Five Assumptions We Should Avoid Making

I was working out at my gym when two gym regulars decided to strike up a conversation with me.

Gym regular (Male) – You have lost a lot of weight

Gym regular (Female) -Yeah, I told her so too.

Me – Oh, yeah, thanks, the hard work is showing.

Gym regular (Male) – I am sure your husband will be happy

Me – I don’t have a husband. I am single

Gym Regulars – What, you mean you are single?

I am sure you will not be single for long!

Me– I am happily single.

And you know it does not have to be husband.

Maybe i have a wife, or a girlfriend. Maybe i have both.

Gym regulars (both) – Hmm, i guess that is true.

Me – Yeah, just don’t assume it has to be a husband.

Gym regular (Male)- Well, you are right; it could be a husband, a wife, husbands and wives with Mistresses or Misters and a butler too.

Me – Now you get the idea

Gym regular (Male) – Well, if i had all these i wouldn’t come to the gym!

Me- (Laughing)-I suppose one would be too tired performing marital and extramarital duties.

I found this random but interesting  exchange full of assumptions I wish I did not encounter daily.

Below are 5 assumptions and lessons from the above conversation-

1- The assumption that telling women they have lost weight is a compliment

I never know how to respond when people, especially people I hardly know, tell me I have lost weight. Saying “Thank you” does not sound right because, really, it is just an observation. If such observations were followed by comments like “I admire your determination and commitment to your workouts”, I would happily and graciously respond with “Thank you” because there is a compliment somewhere in there. However just observing that i have lost weight and expecting me to say thank you for stating the obvious does not cut it, it just feels awkward.

There are situations I have felt completely at ease when told I have lost weight by people I hardly interact with. For example, there was this time a guy whom I had seen around at the gym but never spoken to literally  stopped in his tracks when he saw me arrived for my workouts. He started smiling and said, “I went away for a few weeks and you lost half of your bodyweight”. His body language was non-threatening and it was obvious he was just surprised. I started laughing along with him cos his surprise was genuine and laughter contagious.

However, there was this other instance a guy blatantly interrupted my workout just to tell me I have lost weight. As I was busy counting my reps in my mind, I did not respond because I did not want to lose focus and frankly, I did not want to be disturbed. The guy however stood beside me glaring, clearly expecting a response and his stance was physically antagonistic. As I was not giving him the acknowledgement he felt he deserved, he repeated, “You have lost weight”, I briefly glanced at him, responded, “Yes, I know”, and continued with my workout. He was clearly not pleased with my response. What exactly was he expecting? He was probably expecting a gushing “Thanks for noticing that I have lost weight” response!

It is disturbing that many assume that telling a woman that they have lost weight is a compliment.  Why do many feel this incessant urge to comment on other people’s weight especially when their opinion was not solicited?

2- The assumption that every single woman wants to be in a relationship

Please stop making that nasty, sympathetic sound when a woman tells you she is single. Being single is not something that should elicit sympathy, especially not from strangers.

Single women should not need to reassure anyone that they are happily single just so the pitying looks would stop. 318461_10150505434059409_883031157_nDo not immediately jump in to assure a single woman that they will get a man soon.

Single people who wish to be in a relationship do not need a sympathetic look or hasty assurances from you. Being single is nothing to be ashamed of; it is not a shortcoming. Unless you are planning on asking the person concerned out, their relationship status should not be of any concern to you.

Never assume everyone wants to be in a relationship. I don’t like it when people, especially strangers, assume that as a single woman, I must necessarily be looking to get hooked up. There are single women who are seriously not interested in getting into relationships, just as there are those who are seriously looking to get into relationships. It is a personal thing and the generalisation that being a single woman translates to “desperately looking to get hooked”, is just not right.

I hate having to qualify my ‘singlehood’ with the words “I am happily single”. However, asserting that one is happily single seems to be the only thing that takes away the pitying looks people dart our way when told we are single.

It is OK not to be happily single. I can be single and be looking to get into a relationship, but just have not found the right person yet. However, this does not mean I need to be pitied.

It is also OK to be single, ready to mingle and not seriously searching. This should not evoke pity from anyone.

Relationship status is a personal issue. We should not assume we know the reason for the relationship status of others. As a single woman, I definitely do not need anyone assuming the reason for my relationship status.  I don’t need anyone reassuring me that it will get better. ‘Singlehood’ is not a disease that needs to be cured or an appalling status that must be rectified!

3- The assumption that everyone is heterosexual.

