Nigeria: The women who reject feminism

Updated 7:12 AM ET, Mon October 8, 2018

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)When one of Africa's biggest pop stars, Tiwa Savage said she doesn't think men and women are equal during an interview on a Nigerian radio station, it generated fierce debate, one that mostly played out on the country's social media feeds.

"...I don't think that's how God created us, especially in the household anyway. So I think as females when we realize that...we can be strong in our career and stuff, but when we are home we have to realize that the man is the head of the house," Savage said in the interview.
Savage isn't the only Nigerian female celebrity polarizing audiences with her opinions on gender roles and feminism.
Nigeria's DJ Cuppy said in an interview with CNN in July: "I think it's amazing, young females doing what we've been told we can't do and I really feel like women are very powerful."

Feminists 'doing crazy things'

In the same interview, DJ Cuppy acknowledged the difficulties women in Nigeria face, saying "I had to leave Nigeria to realize my power because a lot of times as a woman you are constricted to what you can do and what you can achieve," she said.
To many Nigerian feminists, Cuppy's comments appeared in-line with feminist ideals. But a month later in an interview with a local radio station, she declared that she doesn't consider herself a feminist anymore.
"I don't like people who are hypocrites. People are out there speaking about women rights, but behind closed doors are doing crazy things," she said.
"I would never come out as a feminist because I'm in a male dominated industry so I have certain scenarios where... I deal with men on a day to day basis and I realize they are always going to think they are better than women," she added.
DJ Cuppy went on to imply that constantly fighting for women's rights wouldn't necessarily lead to a desired change.
"If I literally sat down all day and spoke about how hard it is being a woman I wouldn't have time to be here...because I would be somewhere in Alade market talking about how women need better rights," she said.
This spurred many comments by Twitter users on topics of gender equality, class privilege and what some consider a fear of the word feminism itself.

The personal is political

But while these celebrities' views are no doubt powerful, they do not impact government policies that affect women. However, the views of women who aspire to be in political positions could have a policy impact on the fight for women's rights.
So when Eunice Atuejide, a female presidential candidate in Nigeria's 2019 elections, proclaimed that she was "not a feminist," an even fiercer debate ensued.
Atuejide said last week on a local radio station that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian author of "Half of a Yellow Sun," is "an extremist." Adichie's book format essay, "We Should All Be Feminists," was given to every 16-year-old in Sweden.
But Atuejide said: "I hope some of our women do not necessarily take on too much of the things she is saying because some of them could actually turn around and bite them in the bum."
Nigeria's 2019 election comes at a time where gender equality is a global goal the country is still struggling to achieve. The World Economic Forum 2017 Global Gender Gap report ranked Nigeria 122nd out of 144 countries listed. As of 2018, Nigeria still hasn't passed the 2011 Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill -- and has faced criticism for that failure.
In a number of Atuejide's tweets, the presidential candidate aired what some branded a myopic view of feminism by reducing the fight for gender equality to cooking. In one tweet, Atuejide asked "And who is a feminist? My friend who won't cook for her husband & kids cos of equality?"
Ayisha Osori, the Nigerian author of "Love Does Not Win Elections", responded with some damning statistics on the absence of women in Nigerian politics. "There are some states in Nigeria like Jigawa, Kebbi and Sokoto that, since 1999, haven't elected a woman for any positions. Federal, state, local -- no woman has been elected," Osori told CNN.
"Only five female ministers and deputy governors in the country. We have no female governor, female president or [vice president]," she added.
Given these numbers, Atuejide's views on the importance of feminism are even more puzzling, according to Osori, who believes that Atuejide's decision to run is, in fact, a feminist one.
"Any woman who runs for any leadership role in a very patriarchal system like Nigeria, a country where the representation of women in politics is extremely low," Osori said.
"You are a feminist. Not even just by labels, but by what you are trying to achieve -- because you are basic