Have you ever thought about rape culture in post-colonial Africa, and have you tried to deconstruct its metaphysical origins - at least from and anglophone perspective?
WARNING:?This is not an easy article to read. I thought to mention. Proceed at your peril.
Very well, what are we talking about about - what is this anglo-metaphysical framework, and why does it have to be deconstructed. Today, English without a doubt is the dollar of languages. It is the languages other languages are measured against, the standard of translation. The global power can be traced back to the invasion of America and Australia, and the colonisation of Africa. Later, America will invent the silver screen and Hollywood would teach the average Nigerian child how to mimic an American accent. Today, in the era of global celebrity culture, Hollywood is so dominant even European celebrities struggle under the shadow of the Americans - the non-English speaking Europeans mostly. I mean, when last did a French or German film show in Nigerian.
So we speak English, then what? “What”, is that a language carries in its nature a lot more than the ability to carry out communication. Beyond language being a tool for inter-personal interaction, it is also through language that we experience reality and form many basic axioms that rest in our subconscious. For example, the words “man” and “woman” with “man” as the primary when used to reference huMANs or MANkind already speaks to the patrichial order of the language that holds “man” in a certain position. In Igbo for example, a language designed more around functionality, we say “nwoke” and “nwanyi”. This translates to “nwa oke = child of creations and nwa anyi = child of all”, a more contextual representation will mean “nwoke = creative force” and “nwanyi = sustaining force”. Both as a category are called “mmadu = mma na edu = beauty/symmetry/balance leads”. It isn’t a gendered word, and surprisingly, Niger Congo languages are known to have no gender specific pronouns. In place of 'him" and "her", we just have "O" which also covers "it".
But beyond the linguistic programming of the language itself, there is also the traditions of the culture it originates from and the evolution of that culture. For English, the Judeo-Christian influence remains by far the most dominant influence. From a metaphysical position, the place of the woman in this worldview is no secret. Eve, the one that spoke with the snake, bit the apple, and then gave it to her husband. As Adam says in the Genesis when God asked him what he had done, ‘The woman YOU GAVE me MADE ME do it.’ This relinquishing of responsibility to crown the woman the “temptress” is embedded in Abrahamic faith systems and the manifestation is still seen in many places running similar systems. When men have failed to find internal order, they have externalised their problem and made women the scape-goat. The old trick of trying to order and control the exterior in the hope that incidentally, it will order the interior.
One of the common manifestations of this axiom in behaviour can be seen in the policing of women’s bodies. This idea that a woman has to be covered up to be decent - virtuous. A clear attempt at the observer wanting to shift the responsibility of their perspective on the subject of their observation. And as you might have guessed, this way of being naturally predisposes one towards the conception of others as objects; needing to conform to you instead of you simply co-existing inter-dependently. It is no surprise that there is no word for “lust” in Igbo. A word so serious in English canon that it forms a part of the seven deadly sins. Pre-colonial “Nigerian” women generally had no experience with body policing. I mean, really, short skirts, tube tops, crop top, and no top were just some of the styles in vogue. The question “what was she wearing” in such a worldview would be dead in arrival.
With the rejection of the material as dirty, making sex in the “Godly” view to be at best a necessary evil, it is easy to see why for example; monks are forced to take vows of chastity and why Jesus had to go through a virgin birth via immaculate conception. It is interesting that while the notion of a virgin birth is easy to understand, most still do not grasp the notion of immaculate conception and how it is different. There is a school of thought that believes that in the way God intended sex, that it is to be a pure thing for having children, and it should occur without lustful thoughts. Basically, sex should be no different from eating or using the bathroom. When no lustful thought is expressed during sex, a child that manages to some how come from this lustless ejaculation will be said to have been immaculately conceived. The mother of course would have to have taken it all thinking only of the lord too. You read this as extreme, but make no mistakes, this is the reference point we in Nigeria operate under as a post-colonial nation. And even in the West, the embers of this pattern of thinking still burns bright and you can see it rekindle overtime a strong wind blows.
This condemnation of women as temptress breeds an insidius righteous hatred, outwardly expressed as what we call rape culture. The culture that makes it okay to govern the female form and regulate its morality. To this end, force is an ultimate threat that must exist, if not, how else can such a relationship possibly be maintained. Over the years, different forms of force have been used - political exclusion, financial exclusion, legal exclusion, the list is endless. Of course, I am not by any means suggesting that pre-colonial Nigerian culture was free of male-centric views, but at least in Igbo cosmology, Ani, the force of nature represented as the earth is conceptualised as female. Amadioha the creative mind of the universe is conceptualised as male. In Christian thinking, you will have to deal with God the Father (man), Son (man), and Holy Spirit (not specified but not thought of as feminine for sure - more like a dove if anything). The subject of how patriarchy worked in pre-colonial worldview are the subject of another article, I would like to speak on it here, but you have already read too much so I will round up.
The reason it appears like there has been a lag on the women emancipation train globally is because we have moved past the external phase of the war - at least in the most progressive countries. What we face now, is a cultural war; the psyche is the new battleground - internal. It is interesting to watch people make logical debates about gender equality. I mean, is the name not logical enough? What we are dealing with is not a failure in otherwise properly functioning logic. What we are dealing with is rooted in the soul of the human being, our foundational conception of the world and reality. Thoughts we are not even aware about, running constantly in our subconscious; and let’s not even add the propagation of these thoughts through the history of art and culture - Disney and Hip-Hop take notes. And oh make no mistake, while this worldview is very much a masculine invention, it is designed with a place for the woman in mind. The place that keeps the abused silent, burning with shame and asking how she let herself become the temptress. She was after all made as an afterthought, a ”helper” of man; like all tools with value only in usefulness. Never inherent. There is power for the man in female domination, the spreading of wild oats. There is virtue for women, not power, in the defending of her virginity - her lack of sexual expression. Sex is after all a dirty thing when performed for the function of pleasure. The woman that wants it, must be punished - as any famous biblical adulteresses will tell you.
As a man, who has been born into this culture and have participated for many years, I can tell you for free - most men cannot even see the issue. It takes a miracle for a mirror to see its own face. How can your eye examine itself? When this problem cannot be identified at the root, how can it even begin to undergo fixing? If woman was made for man, from man - the gender that hasn’t birthed anything since Eden besides fat logs of poop, how can woman ever truly be conceived not as an “other”. An object of creation no different than animals to be eaten and soil to be drained of resource. This conception that “man = the white man” is master of nature and not a part of it will need to be re-evaluated and dismantled. It will not be easy. It poses a threat to a sense of identity that has covered many many centuries, one that an attack on feels like an assault on our very sense of being - violence against our ego. The challenge of interrogating ones inner-most beliefs and how they influence perception, behaviour, character and collective culture is no cake walk. Yet, it must be done, and somebody must do it. If not us, then who?
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