Assuming that everyone is heterosexual gets on my nerves. With all the enlightenment going on about lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender issues, i find it rude when people just assume the sexual orientation of a stranger. Yes, we get it; heterosexuality is the default setting. However in this day and age, we should make an effort to acknowledge that there are other sexual orientation besides heterosexuality.

When someone says they are single, we should not assume they are looking for opposite sex partners. For all we know, they might be gay, bisexual, pansexual or just queer. If we must refer to their relationship status, it is safer and non-assuming to use the word “Partner”.

4- The assumption that women embark on weight loss programs to snag a man.

Why oh why do people still assume women embark on weight loss programs because they want to snag a man? This assumption is so insulting. There are many reasons people embark on a weight loss program, snagging a man does not always make the list and if it does, it might be at the bottom of the list. You know, it is not impossible for a woman to lose weight for herself, because she can and because it is a new look she wants to embrace.

For someone like me who loves being a curvy woman, i would not consider losing weight because of social expectations. I would not talk about my weight loss in a manner that express horror at my former weight. It is sad that in an effort to compliment someone who has lost weight, some do so in a manner that expresses total disdain for the former weight of the person they are ‘complimenting’. So what happens if the person gained back the weight? Do we look at them in horror? Do we expect them to hide from the public since we have told them what we think of their overweight self? This fascination with other people’s weight is body policing and it breeds insecurity.

I was beautiful at my former weight, I am beautiful at my present weight, and I will be beautiful at whatever weightScreen-Shot-2014-10-29-at-11.09.03-AM in the future. How could I be sure of this? Well, it is because no matter what anybody says, I will always see myself as beautiful. I see myself through my own lens and not from the point of view of others. Call it narcissism, but I always love what i see, regardless of shape or size. It is my body and it is my project to mould as i see fit. I might decide to share the pleasures of my body with a partner or two, but i won’t be moulding my body to fit the expectations of any partner or society.

It is appalling and very disrespectful when people not only assume but also blatantly state that what women do with their body is and should be for the benefit of men. It is outrageously assumed that as a woman, my appearance , gym workouts, makeup, dress choice, shoes, hairstyle and even my smile are all for the benefits of men. To justify occupying public space, a woman is expected to make an effort with her appearance to please men and smile while at it.  Please stop with the dreadful and terrible assumptions. These assumptions are patriarchal, sexist and very harmful to half of the world’s population. Women are not adornments to brighten a man’s world.

5- The assumption that all Bisexuals are Polyamorous.

Bisexuals and polyamory are not the same.  Bisexuality, like heterosexuality and homosexuality, is a sexual orientation. Polyamory, like monogamy and polygamy, is a life style choice. Do not confuse sexual orientation with a life style choice. It is especially frustrating and very telling that this confusion occurs when bisexuality is under discussion.  2015-06-27 15.23.35.jpg resized

As a bisexual, when I mention that I might have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, do not jump to the conclusion that I want both.

Please be aware that-

  • Some bisexuals are polyamorous, not all bisexuals are polyamorous.
  • Some heterosexuals are monogamous, not all heterosexuals are monogamous
  • Some gays are monogamous, not all gays are monogamous
  • Some people are polygamous, not all people are polygamous.
  • Some people, be they heterosexual, gay, bisexual, pansexual or queers are polyamorous, not all people, be they heterosexual, gay, bisexual, pansexual or queers are polyamorous.

It is tiring to have to explain to people that being a bisexual does not mean I am looking to hook up with a man, a woman, and my butler!

 

Serena Williams: Racism, Sexism and the Champion

Serena Williams gave us another ‪‎Serenaslam. She is unarguably one of the greatest of all times. At 33, when most men and women champions are catching their retirement cheques, Serena Williams is saying ‘You aint seen anything yet!’ Serena Williams is at her best ever and she is here to stay. What an inspirational athlete!

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The Williams sisters not only changed the face of Tennis, they took it to a higher level. In a game where racism still unashamedly rears its ugly head, where sexism and beauty stereotypes mean the best athlete who happens to be black, gets less endorsement deals than the white blonde she has dominated for years, one cannot but admire the determination of the Williams sisters to excel in their game. Their many victories are inspirational and legendary.

We cannot ignore the racism the Williams sisters have faced over the years in a game that is predominantly white and traditionally elitist. [Read more…]

BeingFemaleInNigeria: The viral hashtag, the tweets and my take on it

#BeingFemaleInNigeria is a hashtag that went viral in Nigeria just barely hours after it was first tweeted by members of a small book club. The hashtag started trending in many countries including UK. I would have loved for the hashtag to read ‘BeingaWomanInNigeria’ because the word ‘Female’ has its own social construct problem. However, i am over the moon that this very important conversation, which got the whole nation talking, was started by a very small book club.

