Inferiorization is the conscious, deliberate and systematic process utilized to derogate, demean and relegate an individual, group as second class. The meaning of the word “feminine,” is modeled, especially in classical ascetic cultures, on the images of the lower self and world. Autonomous social selfhood is imaged by men - the cultural creators of this view - as intrinsically “male,” while the “feminine” becomes the symbol of the repressed, subjugated and dreaded abysmal side
In Nigeria, while some ethnic groups have gone ahead in women liberation and empowerment, Ndiigbo, the Hausas and few others still believe that the place of a woman is at home. The place of an Igbo woman in the community is still that of social exclusion.
In the South west of Nigeria; a Yoruba woman is known to be as industrious as an Igbo man with their men struggling to meet up. An Igbo man will however prefer to be the “lord of the house” and in the communities even in the face of glaring failure and incompetence - not give women any chance social and intellectual expression. Man must be man, so we struggle till death; we abandon our villages and communities to cities and vow never to go back until we “make it”. We do rituals; defraud our brothers… to maintain the dominance?
There is a saying in Igbo land that; an old woman never forgets the dance steps she learnt while she was still young. The fact that the old woman (still) remembers or knows the dance suggests her possession of admirable mental capacity. Some of these proverbs of Ndiigbo is however being undermined by other negative, derogatory and sexist ones which are in the majority and are constantly being used to subdue and dominate.
Take a closer look at some of these selected Igbo proverbs:
1. A woman whose husband has decided to hate cannot solve the problem by mere cooking of delicious soup
2. Due to their habitual denial of favours they receive, women do not grow beards
3. When a woman is getting old, it would seem as if money (bride price) was not paid to marry her
4. A woman whose husband has just died and she prepares to go to market knows what killed him
5. A dog trained by a woman (always) bites people to death
6 A woman who goes to Afor Nnobi Market and fights, goes to Nkwo Alor Market and fights, goes to Eke Uke Market and fights, is it the market people that are looking for trouble (from her), or is she the one that is looking for trouble (from market people)?
In Igbo proverbs, women are portrayed as being childish, irresponsible, foolish, weak, unreliable, wicked, dangerous and generally inferior to men. As are result of these images, which are used in the proverbs as valid cultural constructions, young, middle aged and old, make reference to them in maintaining their dominance. My question; Is it only a man’s right to hate her husband? Is it only women that grows old or denies favour done for them? Are all these long-aged dominance awakening the consciousness of our women to their rights?
As our women folk came to the realization that their destiny is in their hands, they are gradually taking over proceedings in education and civil service. The female population in all the higher institution in Southeastern Nigeria averages 65%, the female/male teachers in our schools is 3:1; the civil service is being taken over by female employees as more men shy away from these low paying jobs in search of “get-rich-quick” options.
When a woman is hungry for gossiping, she starts asking questions about what she already knows – Igbo proverb meant for derogation and denigration of womanhood by men. The women are however not only asking questions as to why accept the inferiority, they are taking actions. The truth is that the women are coming, some have even arrived. The dire consequences of this age-long inferiorization of women can be seen in many broken homes where the woman in an attempt to protect her rights gets kicked out by the ‘man of the house’ or opts out on her own – a “dangerous” trend.
Some woman have chosen to be single parents, others to remain single the divorce rate continues to increase. The trend is fast spreading from developed countries where the rights of women are protected by law to developing democracies where such rights are still being trampled on. The women can no longer wait. Their reasoning – and rightly too; I have a good job, am educated, I can maintain myself and train my kids, I am a professional woman, so what?
Meanwhile those women who cannot stand and fight now are silently equipping themselves by going to college, taking up positions in the civil service, decision and policy making positions that are currently being neglected by men. We (men) wake up everyday and continue with our quest for ill wealth and power thinking the status quo will be forever.
I think its time for cultural reorientation and steps towards emancipation and empowerment of our women folks. This will not only help release the bottled up anger, but in the long run will create a better educated and enlightened society, good economic standing for families etc. It is either this is done to forestall the tragedy and clash ahead or we prepare to face the volatility of the violent mix. I may be wrong or right but the era of inferiorization of Igbo women is coming to an end for sure and am afraid of the consequences.