Thursday, February 01, 2007

The ambivalence in Nigerian women's magazines

True Love’s latest issue (February) has an anonymous quote which goes like this ‘A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.’ This is not an isolated phenomena in the magazine; sadly, the content is often riven with internalised and externalised patriarchy. Quotes such as these simply mirror the reality that many women (even the editors of women's magazines) have internalised their second class status in a ruthlessly patriarchal society. Oprah or Ebony it is not. How will gender relations become more equitable in a society where women adopt a closet victim mentality? When will there be a group of women proud to call themselves feminist in Nigeria, instead of the tiny isolated pockets that exist at the moment? Women are violated, physically and ontologically, every single second in Nigeria, and yet one of the leading women's magazines in the country has the uncritical stupidity to give show time to raw misogyny. Nothing will change until consistent, channelled anger points its laser beam at the reality of disgusting male attitudes towards women (this anger needs to come from men as much as women). It still is the 1950's in Nigeria, and 99% of Nigerian women seem to be masochistically happy for it to stay that way.

Thanks to Bibi for this post. 'True Love' indeed.


Anonymous,  10:34 am  

My male friend, texted me the quote two days ago. Followed by another text: 'now you can blame us. you are your own worst enemy'. I went out and quickly bought True Love. I couldn't believe it. I don't know what they are trying to say. But then this is not new.

But i disagree with you that "99% of Nigerian women seem to be masochistically happy for it to stay that way". That is not the case at all. It is only middle/upper class, western educated women who control such magazine who are happy for it to stay like that. They are the worst offenders. So pls don't confuse the views of a few for the vast majority of many.

but thanks for the post.

Anonymous,  11:32 am  

i agree with Anon about the 99%.

this is a problem especially those my mother call 'corporate women'. most are anti-feminism. they don't think they need feminism. My mother thinks that on the one hand it is good that more and more women are breaking the glass ceiling, however, she thinks that these women are not changing anything on the homefront. In fact they are trying to over-compensate for their success in the office by playing the traditional dutiful role. A few of my friends here are quite happy to be Mary Magdalene in the office and then Madonna in the bedroom with a bit of black eye every now and again. Yet, don't see any reason for feminism. Nigeria has a long way to go. My mother is one of the few Nigerian women, I know who is not afraid of calling herself a feminist.

well, I stopped wasting my money on TL a few months ago. Instead, every month I have a young girl round the corner where I live who I give that N500 to. I think it is a better use of my money.

If people don't like it, they should vote with their wallet and pen. End of story and stop complaining

St Antonym 4:17 pm  

I don't know o.

The quote seemed more like a lame joke than an anti-feminist statement.

An equivalent joke would be something like "Sex before marriage? Of course. The problem is that there's no sex AFTER marriage."

It's the ha-ha peculiar territory of the battle of the sexes, and it's common to all times and all places.

Not that there isn't strong evidence of misogny in the Nigerian public and private sphere, but I'm not sure that this is it.

Anonymous,  4:38 pm  

i want a copy of true love!! how can i get it in the US?

naijagal 4:45 pm  

I am sorry but I have heard a lot of good things about true love via blogs like bella naija, mona etc
so far it has been positive.I am yet to read the whole magazine.
Please explain why everyone is so upset by that quote? I found it hilarious. How is a man finished when he gets married? lol

Anonymous,  5:51 pm  

One can hardly expect an intelligent worldview from a magazine called True Love, ferchrisakes.

Calabar Gal 7:13 pm  

I think the same quote can be applied to the women also. Men can be quite overbearing after marriage too so the saying dosent always swing one way, it swings both ways. Anyway, I always take such quotes with apinch of salt.

Anonymous,  7:14 pm  

i know some people will probably think it is just a mild banter, but a joke is never just a joke. I must admit, I didn't notice the quote (and I usually read TL cover to cover) until my boyfriend pointed it out to me. we laughed about it and i thought it was harmless fun.

But wait for it, he is now quoting it and it has become a sort of mantra amongst him and his friends. 'if you marry O you don finish well well!' So I guess, I understand your point. But you speak too much grammar sometimes.

Anonymous,  7:16 pm  

well what do you expect from a magazine with a name like True Love: All a woman needs. The title and the strapline says it all.


Anonymous,  7:18 pm  

I really don't get this quote that is causing a hoopla. Is what you quoted all there is to this anonymous quote or is there more? Because I don't get how from that quote we are all able to infer that it is promoting sexism. Please elaborate because I truly do not get it.

