About Victim Blaming and Shaming

Out Of My Head

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It’s really upsetting… no, appalling, when a victim of rape, domestic abuse or whatever other form of sexual violence speaks out only to be met with doubting, blaming and shaming.

“Why did you go to his house?”

“Why did you drink?”

“Your jeans were too tight?”

“You should have worn a longer dress”

“You shouldn’t have smiled at him. You encouraged him”

“It wasn’t really rape. You didn’t struggle”

The most stupid of all…

“Guys can’t get raped. *followed by laughter*”

We’ve heard this bull so many times that even the victims start to believe it.

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BECOMING YOU

zeus--abstract-pop-art-by-fidostudio-tom-fedro--fidostudio

image from fineartamerica.com

It’s better not to overthink these things

Better to find something that’s more finite to love

Better to await the end of a thing

Because every thing is finite for the patient

And infinity is only a disappointing myth

Better to believe that it is not you

And that it was never you

That love is only the commitment that decides to stay when the flaws become glaring

Better to believe that there are no answers

Because our hearts constantly break themselves looking for answers

Better to believe that there is a love

And that we are becoming that love

To embrace that love that we are becoming

For that is the only love that makes infinity even a little more bearable

Better to believe that our flaws are not faults; merely flaws

That the faults are not in you

But in this insane world

Because you are perfection

And it’s better to believe in some thing

At least

Because you are everything.

ONE POINT ZERO FOUR

It was a cool evening. I looked through the open windows and felt the cool breeze slightly caress the hairs on my skin. The leaves on the stout shrubs moved to and fro—dancing carefully to the whistle of the wind. The hens hopped over the gutters, gawked momentarily then hopped again­—like children playing suwe with stones. The stall owners stood around—waiting for patronage. Most of them made money by photocopying the hand outs and notes that the lecturers dished out. They supported their income by selling little things like snacks and stationery. But their photocopiers were the noblest investments.

The lecturer that just left the class was lazy—much like me. But he was also a bully, and that I could not understand.

He came into class about an hour late. I sat up—biro in hand. Preparing for what would be a boring lecture.

“You all would fail!” he started, “Sharpen your pencils and papers. And get ready to write letters, because your class is notorious for letter writing. But this time, you better address it to the Vice Chancellor himself!” The whole class roared with laughter.

I slouched in my seat, rolled my eyes and sighed aloud. He turned to me.

“You. Stupid boy. Sitting like king in my class. Stand up!” He had raised his voice by an octave. I stood up.

“So you’re king now eh? I say something and you roll your eyes. Who’s your father?”

I said nothing.

“What is your GP?” He asked more quietly

I stared down at my desk, fidgeting with my biro. All eyes were on me. I stood there hoping that the ground would open up and swallow me whole.

“I said, what is your CGPA you moron!” This time, he shouted. I felt the strands of hair at the back of my neck stand up like an erect member.

“One point zero four.” I said in a tiny whisper.

“What did you say?” he asked angrily. I looked up at him. He wore an evil grin.

“One point zero four.” I repeated.

“So you’re on a one point zero four and you’re feeling like king eh?” A mild wave of snickering and suppressed laughter passed through the class. Anything would excite these idiots.

“You know what?” He continued “Go and simulate your useless CGPA with an F in this course. And let me know what you get after that. Let us see if you would not get kicked out of this department. Non-academic student.” The whole class roared with laughter again. It was an enviable distraction.

When the class was over, the window called to me, I answered. The concrete slab motioned to me to hop over it and I yielded. I stood on the other concrete slab and looked downwards. I heard the buzz of the voices of my classmates, giggling and discussing—their noise had faded into the background and they were oblivious of my presence. Then I took a leap of faith. I did not think that I would grow wings and fly like a bird. I knew that I would land on the ground with a painful thud. But I knew what it wanted me to do. To taste the earth. To taste death. To taste freedom.

I open my eyes and blink incessantly. There’s a pain that envelopes my body. The pain is so thick—I feel its hands slowly lose grip on my soul. But I don’t want this pain to leave. I like this pain. It reminds me that I still can feel. That I’m human.

I had a guest. It was the student journalist in my school. The doctors told me that I had been in a coma for seven days and asked me if I felt up to an interview “Of course” I answered, “Let her in.” And they did.

