Is it just me, or is anyone else bothered by the sexual objectification of women in Nigeria that has inundated Facebook and other social media platforms? These videos are supposed to be a source of comic relief; however, I have yet to understand what aspect of the sexual objectification of women is funny. Every time I come across these so-called comedy skits, I cannot help but think that Nigerian comedians have added another layer to the already tarnished image of Nigeria. If it is not Sirbalo with innuendoes about women’s sex appeal and prowess, it is Emma Nwanna’s outright insults and degradation of women’s dignity. This is cheap comedy, and I refuse to laugh at it.
When I decided to lead this conversation in the Candid Pen column this week, it was critical for me to articulate and justify why this is a very important conversation to have. Indeed, for me or anyone else to grasp the nettle of sexual objectification, it is critical to understand what drives female objectification. I did a little research, and what I found out is disturbing and disheartening.
One study undertaken in Britain found that the sexual objectification of women is the result of a long-standing patriarchal notion that women are only as good as the sex they provide for men. Another study written in Australia found that female objectification is primarily driven by male chauvinism and insecurity. The same study recorded the experiences of 81 women over a period of one week; each woman reported being the subject of objectification 3 to 4 times on average and witnessed the sexual objectification of other women 9 to 10 times on average.
While these studies may not represent a vast sample of women, they reveal the general perception of women who are objectified as people that are incapable of thoughts and opinions and therefore less deserving of moral treatment by others – especially men. The studies concluded that societies in which the sexual objectification of women is widespread are 2 to 3 times more likely to condone violence against women. The sexual objectification of women is therefore never a good topic for comedy anywhere in the world.
In 2006, Tarana Burke, primarily to shed light on sexual violence against women, founded the “Me Too” movement. When the #MeToo hashtag went viral in 2017, it awoke the world to the scale of the problems of sexual violence and female objectification. The “Me Too” movement is now a global community of women who have survived sexual violence and female objectification at different levels.
At a time when the world is actively campaigning against the sexual objectification of women, why have Nigerians remained passive and in some instances laughed at jokes that belittle and degrade women?
The answer is that Nigeria is an ultra-patriarchal society in which men hold primary power and predominant roles in political leadership, social privilege, and moral authority. There is also an economic element to the sexual objectification of women, not just in Nigeria but also in other African countries. Because of a lack of economic opportunities, women are less likely to reject unwanted sexual advances or objectification. For instance, women fear reprisals at work, including losing their jobs.
The sexual objectification of women in Nigeria that has inundated the internet is not comedy. Each post or video is an act of microaggression driven by male chauvinism. However, as complicated as the topic is, I am hopeful that you will join me in this very important conversation. Share the conversation with friends and family, leave a comment, or reach out to me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can make a difference.