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In 2020, I wrote an article about the influence of Bollywood (the Indian film industry) on Kannywood (the Hausa-language film industry based in Northern Nigeria). In it, I wrote that the themes portrayed in Kannywood range from chastity, modest dressing, reserved intimacy to obedience to parents, parent-figures, husbands, and in-laws to the importance of marriage, giving birth to a male child down to the hush-hush culture around sex and sexual violence. Most importantly, the film industry reflects our society’s idea of a good wife: the one who completely submits to the wishes of her husband; the one who prepares his meals on time and never says no to him; the one who dresses up for him and rushes to greet him when he comes home from work, collecting his suitcase and taking it to his room. In the morning, she would wake up early to cook a feast for his breakfast and if she ever offends or annoys him, she will beg his forgiveness until he grants it.
Many words define a good wife in Northern Nigeria but the most accurate is “submission”. When a woman is getting married, she is taught all the different ways she is to submit to her husband. She is taught how to cook for him, clean after him, and told to obey him. She is taught how to silence herself; how to make herself small so that he would remain the head of the family, while she takes her rightful place as the neck.
But they never tell you about the times where cheffing would not be enough; when you would do everything you’re supposed to, yet unable to please him. When you are at home cooking, cleaning, and slaving for a man who is known to chase other girls around time. No one tells the man it’s not okay; no one prepares him enough for marital life.
I come from a society where girls are raised for marriage, where they are prepared to be wives. But boys are prepared for greatness – to be in Forbes’ 30 under 30 lists, to be CEOs, to be shareholders at major companies. Because of this, no one teaches them to be good husbands; no one tells them being kind to your wife is more important than being superior to her; no one tells them to help in the kitchen occasionally – to wash the dishes while she cooks, to cook a meal once or twice, or to mop the bathroom floor after taking a shower. Men grow to expect servitude from women and society excuses it.But there’s a new generation of women who aren’t getting married to submit; whose marriages would not be defined by servitude. These are girls who are often told their ideas of marriage are unrealistic; girls who are assumed to be delusional when they imagine, for themselves, a marital life that is not defined by suffering. These are girls who are well-aware of the fact that they are complete human beings, even without a husband.