I am not less than simply because I am female.
I have always heard about women being mistreated because of their gender. Some African men say things like “I am not going to deal with you, call your husband." I never came to terms with that kind of thinking in 2018, that a man, an African man, wouldn’t want to liaise with a woman, simply because she is just that, a woman. This article is a collection of experiences, that I and some women I know have experienced while living in Africa, Nigeria to be precise.
Image courtesy of Unsplash
At a restaurant one day with a friend of mine, where we went to have dinner, a certain celebrity almost tripped and in the process nearly poured his oily food on my white outfit. I reached out and quickly saved the situation before it made its way down my clothes. Not that I was expecting an academy award for my heroic performance, but a simple thank you would have sufficed. He just carried on with his friends like nothing happened. I being the shy and reserved person that I am didn’t call him out on his misbehavior.
The servers (women) were all giggly and kept on asking if he was okay, and offering to carry his food for him to his table since I guess he was a celebrity. I was in awe that a young man, with the level of influence he had, didn't see any reason to show gratitude, for something that would have been a disaster if I didn’t save the situation. Or maybe he would have come off his high horse then, who knows?
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A friend of mine had waited for hours to get her car fixed at the mechanic workshop. When the guys were done working on her car, they forgot to remove the metallic substance they put underneath the car (for support I guess), and they let the car down, in the process, destroying gearbox of the car. She maintained a calm demeanor while the man’s boss, chased him around to come fix the mess he created because he wanted to flee.
The man who was at fault didn’t address her directly. She then called her husband and told him what happened, he was furious and asked to speak to the mechanic. While he was having his words with the mechanic on the phone, he was so apologetic to her husband and by the way, it wasn't her husband's car, but hers. Then she lost it! The entire time he messed up her car and had to work on it again, not a word of apology from him to her, but as soon as he got on the phone with her husband, he said he was sorry.
She did not mince her words with the auto repair guy, and then everyone started pleading on his behalf, for her not to be upset. She has also had similar issues with her neighbors. If something goes wrong in the neighborhood, they don't tell her, rather they wait for her husband to get back from work, and then they inform him. Crazy right? Is she less of a human because she is female?
I went out with my cousin one day, and we decided to stop over at a restaurant for lunch on our way home. The restaurant has limited parking, such as is with most places in Lagos. All the cars had to be parked closely together, to create more space for incoming cars. The security directed us to park, then we came down and went in for our food.
After we were done with lunch, we discovered that a car unoccupied was parked behind us, which is not unusual with this place. The security guard apologized to us and went in to get the person who had the vehicle; the guard came out, saying he was sorry, that the person would be out shortly. After a little while, he went back in and came out again apologizing, saying the person was coming out soon.
Then two guys, who looked like they were in their early to mid-30's, walked out of the restaurant so nonchalantly, looked into our car, without uttering a word and walked to the car parked behind us and stood by the car, carried away by their conversation. Then a third guy followed behind them, not too long after and did the same thing. He then got into the car and drove off. I was surprised at their behavior, call me extra, but I expected them to say something like; sorry for keeping you waiting. Courtesy demands for manners, a simple sorry wouldn’t have taken anything away from them.
Another friend of mine had a similar encounter with a man who upheld the same mentality. The man had parked his car behind her, clearly seeing she was about to leave, and she informed him that she was about to leave but he blatantly ignored her. She asked for him to move his car and he refused. It caused a big scene. Eventually, when people asked him to apologize for what he did, he simply responded: "I cannot apologize to a woman.” I don’t know who we can blame for this mindset, the society, government, or the parents who brought up these men.
I was on my way driving back from a meeting one day when a car ran into me in traffic. The impact was so hard that I ran into the car in front of me, and was saved by my seatbelt. I wondered who could run into someone in standstill traffic. So my colleagues and I came down from the car, to assess how bad the damage was. The two able-bodied (well the other one was lacking in height) men, came down from their car to see what happened. Luckily, there was little damage to the vehicle in front of me, so he left. Then people gathered around us to see what was happening.
The men began with their story; “we were trying to avoid a smaller vehicle, so we ran into you instead and we are sorry for what happened.” To which I responded “fine, but my car needs to be fixed.” This is not like the United States where I could easily call the cops, to solve the problem, and unluckily for me, there was no police around. The men around me, that had no business with what happened were of the opinion, that the damage wasn't that bad, and I should let it go. I refused! They had given my car a little hole in the back, and I wanted my bumper and everything to be repaired.
Then they started with the argument; “that hole was there before the accident, I wouldn’t fix it!” That was when I lost it, just as my friend did earlier,“ Who are you to tell me what my car looked like? Do I look like I need your money? I am trying to explain to you the damages that you caused, and you are telling me that I am lying!”
One of my colleagues, who is also female, didn’t mince her words either. Then the men pulled the 'you are a woman' card. “You are a woman, you shouldn’t be speaking like that, and I have your type at home!” They said.
It almost turned into a fist fight, with the passer byes restraining the not so tall man, while he kept on screaming,“I won’t fix your car! What is this small car compared to the SUV we are driving?”
Do you want to know how the story ended? Okay, I will tell you.
The more reasonable looking one out of the two of them, asked me to drive behind him to his mechanic so they will get my car fixed. And the mistake I made was that I believed him. These men then took me on a wild goose chase on the high way, and eventually, I was advised by my brother to let-go. He was concerned that I was risking my life, chasing after two people, who had no intentions of fixing my car. Simply because maybe I am female. If it was a man’s car they hit, do I think it would have turn out differently? Absolutely!
Most of the experiences I shared with you today, had to do with cars, I guess because we spend most of our time on the road, and that is where we encounter these crazy men. If you are driving a certain way, they will say; it is because you are a woman. If you want to challenge them intellectually, they will say; you should keep quiet because a woman shouldn’t speak in a certain way.
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The people I often feel sorry for are those who have the “privilege” to be married to these men. Only God knows what they have to deal with at home. The scary part is that these men will then raise up boys to be condescending just as they are. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not an activist or a feminist.
What I am trying to communicate here is for mutual respect to be rendered irrespective of gender. We are all humans and deserve to be treated as such. And for the men who don’t buy into this archaic mentality, I applaud you for being what a true definition of a man is.
Has anyone encountered such experiences as ours? how did you navigate through it? share your thoughts and comments below! remember to like, share and subscribe to never miss an update. Thanks for reading!