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Opinions of Monday, 24 July 2017


MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Rashida black sheep and the Boko Haram feminists

Rashida Black Beauty Rashida Black Beauty

Back in the primary school, I learnt that a black sheep is an expression used to refer to “a member of a family or group who is regarded as a disgrace to it.” The expression is derived from the 18th-century proverb, “There is a black sheep in every flock.” And the meaning has not changed even in this age of weird manifestation of feminism.

Now that I have been able to convince the expert faultfinders and the sincerely ignorant critics that I am not literally calling somebody’s daughter a sheep, let me go on and attempt to convince the feminists that I have no problem with feminism.

The dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Men and women or boys and girls must be treated equally and given equal opportunities to explore their God-given potentials. So I have no problem with feminism. Neither do I have any problem with those championing this noble cause, feminists. I agree with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that we should all be feminists.

My beef, however, is with the Boko Haram feminists. You can also call them Al-Quaeda or ISIS feminists. I mean the extremists, the fundamentalists who have stretched the concept of feminism beyond its sane limits. Here, I am talking about the apostles of waywardness whose defence mechanisms is to find justifications for their own moral deficiencies by hiding behind feminism to promote lifestyles that generally are unacceptable in their societies.

In fact, feminism is like Christianity. Christianity is a good religion. We have the true prophets and preachers who are shaping the world with the spiritual and practical application of the Word of God. We also have the conmen, who use the gospel to steal, kill and destroy the very people they are supposed to save. Both groups profess the same Christian faith and wield the same bible.

I believe in feminism, but my main point of departure is when they now want to tell us those sane women who strip naked and put their photos on the internet are making feminist statements. Even when it is clear that the person is doing that purely for money or may be going through some psychological problems and need help, the feminists want us to believe they are confident and love their bodies.

I have just read a disturbing article written by a Ghanaian radio and television presenter called Anita Erskine, in which she described the teenager whose naked video went viral on social media last week in similar terms.

“You are extremely bold and confident. You love yourself. You are way bolder, confident and true to yourself love than some of us were at your age and even are in our adult life,” Anita Erskine wrote in a supposed letter to Rashida.

Rashida, a basic school dropout, got social media attention last year when she released a distasteful video of herself. The video was full of insults directed at her ex-boyfriend. She did not spare her ex-boyfriend’s mother and mocked his albinism. In that video, the teenager boasted about her sexual prowess and said when she met the guy, she was the one who taught him how to have sex. This suggests she was even sexually active before she met him.

Views on the video were varied. Some people thought it was distasteful and condemned the content. Others, however, thought they should let her live her life. It wasn’t anybody’s business.

A few weeks later, that video was nominated for Jigwe awards organized by the defunct Ghanaian entertainment television channel, Viasat 1. The award is aimed at celebrating people for things on the lighter side of life. Rashida was nominated for the most viral video of the year award.

Truth be told, there was an obviously most viral video that was ignored. It was actor Kwadwo Nkwansah’s “I can’t think far” video. Pastors used the phrase. It was repeated in many other funny videos. And it was the toast of politicians, including former President Mahama and his vice, who used it on campaign platforms. This video made the waves for many months, as opposed to Rashida’s offensive video, which circulated for a couple of weeks and died down. But the organisers decided to call the vulnerable teenager on stage and celebrate her as a star. On that stage, she repeated the “F” word she used in the video. Her prize was an investment package worth 2000 cedis. For? Insulting and boasting about her sexual prowess.

Again, opinions were divided. While some chastised the organisers of the award for encouraging such waywardness by celebrating her, others mounted a strong defence. They claimed there was nothing wrong with making her a star because it would help her launch her career. They even said God had a way of lifting people up and that was her blessing. Others who urgently needed to see the curer of sick heads even accused the critics of being envious of Rashida’s celebrity status and sudden rise to fame.

At the time, I was against the celebration of such waywardness, especially because the person involved was a child who did not seem to know what she was doing. In an article I published on the matter, I said:

“Rashida is not a star. She’s not a celebrity. She is not a role model for young girls in her community. Let us not convince them that the best way to get to Accra and be on TV is to have sex and flaunt it or to master the art of verbally abusing others. Rashida is a deviant who deserves our sympathy, not our praises.”

Her supporters seemed to have convinced her otherwise. They managed to convince her that there was nothing wrong with her behaviour. Some, I am told offered her local movie roles, and there is a commercial on a yet-to-be-premiered TV series in which she is featured. But it seems those who encouraged her to interpret notoriety as popularity have also succeeded in making her think that she could do more to be famous.

Last week a video of Rashida surfaced on social media again. This time around, she was not insulting anybody. She recorded herself naked making suggestive moves, with houseflies singing praises and worship to her womanhood.

As usual, the video has been widely condemned. But you have others who are still mounting subtle defences. They are calling the critics hypocrites because the likes of Kim Kardashian do it for money so why should they have issues with this girl?

