Category Archives: Society

Ass.u.me.ing Makes an Ass of You and Me

Let me tell you a little bit about one of my very good friends. She and I had many a fights when we were going through that process of becoming actual good friends. You know, those fights where you have to decide if you would prefer a superficial friendship or a deep one. One of our biggest points of contention was our differing understandings of generalizations, assumptions, and stereotypes – particularly ones tied to the jokes she seemed to love telling at the expense of all Nigerians.

Those storms that threatened the bliss of our budding friendship were often borne out of me taking offense at something she had said or laughed at when it came to “Nigerians in general”. I did not take those jokes lightly, and I let her know EVERY single time (Letting her know was a sign, on my part, that I did want us to be real friends – hopefully she’s got that part by now). Was she irritated? Yes! Did she think I was overly sensitive? Definitely! And, did she react positively? Not really. You see, at first it just seemed like she stopped propagating Nigerian stereotypes through her jokes but only when she was around me so that I wouldn’t get offended. She walked on eggshells for a quite a while. But in time, and after many many intense talks between us – with me straining to explain my reasoning and her struggling to grasp it – I think she has come to understand that it was much bigger than that. It was much bigger than just a few harmless jokes, and a seemingly prudish and oversensitive girl.

You see, we can’t always help ourselves when it comes to believing in stereotypes to be true and complete representations of others. It is much less difficult to hear and believe a single story about a community or a people, than to painstakingly get to know a lot of the individuals that make up that community. I must concede that stereotypes are very handy and convenient little things, and they are like the Sparknotes* of inter-cultural relationships. But, they also hamper real (individual) unassuming human connections in ways we cannot always conceive of.

Every individual has a story: a patchwork of labels, events, and identities that, as a whole, is uniquely them. Unfortunately, stereotypes are more concerned with picking specific labels, and passing them off as “all you need to know” facts, thereby disrupting the unique tapestry of identity, and discrediting the complex nature of each idiosyncratic human story.

I remember a time when I did not like telling people I was Nigerian the first time I met them. This was not because I disliked, or was ashamed of my country, at all – Nigeria is great, and she is mine! However, I do realize that there are so many stereotypes about Nigerians, most of which are unfavorable, floating around every part of the world. We are everywhere, and while that has its advantages, it also has its demerits. For instance, when the first thing people find out about me is that I am Nigerian, I very frequently lose the opportunity to make a first impression as an individual. It is so automatic. Suddenly, I’m no longer me: I’m a country, an abstraction, I’m the loud life of the party, the money lover, the crook, the jovial friend with an agenda, the smart go-getter, and so much more.

“I had no idea you were Nigerian, you’re so quiet!” – The astonished words of a girl I had met two or three times before, on the occasion of her discovering my nationality.

Sometimes, our prejudices, and subliminally conceived assumptions are transformed into micro-aggressions, often delivered with well-meaning intentions. It’s like the time I wrote part of literature review for a group project, and my otherwise very friendly and kind team member couldn’t hide her shock when she said “OMG! You’re such a good writer! I had no idea you could write so well!” Never mind that we were all taking a class to become writing tutors, which I’d think is indication enough that we were good writers all.  Never mind that we had all been nominated by professors for having this very skill. I could take the more flattering route and speculate her compliment was borne out of the notion that my writing was particularly exceptional and maybe genius, but I highly doubt that was the case. Literature reviews are not the most stimulating things to write, and I most likely had a “get it done” approach to that assignment.  So, what WAS that about? Was it about her thinking that I couldn’t write well because I was Nigerian (black, African)? Was it about her thinking that since English was not my first language, I couldn’t command it nearly as well as she? Was it about her having lowered expectations of me because of her unvoiced assumptions? Or did she simply perceive my “get it done” writing to be exceptional?

I don’t intend to claim that I never am a perpetrator of assumptions, generalizations, and/or micro-aggressions. A particularly now-cringe-worthy incident comes to mind. I remember incessantly asking this guy, “What are you?” in regard to his ancestry, and I could not, for the life of me, understand why he seemed to be taken-aback. If anything, I was a bit annoyed by all the fuss he was making because, to me then, it was just a simple question. I should probably point out that I’d not had a lot of experience with race, so I was not informed enough to channel my curiosity into a better phrased question. I just came from Nigeria, and you were either black, white, or “half-caste”/mixed race. I’m really not trying to make excuses for myself, the point is that it takes a conscious effort, and awareness to avoid incidents like these.

