A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 6: Live And Let Die?

‘We all shared a war against the tyrannies of silence’  Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde tells us its important we speak. She asks us to overcome our fears and say whats hurting us anyway because silence won’t stop the pain and we’re going to die anyway. It would appear that young Nigerian women are also speaking out – against the issues that matter to them; mundane issues like who washes the dishes and not so mundane issues like domestic violence, rape and child marriage. Its a pretty good start.

Ada Agina-Ude, journalist and self identified feminist recalled the very negative attitudes to feminism she encountered in the 1980’s and 1990’s trying to market PAN African Ms. a feminist magazine.

“Feminist fundamentalism in Nigeria? Not really. It’s more like Feminism has suddenly become acceptable, and it appears, also fashionable.” she wrote “If Feminism can now sell books, and break the music charts, it calls for popping of champaign! It doesn’t matter that we’re not all in the same “aso ebi”. Diversity of perspectives is no big deal. We may each be different but we are all good. No need for the bickering.”

Pop culture feminism is a part of a Nigerian Women’s Movement and Yemisi herself is part of this movement as a female writer writing about the most feminine of Nigerian activities – cooking. When asked who are the women that she should be grateful to for that privilege she could thank Women In Nigeria WIN. One of their 1984 aims was to increase publication of female writers.

Yemisi doesn’t have to be a feminist but she could rein in her disdain. It is palpable and repulsive. It reeks of the elitist superiority that has plagued the Nigerian Women’s Movement for decades and prevented it from leveraging ‘women’s power’ for political and strategic gains. And how is throwing shade at Beyonce, Adichie and ‘New Nigerian Feminists’ NOT ‘women attacking women’?

We all have the right to ‘self determination – the freedom to define ourselves, name ourselves and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined and spoken for by others’ but we also need to work together and for each other.

Is Yemisi fighting for the right to tell her own story just like anyone else and not give it a label even if her writing is feminist? Or is she raging against the ‘mockeries of separators that have been imposed upon us and which we so often accept as our own’ both within and Nigerian feminism and global feminism? Or is she creating those separators?

We are all Nigerian women. And some of us are feminists. Some feel oppressed washing dishes and cooking, others do not but we cannot ignore the system that makes washing dishes and cooking a female duty rather than a choice – and tries to silence women that complain.

“It is absolutely maddening to have someone lie to your face about you, to distort the truth about who you are, proclaim it to the world and shout over your attempts at correction.” EBONY’s senior editor Jamilah Lemieux

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