Friday, September 23, 2011

What Rape Culture Looks Like

D&G perfume advert depicting rape as cool
I readapted this from this post on yesmeansyes blog and an analysis of what a rape culture looks like from Finally feminism 101. And I am going to FICTITIOUSLY illustrate it using the recent rape that happened in an Eastern state in Nigeria.
Let’s start with explaining rape culture. Transforming culture says, “Rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.
In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change”.
The last sentence is one I truly believe in THEY ARE VALUES AND ATTITUDES THAT CAN CHANGE!!
Uchenna is a 400 level law student of ABSU. He comes from a rich family and as a student has the accoutrements of wealth - drives a car, is a member of the best men’s club, hosts and has invites to the best parties etc. He and his 4 buddies regularly visit a beer parlor in the nearby community for some beer and nkwobi (local delicacy). There he regularly flirts with the female waitress Chioma who is the niece of the owner of the beer parlour. Chioma is in her 200 level, studying Arts at the same University. Whether or not she voluntarily flirted with him is unknowable but as a rich cult boy Uchenna knew she could not afford to say no to his advances. So she flirts back.
That’s rape culture. When men make choices about what women do with their sexuality, that strengthens the idea that men can control women’s bodies.
One Friday evening in August, he called to make an order for a pot of nkwobi for he and his friends to TGIF on (home delivery). She couldn’t say no as this was good business for their restaurant and these guys were good customers …she knew she had to do everything possible to keep them happy. When Chioma got to Uchenna’s place with the food, she discovered that he and his friends were already there. She felt a tinge of alarm but shrugged it off. Afterall she knew them. They came to the restaurant at least thrice a week, what could go wrong. From serving them nkwobi it turned into an altercation, a kangaroo court hearing and judgment where she was found guilty of insulting their friend Kadi for trying to ‘cup a feel’ two nights ago at the beer parlour. Before she could say boo, they locked the room and raped her.
Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though women are 3x more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger, and 9x to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street.
She attempted to struggle and shout but realized that her struggles were exciting them further. They knew her strength compared to theirs. Struggle only made the victory of her capitulation sweeter. Moreover they threatened her that if she didn’t cooperate she would be their prisoner for the next 48 hours. So she kept quiet and cooperated, opened her legs as wide as she could and let her spirit fly. Back to her maker crying ‘Oh Lord, Why me Lord. What did I do wrong. don’t let it be more than this. Oh God. AIDS, STD, Pregnancy, Shame. Let me die Lord”.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

When they finally finished with her, she wrapped her torn clothes around her bruised body and walked home. It hurt so much when her thighs rubbed against each other. She stopped along the way to stoop and pee and it was as if her vaginal area were on fire. She told her Aunty about the attack and asked her if they should report. Her aunty said ‘No’ and told her that she was “overreacting”. Is it not that nice boy Uchenna that always gives you big tips? She reminded her of all the times she had told her to stop wearing those tight jeans and ‘mini skirts’. See what trouble it has brought her now. That’s why the boys noticed her.
Her Aunty also reminded her of the shame it would bring to the family if the story leaks. No man will marry her. She would become an untouchable and taint the marriage chances of her junior ones. What she didn’t add was that she was also considering her business and all the potential loss of income if she accuses those group of boys. Moreover who would listen to poor people like them accusing the likes of Chief Okonkwo’s son. They might send thugs to beat us up or destroy my beer parlour. “No, Chioma. Let God judge our case if you are truly innocent”.

That’s rape culture. When families, friends or people in power refuse to take women’s rape charges seriously, it means there are no consequences for rapists, which makes them free to rape more. Rape culture is also admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “avoid certain place” or “don’t dress this way” and failing to admonish men TO NOT RAPE.

