#WivesNotCooks: RE “SO YOU WON’T COOK?”


I first saw the hashtag #WivesNotCook when a Facebook friend made a response post on it, which she titled “SO YOU WON’T COOK?”. When I read the post, right from the first paragraph, I cringed.  I wanted to ignore it as I have ignored most things Nigerian lately. However, the post has been shared many times on Facebook, mostly by Nigerian men, who are using it as a reference point to chide women who support the hashtag #WivesNotCooks. Many have even used it as a point to bash single women, single mothers, divorced women and blamed all woes imaginable on feminism.

The post and the comments it generated made me realise we really have a long way to go in educating even the educated about the meaning of feminism. I understand that sometimes when we don’t want to engage, we still owe it to posterity to engage on some issues. Hence, why I decided to write this response to dissect the post and point out the problems with it, as it relates to feminism.

14067659_10154421374501873_6548088197135927608_nFirstly, we must understand that anyone can be a feminist and everyone should be a feminist. It’s the decent, humane position to take on gender equalities.

I was so surprised that someone who self-identified as “an unapologetic feminist” starts her argument against the hashtag #wivesNotCooks with these remarks-

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I am an unapologetic feminist but I also know how to differentiate feminism from gender roles.

And reiterated again-

Learn to differentiate gender equality from gender roles.

Feminism is about deconstructing gender roles. Yes, feminism is about fostering the rights of women in the workplace and the society at large. It is about standing up for women’s rights to be who they want to be. The right to education, right to earn same salary as men for the same job. Right to vote. Right to be free from gender discrimination. The right to live with dignity and respect. However, how do we achieve gender equality without breaking down the barriers of socially constructed gender roles and stereotypes?

What is gender role? According to Wiki ,

gender role is a set of societal norms dictating the types of behaviors which are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality.

Google translation

noun

plural noun: gender roles

  1. the role or behaviour learned by a person as appropriate to their gender, determined by the prevailing cultural norms.

“women’s traditional gender roles translated easily into caring for the sick, and nursing became a female profession”

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines gender roles as

socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

From these definitions, we can see why challenging gender roles is at the heart of feminism.

No one should be expected to do anything simply because of what lies between their legs, be it a dick or vagina.

Our value and contribution to our homes, workplace or society should not depend on what type of genitalia we have.

Feminism is all about breaking down gender roles. We should not use our own preference of how we run our home or life to determine who is a feminist or not. Your preference is your choice. Your opinion on what women or men should do is just that, an opinion.

Feminism is much more than an opinion; it is an established ideology.

Feminism advocates for gender equalities.  Gender equalities is intricately tied with deconstructing gender roles. To achieve gender equality, we must dismantle gender roles and stereotypes.

Gender stereotypes are products of gender roles.  If we acknowledge that feminism is about advocating for gender equalities, we cannot distance feminism from gender roles. We cannot achieve gender equalities without breaking down gender hegemony, and dismantling gender roles and stereotypes.

We live in a Patriarchy that fosters the belief that men are somehow inherently superior to women, and therefore places men above women. If asked, many men would quickly say that they don’t think this way, but ask them simple questions, such as-

– What makes a good wife?

– What do you think of single mothers?

– Must a woman know how to cook to be a good wife?

– Would you be worried if your wife gave birth to only girls but proud if she gave birth to only boys?

-Do you consider sharing household chores with your wife a necessity or a favour?

-Do you expect to be praised for helping with house chores?

-Do you expect a woman to have sex with you because you took her on an expensive date?

-Do you expect your daughters to learn to cook but don’t expect same of your son?

-How do you really feel about gender roles?

In one breath, they don’t think they are superior to women, but on the other hand, they expect women to fulfil gender roles., even when these gender roles are oppressive to women.

Everyone stands to benefit from deconstructing gender roles, be they women, men, transgender, queer or whatever gender identity they identify as.

Gender roles places expectation on people to do certain things based on what type of genitalia they have. This is so wrong, especially in this day and age.

I am a feminist of the world, in fact, I can defend women equality for the world but when I get home that line is drawn and it is very obvious for any discerning eyes.

NO. Feminism is not a hat you put on for show in public and throw off when no one is looking. When you say you draw the line at home, you are saying that feminism is incompatible with making a good home.

For a woman who identifies as “an unapologetic feminist” to say this, is sad. It basically feeds into such tripe that feminism breaks homes. Feminist can’t have a happy home because eek…Feminism.

Feminism is about empowering women in the workplace, at home, in the larger society and wherever it is they live their life as a woman and a human being.