Anonymous,  9:54 pm  

I am sure many will not get this quote and don't be surprised, if those who don't get it are women. we have a similar saying where am from. "your wife is your joy, but ultimately your down fall". something to that effect.

By the way I read Bibi's paper on 'Yoruba Don't do Gender', its deep a bit dense for me(I guess its for an academic audience). I can't imagine the conversation in your household! I suggest that for people who might not get the import of the quote should go and read that paper. especially about the way language and proverb masks violence. After reading that paper, I guess I can understand you reason for the post.

Patrice,  10:27 pm  

The quote is not so anonymous. I am quite sure it can be attributed to the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who had a talent for making tongue-in-cheek remarks.

Anonymous,  10:37 am  

Jeremy what's all the noise about?
Some Women don't want to be feminists. So wetin come happen? They are happy as they are. Leave them alone jare.Answer honestly what good has feminism done for anybody sef?

The Tru love thing was just a joke. I read it and i tot it waz funny as hell. Nothing more to it.

Nigerian Women are not as helpless as you think. As a matter of fact they wield enormous power gan sef.
Make you take am easy o.Don't bring your Oyinbo ideas come spoil things o. Leave that sh*t at Marston.
Don't get me wrong i'm not attacking you or anything like that.

Na my 2 kobo opinion be that o.

Anonymous,  12:13 pm  

I get what you mean now, I've thought a lot about it. I don't think I have a choice but to be a feminist. I will definitely give you a call very soon xxxx

Anonymous,  12:41 pm  

'The quote seemed more like a lame joke than an anti-feminist statement"

when does a lame joke ends and anti-feminism begins?

Jeremy, thank you for the post and the direction to Bibi's excellent essay Yoruba don't do gender. Could she not find a way to make it less dense and more appealing to the lay person who will no doubt find some of ideas interesting and useful.

We need academic discourses to be written in more accessible way. This is why I guess I like bell hooks writing so much. We need an African bell hooks!!


Anonymous,  1:42 pm  

i have not read the quote from the magazine so am not quite sure in which context it was made.

but whatever it is, i think its important to raise highbrows at such conclusive statement about either the male or female gender, they are mostly quotes from embittered and unevolved people in the past and should not be celebrated as words of wisdom.

Kemi Ogunleye,  1:58 pm  

In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I am a full-time employee of the magazine in question, namely True Love West Africa, of which Jeremy is a some-time contributor. I am also a regular reader of Jeremy's blog.

That said, Bibi/Jeremy, if you want to make a statement or take a stand on gender relations in Nigeria, I am quite sure you can do so without resorting to barbs against True Love magazine. I fail to see how that isolated quote fuels the debate in anyway, except perhaps to create some sort of contrived launching pad for you to attack the magazine. The quote in itself is nothing but a tongue-in-cheek observation on the institution of marriage and I doubt that anyone with half a brain would take it as more than that. Such observations (from both sides of the gender fence) abound, and are simply the results of people’s creative/humorous expression. Please lighten up and come off your intellectual high horse.

Still, you do make some very serious allegations in your post, where you state implicitly and explicitly that True Love magazine somehow promotes misogynistic behaviour. Please do corroborate your allegations with pure facts, otherwise kindly desist from making statements that run the risk of straying into the arena of sensationalist propaganda.

On a personal note, it seems to me that your post is intented to browbeat women into taking up arms in your feminist war. In your words, "When will there be a group of women proud to call themselves feminist in Nigeria, instead of the tiny isolated pockets that exist at the moment?" Since when did the term "feminist" become a label that every woman must wear lest she be branded as "internalizing her second class status"? I refuse to let you or anyone else label me or guilt me into adopting a stance that is not my own. I am a woman. I am also an individual with my own personal beliefs & convictions which may or may not necessarily be in tandem with your own.

True enlightenment is borne out of our ability to welcome & respect a diverse spectrum of ideas. Enough said.

LM,  3:47 pm  

Both view points have been stated. I personally didn't take offence in the quote, I thought it was funny. As a woman, I echo Kemi Ogunleye's stance: I do not feel the need to label myself a "feminist" to fit someone's comfortable viewpoint. I however do believe in the emanicipation of women in social cricles and their empowerment in different walks of life, including the political and corporate arenas.

As for the quote - where's your sense of humour?????

RONKE,  4:51 pm  

em kemi pls biko how does I get a copy of true love IN THE USA??? CAN YOU SEND ME ONE?