Maybe the girl from my writing class didn’t mean anything by it. Maybe she was actually appreciative of my writing, and did not understand that her expression of shock might be perceived with different connotations. What this means, is that we all have to put in extra effort to identify, scrutinize, and terminate our prejudices, lest we rob other humans of their chance to be persons.

But until everyone gets to that level of consciousness, I have decided that any assumptions another person makes about me will be their problem, not mine. So, heck yeah! I’m a Nigerian! Do with that what you will.

Good Evening, but I Bring Bad News

I feel I must confess: I hate keeping up with the bad news of the world. I do not like watching the news, listening to it, reading it. I cannot pretend to be up to date on what’s happening in the world. I cannot claim to be one of the first people to know. I am not that person that has the morning newspapers and evening news ingrained in her routine. And, I don’t ever feel guilty about it. My dad will probably have a rage attack if he ever sees this. But, that’s just the way I feel. Have you ever noticed that it’s only on a News program that the host wishes you a Good Evening, and then proceeds to tell you exactly why it is not?

Yeah, yeah, I know awareness is great. Ignorance isn’t really bliss (although I do prefer the illusion of bliss on occasion). Knowledge is power, the more you know…and whatever other adage. But I find that when I do keep up with the news, one of two equally unfavorable things happen:
1. I get emotionally involved, and consequently depressed – because it is almost always bad, hopeless-sounding, and practically catastrophic news.

2. I feel detached and develop that, “at least it’s not happening to me” kind of attitude.

When I get invested in the news of people dying, a war brewing or boiling over, children being sold and violated, buildings and aircrafts being shot down, devastating natural disasters, and so on, it can very easily begin to feel hopeless. I don’t know if it’s the media building sensation over the hopelessness of those circumstances, but once you get invested, if you’re anything like me, it is very difficult to get out of it. You might start thinking, “What’s the point of everything?” “Why isn’t God here already?” “Can I move to another planet to be by myself, peacefully?”

I have decided that shock, and rage, and sorrow, with all their propensity to move people into action, can become like drugs. They will get you high on indignation, and bring you low into depression and cynicism. They can get you addicted and jaded. They will increase your threshold of tolerance for horrible happenings, and gradually get you to the point where you’re so desensitized, nothing moves you anymore. This could be the secondary reaction of always listening to the News – again, if you’re anything like me.

I cannot, for the sake of sensitivity and awareness, deprive myself of enjoying happiness and the little joys of life. Yeah, bad things are happening everywhere, but so are good things. What’s the point in letting myself seep in a constantly depressed and outraged state of mind? Who is that going to help? What is that going to achieve?

I have weighed the pros and cons, and I have decided that at this time in my life, all I need in order to maintain a reasonable amount of awareness is Twitter …and maybe Google, if I feel like it. I don’t need all the gruesome details constantly repeated CNN-style, which will most certainly keep me depressed for days long after the sensationalist part of the Big Media Break is over. What I do require is a 140-word-or-less description of the biggest news the world’s media has to offer, sprinkled occasionally with jokes and gossip from different perspectives (of course). If it’s something I think I can handle hearing more about, then I’ll look into it. However, I refuse to subject myself to the constant bombardment of despair that is our daily evening news – thank you very much, but, No.

I don’t mind listening to inconsequential news (E!), because it’s easier for me to prevent emotional attachment when it doesn’t involve people losing their lives, sanity, and liberty unjustly. I know I wouldn’t care as much if Jennifer Aniston got a new rad haircut as I would if there was a mass shooting at an elementary school.

I’m certain not everyone will agree with me on this, but that’s okay. I know myself. I know that once I’m invested, getting out of an unresolved worry is practically impossible. And most of the stuff reported to us, the masses, stays unresolved for really long lengths of time. My solution? Keep a bit of distance – not so close that melancholy and cynicism are constantly poured into my life, and my happiness stolen away with every word, but also not so far that I’m entirely oblivious*.

My advice? Know thyself.

*Hence, Twitter. Twitter feeds can be great and annoying at the same time - you can stay in-touch if you’re willing to deal with the rascals.

What is Normal?