“Good afternoon.” she said sounding sombre.

“Hey!” I answered. I could not turn to see her face because of the solid, paralysing plaster around my neck. And my rib cages. And my legs. So I asked her to please lean forward so I could see her pretty face.

“Are you hitting on me?” she asked, leaning forward. I smiled as I caught a glance of her. She was very pretty. Tall and light skinned. She had a birthmark at the top of her lips—which were painted in red lipstick. Her braids were tied in a bun over her head. She was tall and she wore a long blue dress that clung to her curves at all the right places.

“Maybe I am” I answered. She smiled. She introduced herself. Her name was Ebun.

“So why did you do it?” her voice was no longer sweet. It was clear and crisp and her expression: deadpan. I didn’t explain to her how I had felt like a dead man walking for some years. Or how I had tried to talk to my daddy when my grades began to slip because I had lost interest in everything and he had shouted at me to: get serious with life son! I couldn’t tell her about the numerous times I tried to talk to my friends that maybe, just maybe, death is life and this life we think is life, is really death. And that I was tired of dying and wanted to start living by dying. How they had told me to shut up with all my philosophical bullshit because: suicide means rotting in hellfire for the rest of my hypothetical life! I didn’t tell her about the times that I knotted the rope to the ceiling fan in my room, but my courage failed me every damn time.

“It was a mistake” I told her, “A failed experiment. Or an evil spirit. I think it was an evil spirit, because the courage that overtook me was external. A simple timid, man like myself, couldn’t have summoned up enough courage to taste death. Not in a million years.”

She held the voice recorder in her right hand and listened to me intently, searching my face for expressions. “That would be all,” she said “Thank you for your time.”

“No. Thank you.” I tried to wink but I think it ended up looking like I was wincing out of pain because she came closer and asked me if I was alright. I told her that I was fine and that all I did was try to wink and that obviously I failed. And she laughed.

“Before you leave. I’d really appreciate it if you could write your number on the plaster on my leg.”

“Sure. Why not?” she said enthusiastically as she scribbled some numbers on my left leg. I don’t know if it was post-failed-attempted-suicide pity or if she was really feeling the boy. I hoped it was the latter. She waved goodbye and I winked again. This time, she smiled. So, my fame had finally found me. Getting interviews from pretty women. I wasn’t just a nobody anymore. I was a survivor. I had tasted the poison that is death—and survived. A hero.

My next visitor was my dad. I heard his quiet footsteps approach and quickly feigned slumber. My father—a man of very few words. He said nothing. I felt him rub my eyebrows with his thumb. They were wet. I heard him sniff. He was crying. Then I felt a teardrop splash on my cheek. I wanted to wipe it off and scrub my face. I wanted to scream. My daddy never cries. The only time he cried was when mummy died. I felt terrible. Then I heard daddy’s footsteps as he walked away. They were brisk and unusual.

I couldn’t move my hands up to clean my face. My hands were pinned down by the plaster. So I laid there and felt the tear evaporate into the pores on my facial skin and then into my soul. It asked me only one question: why?

I couldn’t answer. I wanted to apologise to daddy. To tell him that I was sorry for trying to take our life. It was selfish of me. I should have asked for his permission first.

A SYMPHONY

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Stolen kisses
Tongues dancing as the
Music serenades
Your lips sweet as strawberries
She does not know this place
But it feels like she’s been here before.

She hears the song they sing
It’s the butterflies at the
Pit of her belly
She hums along
Mouthing the words
She sings
Enjoying the alluring symphony
But she seems to forget
Even momentarily
How this beautiful melody ends.

It is a bittersweet feeling
Sweet ten times more than bitter
To up and leave would be wise
She knows
But she has no wisdom
For at times like these
Her senses escape
And leave her 
Weak as fasting flesh.

She turns the music extra loud
Multiplying the butterflies at the
Pit of her belly
She commands that they sing
Louder and louder
That their symphony might
Drown the doubts and the
Should-have-beens that
Threaten to plague
She resolves to try.

The butterflies obey
They croon louder and louder
Till their vocal cords self destruct
And they become quiesce
The abrupt quiet is harrowing
Like a stab to her chest
It strikes
This familiar silence is
Louder than the music.

