So March 8th is International Women’s Day and, obviously, it is a day to celebrate women, past and present. It is a day to stand in solidarity with women, by acknowledging their struggles and inventing new strategies for disrupting gender based violence and discrimination.
It’ll be International Women’s Day in a few days and the chosen theme for the year is ‘Choose to Challenge’. Pretty straightforward right? The theme simply asks that you, as an individual, group or organization, make a conscious decision to contest all forms of violence against women. The official campaign team for International Women’s Day say the theme connotes that we all are responsible for our thoughts and actions. So, the process of challenging discriminatory systems begin individually.
In their day to day lives, women experience a great deal of sexism which have become normalised and deeply ingrained in our society. These experiences can sometimes be funny when recounted but it’s the small things that are most aggravating. So since we’re all going to be challenging the patriarchal systems in our society, here are some not-so-basic basic things you should stop doing in no particular order.
1. Stop debating subjects like, “Who owns the breast: the man or the baby?” It’s funny, in a sad way, that this is even up for debate, especially in 2021. Please, whose body are the breasts attached to? Debates like this completely disregard the bodily autonomy of a woman and therefore objectifies her.
2. When there’s a car ahead of yours and the driver is slow or making funny manoeuvres, don’t immediately assume that it’s a woman driving. It seems harmless but it’s dangerous stereotyping and it needs to end.
3. When you join a table, say at a bar, and there’s men and women, say hello to everyone, give everyone a fist bump or whatever. Most times, guys only extend their greetings to their colleagues, even the ones they’ve never met. Not acknowledging the presence of the women at the table is derogatory and belongs in the same WhatsApp group as Mr and Mrs the man’s name and surname.
4. Don’t walk past when you see a woman in a precarious situation. No one is asking you to be a knight in shining armor, just a decent human being.
5. Why do most people immediately assume that the woman is at fault when she has an altercation with a man? “Oh, she must have said/done something.” Let’s endeavour to find out the root cause of a matter before passing judgement. Again this is harmful stereotyping.
6. Landlords have their very special brand of misogyny. You’ll hear things like, “We don’t accept single women as tenants.” Or specifications like, “Single, responsible young woman.” Others go ahead to ask women, not so subtly, what they do for a living, if they’re in a steady relationship and so on. We all know why they ask such questions and give those specifications. It’s part of policing the woman’s body and purity culture. Stop it Oga Landlord.
7. Telling men that they’re acting like women should stop. “Why are you talking like a girl?” “Don’t cross your legs like a woman.” Behaviour is learned; nobody came out of the womb with a manual attached to their genitals. No one benefits from talk like this, especially women, because by connotation womaness is inherently undesirable. You’ll just spend your life trying to fit into a box and nobody deserves that, man or woman.
8. The phrase, “What if she was your sister/wife/mother/daughter?” should be deleted from our vocabulary. Empathy should be extended to all, not just family and loved ones. Whether or not you know the woman, injustice is injustice. So do better.
9. “You did a great job!” “That was impeccable.” Who wouldn’t appreciate a compliment like that? Complimenting a woman by telling her that she’s done whatever it is like a man is simply low grade. Good deeds aren’t gendered.
10. Stop the colour coding: blue for boys and pink for girls. Who even comes up with these things? A colour is a colour. How did we manage to gender colour? Anyhow, stop it.
11. One thing that needs to go away is slut-shaming. All that “dress how you want to be addressed” talk only provides a justification for predatory behaviour and violence against women. Besides, speech like this furthers the stigma around sex work.
12. Sometimes in a gathering, a woman might share an opinion and get little response. Meanwhile, if a man says something similar, he gets applauded. Women’s opinions should be valued.
13. Underestimating the difficulty of housework is a favourite with men. During and after the lockdown there were all kinds of stories. How do they say it? Do am if e easy. During and after the lockdown there were all kinds of stories. When it comes to household finance the couple is one, but when it’s time for household responsibilities, it’s the woman’s job. Fix up.
14. When a child exhibits bad behaviour, the next thing you hear is, “Who’s your mother?” Why don’t you correct the child or report them to their parents or guardians? It is very common in our society to have women take the blame for their children’s misdeeds or failures. Meanwhile, the man takes all the glory for the successes. This is unfair for the pressure it places on women and how it excuses men from responsibility.
15. There are times when a woman might innocently have a cordial exchange with a random person, and the person will suddenly chip in comments like, “How is Oga?” “Oga dey try o.” All these because by societal standard, women of a certain age ought to be married. Or because if a woman has some form of wealth, then a man has to be the source.
16. Employers, what’s up? Are you paying your female staff less than their male counterparts but you expect the same work output? That’s not right, fix up.
17. Stop staring at women like they just dropped from a spaceship. It’s creepy and uncomfortable. Stop making women feel unsafe for simply walking down the street.
18. Sometimes when women share their experiences, there are men who start to dish out advice. Others will attempt to gaslight the women into thinking she was at fault. Please, stop this and just listen to women.
19. Parents should stop raising their daughters to mother their sons. Or saying things like, “When you get to your husband’s house is it Indomie you’ll cook for him?” Please, don’t make your daughter grow up believing she was born to service men.
20. Educationist, this one is for you. That lesson on family responsibility, where you say father is the breadwinner and mother the homemaker. Yes, that one. Please scrap it from textbooks and the entire curriculum.
Let’s stop the list here but we all know it’s endless. Now is the time for self evaluation. Make a choice and challenge your mindset and then the world around you, man and woman. The fight for equality won’t be won in a day, maybe not the next hundred years but it starts somewhere.