Some are also attacking people are condemning the girl. Do they want her to be praised? They should get this clearly. The society will praise what is praiseworthy and condemn what is condemnable. Those who say they will do whatever with their bodies and nobody should judge them need to put a little amount of thinking into what they say and profess.

You can do whatever you want to do with your body and your life in as much as it does not fall foul of the law. That is if you want to disregard the biblical admonishing that “all things are permissible but not all things are helpful.” You can decide to be sleeping around with men or women of your choice. It is your body.

While you can do whatever you want to do with your body, you cannot control or dictate to society how they should see you. Society can see you as a harlot or a womanizer. You have no control over that.

Zuweira Baba Mohammed is a teenage girl just like Rashida. Her performance at the just-ended National Science and Maths Quiz was exceptional. Apart from winning the competition’s prize specially made for the best female contestant, some people believe she was the most outstanding individual performer even though her school could not make it to the finals.

What Zuweira achieved is positive. Society approves of it. Some even thought she was not praised or celebrated enough. She comes from the part of the country, where educating girls is not a priority. She competed in a competition in which the subjects are considered the arena for boys. But she sat through and proved her mettle. Just like, Rashida, Zuweira has sex organs. But she decided to show the world her brains, not her vagina.

In so doing, she has sent a strong message to girls who are growing up and thinking that Science and Maths are meant for the boys. She has sent a message that a girl can rise and compete among boys and excel. All things being equal, girls like Zuweira will grow up and become the medical doctors, engineers, scientists and some of the enviable profession we have in the world. They will get well-paying jobs and would not have to be at the mercy of men who will treat them like trash because the women are dependent on them for everything.

If Anita Erskine wants to know girls who are bold, and confident, then she should use the likes of Zuweira as the examples. If she wants examples of how girls can be empowered she should project girls and women who are holding up their own against their male counterparts. There is nothing “extremely bold and confident” about displaying one’s sex organs in the media. It is commendable she wants to help Rashida but that’s where it should end. It is irresponsible to sing her accolades from the shameful video.

Ghanaians unanimously condemned the controversial musician, WanLov Kuborlor when he showed his genitals on TV. That fleeting display is not anything near Rashida’s explicit indecent exposure. Another male Ghanaian musician called Wisa showed something on stage that looked more like a forefinger than a penis. It is unclear whether to call it manhood or boyhood, but he also attracted a wide and unanimous condemnation from both men and women. The police arrested him and charged him with the appropriate offences.

Why should it be different with women? A few weeks ago, actress Christabel Ekeh sent the internet community talking when her naked photographs were released. What makes Rashida’s case worse is because she is a minor.

Nobody is saying Rashida does not need help. She needs help. But you cannot help someone who is told that there is nothing wrong with her. Anita Erskine claims she wants to help the girl, but how do you help someone turn away from something negative if you praise them for that same negativity? The best thing to do is to rebuke the girl and correct her.

Tell her what she has done is not good. Tell her she is ruining her future. Let her know that the fact that she has done that does not mean she is ruined forever. She can get her life back and be a better person if she stops doing what she’s doing.

If we had made this girl understand last year that she was wrong and that society disapproved of what she had done, she might have probably changed. But those who celebrated her urged her on. Anita Erskine and others were in the country, what did they do? She has moved from bad to worse and they are still singing her praises. Maybe, such people need more help than what they are offering Rashida.

Those who are quoting Jesus Christ ignorantly to attack those condemning the actions of Rashida should realize that society does not want to kill Rashida as those in the bible wanted to kill the prostitute. And Jesus did not, in anyway, endorse the actions of the prostitute. He said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

He reached a conclusion that what the woman had done was sinful. The woman agreed that what she had done was sinful. And because she agreed that what she had done was wrong, she was willing to repent.

Jesus did not say, “Woman, this is your body so you can choose to do whatever you want to do with it. Don’t mind those hypocrites who wanted to kill you; they are worse than you.” He made her realise she was not doing the right thing and, therefore, the need to change.

If Rashida were my daughter or sister, I would disown her. I will rebuke her sternly and help her to reform. I will not tell her that what she has done is a trivial mistake which everyone else does.

I will let her know that what she has done is a disgrace to womanhood and defeats the fight against those who see women as sex objects. I will tell her that the internet does not forget.

I will tell her that she can become anything she wants to become but things such as what she is doing will come back to haunt her. I will tell her that if Zuweira Baba Mohammed wants to run for public office in the future, her brilliance at the 2017 National Science and Maths Quize can be played as part of her campaign message and she will sway some intellectual votes.

I will tell her that if she, Rashida, wants to run for a similar office, her naked videos in 2017, with flies hovering around her vagina will be played and shared by her opponents and that can affect her chances negatively. Society does not forget and forgive some sins easily.

This is the reality the Boko Haram feminists need to confront when they think nudity is a synonym for feminism.