My Interview with Michael Ewu

There are three things the typical Nigerian man is afraid of: God, homosexuality, feminism… and maybe moisturizing. Okay, four things, there are four things the typical male Nigerian is scared of. Arguments about the first two will give you a headache that is guaranteed to last you at least two days and leave you thinking that maybe, just maybe, Thanos had the right idea. The last one, though, I’d call it a work in progress.

But that third word, that third fear is the one, the whooper, the nail on the coffin. Say “Chimamanda” three times to a Nigerian man while playing any of her interviews out loud and he’ll spontaneously combust, screaming “not all men” as he turns to ashes. For a very long time, I didn’t identify with the whole title. Feminist sounded extra, a little too preachy. And then I saw that people actually call themselves “Meninists”, which, everything aside, just sounds like those spiteful schoolkids who couldn’t join the original club and then decided to make their own. Faced with this kind of thinking, I had to port to the home team, showing my solidarity. And then, I was faced with another thing. Nigerians don’t like feminism, like, they really don’t like it. And unlike anything else in our culture, the mode for judging is actually very clear. If you happen to be a woman and a feminist, it means that you’re crazy , don’t want to cook for your husband and hate all men on planet Earth, apart, of course, from Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba, and that’s only because it’s scientifically impossible to hate the most beautiful men alive. If, somehow, you are a man and a feminist, then it means you’re gay — not just normal gay but exaggerated Family Guy gay which is still the same thing but somehow makes them angrier — either that or you’re trying to get a girl and this is your way to get extra cookie points.

Faced with all this, I decided to have a chat with a devoted a̶s̶s̶h̶o̶l̶e̶ M̶i̶s̶o̶g̶y̶n̶i̶s̶t̶ Meninist Michael Ewu, popular writer of An Open Letter to the Daughters of Chimamanda and Ring the Town Bells, the Westerners are Coming!. We talked briefly on Feminism, Falz’s statements, and the new Gillette ad. To save the little time it’ll take decoding some of his ideologies, I’m just going to strike through them and make his words a little clearer. It’s 2019, even me seff I’m getting tired.

***

“Okay,” I say pressing the record button on my phone, “let’s get to this, Mr Michael.”

He laughs, taking a sip of his tea. “Soon,” He says, “it’ll be Doctor Michael; I’m getting my PhD in Psychology.”

“Yeah,” I nod, “You have a degree now.”

“Two,” He says, gesturing with his fingers.

I nod again. “So, let’s get down to it. You’ve heard about the whole Falz thing and what he said about — ”

“I know what he said,” He says, “and I don’t see why, for the life of me, Nigerians have such a hard time accepting hard truths. If you c̶o̶m̶m̶o̶d̶i̶f̶y̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶s̶e̶l̶f̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶o̶d̶i̶t̶y̶,̶ ̶s̶i̶m̶p̶l̶e̶.̶ (I harbour a deep jealousy and loathing for sex workers, for no just reason). If you want to be objectified, you should be.”

“Funny,” I say, “how the people — and by that, I mean the men — doing the ‘commodifying’ still get to leave the whole transaction with their humanity intact.”

“Even you,” he says, “think about it, how can you use your own body parts to make money? D̶o̶e̶s̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶a̶d̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶?̶ (I don’t really have any points to support my bigotry, and I’m hoping it’s the same for you)”

“Well, I guess you should hate me too.” I say, holding my fingers up, my little money makers. “I use my hands and my brain — body parts — to make money, so I guess I should get all the smoke too. And the last I checked, your papers didn’t write themselves, so why exactly is selling sexual intercourse, an act so common in nature that even some of the most primitive forms of life do it, so wrong to you? Why is sex so special?”

“They demean themselves by selling their bodies for sex.” He growls.

“Naa, I don’t think so.” I say. “They make money from selling sex; men do all the demeaning, that’s one of the things we’re good at. Plus, why are they the ones that are demeaned? Are they having sex with themselves, where do the men fit in all this?”

He shakes his head. “You’ve become o̶n̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ (sensible).” He says. “It’s sad how these feminists keep taking our brothers and sisters. It’s all because of that mad woman that they always see on TV.”

“Chima — ” I begin to say.

“Don’t say her name!” He shouts, leaping off his chair and whipping around.

“Uhm…” I cough, as he slowly goes back to his seat. “So, back to our conversation, what did you think about the Gillette ad?”

“Horrible.” He deadpans.

“Care to, uh, elaborate?”

“It’s a̶n̶t̶i̶-̶m̶e̶n̶ (I’m anti-common sense),” He begins, “they come and portray m̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶s̶e̶ ̶d̶e̶m̶o̶n̶s̶ (men and their power structure in our society are a serious problem but acknowledging that is a bit too hard for me) in a silly short ad that has no context whatsoever like what if t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶v̶i̶d̶e̶o̶ ̶a̶c̶t̶u̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶i̶d̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶b̶o̶s̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶u̶c̶h̶e̶d̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶u̶l̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶d̶i̶s̶p̶l̶e̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶(I am probably guilty of half the things in the ad and am unsure of how to face myself and that’s why it triggers me so much)? And that’s what these feminists do, they come and they exaggerate the issues that women face. Come, like I have said in earlier essays, w̶o̶m̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶o̶p̶p̶r̶e̶s̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶N̶i̶g̶e̶r̶i̶a̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶f̶e̶m̶i̶n̶i̶s̶m̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶e̶,̶ ̶s̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶t̶e̶s̶, (I don’t care either way about what the women in my country go through), that’s just it.”

I look around nervously. “Is there another Nigeria you have hidden somewhere? One that maybe the rest of us have never been to?” I ask. “Actually, wait, forget that. In this Nigeria, is Super Story still on?”

He goes on. “Feminism is built on a lazy barely thought out foundation, why isn’t it called Meninism hmm? Or simply just a movement for true gender equality.”

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll tell you what, when men have been subjugated to centuries of injustice and abuse then we’ll get to name the movement that tries to free us. Currently, though, the women have it this time. Sorry.”

He shakes his head as he reaches for his car keys. “I thought maybe you were i̶n̶t̶e̶l̶l̶i̶g̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶m̶e̶(also sexist), but I think I was wrong.” He says. “And it’s sad, you were going somewhere with your work, and now you’ve gained some of our attention just to lose it forever.” He stands up like they elected him as the species representative while I wasn’t looking and walks to the door with his chest out.

But while his back is turned and I’m left in awe of how one person could be so stupid, I reach for my phone — there’s a clip there I saved right for this moment: my one chance, and as I play the interview, I close my eyes tightly and whisper in high hopes, “Chimamanda Chimamanda Chimamanda”.

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.