If you are expected to play the socially constructed role of a woman first before being treated as a human being, be it at work or at home, then you need feminism.

Don’t ever put off your feminist hat because by so doing, what you are saying in that instance is “I ‘d rather be a sub human than be treated as a human because I want to keep my man, home, or in-laws happy’. You can still do these without taking off your feminist hat.

Feminism is not incompatible with expressing your passions for cooking or doing whatever makes you happy for your partner. The difference is, you should not feel forced to do so because you are a woman, but do so because it is what makes you happy. Let it be your choice, not an enforced role.

 

Do what you have to do to keep your marriage flourishing and intact and keep feminism at work place and out of your home because at home it would wreck that home. Men’s egos are too fragile and once bruised it is difficult to couple back.

If your man’s ego is too fragile to endure the fact that you are a feminist outside and inside your home, maybe that ego really needs bruising. Your man should grow up. Or you should wear your big panties and be the feminist you are, not just at work but at home as well.

This misconception that feminism wrecks the home is just so misguided, so false and so damaging to the feminist cause. How a self-identified, unapologetic feminist keeps saying this, beats all reasoning.

Feminism does not wreck home. Repeat after me, Feminism does not wreck home. Say it again and again, until you rid your mind of that misconception planted by the patriarchal, misogynistic society we live in.

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I am submissive to my bros, in fact, it is so bad that some female friends when they first land at my home, they are so surprised that, even after my madness on social media that I still have a home that is adorned and headed by a man and I also allow that man to act his role and at ease too. This is how a good and true feminist should be, even I could say so.

No, No, no. You don’t get to define what a good and true feminist should be based on how you run your home.

If you want to be submissive to your man, it is your choice.  It does not make you less of a feminist.

If you don’t want to be submissive to your man or whatever the gender of your partner, it is your choice. It does not make you more of a feminist.

Feminism is about having the right to choose. Feminism is about exploring your passions without pandering to socially constructed gender roles. Feminism is about having that freedom to not be afraid to be who you are for fear of being judged for deviating from gender roles and stereotypes.

Don’t ever tell another woman this is how a good woman should be. Just don’t ever! That is the most ‘unfeminist’ thing to say to another woman.

Please, ladies, bae, babes, learn how to cook, if not for your man but for yourselves, except you want to form that big girl that eats at the Oriental and Ocean Blues but can’t really sustain that lifestyle when the chips are down.

Why is this advice only directed at woman? Should this not apply to every adult?

It is expensive eating out all the time for everyone, regardless of gender.

Specifically asking women to learn to cook is just reiterating the socially constructed gender role that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

I am not so keen on cooking but I do cook because it is the economical thing to do. I also believe whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well. So, while I might not go buying cookery books or searching YouTube for food tips, the foods I chose to cook for myself and my son in my home are done to the best of my ability.

When my son left home for University in another town, I packed his bags full of frozen food and soups to last him a few weeks.

However, after his first year in university, my son learned to cook for himself. His reason was that he found out it was expensive to eat out. Even Pizzas every night isn’t cheap and not as satisfying as pounded yam and equisi soup.

He learnt his way around the kitchen, explored the limited options of African raw food materials in a town with supermarkets that mostly cater for its white occupants.

When I travelled with my mum to attend his graduation ceremony (oh, he graduated with a First-Class degree in Law, as a proud single mom, i mention this at the slightest excuse), we wanted to celebrate in a restaurant, and he told us he had made food at home. He made Jollof rice, fried rice, beans and plantain. He also had equisi and vegetable soup ready in case we wanted Eba or pounded yam. And his food was delicious.

Like his father, he knows his way around the kitchen. Like his father, he is not the type that would demand a woman cooks for him. He knows cooking is not a gender thing.

Eating good food and learning to cook it for yourself or your whole family has nothing to do with your gender. Every adult needs to eat good food, therefore every adult regardless of gender, needs to find a way to fulfil that need. It could be by learning to cook, earning enough to eat out or hire a cook. Whatever works well for you. What is wrong is to impose an expectation on anyone simply based on their biological sex.

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You must cook because your man must be fed well or else someone else would be feeding him well for you. Your children must be nurtured with good food because that is your role as a female gender.

No, you don’t owe your man the responsibility to feed him. You are his partner, not his cook. Your biological sex does not automatically make you his assigned cook.

Why is the fear of someone else feeding him the reason for a woman to learn how to cook?

If a man chooses to eat outside, be it food, pussy, or even dicks, no amount of home feeding or fucking would change his mind.