Later, while Chioma was convalescing in her aunty’s home, the rapists came with other buddies to the Aunty’s bar. They ordered beer, drank and they loudly recounted tales of what happens to people who attempted to betray them. Violence, Arson, Kidnapping etc. Chioma’s Aunty received the message, smiled and served them more beer. 
In the beer parlour seated unbeknownst by the corner watching and listening was a lecturer of the Law faculty in ABSU. He had seen the rape video making its rounds amongst students. One of his student buddies had shown it to him. If he wasn’t sure before, now it was confirmed that these  were the rapists. He had also seen the media campaign asking for information about those involved. His conscience nagged him, but what could he do. The Vice Chancellor of the Uni had publicly denied that “No ABSU student was involved”. Who was he to counter his statement? He definitely didn’t want to lose his job ..not when Professorship was two years away. Nor did he want to repercussions from the boys. So he sweeps the memory of what he has seen from his head and goes home to mark Test papers.
That’s rape culture. When authorities who could use their power to help victims find justice deliberately keep silent. it not only leaves rapists free but intimidates other victims from ever coming forward.
As more details emerge, you’d think there would be a deafening outcry from sympathetic Nigerians - fellow students, mothers, women in government, fathers, brothers who would join arms with this hurt sister in solidarity and call out for investigations for justice. No! Rather they ask ‘why did she go to his room?’, anonymous students from her school write to say ‘she’s a known slut who probably decided to make more money by taking on 5 guys and has now bitten more than she can chew’, they say ‘didn’t you hear her tell her rapists that ‘she was cooperating’ does that sound like rape to you? Was she screaming or moaning in pain at any point? Aren’t people being raped supposed to scream and struggle? Some even suggest she may be a lying gold digger who is only protesting cause the act was video-ed.
Her life history is already on public trial in a way that would never happen if she were the victim of kidnapping or attempted murder.
That’s rape culture. When victims are tasked with the burden of rape prevention. When women are too afraid of being re-victimized by their peers, the courts and the media to come forward, and when the public gets the message that women who accuse men of rape are lying or did something to deserve it, and the cycle continues.

Chioma is yet to report the matter to the police. Nobody has come out to identify her or to identify the 5 half-named assaulters. From what people who watched the rape video affirm (normal sane people) it was an assault. There was nothing consensual. Why then are some people doubting that it is a rape. In the video names were called, why aren’t school registers being subpoenaed to find out the names of all male students who have similar names. But no, security forces are sitting in their offices waiting for Chioma to waltz in and announce ”oh here I am. Ready to avenge my rapists. See their names, pictures and phone numbers”.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don’t; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it’s a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

There are 5 alleged rapists in this crime. But no one is talking about them or what determinants in their school environment or community fostered and promoted rape. Rather the victim is the focus of all the blame and negativity. That’s rape culture, and it has to stop.

Friday, September 16, 2011

So you want to be a Banker (Epilogue)

You may now be wondering , 'So Ginger, how did you fair in the bank? Are you trying to tell us nothing happened?’
Yes, I can. Absolutely nothing happened. I was lucky. I was blessed. I met the most wonderful people through banking. I still have customers of my bank who call me just to say they miss seeing me at the branch and they miss having someone as efficient handle their business. I met a most wonderful Boss who taught me about integrity and standing up for yourself. I'm still going to write about our stormy relationship one of these days. It probably didn't mean much to him but as an executive trainee to his Senior Manager (12 yrs experience) he made a deep impression.

Like I said, I was just blessed. I got to manage some excellent accounts and the owners liked how I handled their business and linked me up to other high networth businesses. I also understood my job. I had my Bank’s products and services on my finger-tips. I used to tell my colleagues that knowledge and competence will always win over ass-licking or bedmatics. Most serious customers recognized that and chose to stay with someone who will truly manage their bank business, rather than mess it up with sex.

I was lucky. Lucky that I had a supportive family so I wasn’t desperately attached to my job. I knew I could walk away if the pressure got too much and it won’t hurt anyone. You can't compare my freedom to the man/woman who is the bread winner of her family. 

I could also say I wasn't tempted. I mean, I think if I had met an Idris Elba look-alike who coincidentally is a partner in Glo telecoms and was willing to bankroll me in exchange for a rump in the haystack an affair even for a few short months, It maybe harder to resist.

Anyway, so there I was sinking under a N989m target for deposits (yes you saw it right!! N989m, add 11m and you have a billion), 450m target for risk assets and a target income of 135m for the bank. The truth was I inherited a target larger than my trainee status cause my branch was grossly understaffed, so a budget that should have been shared between 8 marketing staff was shared by 4. Now let’s say at the end of the month I brought in 200m in deposits, 50m risk assets and 20m income, you do the math. I was under-performing, subsequently my promotion letter was coming by snail post.