The book club members had gathered to read their book of the month, an essay titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Nigerian award winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. According to a member of the book club, Florence Warmate, the discussion got very interesting and members started sharing their personal experiences of sexism in Nigeria. They decided not to leave it there but start a conversation on social media about what it is like being a woman in Nigeria.

Florence Warmate posted her first tweet on the subject using the agreed hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria. Hours later, it was trending on twitter. It was interesting that a small group of women could ignite a national discussion via social media in a matter of hours. Clearly, it was a discussion Nigerian women (and some men too), were dying to have. [Read more…]

The curious case of Rachel Dolezal

When Rachel Dolezal was outed as a Caucasian woman in blackface, the story almost broke the internet. Several daystumblr_inline_npu43mC6mM1qfb043_500 later, we are still trying to put the pieces together. So far, the story has served as a platform to discuss racism and cultural appropriation. However, it has also served as a platform for transphobes to pontificate on gender and redefine transracial.

Rachel Dolezal, 37 year old part-time professor in the Africana studies program at Eastern Washington University, was outed by her Caucasian parents, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, as a white woman pretending to be black. Following the social media attention, Rachel Dolezal handed in her resignation as president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She tendered her resignation without any sign of remorse, later followed by an exclusive live interview with NBC News where she insisted-

I definitely am not white, I’m more black than I am white. That’s the accurate answer from my truth.

Rachel seems to think her chosen truth trumps facts. You can choose your truth but you can’t choose your facts. She seems to have a history of choosing her truths with total disregard for facts.

On several occasions, Rachel Dolezal has claimed to be the victim of hate crimes. However, Investigators have not been able to find evidence to substantiate her claims. In fact, it was an effort to connect the dots in her latest hate [Read more…]

#Ferguson: Mike brown and the “It is not a race thing” Apologists.

I have been unable to bring myself to write a blogpost on ‪#‎Ferguson for weeks now. Reading the updates is overwhelmingly heart wrenching. However, my sadness and pain won’t shield me from the myriad of stupid, wilfully ignorant and racist comments and memes that pops up on my newsfeed. If anything, those comments, status updates and memes contribute to my pain and anger. Michael Brown, 19, was unarmed when he was shot eight times in the middle of a street in Ferguson. And now, there is the case of Eric Garner, an African American choked to death by a white police officer.

It is disheartening when in an attempt to deny the racial aspect involved in Mike Brown’s murder, people who should know better post things like:

“This is not a race thing”

“I married a white person, my in-laws are white and they are not racists “

“All black people are not criminals; All white people are not racists”

“What if Mike brown was white?”

“Can’t we just move on?”

“But all lives matter!”

Those comments expose the comfortable ignorance people maintain on race related issues. Many white people are quick to deny white privilege. Some black people are quick to exclaim in unison with their white in-laws, “Not all white people are racists, can’t we just move on?”

An atheist black friend who should know better posted a video purportedly showing Mike Brown shoplifting, without any clarification and the first commenter, another black person, immediately wrote, “He shoplifted, he should be shot.” [Read more…]

Bullies Are Not Born; They Are Made.

Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachersstop-bully-logo laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.

There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.

The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies.  Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class.  Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.

This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.

I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]

On the street harassment video: Calling out racism should not drown out the sexism in the video.

When I watched the street harassment video titled 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, my first thought was, forget 10 hours, that is my experience as a woman 557264_423393704397930_1730387465_nwalking the 10 minutes distance to my gym!

Catcalls and street harassments are daily experiences many women have learned to live with. Many of us have spoken out against this experience many times. However, are we ever taken seriously? No. Instead, trolls invade such posts with excuses like “Not every man”, “I am not your kind of feminist”, “This is why I hate feminists”… blahblahblah

Therefore, I was actually happy just to see a video documenting an actual experience of catcalls and street harassment going viral. In all honesty, I was not looking at the skin colour of the guys in the video, I was more about their words and often I went,  oh, I have heard that or oh that is a popular one. I guess to me, my street harassers have one thing in common, they are men, they say the same shit, they want control, they treat me like objects, and they feel entitled to my body. They are men that feel entitled to my time, who feel they must compliment my body and they get annoyed when I don’t beam at their validation of my beauty. They get angry when I don’t smile when they command me to smile on the street while going about my errands, some even get violent when I don’t reciprocate their unsolicited attention. They do all these regardless of their skin colour. So nope, I was not watching out for skin colour of my everyday street harasser in that video because what binds street harassers together is not their skin colour but their male identity, male privilege or better put, misogyny.

