Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Feminist Dating in a Patriarchal World

I listened to this hilarious podcast last night about a woman and her quest for 'the one'. I'm sure that we all read about women's dating travails on an almost daily basis, so what made this story so different? Well, the narrator was a feminist and many of the arguments she got into with her dates were so reminiscent of many of the fights I used to have. Growing up, I didn't have a clue what feminism was. In Nigeria, it was still referred to as "women's lib", and no, it wasn't all that long ago. I did know that I wanted an equitable partnership with my significant other, which is not the same as equal. Equal, to me denotes, that we would split all tasks evenly and that we would each give and take just as much as the other person. I don't think any relationship is equal in that sense. But, I wanted to be treated fairly and not accorded a certain status or roles because of my gender.

When you are getting to know someone (or perhaps I should say when I am getting to know someone), I want to find out what makes them tick as soon as possible to make sure that I am not wasting my time with someone who I would be utterly incompatible with. So invariably out comes the BS detector and the barrage of questions start. Would you want your wife to work? What are you looking for in a woman? Do you think that the woman should do all the housework? Really, and you expect her to hold down a full-time job? How? Do you plan on splitting the housework with your wife? Do you think that the man is the head of the household? Do you expect your girlfriend/wife to submit to you?
Yes, I know, talk about unsubtle.

Somehow, this police cell style interrogation never yielded really positive results. The guy would think I was crazy and I would think that he was a Neanderthal.

Overtime though, you tend to mellow out. It does not mean that you still do not hold your principles dear, but you are less judgemental about other peoples' questioning of them. The same thing happened with the story's narrator. She did find someone who wasn't threatened by her beliefs, but who wasn't afraid to challenge them either. They did have their occasional fighting matches, but no relationship is perfect.

Last night I was reading the new issue of Genevieve. One of the articles asks women what they want from life: marriage; career; both; neither? I don’t know if they just happened to pool a very unusual set of women. They all wanted both (and not just because of financially motivations either). Most wanted to get married at some point, but were cool if it didn’t happen. This was unusual for me to hear. The (still) common idea of Nigerian women is that they care very much about marriage, want it badly and, after a certain age, would pounce on a man, any man as long as he is still breathing, okay looking, has an okay job and all limbs intact. And although things are changing, I think this way of thinking still prevails. Understandably, I suppose, with society’s incredibly strong pressure towards 'traditional' norms like marriage and family.

So what to do when you do want to be with someone but have principles that you cannot compromise? Well, that’s a really difficult question to answer. Life is messy and complicated and frankly we all have to compromise at some point or the other. For me, I’m finding that chilling out a bit and seeing what someone has to offer without tearing apart their every word and action in order to reveal its hidden meaning works (and not to mention, kinder on my stress level).


Pilgrimage to Self said...

'...I’m finding that chilling out a bit and seeing what someone has to offer without tearing apart their every word and action in order to reveal its hidden meaning ...'
Best strategy to adopt, if not you'll be banging your head against a brick wall most of the time. Accept each others shortcomings and learn to meet half way.

Nkem said...

I ordinarily wouldn't be able to hack a partner who wasn't a feminist. I find myself thinking, "what do you mean I'm not allowed in the kitchen?", "what do you mean you won't work?", "why can't I look after the children?" And so on and so forth. Relationships have got to be equitable.

I haven't mellowed, but I find that I've tolerated views that aren't super-feminist, "tolerate" being the operative word. Maybe it's because there's nothing in life better than a good intellectual argument, and I feel that only a woman with feminist sympathies will give me that. But I am learning to live and let live. We'll see how long that lasts.

Everchange said...

Wonderful post! definitely is good for the soul. I think for me, it has been easier for me to compromise when I feel secure about my beliefs, my thoughts etc. So when compromising, it isn't necessarily that i'm "giving in" but it's part of growing and changing in a relationship. I think the attitudes of both people involved is key. For example, that I talk about feminism all the time doesn't make me a shrew. I wouldn't be able to put up with someone who resolutely believes that. Plus you know, sometimes you'd just rather not do the conversion work. It's kind of like converting someone into a christian.

I don't know. This topic boggles my mind. It's like, are you giving in to "the african patriarchy" by letting him do certain things to you that you feel are sexist and privileged? It seems like communication and mutual respect is necessary, even if the man isn't feminist [yet].

I'm with you on the "equitable" rather than "equal" relationship thing.

adefunke said...

Good post, I had actually been mulling the whole relationship thing after a vist with some friends recently. Wifey had just suffered a miscarriage, and her doctor told her to reduce the stress levels. Of course all fingers pointed at her job, and the topic ofthe hour was what could she do instead. What about facilitating trainings? absolutely out of the question replies her husband, who will cook for me, take care of the kids etc while she is faciliating training in Abuja? Why do you think I married you? My pulse rate didn't change as the conversation moved on, thinking of other things she could do in Lagos today that wouldn't cause stress and would actually bring in money that would make a difference to the family coffers.

I was really suprised I could just let it go, 6 months ago I would have drawn blood for sure. Its all about compromise, I agree, and in this case once wifey is cool with the arrangements, their relationship would work for them. I think the trick to compromise is to know what can be compromised upon and what can't. You will be fooling yourself if you think you can compromise on your fundamentals (those things that after careful consideration you agree define you) These should be put in a 'read-only' folder and kept in a safe place. At some time I actually thought I could compromise on my fundamentals, then one day I looked in the mirror and I couldn't for the life of me recognise the person staring back and I was the only person in the room!

Ore said...

@ Funke: Okay, what the guy said to his wife would definitely have had my blood boiling. I guess he married a housekeeper. Like you said, if she's cool with it ....... but somehow I don't know how she could.

But, definitely like many of you have pointed out, to successfully compromise, you need to know which of your principles are non-negotiable and which are.

Pilgrimage to Self said...

You've been tagged. Check my blog ( the list is wonky though, I'll edit it later)

TaureanMinx said...

Good post! I think knowing yourself is what is most adefunke said, there should be those fundamentals that you just can't compromise on and those that you can. I remember telling my mother I would most definitely not slave away in the kitchen since we would both have careers, that is, except I wanted to and she looked at me with pity in her eyes. I started to think I was the only one who felt that away. Its very easy to change your views once you get back to Nigeria where women seem to be from the movie stepford wives....well not really, but you catch my drift.

ngozi said...

it's hard...i won't lie...especially with many nigerian men...i get so pissed off at the chauvinist attitude...the ATTITUDE can just be too much. and taurenmix you are right, it's even harder when you see 'the stepford wife' mentality that is so predominant.

the flying monkeys said...

Found this blog whilst visiting Ayokes exodus. Interesting post and comments. I'll try and visit often.

btw: I take the view of everchange

Nneka's World said...

After several "attacks" from men about my views on equality, I have adopted your attitude towards it, its working so i am happy, they are happy