Then her senses begin to return
They slowly seep in like the
Drizzle before the rain
But the time for senses
Is lost because you are
Already on a ship
Sailing to meet
The other woman.
His one true love.

MORENIKE

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image from pinterest.

It was our first year in medical school and Morenike’s slim waistline was beginning to expand. Morenike no longer wore those cute short dresses that exposed her thin long legs. She now wore large silk blouses with pretty patterns, along with the scarf she usually tied over her head to cover her hair. When Morenike walked now, she carried her big brown bag at the crook of her arm and held it out over the front of her body. She had stopped carrying her bag at her side the way normal university girls did. Morenike was beautiful, but she was hiding something.

Weeks later, Morenike had stopped walking around with her bag over her stomach. Now she walked around confidently with her handbag at her side. Her slim face was the same. But the apparent protrusion of her belly was unmistakable. I walked into class one early morning and saw Morenike sitting comfortably on the wooden seat with her left leg thrown nonchalantly over the table as she munched on a packet of crackers biscuits. The way she was seated made me feel uneasy because mummy had always told me that a lady must always sit like a lady. Although, she had never told me how a pregnant lady must sit.
“Hey girl!” I greeted, a bit too anxiously. She answered me and asked me how I was. I told her that I was fine. Then I remembered weeks before that, before the baby bump was obvious, we were standing outside of our hostel and Morenike was approaching. In the fraction of a second, her best friend had whispered to me,
“See Morenike”, she said “Can you see her tummy? She’s pregnant.”
Morenike had no clue about the discussion that had transpired between her best friend and me. We exchanged hellos when she arrived, and I had to act as though everything was all well and good. I don’t know if I was more surprised about the news I had just heard or about how I had never seen gossip more professionally executed in my entire life. Then I began to wish that she hadn’t told me because now, I had to resist the urge to curtsey whenever I greeted her—as I would a mother. Now, I pictured her naked, slim, tall and beautiful with her long legs and with a big round stomach that looked out of place. I pictured her having sex.
But now things were different, Morenike had stopped hiding. She had stopped caring about the stares and the whispers. She now walked around as though she were the constructor and founder of all the school roads and buildings. It was like coming out of the closet and it was a confidence that I admired.

Months passed and it was time for a baby shower. Her nuclear friends had decided that they would hold the baby shower in Morenike’s room in her hostel. There would be punch and snacks and presents for the baby. And her best friend even planned to bake her a cake. Her best friend told me that the father of the baby would be attending the baby shower. I figured that the father knew about his child and was ready to claim responsibility. This soothed me. So, I sat down and sipped on my drink patiently waiting for the young man who planted his seed in my classmate to arrive.

