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!

 

I Am Beautiful and I know It

It is so cringeworthy when people tell me i am beautiful and I accept it at face value with a nod to my own beauty but as a reward they want me to grovel at their feet or expect I say something self-devaluing like  “Oh no, you are just being nice, I am not all that.” Of course, i am all that and much more too, thanks for the observation!

I woke up this morning to this awesome video by Daysha Edewi titled “What If I Knew I Was Beautiful”. My fb friend had commented on the video on Facebook and tagged me and I went, “OMG, this video is so me!” [Read more…]

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…]

Periods: The Shame and Shaming

I am not a fan of the menstrual cycle but i understand it is a natural part of making new human lives and this is great. If there was any intelligent designer, aka God, women wouldn’t need to bleed every month for new human lives to be possible, and this is one reason i can say God is not a woman.

It is sad that the society portrays menstruation as an obscene, dirty thing women should be ashamed of. As a teenager, I was scared and ashamed to go into chemists’ shops to purchase sanitary pads and it did not help that the people behind the counters were usually men. Most times, I found myself going from one shop to the other, praying and hoping there would be a woman behind the counter. If the shame i felt could kill, i would have died at the spot!

Thanks to feminism and the liberation it brings, I now buy my sanitary pads and tampons with pride. Gone are the days I made extra efforts to keep my sanitary pads hidden under the bulk of my shopping, now i make a point of not hiding it under any grocery/shopping. This ‘little’ act feels like liberation from century old shackles. [Read more…]

Losing weight is not an endorsement or indictment of another woman’s body: Stop the Fatphobia!

I posted some recent pictures of myself on my facebook wall with the following caption:IMG-20150202-WA0002

Dividends of working out at the gym.
I can have a sleepover at my mum’s and not bother to take extra clothing, just so i can walk away with some of her new clothes and of course jewellery. Now, she can’t say, “Yemisi, don’t take it, it is not your size!” lol!
Jacket- My sister’s (Now mine)
Red sweater underneath- My mum’s (Now mine)
Brand new Leggings- My mum’s (Now mine)
Hair – All mine, just nicely retouched for me by my mum.
Winning all round!

Yemmylicious ed

Funny enough, a facebook friend who also identifies as an atheist came on the post thread and left a series of comments. These comments exposed an underlying hatred of plus size women, sexism and showed an endorsement of street harassment , cos well, according to him, women are supposed to provide visual orgasms for strangers on the streets, and you should be ashamed if you are not deemed sexy enough by strangers. BTW, he thinks only outsiders can decide if you are sexy or not.

Anyway, I decided to share these exchanges because, you never know just how many people especially those who claim to be rational thinkers, share these vile opinions. [Read more…]

Calling Out Misogyny or Bullying is Not An Attack; It is a Social Duty!

There is this unfortunate trend in social media where calling out someone for their sexist, misogynist, and/or inhumane remarks is seen more as an invitation for a fight rather than an opportunity to engage in rational discussion. Many, especially women, are discouraged from calling out sexist, misogynist, or stereotype remarks made by friends on social media like Facebook or Twitter, for fear of being tagged as the “type of feminist that gives feminism a bad name”.

There seems to be a renewed effort to tag outspoken,social justice conscious women as aggressive, judgemental, over-sensitive ‘bitches’ who just want to ruin everyone’s fun. It is particularly sad that this type of silencing technique is becoming even more prevalent in the Humanist/Atheist space.

November 17th-24th is  anti-bullying week and I pledged sometime ago not to be a bystander when I witness bullying. Of course, this has somehow earned me a reputation as the “fun ruiner”, especially amongst some of my fb friends.  Whenever i post or comment on such issues, it is at the risk of being referred to as the “type of feminist” they don’t like. Therefore, such discussions tend to irritate some ‘friends’ and many do get aggressively defensive when called out. However, i am sure that those who resort to aggressive behaviour when called out on how they treat others do not deserve the space they occupy on my virtual/real friendship list, simples.

I was shocked when I came across the status update below from a somehow close FB friend who identify as humanist and feminist: [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…]

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…]

Religion, LGBT rights and military regimes: Interview in Solidarity Newspaper

Kate Harris interviews Yemisi Ilesanmi

Published in Workers Liberty’s Solidarity Newspaper

How did you get to where you are today as an LGBT activist and out bisexual woman?

It has been an interesting, tasking, journey towards self-awareness. It is also a journey that has involved studying society and finding my place in it. It is a continuous journey and one where I have to constantly remind myself that I have a right to be who I am in a world that is desperate to make me into what they would rather I be.

