I recently saw a post on social media that reads: “Woman, if you don’t strive for greatness and empower yourself, you will be relevant only in the kitchen, the living room and the other room. You will never get to the Board Room”. This is a response not only to the author but also to those who share the same sentiments of the author.
Don’t crucify me. Don’t lynch me. All I ask is a few minutes of your time to present another side of the trending #TheOtherRoom debate. But first, promise me that you will have an open mind as you read the next few lines. Yes, I agree that the comment made by Mr President was insensitive and was bad taste especially because of the position he occupies in our nation. Whether or not this was a failed attempt at humour, or he was been true to himself or he was taken out of context, I am sure by now he has realised how sensitive we all are on this rather touchy subject of women empowerment in the country.
Then again, perhaps we need to remind ourselves of what female empowerment truly is? Discussions around gender equality, women liberation, women supporting women, women owning their story and living their truth, women having the right to make a choice in the decisions that affect their lives (the list goes on) are questions we bring to the gender equality debate. We include these hashtags in our daily posts and sometimes, they become trending topics on social media. We write these hashtags on placards during gender equality protests just to get our message out to the whole world that we are women, we are strong and we deserve the same respect, treatment, fairness and equality with our male counterparts at home, at work and in our society at large.
So I ask you to please take a minute to consider the ongoing discussions around the statement the President made about his wife belonging in ‘the kitchen, the living room and the other room’. I fear that in spite of the insensitive nature of the comment of Mr President to some women – especially to the agenda setters and influencers in the society – a part of me still believes that in the course of us lashing out, majority of us have not sat down to think more objectively about how to actually make the #theotherroom hashtag a movement that will indeed create the change that we truly seek
I personally feel that the debate is getting rather skewed in one direction and if care is not taken, we risk making our fellow women feel ashamed of their choices in life especially if this involves being a homemaker (a-stay-at-home-mum or full-time housewife). I am all for seeking the best version of my authentic self, living my truth, becoming an independent woman and a change maker. As much as I would love to be all these great things, I still want to belong in the kitchen, the living room any other room in my matrimonial home. But (and this is a big BUT) let us not forget millions of other women who are genuinely happy to belong only in the living room, the kitchen and the other room. Do I sense you feeling rather disappointed at the words you are reading? I promise to get to my point in the next paragraph.
Let us not kid ourselves. While we are living in an era where women are shattering glass ceilings and more women are getting empowered as each day goes by, yet, I am willing to bet my possessions (not a lot actually so don’t get too excited) that so many women still prefer this way of life (being a homemaker). As their preference has got nothing to do with what we think the women of our time should be aspiring for or what we feel should be the norm, we will be doing right by them if we accord them the respect they deserve.
Hence, I do not believe that we have been objective, balanced or fair in our argument by claiming that Mr President’s statement is an aberration and a huge slap on the female population in Nigeria. Why? Because adopting this position questions the choices of other women who are living their dream just by belonging in the kitchen, the living room and the other room. We will be doing ourselves the greatest injustice if we choose not to consider the equally beautiful, strong and talented women who are staying true to their authentic self just by choosing family life over the boardroom. Come to think of it, I doubt that the work in the kitchen, living room or the other room are such menial task that we look down at women who are daily mastering the art of family life, the very glue that is holding the fabric of our society together.
Just as Nigeria erupted with the #theotherroom frenzy (so to speak), I saw this pre-marital wedding picture on Instagram. The girl was holding a sign insinuating that her soon-to-be husband is her ATM while in a similar manner the young man had another sign insinuating that his soon to be wife is his Cook. Prior to #theotherroom frenzy, my old self would interpret such image as mushy, creative and romantic. But instead, I realised I have never been so angered and irritated by the image staring right back at me on my Instagram feed. This is because I felt we all are a bunch of hypocrites who are not telling ourselves the truth. We claim one thing but live by another. We tend to ignore such signs when they are props in pre-wedding photo shoots forgetting the little innuendoes and the sublime messages that is quietly slipping into the minds of our sons, daughters and the next generation of husbands and wives. But surely Mr President is an easier target because he made an insensitive anti-equality and anti-feminist comment on a world stage.
Like I said earlier on, perhaps it is high time we took an objective and balanced approach in our discussions around female empowerment, gender equality, women liberation, women supporting women, women living their truth, and women having the right to make a choice in the decisions that affects their lives. Are we truly living and embodying the spirit behind these words or have we missed the mark through campaigns that seem to allude how women should live their lives especially if their choice is becoming unpopular in this century?