Hello, folks, we have another guest post for this week from Omolara Oriye is a Lagos based lawyer, journalist, feminist and human rights advocate with The Initiative For Equal Rights, Nigeria. In this post that she shared with me from her blog, she talks about her experiences growing up as a young woman in Nigeria. Read, enjoy and be informed
I was a loud child, I reckon that opinionated would be the best way to put it, but I recently swore off the last ounce of political correctness I had in me. I was loud, opinionated, perspicacious and filled with questions. I was a boundary pusher and I never backed down from a challenge. Now, imagine a girl, who’s voice was the loudest in the room, who had an opinion and felt a compulsion need to air it. I was obviously the odd one out.
My mother wanted us to be amazing, but not too much, you know, be great but small enough to score a husband. But when other girls dreamt of their beautiful wedding dresses and the flower in their hair, I always saw myself with a pure leather, moderately expensive briefcase that reeks of rawhide and standing on the court’s steps in a city like New York.
I grew up in the countryside but there was nothing country about my upbringing— in retrospect, it might have been a little country but you see, my parents were committed to giving us a great life and that they did — until religion consumed us.
I wished myself away so much as a child. I wanted to be smaller, kinder, quieter and everything other girls were. Instead, I grew fatter, much more opinionated and knowledgeable. I read whatever book I could find and my parents were encouraging.
Time came and I began to get my wish, I started to disappear. I aspired to be great but not too much so that I would fit in my socially constructed box. I was of course still amazing but I found ways to hide it. I found creative ways to remain the bright child but not too bright so I could fit in the box society had created for me, a box I was constantly encouraged by all and sundry was the best thing for me.
I didn’t like it in the box, but I tried. You know like the average advice for a Yoruba woman stuck in an abusive marriage, she is told to try harder as though her situation was predicated upon some effort of hers.
I remember one of my report cards as a child, the teacher referred to me as being over confident— What the fuck does that even mean? But I remember my mom had a talk with me, encouraged me to be confident but not too confident, she was legitimately concerned. There I go again, ignoring the box.
As a child, I would play ball and walk the entire school barefoot and I would look dirty after school: sometimes my school sandals would get lost and every time I would beat myself up. I always wondered, why did I have to play so much, why could I not keep my school uniform intact like the other girls. Girls are supposed to be quieter, neater I would think. But I wasn’t.
I wanted to be a girl.
I was fixated on behaving like a girl I began to forget how to be a human being. I almost let myself forget that what counts is one’s passion, vision, and focus. I had a conversation last week and I found myself reiterating that what makes us human is our heart, what we are passionate about, our humanity and quirks. It doesn’t matter what gender one is and what roles have been pre-created by society. I would have wished away my spark, that would later turn into the flames that would fuel my resilience. I would have crumbled before society in worship at the cost of my soul, and crawl into its waiting cage at the expense of my dreams and when I am left in the cold, society would ask me, How did you get here?
For me, it was a constant battle, I had to decide if I wanted to be a well-rounded, successful, conscientious human being or a woman.
This is a choice we are faced with every day and this is one of the reasons I write. I hope that you find a spark in my words, so it ignites our humanity and we become filled with fiery passion for living differently, independently of society’s ideas of who we should be.