I started being politically and socially aware of my human rights at an early age. I was born in Nigeria in the mid-70s and grew up in a society that was marred with constant military coup d’états. There was no stable democracy. It was confusing because people took to the streets to celebrate successful coup d’états. I wondered why it was a good thing for the military to forcefully overthrow elected officials. But the people’s response was that the elected officials were corrupt. However, after having a taste of what military dictatorship means, people stopped celebrating coups. This started the difficult journey towards demanding and organising for a civilian regime where they would have a say in electing their own political leaders.  [Read more…]

Physically attacked at an atheist event by a fellow ‘feminist’ atheist!

I always thought if I were ever to be attacked by someone I only knew from social media especially Facebook, it would be by a homophobe, biphobe, 385838_210204545725456_192116174200960_481213_799145023_ntransphobe or a religious fanatic who didn’t like my LGBT rights advocacy or anti-religion posts. Never in my dreams would I have thought I would experience a physical attack and verbal abuse at an atheist event from a female Facebook friend who identifies as a feminist and an atheist!

Until now, my casual encounters with people who only knew me from Facebook have been positive. From the ones I ran into in London tubes to the ones who excitedly introduced themselves as my fb friends at social events or gave me heartfelt hugs at London pride, it has been positive experience until now. Get ready to hear the full gist, don’t forget to get your popcorn! [Read more…]

Of Rape graders and Hero worship.

Richard Dawkins ill-informed attempt to grade rape triggered discussions and heated debates on the issue of rape. Sure enough, rape apologists and victim blamers used the opportunity to proudly show off their self-inflicted ignorance and bigotry on the issue of Rape. It was also another avenue for hero worship. I did get some very worrisome responses on my Facebook wall to my blogpost RichardDawkins@Confused.Com: No one said you endorsed rape, what you did was grade rape and that is appalling. It also exposes the fact that many are actually happy to blame victims but won’t admit that they are rape apologists.

I plan on making some of these discussions into a blogpost but first I need to get this very misguided, unconscionable comment made by a proudly ignorant person out of the way.

Trigger alert- Contains Trivialisation of Rape. [Read more…]

Nigerian Trans woman, Ms Sahhara, wins Ms Super Sireyna Worldwide: Eat your heart out Transphobic Nigeria!

I was delighted when the beautiful, multi- talented Ms Sahhara was declared the winner of Super Sireyna Worldwide, 2014 at the grand finale in 10513314_162106167322674_1317010551276969853_nPhilippines. She also won the best Talent award and her national costume was fabulous!

Ms Super Sireyna is the most watched Transgender Beauty Pageant on Philippine Television, Eat Bulaga. The pageant aims to showcase the beauty of Super Sireynas and to foster camaraderie amongst contestants and Sireynas worldwide. It grades contestants on looks, talent and wit.

Ms Sahhara is a Nigerian Trans Woman who resides in UK. She is very visible on social media. She uses her social networks to advocate for LGBT Rights and promote Trans visibility. She entered the pageant as Miss Nigeria.  Her interview section was great! She answered her questions with poise, intelligence and was witty to the core! She also used the platform to highlight the problems LGBT Nigerians face due to criminalisation of their sexual orientation, gender identity and the negative societal attitudes towards LGBTs.

In her entry video for the competition Super Sireyna Worldwide Nigeria 2014, she explained why she was competing. She stated that if given the chance to wear the crown, she will use the opportunity to enlighten people about Trans’ issues. She believes if people don’t understand things, they should ask questions. The video was made as part of her preparation for the competition. She obviously prepared with passion and dedication for the pageant. It wasn’t just about beauty, it was also about talent, creativity and passion. The video is quite informative and worth watching. [Read more…]

RichardDawkins@Confused.Com: No one said you endorsed rape, what you did was grade rape and that is appalling!

Watching the downward spiral of Richard Dawkins from a respected scientist and atheist to a cringeworthy tweeter commentator is indeed Richard-Dawkinssaddening.

The latest embarrassing and thoughtless tweets of the Professor has generated yet another media storm and a lot of criticism and not forgetting the usual dose of worship from the “Richard Dawkins can do no wrong” worshippers. What I find amusing and of course saddening is how he refuses to acknowledge the constructive criticisms levelled at his tweets but chose instead to spew bigotry and disdain from his high pedestal at his critiques. To boot, he tries to make himself out as a victim of witch hunts!

The Professor and his apologists are going to ridiculous length to ‘clarify’ the intentions behind his tweets. Richard Dawkins wanted us to know he was not endorsing rape, but who the heck said he was endorsing rape? It is like the man wants to direct our attention away from the major blunder he committed by using an obvious defence, only that no one attacked him with that tool, so using that particular defence is basically pointless. We are no children that can be tempted away from the main issues just because he flashed a candy at us.

Below are the Richard Dawkins’ tweets in question, one can see how the tweets spiralled out of the control of Richard Dawkins.  RD even went on a tantrum when he couldn’t believe that people were even more stupid than he thought. Sighs. [Read more…]