This is a Story of The Normal Myth

What is normal? How do you define what is and isn’t so? Is it an average? Is it a certain yardstick by which we must all measure ourselves? Is it a myth? Or a reality? Is it based on prevalence? Or is it universal? Oh no! It couldn’t possibly be universal, could it? Is universality even really a thing when it comes to people? The question of universality is one I will ponder at a later time. Now, I’ll just focus on the alleged myth of “The Norm.”

Yes, I looked it up in the dictionary and read most of the definitions I could find. Then I read a little description about the history of the actual word. Then I took a look at what I’ve come to understand as its meaning based on what I’ve done, felt, heard, thought, said, and seen others do.

I’ve come to discover, being normal is like being able to fit in a box…or a niche, if you will.  I think that the problem of abnormality arises when it is unclear with which box one is supposed to measure one’s normalcy. How do I embrace being different if I’m not sure to what I must compare myself in order to determine my level of normalcy? Who decides what the boxes are? Who decides what the niches are? If I were to create a niche and no one recognized it as a niche is it still one? Is it like human rights in that sense? (You can’t claim to have human rights if no other human recognizes/acknowledges that you do). If claiming to be normal weren’t like human rights, then I could claim that everything I say and do fits perfectly within a niche that I have created for myself and is therefore my normal. Would that fly? Would my personal normal be considered normal? That’s the big question, isn’t it?

So, is the norm just the box or niche with the most people in it? Is it about averages and prevalence in that way? Or is that understanding of The Norm based solely on our perception, which tends to play tricks on us?

This society is increasingly against conforming. Apparently mainstream is uncool, unhip, and dead (or is sentenced to death). But here’s a premise I found a bit confounding: if nobody is conforming, it follows then that no one is “normal”, and that simply cannot be, because there are certain traits, and behaviors that occur more often than others, and surely those have to be the norm. The Norm seems to be decided based on what’s prevalent. There are attitudes, beliefs, systems, and styles that may have been aberrant before now, but have now been made into the new norm due to the sheer amount of nonconformists who have taken it upon themselves to “not conform” by imitating a particular brand of the atypical. Therefore, the atypical becomes the typical if enough people go that route. You see, Normal is not a stagnant concept. Culture and Normal go hand in hand, and as one changes, so does the other.

What is The Norm if not the rule, as opposed to the exception?

I will use a simple fashion example to illustrate. Let’s hope I can keep it simple. Say, in the year 2001 you saw a regular 15 year-old girl (not a celebrity, not even popular in school) wearing shorts so short that she couldn’t possibly be wearing sensible underwear as well, would you not have been at least a little bit shocked? I would even go as far as suggesting that some people would have been outraged. No fifteen year old girl in 2001 would wear anything like that unless she were intentionally trying not to be normal – to be an exception. Fast-forward to America in the year 2014, some people still think wearing shorts that short is an act of rebellion, an abnormality, an exception, but all you really need to do to see otherwise is take a walk around a mall sometime. Short shorts are not, contrary to what some people may still belief, an exceptionally provocative fashion choice. So many girls have signed up for that style of fashion that it is now a norm. You see, once a barrier is widened, or a limit pushed, in order to achieve exceptionality and inspire shock or awe in others, one cannot rely on repetition – one has to go further. Short shorts may have been a boundary-pushing fashion choice on what women could and could not wear in public, but it is no longer an aberration. One must look to the future for even more boundary-pushing movements, like the one that’s likely to gather momentum with Rihanna’s recent naked dress. Glamorous nipples and fashionable butt crack in public?! I’m practically clutching my pearls!

If tomorrow I decide to take it upon myself to become a hipster, and I begin to frequently research what hipsters are doing in order to copy them, then I can never truly be a hipster. Because being a hipster involves setting trends, not following them. Being a true hipster is about making things cool, not about finding out what’s cool and doing it before most people. Then, a few questions arise – who defines what cool is? The hipsters, or their followers? Is the coolness factor added by the hipsters themselves, or by their followers who believe them to be the mavericks, the trendsetters, and the in-crowd? Are there even true Hipsters, or are they all just ardent followers and overconfident, possibly grandiose, snobs?