It was crazy. My new female boss didn’t help matters. She was a hyper-achiever who needed her job like an addict needs crack. Her texts are the last you see and the first when you wake up... beep.beep ‘Ginger, what's your plan for today’, ‘how do you plan to meet your target today?’. We had evangelists come to join us for morning prayer sessions to pray for the branch’s financial breakthrough. They also cleansed the building of target sucking demons..lolss. At least my boss was Christian. There was this female branch manager known to invite her fetish consults (babalawo/jujuman) to arrange some charms strategically in the building and make high networth people eager to sign their papers when told. LOLSSSS. (Believe that and you'll believe anything..)
Then there was the Monday budget review meetings in Zones that turned managers and marketing staff into nervous wrecks.
If I had a read out of my blood pressure it would go something like this:
Lowest on Friday evening. TGIF. 
Rising by Saturday afternoon. Although I am socialising at some event, all I am thinking is 'where to find the next rich customer'.
By Sunday night, I am a half wreck cos Monday is near. 
Monday morning - No matter how positive and 'relaxed' I've psyched myself to be, immediately I walk past the bank's doors, my bp is on the roof. Yep, it's gonna be a bloody day.
After the meeting it comes down a little, the worst is over, but it remains on a seesaw for the rest of the week rising and falling with your 20 top customers account balance. I use to have my customers calling me to APOLOGISE before they withdraw hefty sums from their accounts cos they knew what it meant to my KPI (come to think of it, this wasn't even fair to the customer). I prayed for my customers, their family and their businesses, sometimes more than  I did for my family. And i really did it with all my heart, cos if it’s good for them, it’s good for me.
Working in an understaffed branch made me rise up to challenges faster than my mates. I knew the bank business like the back of my hand, I could write credit proposals, budget analysis, presentations. Sometimes I even represented my manager at Monday meetings when she was too chicken sick to come. 

One day, I looked around and asked myself, 'Ginger where do you see yourself in the next 5 yrs? Branch manger? What does that mean? Bigger salary, a personal car to use, access to large mortgage or other loans and don't forget BIGGER TARGETS. That’s all. No high powered business lunch, No business consultancy. No cerebral challenge. No helping smaller businesses grow - It is telling when a business like Vitafoam Plc can’t open new branches while the banks supposed to help it grow sometimes have 6 branches on the same street.
Moreover I was losing it with family and friends. Resentful of the family members that had not moved their account to my bank. Angry that they weren't as rich as the Otedolas or related to Dangote. My love life also suffered cos my bf was in another state. I never had time to visit, I was always tense and worried, depressed even, and I felt he didn’t understand what I was going through. Moreover he refused to open an account with my bank which I felt was very disloyal of him.

My colleagues advised me not to quit, that I should weather the storm, that it gets better. Maybe. Cos truly career progress in ‘sales’ is straightforward. Remember the movie 'Love and other drugs' and how Jake hit his stride with Viagra? It can be like that in banking; maybe my Uncle becomes a Senator in the next election! 
But I was just sick of it all, so...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Feel of Free

People, I am finally done with my MSc!! Handed in my papers last Friday and slept the sleep of the dead. 
To fellow Postgrads on Blogsville who just finished too ... ..Strategic Chic, Northern Chica. Congrats.

You'll think now that I am free its all joy right? Nope. Had to start packing up clothes and things acquired over the past one year. Its a tiring job for a hoarder like me (I'm one of those types who find it hard to throw things away). I have 2 big suitcase and 3 traveling bags so far..what!!
Then so many decisions to make. To stay or not to stay. If to stay where? Durham isn't exactly job friendly but moving to London when you don't have where to stay involves forking out a lot for rent. Sigh. I need a Sheik in my life.

Advice anyone? Offers? What's the best UK city?

Finally I want to say thanks to everyone for the rousing argument we had on my last post. I appreciate you all. The personal stories, the personal confessions. I hope we all learnt something. I did.
So, here are some pictures that left me lost for words......
Add caption
My friend put this picture up on facebook. Someone should give our Prez, posture lessons already. Nothing says subservience like your hands behind your back. Haba! Even if its Gringory Akabogu and Madam Ovularia?!! I can almost hear the 'yes Ma'm.

I know you'll have seen the computer generated baby picture, well, this is Beyonce jnr all grown up...wicked I say!
This dog's name is Yoda. She is the ugliest dog in the world. Yep she won the award hands competition. If I were Darwin I would haunt her owner till she rids herself of this creature. I hope they didnt let her procreate.
Now this just broke my heart :(. Ernie and Bert are not real people?!!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Of Epiphanies and Sickle Cell

I’m ever thankful to God for leading me to the project I undertook for my thesis: Researching Sickle Cell Anaemia.  I am grateful to all of you who filled out my questionnaire. I got so much rich information. I learnt so much, so so much.
I have also been changed. It took me down memory lane, reminded me of people I had not wanted to remember.

First there was Chi-chi. Funny I can’t remember her surname right now. She was the daughter of my mom’s friend. I was 8 to her 18. I can't remember the details of her face but I do remember she was lanky and fair. Chi-chi was always full of life, laughing all the way and trying to engage precocious me. She was my grown up hero….except when she was sick. I never saw her ill but I heard the whispers ‘another crisis’, ‘bad’. Then one day I eavesdropped on a conversation between my sisters and heard them talk of Chichi’s illness and how it was a pity but she was likely to die at 21.
It was a blow to my heart. My puppy love shriveled in fear. I remember how I started watching Chi-chi. And started a mini countdown in my head...gone in 3 years.
I told my little heart to love her less, cause even then I understood that loving too much causes heartbreak. I also began to avoid her place. Thankfully, I can remember saying anything hurtful to her as children are wont to but in retrospective, I wonder if she noticed the stares, the pitying glances and people who avoided her cause her ‘life represented death’. How very awful lack of information is.
I don’t remember what happened to her cause the family moved away from Aba the next year.

