Do social media help the feminist cause?
Written by: Ope Adetayo
Like many of the injustices that permeate the Nigerian society, gender inequality is a social ideal that has been engraved systematically in our society and this contributes, in no small measure, to the country’s underdevelopment.
There is a new generation of feminism-practicing women and men who are dedicated to speaking out against the objectification and subjugation of the female gender. This fight is evident on Twitter and internet spaces where defiant behaviors are upheld in a show of protest against the unfair treatment of women in Nigeria and beyond.
However, the fight to achieve gender equality and to create a free and safe space for women in the society has to be fought beyond the spectrum of virtual spaces where, although the internet reaches a wildly large number of people, the messages often do not go beyond the spaces.
They often do not materialize into concrete actions that can bring a radical change and that is the galling reality we have to face. Hate might spread as much quickly, but change does not.
This is not to discount the power of the media in shaping people’s consciousness or informing their choices. The internet has become one of the most potent disseminators of ideas, yet, if a breakthrough is seriously desired in the campaign for gender equality, the peculiarity of the Nigerian society must be put into consideration.
Nigeria has a teeming population of about two hundred million with a large percentage of it born into social disability, which arises from poverty and lack of basic education. The Northern part of the country has the highest population and this comes with the consequences of gross underdevelopment when compared to other parts of the country.
Looking at this, girls born coupled with the radical dictates of culture that make women unequal is a proof that the Internet feminism is not enough for a solution. Internet feminism is for the educated who are willing to adapt to changing terrain of gender. What of the large, uneducated or badly educated, non-internet using population scattered across the Nigerian society with their firm internalization of skewed gender perspective?
The norms that inform the objectification and subjugation of women have social foundation and this social foundation is rooted in religious and cultural givens that explicitly enumerate conditions for being subservient for the female gender. And to be honest, factoring all the available variables, how efficient is the Internet getting to these physical and cultural agents?
Do we overrate the Internet? This is a question that beggars answer and quite difficult to find a way around because there is no concrete statistical evidence to illustrate the success (or failure) of internet proselytizing. And besides, feminism, as a social idea, is a wild, hot-button topic in Nigeria as it is wrongly conceived as a violent witch hunt against men and a usurpation of some divine hierarchy. So, how efficient is an average Nigerian taking the proper idea of feminism from the Internet?
Gender-based violence keeps surfacing and the figures keep climbing with little or no brake applied. This is due to the internalization of culture-backed humiliation of the female gender and a total breakdown in the mechanism of governance.
The fight for gender equality is one that has to be taken to the streets, churches, government, and classes because these are where inequality are being sustained by the forces of doctrine and teaching ideals that promote – subtly and overtly – inequality.
In these places, it must be made known that the equality of the sexes is a matter of human rights and not an academic postulation to be swallowed and regurgitated for examination purposes alone. And that discrimination, based on gender, comes with consequences for those discriminated against.
It is a shocking fact that the outcomes of general discussions largely depend on this class. Away from the Internet and down to concrete actions, the uneducated, non-internet-using populous usually has the last say and to change this, the message of equality has to be taken down there.