Bottom-line is, everything cannot be the rule all at once. We all wish (and might fight/advocate) for our differing and sometimes unique ways of living and perceiving to be acknowledged and accepted as normal, but that simply cannot happen. If everything were to be considered normal, then that word would lose its meaning. You could also say the same for the word aberrant – if we were all aberrant and abnormal, then we would all be normal in our eccentricities. Normal and Aberrant need each other in order to even exist – Given that all humans are not the same, if nobody is normal, then nobody is atypical, but if some people are normal, then it follows that some people must be atypical…

I must mention that I almost did not publish this because I was informed that it’s a bit too dense. I did try to make it less convoluted, and I had to cut myself off at some point (I really could have gone on). So, if you follow the thought processes here, and you have any questions, qualms, or contributions, by all means let me know in the comment section below!

Angels of Apathy

7 Billion People in the world. About 7 billion.

Angels, because at the end of the day we are good people. Deep deep down inside, we are, I promise. We do good things. We often have good or sound intentions. We are kind. And considerate. We try to be patient. We are sensitive. We are sensitive to a fault sometimes. We let the old and pregnant people have our seat on the bus – in fact let’s make it a law, we said. We sympathize with others. We empathize – well, most of us do. We lend a helping hand, when we want to. We offer a shoulder when a crier comes to us.

But, the problem is that most times we are good because we want to be seen as good people. We are good because we care what others think/feel about us, so it’s really not about them. We are good in a weirdly paradoxical way that seems self-less but is ultimately self-centered. We are angels when we don’t have to go out of our way. We are angels when the law requires it and we’d rather not get in trouble. We are angels when being angelic comes with affirmation. But, we are gradually becoming more apathetic than angelic.

What happens when the people or situations that are in the direst of need angelic acts are not in direct view? What happens when we are separated by the cushion of high-rise buildings, or a few streets, a neighborhood, a country border, an ocean, and maybe even a continent? Are we still good? Are we still selfless, and sympathetic, and eager to help? Do we become apathetic? Do we become hoarders? Apathetic hoarders? Spoiled to the point where we have a different set of ultimately inconsequential problems? Third world problems, right?

How do you explain the drastic juxtaposition of a small group of “good” people who own a majority of the wealth and resources available to us as a race, and a larger group of people who own little to nothing, although they share a planet with the former group? That’s Africa. That’s the Americas. That’s Europe. That’s Earth for you.

Call it capitalism. Call it application of ingenuity. Call it greed. Call it human. Call it a gap, or a fence, or an imbalance. Call it unfair. Matter of fact, call it fair – all fingers were not created equal after all. A bit callous, maybe.

Doesn’t matter what you call it: the facts remain what they are. About 7 billion people sharing a planet, but not actually sharing a planet.

*Angles of Apathy is a phrase I borrowed from a song I heard on the radio. See lyrics here - http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/matthewwest/dosomething.html

 

THE AGE CONUNDRUM

Back in secondary school, my friend Sally used to say how she did not plan be to be married until she was around 27 years old. I always thought she was just trying to be outlandish on purpose. Who knows, maybe she was. But, I still used to think she was a bit weird for thinking that way – 27 is so dangerously close to 30…and we all knew what 30 meant! …Or at least, we knew what we had been taught it meant.

We learned that 30 meant going from “a maiden” to “an old maid.” 30 meant going from being referred to as “young woman” to “unmarried woman”. 30 meant, away with university-age and in with married-with-a-kid age (so, if you’re not there by that age, you’re malfunctioning somehow).

This is an idea that I think should be deprogrammed from our minds. I mean, if you’re a woman or man married with kid(s) by 30, good for you! Congrats! But no one should be put down, or made to feel like a failure, sitting on a time bomb just because they’re not there by that age.

I have been the unfortunate witness of this notion being expressed by one of my old Secondary School classmates who happened to be male. We were just having one of those casual, “where are you now?” and “what are your plans?” type of conversations. I told him I was going to pursue an MA/PhD, and his first reaction was, “so when will you get married?” At first, I wanted to tell him off, but I decided to be polite, and just make a joke so we can both laugh and move on from that kind of questioning.

But he was so bent on his intent, that even after I had laughed it off, he decided to end the conversation with this gem; “Well, just make sure you get married by 25, okay?” I wasn’t sure how to react to this, because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was feeling. The way he even phrased it as a helpful hint/advice was both rage-inducing and utterly amusing. I felt a weird combination of rage, shock, amusement, and disappointment in that instant, and I had to take a moment to breathe so that I wouldn’t say anything I would come to regret.