Anonymous,  5:38 pm  

For you to take an isolated tongue-in-cheek quote in a magazine and imply that it not only defines the magazine (True Love WA) but also 99% of Nigerian women is insulting at best (Personally I dont agree with the quote but I take it for what it is...a joke)

If you have an issue with Nigerian women (the way u perceive us to be anyway - As u said, 'It still is the 1950's in Nigeria, and 99% of Nigerian women seem to be masochistically happy for it to stay that way) then just come out and say it. Rather than use True Love as an excuse to air your grudge.

By the way, as a Nigerian woman who has been through the struggles and challenges that a Nigerian woman goes through. I dont need Jeremy or Bibi to tell me what philosophy to embrace (feminism or otherwise)

@the anonymous commenter (10:32 AM) who wrote - "It is only middle/upper class, western educated women who control such magazine who are happy for it to stay like that. They are the worst offenders"
Wow! such sweeping generalizations are the way to move us forward..right?. I have no words.

Anonymous,  6:48 pm  

Kemi and TL posse, the responses have been mixed. So don't fret too much. But, whether you agree with feminism or not, I think you will do well to take some of the comments seriously. I think for a woman's mag, perhaps it would have been a good joke if it was framed the other way round. I guess this is a tasteless joke.

See it as good pr for your magazine. how do we know it is not a pr stunt?

you lot are trying sha. but a little nudge every now and again doesn't hurt anybody.

keep up the good work.

2plus2 9:38 pm  

Woa, I see Jeremy you have done it again. Well, let me declare I am a FEMINIST, I am Nigerian and I love ME; and oh yes, I am a mother with two kids, a husband in tow and several crazy relatives. Aside this, Jeremy and Bibi have very valid points around the whole debate about Feminists/ name calling ownership of names/ language etc. Try this site as well http://www.africafeministsforum.orgIt is important and crucial. Nigeria is an extremely patriarchal society - another writer has already mentioned a successful woman being a pefect wife to over compensate for working all hours I am sure or even for being the key bread winner. We have serious problems that affect us as women in the public and private spheres. Kemi needs to note that magazines such as True Love are role models for younger women and are encouraging a generation of young women; they need to make a difference. I am a reader of the magazine and was upset when I saw it. I was really shocked and have been debating with myself whether I should continue buying it. But lets face it, it is better than the other freaky one on the market. That one only tells me about what clothes to wear and where to get them. The choices we have are limited and I have to read something before I go dolali.

Having said that, let me ask a question for the women that have responded. How many will leave their relationships (either husbands or otherwise) should they become victims of domestic violence?

You see, this is the strategic question. Many will not. I am sure without wanting to cast any aspertions, will conform and be a good woman in order not to get more beatings. This is the reality in Nigeria. It has not changed and we should not pretending or burying our heads int he sand that it has. It has not and will not until we are willing to make certain challenges to the current status quo and change the norm. Simple. This is my two penny bit.

Jeremy and Bibi seems I was not the only one away. Jeremy you came back refreshed and wanting to cause wahala. Na you sabi.

Anonymous,  10:43 pm  

Kemi said Jeremy and Bibi are using the magazine to raise their own debate about gender roles in Nigerian society. Isn't that what it should be about? we take one case to elaborate on another.

As some have commented all ready, a joke is never just a joke. It is this kind of so called harmless humor that is actually at the root cause of so much violence in our society against both men and women and children.

Their are a lot of issues in Nigerian society that urgently needs attention, perhaps True Love can become a space for addressing those issues. Similar to Maria Claire. I buy True Love, but the question is will I buy it if I had other choices , I don't know. But it is better than many of its competitors so I'll continue to buy it and perhaps I could help to strengthen it more by sending them things I find disagreable in the magazine or reports. Maybe that's what we should all do. Only in the spirit of sisterhood.

Styl Council 12:33 am  

To Kemi Ogunleye: Tell me, why do you have such a poroblem with a member of the public criticising something in a magazine that is sold to the public??? Or do you just have an issue because its from Jeremy and Bibi?!!

Dear Ms Ogunleye, let me assit you focus your blurred and misty vision....Both Bibi and Jeremy DO NOT NEED true love magazine to make a stand on gender realtions and feminism in Nigeria...Simply because they live it, breath it and promote it everyday of thier working lives. And especailly for Bibi, this is something that she was brought up with and not juct educated about, and that's the difference.

So..Now, are you able to get down from your defensive pedestal or do you require a laddar??!

To Conclude; My name is Ireti Bakare.I was born a FEMALE, then, i became a WOMAN and now i am whatever, i wish to be, and that my dear Ms Ogunleye, is

Ebun Olatoye,  2:16 pm  

Dear Ireti,

Why would you think Ms Ogunleye has a problem with Bibi and/or Jeremy? Do you know her? Do you and she share a history?

