‘So you want to take a job in Nigeria? Are you sure you are ready for the sexual abuse?‘
These were the words my friend Hussaina said to me once I disclosed to her my intentions to work in Nigeria. Hussaina is one of the smartest human beings I know. Hussaina is prim and proper and will never condone any wrongdoing. For her to ask me that question, I knew there was a huge issue. I decided to do that Amina thing and ‘be brave’ I looked her squarely in the eyes and responded ‘Yes. Of course, I am ready. Do you think I didn’t think of that?’
The oppression of women is not something that is a new topic in the world. It’s something that has been systematically occurring for years. It’s in everything. It seeps into almost every seam of a woman’s existence. It’s in our everyday conversations. It’s at the bus stops. It’s at the hospitals. It’s in our offices. Today, we will discuss how the passive and Micro aggressions in the workplace against women, is a bigger issue than we would like to discuss. How we, as women can be enablers without noticing. Finally, we will discuss the solution and the ironical sense of it.
When you are working in your chair in the office and a male colleague thinks it’s okay to come and spin your chair around to get a good look at you. That’s the problem. When you are selected for an event not because of what you can add intellectually but because you are a good decorative piece. When it’s international women’s day and you are receiving comments such as ‘It’s women’s day and you haven’t cooked for us’ ‘Why do women always make a spectacle out of everything’ That’s the problem.
Even though women are increasingly getting more recognised in the workplace and given equal chances, the treatment is still despairingly unequal. A survey by the Africa CEO Forum in 2018 revealed that only 5% of the CEOs of major groups are women, and only 29% of senior roles are held by women.
It is like being given a consolation price. A seat at an empty table. Then we start working thrice as hard to get recognition that a male colleague will receive for doing the barest minimum. That’s the problem. When we start to question ourselves and our qualifications (that got us the job in the first place!) that’s the problem. When we feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude when your idea is taken into cognisance over a male colleague’s, that’s the problem. When our male colleagues complain about our female colleagues in your presence, using phrases “this is why women are….’’ ‘’that’s why I don’t like to explain things to women’ and you laugh, or keep quiet or agree? That’s internalised misogyny. That’s the problem.
So, what is this magical ironic solution? It’s Men. Yes, the perpetrators of the problem. They are the only ones that can solve this issue. ‘Why?’ you may ask, because unfortunately for us, men only listen to men. They don’t listen to us and we need them to listen. This means we need men; we need more male feminists. It means we need to sensitize our male friends on these issues. We need to train their eyes to see it and their mouths to speak up after the sight. If we cannot do this, almost all our efforts will be futile. Don’t believe me? How many times have you given an opinion in a meeting that was ignored? But that same opinion has been praised because a male colleague said it? Did the solution become magically relevant or is the only ‘magic’ the fact that it came from the lips of a man? We need men because we cannot push forward a revolution if over half of the world’s population is not in agreement. We need men because gender inequality is a human rights issue. We need men because they also suffer the consequences of misogyny and patriarchy. We need men to raise our children with the ideal feminist ideals so we can truly have a safer world.
What can you do? Talk. Use your voice. Speak out every single time. Check your friend’s privileges and yours too. Don’t sheepishly laugh at jokes laced with misogyny or condone backhanded compliments.
By Amina Nuhu