This is another way of blaming women when their partner strays. It is common to hear admonitions masquerading as concerns, such as-

“Oh, he cheated on you, where you not giving him enough attention?”

“Why didn’t you cook his favourite dishes?”

“Why didn’t you satisfy his sexual desires all the time?”

Nope, a cheat is a cheat, be it man or woman. Don’t blame the victim of a cheat. Blame the cheat.

Live your life the way you want to. Do not generalise and condemn the other half of human species because they didn’t live up to your expectation of what a ‘Good African Woman’ should be.

Women are not put on this planet to meet men’s expectations.

The purpose of a woman’s life is not to cook for men.

Women haven’t failed in life because they can’t cook.

And they certainly haven’t failed because they don’t have husbands.

I am a 42-year-old single mother. My son is 22-year-old. He is a Law graduate and a CEO of his own registered app development company in UK.  I have a degree in Law from Nigeria and a Masters degree in Gender, Sexuality and Human rights Law from UK. I have worked as a human rights advocate and trade unionist for 15 years. I have been at the top of my career at national and internationally level and at a point, at the very bottom, when i started afresh in a strange land. And now back in upwards swing of my career again.

Many of those guys who shared the post made went ahead to gleefully call single mothers, like me, losers and misguided feminists. Divorced women who identify as feminists were called names. They blame their single and divorced status on feminism.

As early as I could remember, I have always found the concept of marriage not to be for me, and I made that clear early in life. Nothing has happened to change my mind. Is this down to my Feminism? No, absolutely not. It’s more about how I don’t want the society to define my relationship with a piece of certificate. I can see the allure of marriage in terms of tax savings and legal rights to visit and make life decisions for your partner when they are incapacitated and not able to act. However, I’d rather campaign for a change in the laws to grant same rights to long term couples who have no desire to go through the marriage certificate route, than go get married just to secure these rights. This is not about feminism, it is my personal preference.

I was in a long term live-in relationship with the father of my baby and my last long term live-in relationship was with a same sex person, a woman.  In both relationships, I certainly was not the cook. Did I expect my partners to cook for me? Capital No.

In both relationships, both partner loved cooking. The father of my son, an Urhobo man, loved cooking his local delicacies, the soups tasted divine. Even though I loved eating these delicacies, I wouldn’t even dream of learning to cook these dishes. It has nothing to do with Feminism, it’s just that I do not have any passion for cooking.

The woman I was in a live-in relationship with was a Calabar woman, and oh, did she love cooking? Of course, she did (I can see the stereotype there, apologies Calabar women!). She preferred to be the one making the food. It has nothing to do with gender roles, she was simply the better cook and yeah, she preferred making her Calabar dishes to eating the Yoruba dishes i made with my basic culinary expertise.  Again, this has nothing to do with feminism, it was a matter of prudent choice. I don’t think it is reasonable for an adult who is not incapacitated to wait for their partner to come home to cook for them when hungry just because they expect the woman to be the cook.

Where Feminism comes in the hash tag #WivesNotCooks, is when women are expected or mandated to be cooks. This is an ascribed gender role. Feminism is about breaking down gender barriers and deconstructing gender roles.

A woman can be a wife without being a cook.

A woman can be a cook without being a wife.

A woman can be a wife and be a bad cook.

A Woman can be a good cook and not care to be a wife.

A woman can be a wife and a good cook

When you use the word ‘Cook’ as a noun, and you expect your wife, based on her biological sex, to fulfil that role, you are perpetrating gender stereotype.

Feminism is about getting rid of gender stereotypes. It is about freeing women from the shackles of gender stereotypes. Everyone stands to benefit from deconstructing gender roles.

Women would be free to make their choices and able to reach for the highest pinnacle without social barriers or being judged for the choices they made, be it the decision to be a stay at home mother or the CEO of a global tech company.

Men would be free to explore their more sensitive side without fear of being judged and called the gender slur ‘ ‘pussy’. Free from gender roles and stereotypes. Free to cook for their partners. Free to understand that they don’t have to be ATMs for women as we no longer live in a gatherer/ hunter society.

The only people who stand to lose are people with the power who are reluctant to let go of their Male privilege.

It is no wonder that the many people who were gleefully sharing the post and attacking the hashtag #WivesNotCook were men. They shared it with so much gusto, screaming,“women listen to an experienced feminist. Cook for your husbands.”

When as a feminist, you write a post about feminism and the post is being shared with much approval by men, maybe you really should rethink your position.

People with power aren’t so eager to let go of their power and privilege. Maybe something in your post is enthrenching that power structure rather than challenging or deconstructing it.