After taking a breather, I asked him if he was planning on getting married by 25 as well, to which he, without hesitation, replied that he would not be ready by then, and he still had to revel in not being tethered to a woman until he was about 30. I hoped he would see the hypocrisy of his outlook, but I don’t remember if I pointed it out to him or not. Honestly, the rest of that conversation is now a blur to me. I lost interest in anything else he had to say or ask, and did not invest in the conversation anymore.

Funny enough this notion does not apply to men in quite the same way – why should it, right?

We are indoctrinated into this idea that if men are like fine wine that gets better with age, then women are like egg salad (you really don’t want that aged).

I’m not saying we should also impose these same expectations on men, neither am I endorsing that George Clooney lifestyle for anyone – I’m simply saying, don’t put people down for not meeting your marriage-age expectation (especially if they’re not your children). And if you’re at that close-to-30 age and the pressure is piling on, just remember that desperation makes for some horrible decisions – stay calm, and stay happy!

Why Would Everyone Want to Look The Same?

The internet is surfeit with galleries of celebrities, from A-listers to Z-listers, who have changed their appearances in order to achieve or maintain a particular kind of prettiness. And I say “prettiness” because I think beauty is so much deeper than what you see when you look at a person. Always with the nips, tucks, facelifts, cheek implants, engorged lips, and narrowed straightened noses that I could slice cheese on. The “after” pictures of these celebrities always show that they were shooting for very similar looks.

For a society that incessantly preaches individuality, there is an inordinate amount of people trying to copy a certain idea of what “good-looking” means. It may have started in Hollywood, but it is slowly and steadily spreading through to the rest of the population.

Homogeneity of any kind, in the big picture, is not usually a great thing. It is not always a good thing to maintain a non-changing culture among a homogeneous group of people. What does a community become when their culture or appearance is not allowed to evolve with some introduced heterogeneity? A cult? Another extinction? See Elif Shafak’s talk on fiction, if you wish to get a better understanding of what I’m saying here.

Also, think about it from the perspective of a scientist for instance. There is a reason a wide and varied gene pool is necessary for the survival of the human race. It is one of the medical/biological reasons close relatives are discouraged from getting married and/or having kids with each other.

There is a reason every individual person was created to look different from the rest of the population. Even with identical twins and doppelgangers, there are still little ways of telling them apart. We have varied blood types, genes, facial and bodily features and shapes. And let me not forget the whole finger print thing – no two people have the same one! Is that not indication enough that we are not supposed to be one big homogeneous soup pot of creatures?

I’m just trying to stress the importance of heterogeneity, I might have gotten carried away, but I’m sure by now you get the point. We should not all be trying to attain that particular narrow-nosed, fair-skinned, full-cheeked, full-lipped, skinny-but-shapely image of good-looking. And for the guys, not everyone can be or should be a tall beef-cake with washboard abs. I personally know a few girls who are not big on the whole sculptured abs thing.

I strongly believe that the attractiveness of a person is not, and should not be a universally agreed-upon idea, because that saying – beauty is in the eye of the beholder – has a lot of merit.

At the end of the day, it comes down to being comfortable and confident in your own skin and your own looks. It comes down to accepting the fact that no matter how you look or don’t look, there are going to be people out there who find you good-looking, and people who do not. And, you should not always take the fact that someone doesn’t find you attractive or good-looking as something to be internalized. Those kind of comments are more about what people see than about what is actually there. In the same way, how you feel about your looks, and your confidence level, are actually more about what you see than about what is actually there.

Ngozi Adichie – My Public Personal Person

It’s like when you find out the private spot you discovered on the beach, which you’ve been showing to only those people who might appreciate it, has now been discovered by the whole town. On one hand, you’re glad more people can now enjoy what you’ve known to be pretty great, but on the other hand you fear a certain level of abuse.

Read my post on celebrity worship, HERE, and get a better sense of what I mean. This is why I’m not particularly thrilled with the level of popularity one of my favorite writers has recently achieved – not just by her own doing of course (she was featured in a Beyoncé song). I am happy that she has gotten so much exposure that she could do more with her career and reach way more people than before. The cool professors at Universities now read her works in classes and seminars, and I am really thrilled about that part of her popularity. I have been a big fan of hers from the very beginning – back when she published a play in Nigeria which she recently said she hopes no one ever finds or reads! I hope to work with her someday, so she’s not my problem here, at all!

