Equality on Evenings with Eve

Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
Cheris Kramarae

“Aaaand welcome back to 93.5 FM, Evenings with Eve,” The host said, with her usual excited voice that even listeners couldn’t help feel buzzed to. “I’m your host Eve and today, our topic is…” She cued the DJ with her heavily ringed fingers as she played the drum roll. “Feminism.”

She made eye contact with one of her core sponsors who stood behind the glass and was watching her earnestly, along with two of his colleagues that had come all the way to the radio station in Ikoyi. Her career was hinging on this evening working out, she knew it and so did they. Ratings had been fluctuating ever since she called Pastor Adeboye a selfish exploitative man. She shrugged and rolled her eyes as the men and women with RCCG wristbands shouted and pointed to their bibles trying to defend their father in the Lord.

She said what she said.

Today, though, she had promised to be nicer and on her table was a list given to her of words she definitely shouldn’t say. She didn’t mind the others but her heart plummeted at number 5, that was her favourite.

“Okay, so the number is 081872, call us and share your views on this.” She said, taking a sip of water from her cup.

As soon as she spoke her last word, a caller tuned in. “Good evening, you’re here on Evenings with Eve, please tell us your name and what you think.”

“Good evening o, my name is Sister Judith,” A shrill female voice answered, “and this whole Feminism thing, like my pastor said, is just the work of the Enemy. How can a woman say she doesn’t want to cook, what if — ”

“Oops,” Eve said, sounding apologetic as she pressed the ‘End Call’ button. Even opinions from people like that gave her deep headaches and she chose to ignore the slowly shaking head of the sponsor. “It seems we’ve been disconnected from our last caller, but please, the number is 081872 and feel free to dial in!”

A few seconds passed and the next caller was a deep voiced male. “Good evening, Eve, my name is Sola. I just wanted to say that honestly, it doesn’t make sense. Women are women and men are men.”

Eve looked at the End Call button slyly but a look from the other side of the glass told her that she may have used her last chance. The man continued, “Women are different from men and men from women, there are things a woman can do that a man shouldn’t do.”

Even inwardly sighed, “Like what, Mr Sola?”

“Ehen, take cooking for instance, why should a man cook when women are meant to do it? Ah ahn, so I’ll come back home and I won’t meet food on the table, God forbid!”

Eve counted slowly to five, reigning in her irritation. Every single bloody time, it came to the ‘cooking’ argument and it irritated her. It was like they had managed to reduce the very concept of equal rights to a tired narrative of who was going to cook. She took a deep breath before she answered. “Well, Sola, not all women are housewives and not all women want to cook, it’s that simple. If you want to cook for your husband, no problem. All we’re saying is that women shouldn’t be conscripted to the role. Cooking is like any other skill that can be learned and both or even none of the partners can do it. It depends ultimately on the people and their own arrangement.”

Sola was quiet for a beat. “But ehn, what about that thing that those feminists are saying, that ‘Men are scum or trash.” Can you say that your father is trash?”

Eve checked the list of swear words she couldn’t say and clenched her fists, she could really use a number 7. “Well, Sola, the thing is that saying ‘Men are trash or scum’ is not an umbrella term that personally attacks every single man on the planet. I mean, look at Chris Hemsworth, why would we ever attack him?

“It’s a critique of a power system that has been controlled by men and also abused by them. It’s basically saying, ‘Come, look, for a long time, a large percentage of men have over time been abusing women and women have suffered for a long time under this oppression so enough is enough.’ And as for my father,” she took another sip of water, “after cheating on my mother and giving her HIV then leaving for some woman fifteen years younger, I think I can safely say that men are scum.”

Sola grumbled for a few minutes before finally cutting the phone. The DJ gave her a thumbs up and she smiled and nodded to her in return.

The next caller was also a man, who introduced himself as David. “So, my own problem is that I think these feminists are taking it out of control with all the equal rights stuff, I mean, women aren’t even ‘oppressed’ as you say. I mean, my mother cooked for my father, washed his plates and did things the right way and she never complained, so why are they all shouting. What is this feminism thing even saying, if it was really equal, why didn’t they call it, I don’t know, ‘Genderism’?”

Eve rubbed her temples for a bit, this really was a grown man. “Okay, admittedly, there are a lot of people using the term and applying it to things that aren’t really relevant to the main idea of feminism. That’s to be expected, every group has its radicals, the feminists have those frustrating nit-pickers and Christianity has Nigerian pastors. Regardless, we shouldn’t just throw the whole thing away. It represents something that women haven’t seen for almost millennia: an escape from the dusty roles society — men — gave them.

“And who told you women aren’t still oppressed, is that a joke? Well along with many other instances, in some parts in Nigeria here, some women still can’t buy property, in the church I used to go to, women had to take signed permission slips from their husbands to take holy communion, equal wages are a myth and when we go out at night, we have to say a silent prayer to any god listening that we don’t get assaulted or even raped. And even if this does happen, we have to suffer the disgusting dilemma of keeping quiet and keeping the hurt inside or coming out into the open after reporting it and having to face some of you monsters whose taglines range from, ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ to “Ahn ahn, what were you doing there at night, you might as well have asked for it.”” She took a deep breath.

“It really is just so simple and straightforward, women have gotten the short end of the stick for generations and the goal is to lift them up to the standard that men live with. Thus, feminism. And while some of our mothers are exceptionally wonderful women, they put up with a lot that broke them internally, things they didn’t and shouldn’t have to ‘endure’ in the names of the ideals of a Nigerian mother. We don’t have to copy a whole generation of hurt, we can be better.”

Eve checked her phone as it lit up and she slid it open and saw the email she had been waiting for all morning. Oh, she loved grant acceptance messages.

She swiped the microphone, packing her things meticulously after. “Well, it seems that after being in this stressful job for quite a while, I’ve finally gotten a new opportunity to work for myself and so, I quit. My last message will be for my dickhead brother looking at me from the other side of that goddamned glass and all the other disgusting men and sometimes women, who — ”

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Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.