It is like when a black person makes a post about racism and white people are the one gleefully sharing that post with the caption, “hey black people, listen to this respected black person on racism

In such instance, you can be sure that the white person has seen something that validates their reactionary position on racism, something that entrenches the hegemony, something that excuses them from looking at their white privilege. They are therefore eager to say “if a black person says this, then you ‘BlackLivesMatter’ fanatics must be wrong. Listen to what my ‘AllLivesMatter’ black friend is saying!”

If men are gleefully sharing what you thought was a feminist post on social media, I’d say, read it again, have a rethink. The post is probably not feminist at all. There are most probably words in it that entrenches gender roles. People with power and privilege are not always excited when their power and privileges are threatened or challenged in anyway. If majority of men are happy and praising you for your ‘matured feminist’ post, you can be fairly sure that it wasn’t a feminist position.

But cooking at home as a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, and whatever else you may want to classify me as, when it comes to that role I take it as mine and very seriously too.

The thing about this is that it is a personal preference. A passion. It has nothing to do with feminism. It should not be an arbiter to decide who is a good feminist or not. It shouldn’t be used as a measurement to decide who is a good wife or not.

Bottom line is, people are different. Women are different. Expecting all women to love cooking and entertaining is so unnatural and unfair. Judging women on their cooking ability or passion for cooking and entertaining is ludicrous and gross in this day and age. Do you, and let others be themselves.

It is no wonder that men jumped on this and use it to declare that women should listen. Of course, they would say so because it entrenches gender role. It is a statement clearly proclaiming that a woman’s role certainly encompasses cooking and entertaining hubby’s friends. It is balderdash.

Is it any wonder that Nigeria’s president proclaimed to the world that his wife’s role is in the kitchen and the ‘other room’?

Men talk about wanting to give women equal rights but say there is a limit to this “equality madness”.

First, who says, equality is yours to give?

Men do not own equality as a matter of right., just as White people or Heterosexuals do not own equality.

Equality is not yours to give out or hold back as you please, just because you are at the top of the hegemony.

As the great Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, sang, “You cant dash me human rights. Human right na my property, So therefore you can’t dash me my property”.

Equality is our joint property.  We all have equal stake in it. This idea that it is for men to give women equality is part of the problem. This is why we still have men saying things like, “My wife must cook for me.

No, your wife is not your cook. The fact that she is married to you does not mean she must do anything. She is still a human being with freewill.

What you should talk about is the expectations you have of each other, not one based on gender roles but one based on mutual discussion, respect and appreciation of each other’s personalities and passions.

Maintaining a home as a couple is a shared responsibility. In this age, the decision of who takes care of certain home responsibilities should not depend on whether you have a dick or a vagina.

Gender roles hold us back, stop being so limited in your thinking, break down that gender wall and let’s embrace a society where people are free to be themselves without the constraints of gender stereotypes.

You are not a decorated trophy but strong, opinionated women that know what you want and that includes being submissive to your men. Sorry babes, we are just wired that way.

No, we are not wired that way. The society, these stereotyped Mills and Boons romance novels, Disney and Hollywood movies based on socially constructed gender roles, made us believe we want to be submissive to a man.

No, we are not all the same. Not every woman wants to worship at the altar of a man’s fragile ego.

Not all women want to  wait hands and foot on their husbands.

Not every woman wants a man as a partner, some women do have same sex partners.

We are no longer in the hunter/gatherer era where men must go hunt and women stayed home to do the cooking. The world is much more advanced than that. We evolved out of that era a long time ago.

Women don’t have to cook to be worthy of being called wife material.

Men don’t have to be ATMs to be husband material.

You don’t have to be loud and argumentative to be a feminist.

You could be as quiet as a mouse and still be a strong feminist.

You could be loud and argumentative and still be a feminist.

You could be a good cook who cooks at home for her family and still be a feminist.

You could be a good cook who does not cook for her family and still be a feminist.

You could be a single mother who cooks for her cchildren and still be a feminist.

You could be a single mother who does not cook and still be a feminist.

You could be a single woman who loves cooking and still be a feminist.

You could be a single woman who hates cooking and still be a feminist.

Your Feminist credentials do not depend on your ability or willingness to cook.

Gender roles are constructed by the society, they are not biological.

Be nurturing, be submissive, be dominant, be whatever you want to be in your relationship, so far it is with mutual consent and no one is put in harm’s way, it is your life, your choice. However, do not seek to impose that choice on others.

Feminism asserts the right of women to choose to be what they want to be, devoid of social constrains, barriers or gender expectations. Feminist is not a bad tag; wear it with pride, at all times.

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