After a while, I heard a deep throaty laughter at the entrance of the room. It was a man dressed in a white agbada and red traditional beads. He had grey hair and a large stomach. But he was handsome. The grey on his chin and at the top of his mouth lined his face beautifully. He was holding an irukere and carried himself like an Oba. So Morenike’s daddy had also come for the baby shower, I thought to myself. It was noble of him to support his pregnant teenager. I made a mental note to tell Morenike about how handsome I thought her daddy was. Meanwhile, I knelt down to greet him.
“Welcome sir.”
“Ah. My dear, how are you re?”
“Fine, thank you sir.”
I got up and Morenike approached him to greet him. She had the biggest smile on her face and she looked genuinely happy. Anyone could tell that Morenike loved her daddy.
“Chief. Chief. Ekabo sir.” She said as she knelt down to greet him with joy
“Ah. Iyawo mi. Bawoni?” he asked patting both her shoulders with his irukere
Mo wa alright sir.” She said and stood up coyly and as she did, he furtively grabbed her butt with his large palm and gave it a firm squeeze. I stood there trying to mask the shock on my face, I looked at the faces of the other girls in the room, looking for reactions that agreed with mine, but they all just seemed to smile or at least, pretend to. This was not Morenike’s daddy. He was her husband or her husband to be. She must have noticed that I was standing there with my mouth opened because then, she excused herself and told me to follow her downstairs to get more punch.
“Teni,” she started “you have always been so naïve. Look at how you were standing there with your mouth open like a thirsty fish gaping for water. What was that for?”
I was embarrassed and I began to stutter an apology “I’m so so.. sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry. ”
“You better wise up,” she continued “this is not mummy and daddy’s mansion. Your parents won’t be there for you every time you decide to act like an ode. You are in the university now.”
“I’m sorry about what I did. But my parents don’t live in a mansion. We live in a flat.”
Then she laughed and continued,
“Don’t mind me jare. I’m just pulling your legs.” We kept walking together in silence for a while.
“Do you love him?” I asked finally.
“Love? I almost can’t stand the man.”
“But.. you seemed very happy.”
“That is called the art of the pretence. I have mastered it very well.”
“Wow. You’re good” She laughed and said thank you. She had taken it as a compliment.
“So why are you going ahead with this? If you don’t like him.”
“Let’s just say my parents had a debt to pay and I’m the first girl. Someone has to pay right?”
“Yes. Someone does. But not you. It shouldn’t have to be you.”
“Ehen. Teni! So you too can be stubborn?” She laughed again. She was amused. Then she continued,
“Don’t worry about me. I would cook for Chief and he would die. And then I can be with the man I really love. I can’t remain the third wife for long. That’s not the life I chose. ”
I was shocked and I asked her what she meant by Chief would die. She told me not to worry. That I ask too many questions. That I needed to be less curious about some things. That there were some things I was better off not knowing. I asked what would happen to the baby.
“The man I love is ready to take care of me and my baby.”
“Who is the man that you love?” I asked.
“Chuka.” She answered. “Fourth year. Pharmacy. You should know him.”
I told her that I didn’t know him. She said that she didn’t expect me to. That I really didn’t know anything or anybody.
“Don’t you think you’re being naïve?”
She laughed raucously “Abeg. Naivety is for the likes of you. The rest of us know how to find our way round things. My dear, stop asking all these questions and help me carry this cooler upstairs. And just be happy for me, or at least, pretend to be.” I couldn’t be happy for her because I was worried about her.
I bent down to pick the cooler and struggled with it all the way back upstairs. We got upstairs and Morenike went to sit on her husband’s laps and gave him a kiss on his cheek. He was smiling proudly. He was very pleased with himself. It was obvious, she had even learnt how to pretend to love. Then I remembered what she had said earlier :
I would cook for Chief and he would die.
I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for his other wives, I also felt sorry for my distant friend, Morenike.

IDEAS

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They cannot be blown up

Nor sliced by machetes into pieces

Cannot be arrested by terrorists

Nor mutilated and abused

By the coarse palms of evil men

They are the untouchables

They only are conceivable.

 

You can fall in love with them

But they will not love you back

They would not hold you

They would not waltz with you

Nor would they sing to you.

You will sing alone.

You will dance alone.

 

You will despise them

Even more than Hitler did the Jews

But you cannot nail them to the cross

Cannot give them vinegar for water

For they do not thirst

They do not drink

They only exist.

 

You will weep for them

Bleed flesh and bones for them

Some would destroy you

Others would accept you

Make you their own and reform you

Then you will die

And they would live forever.

 

Forever in books

In songs and in plays

In the graffiti on the walls

Of our raggedy streets

In the clothes that we wear

In our art

In our minds.

 

They are a foundation

The concrete on which our

Mosques and churches are built

Fela’s shrine

They are ideas

Even you are, an idea

One with two legs.

MADE OF DARK

The mosquito hums and hovers over my earlobe. I slap my cheek and I miss. I miss not my face but the mosquito. Then I feel him on my thigh, carefully rested. In this darkness, I imagine him licking his sharp beak preparing for dinner, then he strikes again and I slap and miss again. A mosquito must dine. Even if it’s my blood that is the wine.

Dear PHCN, this darkness envelopes my soul. Makes me imagine a God that I do not believe exists. I see him, sprawled over my white ceiling. In gaseous form, like smoke, he rests as though it were the seventh day. Then I want to ask questions. I want to ask if he cares about the suffering of his people or if he is one of those who believe that suffering is merely a state of mind. I want to ask if he’s power hungry or power-sated like you.

This darkness fuels my insomnia. Keeps it running like the one that fuels the neighbours’ generators. That fuel that I cannot afford. It fuels the sounds that keep me tossing and turning. I cannot sleep and my eye bags will testify in the morn. I feel myself perspire from my underarms and my forehead. I feel my dashiki turn damp and now, I miss the cold nights.