However, I was glad when people started pointing out the racial aspect of the video, especially when the maker of the video was exposed for a similar racist editing he had done in a previous ad video and also a homeless man makeover ad video.  The discussions were good and enlightening.

However, as a woman who is very much affected by this catcalling, street harassment culture, I am worried that in an attempt to call out racism, focus is being taken [Read more…]

Sensationalising the Plight of African LGBTs

I am often approached at LGBT events especially at protests rallies by filmmakers and journalists who want to write a piece or make a 04338_yemisi_ilesanmidocumentary on the ‘horrible’ situation of African Lesbians and gays (they hardly take cognizance of bisexuals and Trans).

There is no doubt that African LGBTs who reside in countries where their sexual orientation is criminalised face a daunting task. Living a closeted life or choosing to face the consequences of being out and proud in a society where one’s sexual orientation is criminalised is frightening and dehumanising. I have been there, I am still there, and I know how horrible the threats can be. So yes, I understand why the filmmakers and writers are fascinated with telling this horror story.

However, a recurring theme makes me cringe every time I am approached by filmmakers or journalists demanding that I tell the horror stories or at least provide them some graphic pictures of violence suffered by African LGBTs. There is this fascination with the horror stories and abused bodies of African LGBTs that I am beginning to wonder if it is a voyage into morbid porn and/or just another way to portray Africans as victims.

When I inform these filmmakers and journalists that I do not have pictures of abused African LGBTS to share with them, they are immediately crestfallen. It is my opinion that most of them haunt African LGBT activists protest grounds not because they are interested in the fight for African LGBT Rights but because they see the plight of African LGBTs as a way of furthering their career in Journalism or film industry.

A heart-wrenching, graphic documentary on the abuses suffers by African LGBTs and why African LGBTS need white saviours could turn a [Read more…]

Body Parts And Little Things We Take For Granted

My waist is broken. Sadly, it is not a sex injury; it is probably a gym injury. Excruciating lower back pain sent me running to the doctors again.SDC14523 Last week it was flu, this week it is broken waist, i smell foul play. Now, I must ask my doctor why my waist can no longer support my big bums.

It is painful and somewhat embarrassing. I can barely seat or bend. Lying in bed is difficult and turning sideways is as scary as hell would be if it were real. I get some funny looks because I now walk in a Zombie-like manner. I cannot afford to swing my waist and hips as usual, one of these little things I used to take for granted!

I said “Sadly it it not a sex injury” because in a way, it would make me feel better if it were at least an injury sustained when trying out some 50 shades of Grey positions.  Actually, the ‘sex injury’ reference is cultural. In Nigeria where I grew up, waist injury is associated with ‘prolific sex’. When lovers or potential lovers flirt, it is common to hear exchanges like “I will break your waist o”. It is a reference to how prolific they are (or think they are) in bed. I grew up hearing this myth and even local musicians sang of it. Therefore, when i finally had a broken waist without the benefits of the sex, I feel cheated. At least the memories of pleasurable orgasm could have put a smile on my face when I scream “ouch” whenever the pain hits.

I now attract puzzled looks from passengers in the bus and on the street with my constant shouts of  “Ouch”, “Shit men”, “Fuck” as yet another pain jolts through my waist as i attempt to go about my daily business!

Since it seems I will be stuck indoors for a few days while I heal, I stopped at a supermarket to get grocery. One of the shoppers suddenly [Read more…]

Just another sexist and racist encounter at the hospital

After many failed attempts to get an appointment at the surgery, I decided I was not going to endure another restless, sleepless, sweaty, tossing and turning night, so I dragged myself to my local Accident & Emergency/Walk in Center. At the entrance to the hospital is a big sign that reads, “If you have flu, stay at home, and call your GP”.  Well, I have flu-like symptoms and I have spent the last three days trying to get an appointment with my GP to no avail.  Majority of the NHS surgeries now have a rule that one can only book an appointment on the particular day within the hour of 8:00am -9:00am. Anything outside that, one would have to wait until the next day and start the process again. The problem is, as soon as it is 8:00am, the line becomes engaged. Try every minute and you will keep getting the busy tone. It is frustrating.

Anyway, I decided I have not been diagnosed with Flu, I needed treatment, and i am not going to self-diagnose or self-prescribe. Therefore, I walked to the reception room, and requested to see a doctor.

The following discussion ensued- [Read more…]

Creeps, creeps, creeps everywhere; Atheist movement sure has more than its fair share of creeps!