However, at the same time, I realize that most of the people who “absolutely adore” her, have no idea what her literature is like – they don’t like her for her work, or her intellect. They like the image of her as the poster-child for the cool, educated, strong, Nigerian woman who has made a name for herself in America of all places! A big enough name to make it into a Beyoncé song! Can you believe it?! It’s like her name (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) has become a symbol for something other than her self, or even something other than the artist.

A smart Nigerian woman on her way to becoming a household name in America sounds like quite the achievement for her – except it may not be. The person behind that image cannot claim that success as a personal achievement any more than a raffle winner could claim his win is as a result of his incredible talent. Because at the end of the day, it’s the image that people worship, not the person.

I guess you could say I feel a bit protective of her, because I know if care is not taken, then it’s only a matter of time until people get over her brilliance (which most people would have never discovered the depth of since they won’t read her books) and start attacking every little “flaw” and “non-flaw.”

And yes, this is a rant, and I’m proud of it!

What is Idolatry?

I remember when I was younger and we would read the list of sins we should definitely stay away from, or maybe even the Ten Commandments. I’d think to myself something along the lines of, “I’m not sure what “covet” means…lying and stealing would be a little difficult to stop, but murder and Idolatry – God Forbid! I would never do that!” Because I could not picture myself killing anyone or building an actual graven image and worshipping that! Who does that?* However, I’ve long since come to discover that worshipping Idols isn’t just a thing of the biblical times.

Most people partake in a different kind of idolatry, in the form of celebrity worship, whereby devoted fanatics worship the image of a public figure personified in the human body of an actual person, who has come to fame one way or another.

They build pedestals or altars and set these celebrities on top of it; worship the idea and image of the person; set up shrines; pay tributes; make sacrifices and offerings; build up expectations based on the image, not the person; attack everything about the “person” that doesn’t match up with the unreasonable expectations; then when a new, better god/goddess comes along, they go ahead and tear down that pedestal (altar) brick-by-brick as they build a different one around the new god/goddess, not even giving a second thought to the emotions and life of the actual persons behind these images. *Ahem* Hathaway à Lawrence à// Nyiong’o *Ahem* Bieber.

The celebrity almost never has much of a say in this procedure – it just happens to most of them. The only thing they can decide are tactics to keep the fame, and stop it from transforming into infamy. Thanks to the wonderful media network, fame has become like a wave, which picks up whomever it wishes, and as that lucky/unlucky person you could either ride it out – reveling in the sensation of being up-lifted by a whole nation – or crash into it.

The latest of these images being worshipped is that of a certain Kenyan-Mexican whose name is Lupita Nyiong’o. While I can’t go as far as saying that I love her – I hardly know her, and I never saw her work, including the Oscar movie – I do appreciate the fact that she’s brought a different kind of beauty into the Hollywood Glamour canon. (I try to avoid incredibly sad true-life movies because I get emotional enough with the fictional stuff. Did someone say, “For Colored Girls”?)

However, I also see that it is the image of this dark-skinned African that is being worshipped, and celebrated. Do I think that her fame will give way for more similarly dark-skinned women in Hollywood? – Not really. You see, if more dark-skinned girls made it into Hollywood, that image would lose its novelty – then what would be the point of celebrating it and her, right? As callous as that may sound, that’s just the way image-worshippers would think. Her image is famous for its novelty, because most people only talk about how much they love her gorgeous dark skin, which has become a sort of fetish. I don’t know much about Alek Wek’s fame, but I get the feeling the beginning of her fame was much like Nyiong’o’s. I also realize that they look nothing alike, although some people have sworn that they do. Anyway…I digress.

My point is, Idolatry is still very much prevalent, and not just as a metaphor! So, where do we draw the line of admiration?

*Just Kidding, I know a lot of religions have images and sculptures they kind of worship in one form or the other

The Hypocrisy of Tolerance

“What price tolerance if the intolerant are not tolerated also?” – Salman Rushdie

These days there are a lot of movements for tolerance in the society. And sometimes I feel that people get carried away and lose the real essence/basis of their activism. Right now, I will use gay rights activist to illustrate what I mean – just because it’s one of the biggest causes in U.S. at the moment. The idea is for those beliefs and convictions to be accepted by the society. Yet, majority of the activists are always ready and eager to bully into silence and passivity anyone who has contradictory beliefs and convictions.

These days, one fears that if one speaks against lgbtq rights in any way at all, one may be lynched by a mob drunk with indignation. Yet we are encouraged to speak out for the lgbtq community – no, not even “encouraged,” because “harassed” is a better suited word for what sometimes happens.

