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What do feminists have to say about submission?

There is a phenomenon in Nigerian journalism that exemplifies the sexism characteristic of calls to submission. In interviews with women in prominent positions, you hear questions such as, ‘How do you balance your work and your home?’ ‘How do you make your marriage work?’, and this is when the interview has a professional premise.

Regardless of who they are, each time these women grant interviews, a spotlight is shone on their family life. In turn, they are expected to talk about how their elevated status does not prevent them from submitting to their husband, the “head” of the family unit.Men in similar positions are rarely asked about their personal lives and families and even then, these questions are not centred on their service to their families and whether it affects the quality of their work or their family.

Not only is this line of questioning unprofessional, but it also reinforces the sexist notion that women have to let one go for the other to thrive; work or family.Men are not expected to participate in caring for the family beyond financial provision and so, these expectations do not apply to them and the interviewer has to do their job and ask relevant questions. Religion and socialisation typically introduce the concept.

Under religious and some cultural institutions, the notion of submitting to one’s husband (and well, men generally) has been normalised through the years and is responsible for the subjugation of women in numerous ways. Women are not allowed to inherit but their sons and brothers are. In the event of their husbands’ death, they are once again required to submit to their husbands’ families and sometimes even to their sons, who dehumanise them in equal measure.

Women are constantly asked to lower themselves and act according to how society, usually men and female enforcers of patriarchy, tell them to. However, the main stage for submission discourse is when the conversation is about marriage.Pre and post-marriage counselling, church sermons, family and society reinforce what we are told from when we’re children. You are told that as a woman, eventually, you will marry and then, you will be required to submit to your husband who will be the head of your home. Sure, it may not be directly said but, how many times did we hear; “Is this how you will behave in your husband’s house?”

A Twitter user, Eniola, whose decision not to kneel in the traditional Yoruba fashion during her wedding caused an uproar on Twitter regularly espouses feminist views on submission.

In a tweet from earlier this week, she says, “you can dress submission up in all the romantic language on earth, it will never be for an adult with agency.”

Samia Suluhu, the president of Tanzania, says that the tradition of kneeling and submitting to one’s husband should remain because it strengthens the family bond and ensures children are brought up with good manners. She states proudly that she still kneels and submits to her husband and adds, “Some of you will say we are equal in all aspects of society, No! That’s not the correct position. I don’t kneel because I am inferior, it’s because of love and affection.”Firstly, if submission was about love and affection, it would be preached to men and women in equal measure. The target audience is always women, never men.

Women who advocate for submission have been conditioned to do so and religious teachings reinforce the erroneous belief that they are subject to their husbands rather than equal partners in a relationship that should run on mutual respect and adoration. Men who cling to and demand submission do so because it gives them an elevated sense of self. Who doesn’t want loyal subjects?

To insist that women submit is to enforce the gender hierarchy imposed by patriarchy and, feminism seeks to do away with the gender hierarchy so, submission, to feminists, is a foreign concept.

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