Two weeks ago, I was called a bedpreneur, or in popular Nigerian parlance, an Ashawo. On Instagram too, for that matter.
But how did we get there? Summarily, two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were caught exploring each other in ways that were sexual in nature. The adults present, horrified that something like that was happening with teenagers, reportedly proceeded to punish the girl while admonishing her. All the while, the boy, her partner in exploration, was almost excluded from the conversation, almost as if the words of reproach had nothing to do with him.
A man, a witness to this spectacle, became angry and proceeded to give the boy some tongue and hand lashing, on the grounds that he was an equal part stakeholder and should be punished too.
Now, I made a comment on that post. Here is what I said; “I am afraid of the society we are building. This mentality where we expect a child to do better JUST because she’s a girl is dangerous. We keep widening the divide to really really worrying proportions.”
Anyone with any kind of comprehension skill will realize that my comment had nothing to do with championing their act and everything to do with the uneven, and unfair playing field, we keep demanding that women play in. This push to be everything less than human, one deeply flawed and deserving of second chances like any other, is why you have young women put themselves in highly dangerous situations to keep up with a facade.
This person responded to my comment by saying; “you’re certainly not afraid if the prostitution that has become the norm amongst you and your fellow girls.” LOL.
I am a prostitute because I think that societal rules must respect all of us in our glorious and messy humaneness. I must be a prostitute because I think it is hypocritical how the society thinks the possession of a vagina somehow must come with more solid moral standing with no room for mistakes or missteps. I must be a prostitute to recognize that this is how it starts, how we plant the seeds in childhood that create a society of men and women who think that a man being adulterous is living up to his true “manly” nature while a mother who needs a few hours to just be by herself is tagged irresponsible.
The audacity of it.
When I shared this title without any additional information, a lady I know and respect shared a story with me; of how she had been outside the mall in Kano, her attention completely focused on her phone while trying to call the friend she was supposed to meet and go home with.
There, a random man kept saying to her in Hausa that he would triple whatever the person she was speaking with intended to pay her so she should leave her phone. Now, the only part of her body she shows are her hands, feet and face, so this was not about dressing a particular way.
What was interesting to me was the way it made her feel. “…and I am telling you, I have never felt so cheap in my life,” she told me. It’s interesting that her instinctive feeling was not disgust or even anger at this stranger who was making wild assumptions, but shame that the assumption was made.
Why was that burden of shame hers to carry? Because we live in a society that has consistently told women they are responsible for the way men view and consequently interact with their body when they show up in the world as themselves.
If a woman rides a nice car, it is because some big man somewhere bought it for her. Far be it from the truth that she worked hard to make her dreams a reality. When she travels to Dubai today and London in another month, of course a sugar daddy has to be the one footing the bill. And if she raises her voice even slightly in a conversation, then you best believe some ‘monied’ man is the one giving her “liver”.
Even the teenage boy who begs by the roadside has quickly learned to hurl this one word like a bullet when you refuse to part with your money. “Ashawo!” he calls you, because Nigeria has somehow made him believe that is the highest form of insult that could be levied on a woman.
Some women are called this name simply because of the way their body is molded, as if they should bear some form of shame for being voluptuous instead of the randy individuals who mentally perform an undressing ritual whenever they see them.
These things, these little things, are the start of a process that leads us to a place where we dehumanize people and reduce them to one thing or the other – their body, their pocket worth.
Don’t be a part of the problem.