If you doubt me at all, think about it from the point of view of a celebrity who depends on an image and popularity for a living. No celebrity who wants to stay loved and popular (not infamous or defamed or obscured) would ever confess to having beliefs that do not completely support that community. And if they dare speak out on those convictions, they would immediately be bad-mouthed, hated, bullied, and pressured by about 70 percent of America.

One thing I will say to any activist of any kind is this: even as you fight for this to be accepted, and for that to be accepted, just reexamine yourself and your reasons. When you claim to fight for tolerance, make sure you’re not fighting for your own beliefs to be the supreme one, which ultimately replaces whatever is, was, or could have been. Don’t make it seem like you’re fighting for tolerance, when what you really want is dominance.

GIRLS SHOULD “ASPIRE” TO MARRIAGE?!

It may seem like an outdated notion that is no longer prevalent – especially with all these pesky feminists that never seem to shut up about it* – but unfortunately, that’s not so. It might seem like this happens mainly among some ethnic (Non-European-American) circles, nonetheless, it is something that bothers me tremendously as a girl. Period.

I may not know exactly how to put it into words, but I’ll try a number of illustrations and maybe you will understand what I mean. For instance, there is this unfortunate running joke about how when a Nigerian girl graduates from university her parents throw her a graduation party, which they then hope would turn into an engagement party also.

As a girl (especially one from an African household with an involved mother), you’re taught from a very young age how to keep a home and keep yourself, and prepare yourself for what will definitely come in the future – marriage to a husband whom you’ll have to keep appeased and interested. Now, it’s all fine and dandy to learn these home keeping skills, so I am not about to go on a feminist rant about it – relax.

But, what does bother me is when you sense that some people (some parents, as well as girls sometimes) see marriage as the end all be all, the ultimate life accomplishment, the reward of being a good and Godly girl, the supreme aspiration, and the happy ending every accomplished girl should have.

Now, I’ll step away from Africans for a bit and widen the scope here. Think about how many Rom-coms and animated movies you’ve seen where the main female character (or maybe even her pathetic side-kick) was rewarded with a “nice” husband in the end. This idea is pounded into our heads over and over, and subconsciously, most people begin to feel that it’s just the way it has to be.

For instance, the recent Disney movie Frozen, ended with the older sister regaining control over her magnificent powers, and her Kingdom as well. Yet, a lot of people have expressed some discontent, and hope that there will be a second movie where she gets a husband and with that, her “happily-ever-after.” Because, regaining an understanding and manageable relationship with her sister, her kingdom, her powers, and her pet snow man, apparently is not accomplishment enough, or a good enough reason to be happy.

So, let’s reconsider – yes, this notion is prevalent, what it is not is relevant. It sometimes makes girls and young women feel like rapidly wilting flowers that have only just bloomed: So, if you don’t get married within this five-to-six-year gap, you’re either a child bride, or an old maid!

I know I may sound cynical at this point, so let me just set something straight. Of course, I do hope to get married down the line, but it is NOT my ultimate ambition, nor should it be! I have hopes and big dreams that I feel should be encouraged and supported just as much as if I were not a woman – and these aspirations shouldn’t always be planned around or limited by the expectation to be married at a certain time (which is something I find happens a lot).

I know quite a few brilliant women who have given up, or put their careers on hold indefinitely just to make that marriage deadline, and it kinda hurts to watch. It is especially painful when the husbands of aforementioned women are then encouraged and supported to go on and have long-lasting careers (sometimes not even as brilliant as she would have had -_-).

What really troubles me – and perhaps encourages this idea – is when a married woman is accorded more respect and reverence than her equally accomplished (except for marriage, I suppose) unmarried peers. As an active member of an African and Christian circle of friends, I have seen this happen a lot more than I would like to admit – it should not be happening at all in my opinion!

Yes, to be married is something to be desired (if it is a happy one), but it should not be something you pine over and plan every minute of your present and future life around – unless of course you’re already married, then you should definitely give it your all!

But, for those of us young ‘uns who are not “hitched”, just remember this – Marriage is a gift, not a reward. It’s a gift from God to find and stay with someone who He’s destined for you to be with.

*I do consider myself a feminist, and this sentence was intended to have a wry sarcasm – just FYI, before anyone says anything harsh.