I believe one of the biggest challenges we face as feminists is seeing women making patriarchal choices or choices we consider patriarchal and understanding it’s their choice. Honestly, this might seem like the easiest thing to do because we are advocating for the freedom for women to choose but it is one of our biggest challenges.
I didn’t just draw this from the air, let me give an instance. Not too long before I wrote this, a popular Nigerian comedian actor praised his wife on social media, mentioning that she put on hold her medical career to take care of his business. As expected, many feminists found this information uncomfortable – me included.
Now, someone might say, “why is someone else’s life choice making you uncomfortable?” Well, I guess one of the reasons it is, is because we want women to have their own careers and be financially independent. The fact that we have the destructive consequence of women being financially dependent naturally makes us fearful for her.
Of course, there is the argument from some quarters that it is her choice and since she is an adult, we cannot rightly decide for her no matter what we believe the consequences will be. And this is the meat of this post; what I want to discuss – the challenge of respecting different choices. The way I see it, those who are saying she should be left with her choice are right and those who are still sceptical with this choice are also right. Let me explain why I think so.
In the first instance, it is possible that she actually made a calculated decision with her husband based on circumstances that we are not privy to. It is very possible that they both weighed their options and decided, she putting her career on hold was the best decision for their family. Now, like I said earlier, it still made me uncomfortable despite knowing this but while we would argue that both parties having their career is the wisest decision, we also have to understand that life is not so black and white; there are different shades of grey as well. And maybe due to one of these shades, just maybe, this decision was hers and solely hers – after she weighed her options.
For the second school of thought however, we have seen many cases where women were practically forced to take a decision that favours a man and they tell us it’s the woman’s choice. A woman could be threatened with the end of the union – and we all know how divorced women are shamed in our society – and then when she concedes, we would be told it’s her choice. But is it though?
And there is also the fact that sometimes, women make these choices because they don’t know better. I mean we cannot deny the fact that we have all had to deal with internalised misogyny at some point in our life. In fact, even those of us who are feminists today had to unlearn and are still unlearning a lot that society taught us. So, could the woman have made that decision based on internalised misogyny as well? Could she have made that decision thinking that’s the only option she has left? It is very possible and examples abound of women making conscious decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise have made if they knew better.
So, you see why I agree with both parties. However, I am going to still have to say this to conclude. So as not to put a dent in our struggle or sound hypocritical, we may have to be comfortable with women making choices that we wouldn’t make for ourselves. We say our advocacy is for women having choices, then we need to be comfortable with all the choices women make, especially when we are not privy to the prevailing circumstances. If the woman herself comes out to complain, then we can rise up for her. But at the moment, when we see such things, we have to be okay with it and accord her the respect of knowing what’s good for her. All we can do in the meantime is keep raising awareness, so women can unlearn all the misogynistic BS most of us were brought up with.
This is my opinion but I admit that others might not feel the same and I’m open to discourse. What do you think? Do you agree?