By Aisha Musa Auyo
‘If you don’t want to be criticized, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. – Unknown
This article is inspired by a Facebook post asking why women were yet to send opinion articles to an online news medium despite sending them numerous invitations.
Northern Nigerian (‘Hausa-Muslim’) women have peculiar characteristics that distinguish them from others. First, their personality is governed by religion and culture, with irksome societal expectations that women belong to the home, kitchen and the other room.
Thus, women are expected to keep their views to themselves. They can only talk when the matter is homemaking affairs regardless of their level of education, experience and expertise. When a northern woman comes out to write or make her views known to the public, she should be ready to face the consequences of that action for the rest of her life.
Suppose you are active in this social media village. In that case, you will notice how women are ridiculed, dragged to the mud, abused, misunderstood, misquoted, and sometimes lies and falsehoods spread about them. These issues do not start and stop on social media. Even friends and families tend to misquote or misinterpret write-ups and then spread them to others who may have missed them. Others may take the write-up personally and assume it’s for them or about them. That has caused a lot of family conflicts and tension.
On the other hand, one needs to have time to engage with those who made comments or reactions. One needs to spare time to reiterate and reexplain specific points, which is draining and time-consuming. Not to talk of the harsh and ridiculing responses that will make one lose their cool.
As a writer, I know one can’t force an understanding in a single direction. People understand only from their level of perception, experience, exposure and open-mindedness. A northern woman should know that her writing will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misquoted.
I have several stories to tell. My friend was crucified to the extent that she didn’t want to write even a single word again. The writer in her has been killed. She has logged out of Facebook altogether. And do you know what caused the rain of abuses? Because she refuses to engage in a private chat with men.
There was a time I made a public post that I don’t chat with men due to the endless ‘hi, salam’ messages I receive daily. I wrote that whatever a person wants to talk about should write under my public post or forget about it. Among the annoying comments is that I should leave the platform since I’m not willing to chat privately. As if the app is all about private chatting with the opposite gender. A coursemate sent me an abusive message that I’m now arrogant even before getting my doctorate since I have not been answering his ‘hi’ and ‘salams’.
There’s also this young fiction writer I met via Wattpad. She writes so well and has many followers. She makes readers cry, and her characters become so real in our hearts that we feel like family. But then, all of a sudden, she stops writing. So, when I asked her why she told me how her aunt reported her to her parents that she was busy influencing northern women to leave their marital homes.
The book that got her publicity is about a woman who has stayed and endured abusive marriage, then left after 20 years, started life afresh, and her new man and new home became paradise on earth. Her point is there’s life out there for abusive victims. Her point is it’s never too late to leave. But her parents were brainwashed, and she was prohibited from writing. She was a great writer, and I miss her.
I remember an instance when someone just tagged my name in a story with the caption “sak labarinki” [Just like your story]. And that story has no similarity whatsoever to my life. Come and see comments, people asking me how my story goes that they want to hear from me. That really scared me, and I felt like I would never write again!
Another incident that got me thinking was when a renowned world feminist got married, and a female Arewa writer or activist was tagged and grilled. That activist once wrote, ‘marriage is not an achievement’. She wrote that based on the Arewa context, marriage is the only achievement for a woman, which lead many girls and parents to marry their daughters to the wrong persons. This culture has led many women to endure hardships and other abuses just to stay married.
The activist’s point was there’s more to being a woman than just getting married, and honestly, some marriages are not an achievement. I know this will come up whenever that girl is getting married, that is, if she is lucky to get a mature suitor and brave enough to endure ridicule and insults from family and friends. This thing will also come up whenever her future daughter is getting married. The future son-in-law will be reminded that his mother-in-law doesn’t recognize marriage as an achievement. Simply put, this statement will hunt her for generations. The internet doesn’t forget.
Similarly, there are monitoring spirits waiting for you to make a mistake in the grammar, so they drag you down or ridicule you. You never know some exist in your friend list, but they are there, waiting for one wrong move.
To be brutally honest, one has to be tough to endure all these and more. A woman is an emotional being, and one single word can crucify her to the extent that it also affects those around her.
I recall a post by a blogger that goes, ‘This is her husband writing. I want you to know your comments and reactions have affected my wife so badly that even we, her family members, are affected. I wish you people were more understanding and emphatic. This blogging is her passion, and you have killed her spirit. She has been crying for days, and we are all mourning the dead spirit. If anything, I hope this makes you feel better about yourself and what you wrote’.
So before a northern woman writes, she needs to ask herself: If she is emotionally strong and ready to tackle so many obstacles that will come her way and that may hunt her for a lifetime. Is she prepared for that commitment? Is it even worth it?
Frankly, those who keep to themselves are more at peace than those who write. A person’s essays or write-ups will surely outlive him, and if the writer has written good, worthy articles that benefit him, here and hereafter… but at a cost!
On a final note, we need to do better in writing comments and reactions to people’s write-ups. The hadith ‘Falyaqul khaeran auliyasmut’ also applies to writing. If your comment is not constructive and will not inspire, encourage or motivate, then kindly leave it to yourself. We should also remember that we will be held accountable for what we say, write, or make others feel!
Aisha Musa Auyo is a Doctorate researcher in Educational Psychology. A mother of three, Home Maker, caterer, parenting and relationship coach.