This is all becoming far too personal.

Please bear in mind that Bibi and I ARE best friends as you ponder on these:

I along with Ms. Ogunleye as well as the rest of the True Love crew have a problem with being labeled uncritically stupid. We have a problem with a critic going off tangent with what was printed as a joke. And if such a critic is aware that this quote was written as such, then the attacks in her criticism should have been made ONLY towards the quote.

You must understand that this post is viewed also as an unfounded attack on the editor of True Love magazine, a person with whom Bibi hardly has direct relations and therefore cannot determine her politics whatever they may be. "Quotes such as these simply mirror the reality that many women (even the editors of women's magazines) have internalised their second class status in a ruthlessly patriarchal society."

Bibi has a valid cause, but not every woman or man is going to be a part of that cause. And this quote, this joke of a quote is not the launch pad for that cause.

Let us as men and women "be still" and be certian before we pick our battles, lest we slaughter our fellow warriors.

Ebun Olatoye
Staff Writer
True Love Magazine.

Jeremy 4:28 pm  

Let me clarify - Bibi may have alerted me to the quote, but the responsibility for the wording of the post is all mine. Just as 'jokes' on race or anti-semitism are never just jokes, so too are 'jokes' against women, especially in Nigeria. The quote about uncritical stupidity amongst women remains true - if women do not align themselves with feminism (overtly or not), they passively allow the misogyny to recirculate and re-formulate, in an age where 30+% of girls in the South are still genitally mutilated for bullshit cultural reasons etc etc.

Either the TL team recognises that many women in Nigeria (from the feedback I've been getting) found the joke deeply offensive and take it on board going forwards, or they continue to try to turn the critique into a personal attack - a standard Nigerian response (it was never meant to be such). Its a good mag on the whole, but there's always room for improvement!

Anonymous,  8:24 am  

Given the responses to this posting and the discussion it has generated among my friends here, it would appear that the quote is not as innocuous as I previously thought.

I think rather than the TL team getting defensive about it, they should be happy that they have done something (however unintended) that has provoked discussions. Perhaps TL will be more conscious next time. As many have said already, a joke is never just a joke. All jokes are impregnated with meaning.

To Kemi: saying that they shouldn't use your magazine to take a stand about gender relations in Nigerian is rather silly, dont you think? A magazine is a cultural product and therefore can be used to shed light on society. It is like saying don't use the music of fela to shed light on corruption in Nigeria soceity. Every magazine /media output whether we like it or not is ideologically driven. We can't escape that. Here in SA, the ideological underpining of TL and O and Maria Claire are not comparably. I myself don't read True Love or O, prefering MC because of my own interest and position. So if people feel that you stand for a particular position allow them to think that way.

Jeremy: if you knew that ebun and bibi are best friends you should have been a bit more careful in how you frame the discussion. I am glad you alerted us to the quote, but I think it was totally responsible of you to frame it the way you did. I say this, because it could have repercussion on Ebun at work and her friendship with Bibi. You have lived in that country long enough to know that criticism, especially by an outsider is a sore point. Needless to say you are rather tactless, even if inciteful in your analysis.

TL Posse: you guys are doing a good job, but of course you can always do better. The SA TL has improved beyond recognition over the years and that has been thanks to a new generation of women who have had encounters with feminist thought and activism at varsity. Criticism is part of the territory of media publishing. Don't get defensive, take them on and see if they have merit and if you can improve on whatever you're doing. I say this because I use to work for a prominent magazine here in SA and I know the magazine is strong today because of the constant letters we recieved from individual feminist and organisations who would pull us up (sometimes gently and other times not so gently) on issues or things we have printed in the zine. The magazine has had to learn some very painful and difficult lessons. Those feminists and their organisations are now one of the important friends of the organisation.

This is a call to be more attentive and reflective about your content.

Wishing you all the best TL and Jeremy, I hope you will continue to have the courage to provoke and alert us to the things that we tend to gloss over.



Kemi Ogunleye,  12:06 pm  

To Jeremy/Bibi & the entire reading public: I would just like to state for the record that neither myself nor True Love is afraid of honest criticism. True Love has been subject to criticism since inception - we expect it, we welcome it, and we have used (and continue to use) criticism to improve upon our product. However, there is a difference between criticism and personal attacks. I beg everyone to re-read Bibi/Jeremy's post and determine if it wasnt actually personal, patronizing and insulting. Especially when compared with the "sin" in question. The quote may have been ill-advised (that is still debatable) but the response from Jeremy/Bibi was nothing if not an overreaction.