An enlightening piece titled Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? was recently published on buzzfeed by Mark Oppenheimer. It is a long read that exposes the sexist, misogynistic behaviour of some well-known male Atheists leaders. I guess they are referred to as Atheist leaders because they are well paid to speak at atheists events, coveted by the media and well, some of them have written popular books, but as an atheist and feminist, I wouldn’t think of many of these creeps as ‘leaders’ in any way.

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The article particularly focused on the many allegations of sexual harassment surrounding Michael Shermer. It also exposes the indefensible thought process of those in power who have protected and shielded him from the consequences of his questionable actions towards women at Atheist conventions.
James Randy was quoted in the article as saying- [Read more…]

Everyday Sexism: Catcalls and Street Harassment

Every time I step outside my door to go about my daily business, I brace myself for the inevitable catcalls and various street harassment. I am557264_423393704397930_1730387465_n used to these catcalls. Catcalls are a constant reminder that I am a woman in a patriarchal society. However, I still get angry at the catcalls and the unwanted, unsolicited attention thrown my way on the street. I still get riled up when I am accosted on the street by strangers who have no qualms about asking me to smile for them. Even though these are daily occurrences, I still get angry and sad each time it occurs.  For example:

Just this morning I was rushing to make an appointment, when out of the blues, a guy suddenly stuck his coconut shaped head mere inches from my face and asked “Where is the smile?” I had to take a deep breath to resist the urge to make a snarky comment like “Your coconut head just smashed a month’s worth of smiles from my face”.

It still beats me why men think every woman who dared to walk the street owe them a smile. I bet this toady, ignoramus man would not dare stick his coconut head on the face of another man he hardly knows on the street and go “Where is the smile?” He would probably get punched in the face and people would say he deserved to be punched. But, if I as a woman had reacted that way or even caused a scene, I would be called an overreacting, sensitive, ungrateful bitch. Yeah, it’s a sexist, chauvinistic world alright, different rules apply.  All I could do was side-stepped his coconut head and walked away from his toady eyes without a comment. I was not about to let one of the many chauvinist ignoramuses walking the street make me miss an important appointment. The sad part is, most times, women do not even have the choice to just walk away as my next sexist encounter shows. [Read more…]

“We do not learn about our history by sitting in cages or sitting in slave ships and re-enacting how many lashes we had and seeing our skins with all those abrasions.” On Exhibit B-The human zoo. A great talk by Esther Stanford-Xosei.

The Barbican center is yet to cancel the awfully racist, dehumanising and traumatising exhibition titled ‘Exhibit B’ by white South African, Brett Bailey. Exhibit B- the human zoo, is a dehumanising, racist voyeurism in the name of art.

Below is a video of a great talk by “Reparationist, Jurisconsult, dynamic community advocate and radio Broadcaster Esther Stanford-Xosei” courtesy of London Live 360 TV  It is a must watch interview!

  [Read more…]

Exhibiting Africans in a Human Zoo is not Art, it is Racist Voyeurism! Please sign this petition.

The Human Zoo exhibition ‘Exhibit B’ by white South African Brett Bailey is disgusting and dehumanising! As a black woman in the 21st century, my skin colour or body should not be on exhibition for the voyeuristic, closeted pleasure of racist privileged white people. My ancestors already suffered this humiliation, I should not have to watch it happen again under the pathetic excuse of “It is Art”.

If the people at the Barbican Centre cannot see why this is racist and dehumanising, they need to raise their social consciousness and awareness.

As for the artist, white South African Brett Bailey, I think he already knows that he is a racist asshole, afterall his reported use of the ‘N’ words testify to this.

It is not art, it is an outlet for him and his fellow racist, privileged white people to enjoy voyeuristic, closeted racist pleasure at the expense of [Read more…]

When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege.

Elon James White‏@elonjames

If I say #BlackLifeMatters and your response is “Why not EVERY life?” Unfollow me. You dont get it & I dont have time to explain it to you.”

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I came across the tweet above and i had to say, “Well said, Elon James White, well said“. Unfortunately this kind of tweets always get some of my white friends on facebook in a twist. What is so unfortunate is that some of them think they are well meaning people who want equal rights for all. If only they would take a minute to do their research and understand how the society they live in works. Everyone should learn to see their own privilege, be it skin colour, sexual identity, sex birth, geographical location, religion or class.

To be blind to your privilege is to not understand or see how you benefit from the society due to your status, a status you might not be conscious of but which is enough to deny the persons who don’t have that status the benefits you get. Heck, it might even cause the persons their lives while you go around not even acknowledging that you have that privilege. Yes, it is frustrating.

A few of my very good white friends on social media think this is sad and they don’t like it when I put up such status calling out [Read more…]