Yesterday morning, I was looking at my blog stats for the year 2016 and Na Man You Be! jumped at me. I wrote the post when I lived in Benin-city, not long after my ex-boyfriend had to claim we were engaged just so I could rent the flat I was living in (yes, he was ex at the time and still one of my closest friends). I shared the post to some friends on WhatsApp, I didn’t even read it until Nnamdi asked me about the post, so I went to read it.
As I read it, I remember sitting on my bed in that quiet house at the end of that quiet street and writing the post in about ten minutes, that’s how passionate I was about the matter. By the time I got to the part about the woman alone carrying the blame when she caught with a married man, I remembered a story I’d read on Facebook a few days ago.
A couple had been married for less than a year and the writer – who is their neighbour, had suspected that the husband was having an affair with another neighbour. The wife travelled and came home suddenly only to catch her husband in the neighbour’s apartment conducting Bible study. Ok, I’m kidding, the bible was sitting at a corner gathering dust while they moaned and grunted and sweated – because there was no light.
Anyway, the wife drags her husband, faces him and fights him for cheating, she did not say anything to the neighbour. She attacked the person who made the vow to be faithful to her alone while the neighbour cowered in her room in shame. The next morning however, the young woman was issued a quit notice to leave the house as soon as possible. I read it and felt pity for the young wife whose husband was not only cheaing already in less than a year of marriage but cheating with a neighbour. I really do not understand people who cheat so close to home, I understand that it can be thrilling to skirt on the edge like that but I think of the participants as slightly mad.
However, it wasn’t until I read my post of 2016 that I realized it was unfair for the neighbour to be given a quit notice. If anyone should have gotten the quit notice, it is the couple because they disturbed the peace of the house. If the punishment was going to be handed out to her for cheating, why should the man she cheated with not get any punishment. It seemed like the adulterous woman and Jesus all over again, the woman alone being stoned even though she had a partner, a very visible partner. How the hell did I miss that?
I could just see the 2016 Adaeze judging me for not being woke enough to catch the grave injustice in the story, although to be fair to me. The writer was happy about the wife not facing the neighbour to fight her and focused the thrust of the post on that, it was easy to miss the quit notice as that was the last bit of the post. Besides, it was already a big leap forward to have a woman know that there’s only one person to fight in these matters, just as men have known for generations.
In the very near future ,though I will write about the writer’s role framing stories and stoking the responses she wants, as well as the writer’s responsibility to pass her message in clear, unambiguous ways without equivocation (a certain Steve will read this and laugh his head off, if you see a headless Steve anywhere, he’s the one.)
I went back to the post to find only one comment and reply saying that it was unfair that the babe was given a quit notice and I felt so proud that both of them are my Facebook friends (I gave myself yet another mental high-five for having facebook friends who have sense, I get to do this as often as ten times daily sometimes. I have some crazy-smart people on that space). I was also slightly ashamed of myself for not picking the injustice quickly, spotting and hating oppression was usually easy for me.
Has life softened me that much or just placed blinders in front of my mind’s eye? Is my quest for balance of outrage blinding me to the general and specific injustices that are the lot of my gender everyday? Am I forgetting that it is nearly default to blame the woman when things go wrong and even when it is clearly not her fault, a shovel of blame is heaved on her to balance things out.
I hope I never get so complacent by the knowledge of the wonderful men in my life that I forget that the world is tilted against me and my kind, that a vagina is not only a weakness but an admission of guilt and most of all, in any way I can speak out or do something… May I not be found napping.
For me though, the most painful part of the story is that the person who issued the quit notice to the young woman, is also a woman. Talk about women wielding the bigger stones. The young woman’s full rent has been returned to her and she now has to face the crazy and unplanned reality of searching for a house in Lagos on short notice. I hope she sues the landlady and gets to win a major settlement or something but seeing that we are in Nigeria, she might not get anything out of it. She can also contest the quit notice and live in that house for as long as six month rent free but I am pretty sure that shame would not allow her think about it.
I really should write about shame and how it continues to hold women in chains, even the most seemingly accomplished of us. I think every woman should read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. If you want to read either or both books on the go, send an email to email@example.com with the title of the book you want or just Both if you want both.