The insinuation that True Love supports misogyny is a very serious one, and one that any right-thinking employee of said magazine would take very seriously. Now the question at hand is: is this a fair accusation? That is the crux of the matter. Because based on Jeremy/Bibi's post, anyone who has never read True Love would think that the magazine is anti-feminist and pro-misogyny when in actual fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Therefore, I don't believe my response was defensive, I believe it was required to set the record straight.

Having said all this, I do welcome the spirited debate which has gone on on these pages. Truth will out, inevitably.

P.S. I never said I was or wasn't feminist. I said I didn't want to be labeled. A label does not in anyway define who I am, politically or otherwise. As I said, I am a woman and an individual. Please allow me to be both.

Anonymous,  3:35 pm  

Well well well, allow me to be the realist in this conversation as its seems apparent that most of the respondents are talking from emotions and not much else. Its uncanny that a blog such as this could be derrived from an innocious side(or maybe snide depending on your point of view) comment in a magazine that quite frankly is mind boggling.

First and foremost Jeremy, more power to you hope you had a good laugh at these fine womens' expense especially the bit about cultural bullshit that you know (excuse my french) F**K all about. Just because you dont agree with something dosen't give you the right to demean it and call it names.

My Feminist or recently proclaimed feminist women out there, while its a good idea to band together and be advocates of change and what not, you all need to realise that its already happening. You are all enjoying a freedom today that was bought and paid for by all your mothers and grandmothers before you and you all will no doubt make it easier on your children. Change is gradual but it happens even for Nigeria so keep your head up.

Finally while i agree that a joke is not always a joke, the analysis of this particular joke boggles my mind and makes me want to barf but i will do so in my own council and laugh hard at the responses i might get to this entry.

Leave it be people your time is better spent arguing about the real issues

Jeremy 7:19 pm  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous,  4:46 pm  

Dear Ms Ogunleye and Jeremy,

Good on jeremy for bringing up the quote and the issue and I do believe you are right to do so, and allow us to discuss it in the open.

As an advent reader of true love, it is great on all issues relating so much to fashion and style but on bigger or indepth topics it is not, for that see marie claire.

While i didnt have a problem with the quote sighted and at best its out of context simply because i havent read the whole article.

what i do NOW have a problem is ms ogunleyes attack on Jeremy and Bibi in such a personal and ruthless manner. Its a public blog, everyone is entitled to their opinion, the best you can do is address true loves or your point of view. The whole thing is sligtly reminiscent of the whole MTN Na BOY ad, I beleive Nigerian Media should be more sensitive and critical on certain issues.

However true love should be happy that a little statement has engaged all of us in such lively debate, surely that is the aim, and perpahps address this issue in more depth in another article rather than taking the strange route both ms ogunleye and olatoye have taken. best regards;M

Anonymous,  11:34 pm  

TL is quite good on fashion and style (even if expensive)and i don't think it sees itself as a maria Claire. I doubt it if they are even trying to be like MC. For those who haven't seen the offending quote, it is not part of an article it's a stand alone quote. While I think it is totally demeaning to women and uncall for in a woman's mag, I don't understand Jeremy's overrall beef with it, especially since True Love does not proclaim itself to be a serious or implicitly a feminist magazine. I say 'implicitly a feminist mag' because, I know that many women behind women's magazines in the west are professed feminist and you see a veiled form of feminism in their editorial, even if they rarely explicitly discus feminsism. But TL doesn't strike me like that.

I am also an avid reader of True Love, but I don't read it because I am going to read any indepth analysis or exploration on serious issues. I read it because I see it for what it is: style/fashion mag with no serious content. So Jeremy I beg leave TL to their anti-woman stance and let them do what they do best.

Kemi and Ebun's responses are in bad taste. There was nothing personal in Jeremy's attack, so I wonder why they have personalised a very public statement. I guess it shows the immaturity of the people behind True Love Nigeria.

Anonymous,  4:54 pm  

I am a woman from England. I enjoy having both male and female friends. I was baffled when I met a man I thought was just a friend from Nigeria, studying to be an accountant.

Once he found out I didn't have a boyfriend (I made it quite clear I didn't want one), he repeatedly scolded me and chided me for not letting him have sex with me. His attitude was that I was "vacant", so should let him do what he wanted as he was a man.

I had to end the relationship after one more misguided attempt to go for a drink with him. He groped me violently three times. I have no doubt that he'd be happy to get a woman he didn't know pregant, provided he had an exit route from her life secured.

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