This total darkness makes me feel like I belong to abject poverty. I probably wouldn’t feel this poor if there were light. Tonight, I refuse to fall back on the false euphoria and self-satisfaction that burning the midnight candle is supposed to effect. For we all know that achieving our dreams would be easier if PHCN were kinder. Tonight, I want to sleep. Tonight, I do not want to slip my fingers into my underwear while I let provocative images run through my head. Tonight, I want to rest. Tonight, I want to forget.

My mind wanders to the mallam across my street. I imagine him fast asleep. Yesterday was his day. He and his friends had donned new clothes—mufflers, face caps, high tops, varsity jackets and blue jeans. I could tell from their demeanour that they felt extra-cool. They had closed down their shops and yesterday, their water karts rested. The mobile tailors and shoe cobblers rested. They were not Nigerian. Although dark-skinned like the rest of us, they were different. Different culture. Different language. But they had come here in search of better pasture. And yesterday was their day. “Happy Eid-el-Kabir!” I remember greeting him. And he smiled. He was truly happy and I hoped that his happiness would see him through the night. I hoped that he would find his greener pasture.

I imagine leaving my country in search of greener pasture. I imagine a place where the power supply is constant and mosquitoes wouldn’t feast on my blood. A place where I can close my eyes and dream happy things. I imagine setting out on an endless journey with the weight of all my possessions slung across my back. I imagine myself crack. Cracking under the weight of my insomnia and eye bags. I imagine myself a second-class citizen. I imagine myself missing home.

A better solution would be to vote for me in the coming elections. Vote for me in 2015. Not because I will do better than the past government. Not because I’m willing to make any changes. Just vote for me because there is constant power supply in Aso Rock. Vote for me, because there, I would be able to sleep better. Vote for me because there, I would be able to dream. Vote for me because 2015 is my turn. My turn to live.

LONE HERO

Seed planted in woman’s womb
Stomach expand
Round like the planet earth
Man run
Run so fast
Till his feet sore
Run so fast
Till baby born.

Boy born
No daddy
Mummy turn lone mother
Lone father
Lone everything
Boy think he a bastard boy
Where daddy? Where daddy?
Mummy! Where daddy?

Daddy weak
She says
Daddy run
Run so fast
His sweat fill a bucket
I am strong
I am mummy, I am daddy.
I will be everything.

Boy grow
Tall and strong
Grow a black goatee
And a coarse voice
A firm build
And a large nose
Then he stop asking

Stop asking
Mummy! Where daddy?
Stop asking
If daddy love him
Stop asking
If daddy’s nose flat like his
Stop asking
What daddy look like

Cos the last time he ask
Mummy say:
Things break boy!
Hearts break
Eggs in wombs break
Infatuation too is fragile
It breaks.

And the next time
You decide to fornicate
Remember that condoms too break
But my love for you
Is strong like diamonds
It won’t break
And I will be your lone hero.

If you let me.

Rebellion

Cecile's blog

#20

Seeing the world through an eight year old and an eccentric smart-ass fourteen year old, could be quite refreshing. In this interesting piece, we see Nigeria through their eyes. We see into their little community and the smallest unit of the society; the family. And then, we are reminded to laugh, laugh at all costs.

Nigeria is only a microcosm of what the world really is

Reed - Senior Art Exhibition

I sat and watched as she peeled the orange with her sharp knife. The movement of her wrists, brisk, precise and automatic as though she had been programmed to peel oranges for the rest of her life. Never stopping, until the last peel had been removed. She never took her eyes off the streets, and only took her attention off the radio when she needed to greet someone “Well done oh!” she would say, her wrist still twitching as she peeled on.

“Mummy…

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BLUENOSE

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It was love
It was contentment
It was neither
It was both.

It was black
It was white
It was the grey lines in between
It was burgundy
It was bland.

It was clear
Transluscent
You were bright eyed
I was see through
It was opaque
I was blind.

It was lust
It was fervour
It was sin
It was regret.

It was salient
It was meaningless
A facade.
Death is real
It was death.

It was every thing
It was many things
Though, it lingered
It was nothing.

It was heartbreak
Slow and painful
Nothing is fair
In war and
in heartbreak.

It was impure
And now I know
Your true name
Bluenose.