unsettles me. It’s okay to not understand where I’m coming from, but if you also experience the same issue and you say get used to it as if my mother carried me nine months to be devalued by men who despise the very notion of value and equality, I will also devalue you when you choose silence over the things that make our sisters die in silence. When I was younger, I used to carry the divider from my math set as a weapon, I had it hidden in my hands because I already felt like a victim before I was ever targeted, it’s this kind of mentality that we grow up into, trying to adjust by preparing.
I am a victim of sexism, patriarchy, sexual harassment/assault, oppression, and objectivity. The very core of my femininity is the number one cause of most of my problems, it is why I have to look back every time I’m walking, why I have to be cautious of how my backside shakes in dresses, why I change my clothes over 5 times before leaving the house, why I have to hold my anger when men that I do not know touch my skin, why I have to smile when someone thinks I am a joke, why I have to pay outrageous amounts to get a pad for my natural monthly flow, why my voice has to be pitched higher when I speak, why I need an army to be heard, yet when I look for an army I see people who are tired but comfortable in a society they learned to shine-your-eyes well in.
While someone like me shines her eyes yet cannot ignore the fact that uncultured animals reproduce as do we, and I fear for the girls who will have to learn to be comfortable when an uncle touches them, silent and take in pain when they are raped, deal with it when they are touched, give guys their number because he threatens to kill her if she doesn’t, because they will grow up believing their bodies are the root of the problem. That they owe their bodies and lives to their boyfriends or husbands and they have to be ‘nice girls’ to not be called nasty by dirty boys who deserve no response. So when they pick activism over the things suppressing them, their anger is uncalled for like their suffering are to be thanked for.
Adeyele Adeniran is a creative writer and director with an undying passion for poetry and storytelling. She is a Nigerian and resides in Lagos where she studies History and Strategic Studies at the University of Lagos. Most of her works are a response or observation to the world we live in. She hopes that one day her voice would change the world.
Find more of her works on Medium – Adeyele Adeniran and also on her Instagram @_adearo.