Then there were Wunmi Ogundiran, Ekom Ukpong, Seun Oguntade. All three were classmates from secondary school, living with the cell. Ekom’s bunk was adjacent mine in JS1 and many a time I escorted her to the school clinic. I don’t know where they are now and I am trying hard to convince myself that Sickle Cell Anaemia has not claimed them.
I also remember Joke, a JS1 girl who died when I was in SS2 from a terrible crisis. We only had a small clinic in school, ill equipped to deal with a child who developed a severe crisis at 9pm in the night. She was buried there at school and that was my first funeral.

Fast forward to 2008,  during my banking days, I met a corper who carried herself ever so wonderfully and daintily. Bissy is 5’8, chubby and ever so chirpy. I did notice she was very careful not to exert herself(that’s where the dainty came from) but I thought she was just being ajebo or a lazy corper.
Nope! girl was managing her illness the only way she could, to avoid a crisis!
I remember one day in the pool car we were having a rousing argument about ‘how carriers who marry each other should be shot, diced and quartered’, ‘how people who have SCA must hate their lives and their parents’ etc etc. Bissy was quiet, listening and smiling. Then she goes ‘Ginger, I hope you know I am a sickler and contrary to your opinions I do love my mother very very much. I don’t like being sick but I love my life all the same’!
Bissy 100: Ginger 0.
I never forgot that lesson, and for once I didn’t have a comeback. I loved that girl even more.
It was like an epiphany:
Sickle cell does not always manifest physically. Yep. Not every slim, yellow cornea colored person has SCA.
Someone with sickle cell lives a normal life most of the time; cares about fashion, parties, boys, careers, etc etc
Someone with sickle cell can be whatever they want to be
Someone with sickle cell also wants a woman/man to love, marry and raise children with.
The course of illness varies in each person, Some mild, some severe.
With proper care and management, someone living with SCA will live as long as they were destined …. just like we all need to care for our bodies if we want to live long and healthy lives!

I never treated Bissy in any way different following her revelation but happily covered for her when she needed time off. But my best advice to her when she asked me if I thought banking was a good career for her from my experience was, ‘darling, you need to do an Usain Bolt here. You don’t need this stress :).
Fast forward to 2011 and I’ve discovered so many more wonderful people living with the cell. There is Tosyn Bucknor of These Genes and a blogger, most of you know Nutty J, another blogger. There is Toyin Adesola of ‘Touch a Cellwho was interviewed recently on Moments with Mo, Wande, a brave brave lady who is currently undertaking bone marrow transplant to rid her body of the troublesome sickle cells (you can read about her journey here) and Tosin Ola-Weissman of Sickle cell Warriors (don’t you just love the idea of brave warriors fighting sickle cell and hacking off its lethal curves with a sword?!). You should visit her page sometimes and read the interviews of interesting men and women who have the cell but have refused to be defined by it. There’s never a gloomy moment there!

So why am I writing this? First, this month of September is Sickle Cell Awareness month. Second, I was sitting here writing my thesis discussion and all these thoughts came flowing.
Twenty years ago maybe there wasn’t much hope for those with Sickle Cell cause of lack of appropriate medication, not enough counseling services, poor understanding of health personnel, racism etc. But as each new day comes, new discoveries are being made and hopefully one day in the near future, there will be a super pain reliever and smoother chelating system and crisis will be a thing of the past.

But while we wait, let’s make the world a more welcoming place for those living with it. I have heard statements like:
I am AA, but I can never marry a sickler
Yet I also hear, “Carriers who marry carriers are selfish
Then Carriers should not abort sickle cell pregnancies. Abortion is murder”!!
If carrier parents were foolish enough to get married then they had better be prepared to give birth to the child and raise it”
Finally you go on to say this about the child born with sickle cell “They hate their parents and wish they had never been born”.  So  many contradictions! Much as we preach prevention and say do not abort sickle cell pregnancies,  we must be more positive about Sickle Cell!

I notice this strong theme of blame for carriers of Sickle cell gene. I was on that camp before, but I have seen the light now. If that is where they have found love why judge? There are options available to assist reproduction like adoption, prenatal diagnosis/selective termination, adoption, IVF using sickle free eggs and sperms, surrogacy innit?
Moreover, Love is hard enough for single ladies and guys out there (sorry I have to use the cliché). Let’s try and celebrate those who have found happiness in each other and wish them well or what do you think?


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