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Thursday, May 23, 2024

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    Female Bashing And Shaming In Nigerian Markets

    I saw on twitter where a black baby girl, just about one year old or a little under, looked at the mirror with her mummy filming and said ‘I am gorgeous’. Her mummy said, yes baby, you’re gorgeous.
    Someone on twitter said, ‘also tell her that she’s smart, she’s innovative, she’s a leader’ etc. Another person replied saying, ‘that’s all great, but right now we telling this baby that she’s gorgeous. Right this moment, we letting this child know that she is gorgeous’.
    That last response made my day.
    Now, I’ve been taking a break from a lot of things, but this morning, I saw that Deoye had tagged me to a post and I read it, then read others that were sort of related and although triggering in many ways, I thought to give my two kobo.
    You see, the people who say ‘what about the male child, they also get molested’ only when there’s been a case of say rape or abuse on a female, or when a female narrates an experience? Those ones don’t really care about the male child.
    I’ll tell you why.
    Someone has never brought up issues that relate to the boy child and even when a case is brought up (by mostly females), you have males who talk about how awesome they would have felt if they had a hot teacher touching their penis at 15 (I can send you links of instances). They laugh about it, they stifle the boy and make it difficult for him to mourn the disaster that has befallen him, they make it a joke. But talk about a female rape case tomorrow and the same sets of people will ask you what about the male child? Not because they care, but because they want to shut you up, because they want to deflect. Say to them, alright, let us have this conversation, what about the male child?
    They’ll suddenly go mute.
    I digress. Sort of.
    I was born and raised in Onitsha. So I am very familiar with Main Market. I schooled in Enugu, so I am familiar with Ogbete Main Market.
    At age 9, I went to market with my mother. One of the traders there held my hand tightly and told me how he wanted to marry me. He asked if I liked him the way he liked me. In Igbo. I struggled to break free but he held me there. My mother had walked on, thinking I was following her. As I struggled, my mother walked back there and in anger, slapped the man holding me across his face. This man jumped out and wanted to beat my mother, but some women there began to scream and insult him. The other men asked him to leave my mother, that she was a woman, and that some women are stupid. The man who had been holding me asked my mother to thank her stars. That if that’s how she slaps her husband, she should not try it in main market. Nke a imulu, o nwa? This one you birthed, is she a child?
    My experience as a child in Main Market was a struggle between my mother and the men. She’d drag my right arm away from a man who was holding my left, telling me what he’d do to me if he married me, or if I knew how beautiful I was, or if I liked him.
    Many times when my mother stood to rebuke a trader, the other traders would shoo her, tell her to move along, that if she didn’t want people touching her, she should not come to the market.
    I have seen my mother shed tears at the market and only now do I know how deeply painful it must have been to have strangers touch your child inappropriately and then be bullied by other traders into shutting up.
    We were usually at the market to buy clothes, things for school, foodstuff, etc. But somehow, at that age, I got the impression that being at the market was for the traders and touching me was a price I had to pay for being there.
    It was not different in Enugu. Just a tiny bit subtler but pretty much the same set of humans.
    Let’s not talk about what I had to go through in those markets as a teenager, as an adult. The ass-grabbing, the boob-touching, the name calling, how you suddenly become ugly the moment you ask a man not to touch you, how you’re told that there’s nothing special about your dirty vagina, how you’re not even Agbani. In Igbo.
    Fast forward to two years ago, I took my kid sister (who’s just like my child) to Main Market to buy things for school and my childhood played out right in front of me.
    A stranger walked up to my sister, held her shoulders and began to massage her. My sister turned to look at him, at me, and then she started struggling to get away, but this man held her. My heart broke watching my sister cry. I asked the man several times, politely (even though I didn’t need to be) to leave my sister alone. He did not stop. He insulted me while my sister struggled. Then he went on to slap me when I wouldn’t shut up. He pushed me to the flooded road where I fell into a dirty pond and lost my slippers. The other traders begged him to forgive me, that I was just a girl. That maybe I was new to Onitsha and did not know how the market worked. They told me that I was in the market, that people will touch me, people will touch my sister. My sister and I cried our way home and I was barefoot, ashamed, shamed.
    My mother probably went through the same thing, and when she saw it happen to me, she tried to fight. It happened to me, and when I saw it happen to my kid sister, I tried to fight. But we got shamed to tears. We were bullied to silence.
    Now, people are telling their stories on social media, and you have the audacity to ask them about Yoruba men who insult them for wearing shorts?
    The Yoruba men who insult us for wearing shorts may be wrong, but right this moment, we are talking about the Igbo traders who consider our bodies commodities displayed for their consumption in market places.
    We’re talking about the Igbo traders who touch us inappropriately and who shame us when we protest.
    So you get to shut the fuck up, sit down and listen. You get to either empathize, join in on the conversation respectfully or move along.
    I bet the day we decide to talk about the Yoruba men who insult us, some of you would go ‘but what about the Hausa men?’
    If Girl A says an Igbo trader touched my ass,
    And Girl B says an Igbo trader touched my breasts,
    And Girls C to P say Igbo traders touched my face and neck and hair etc,
    And over half of the girls are Igbo,
    Shouldn’t/doesn’t that tell you something?
    My father was once a trader. His ‘trader money’ saw me through nursery, primary, secondary school and most of my Uni days. So when you come at me with all that ‘not all traders’ bullshit, you get to tell me what the traders who don’t grab asses do when my mother cries in the market because a man touched my breasts, or when I cry because a stranger held my sister against her wish, massaging her neck and shoulders.
    Sit down and let people talk about what they’ve been through you frigging enablers of crap.
    Sit down, you ignoramuses who somehow make issues about you that was never about you in the first place.
    Sit the hell down.
    Talking about bashing your people. Am I not your ‘people’? Haven’t ‘our people’ been bashing my mother’s body, my body, my child’s body in the market places? What have you, ‘my people’ done about it?
    Sit the fuck down.

    Written by Uzoamaka Aniunoh

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