It all began with a forwarded post in the WhatsApp group by Nsikak Essien. Well, you know how forwarded messages and other such posts elicit reactions on social media platforms, right? The Uyo Book Club WhatsApp group is no exception to this. On any given day, it is a thriving virtual town square or University,  as Mr. Aniekpeno Tom Mkpanang calls it,  peopled by members of diverse professional and religio-cultural backgrounds with varying opinions and counter-opinions corroborating and negating the perspectives of each commentator, and group members – active and somewhat passive alike – are regaled with finely-crafted rejoinders stated logically, articulately, and civilly. 

This day was no exception. The topic of the shared post: Commonly observed reactions of men and women to issues with the analogy being a bride’s angry reaction to her groom on the altar without getting all the facts about an approaching nursing mother at the venue right. And this is where our story really takes shape.

A poser was fired: “Why do women conclude so quickly?”, Iboro Otongaran asked.  What followed was a series of explanations. Right away, UnyimeAbasi EyenLuke Odong, a Canadian-based lawyer explained: “Our brain makes several logical leaps because we have more heuristics from having experienced life more fully. Also, we have many things to process in our brains so we have to rely on the heuristics more and conclude one thought quickly so we can process the next. ????????” On the heels of that, Sam Akpe added: “Women conclude quickly because men take too long a time to conclude. Men do too much of analysis, even when the situation requires quick response. So, while men think, women act.” This just might have been the comment which launched a thousand ships. Well, at least the salvo which signaled the gender debate was underway and in full swing.

While a counter from Tony Esu posited that thinking and quick reactions are attributes of both genders, a few members thought men being ascribed as being overly-pondrous with slower reaction times was not complimentary, but Kingsley Mark Akpan thought otherwise. For him, taking decisions after taking time to logically examine the facts would always be a compliment and advantageous, a point he analogized in the quoted: “…what’s even better is making quick informed decisions. Even [Lionel] Messi’ success rate on the pitch has been attributed to making informed decisions – minutes-long scanning for the positioning of players and the goalkeepers before going for goal. Until then he wanders around the pitch stalling.

If quick decisions were the main deciders of success, the African lion famous, for hunting down prey almost immediately it spots it, wouldn’t have a poor hunting success rate of 20 percent. The African Rock Python which pauses to analyse the situation before striking at prey has a higher success rate. The anaconda too. Making informed decisions based on logic is a compliment.”

A back-and-forth about the stereotypical tag of women being supposedly more reactionary than analytical tied in with an earlier exegesis of the run-ins with the law of embattled former United States President Donald J. Trump crystalized the debate into what constitutes misogyny and the role of neo-feminism in unwittingly deviating from the initial driving arguments for feminism and even enabling misogyny.

As a response to a comment about the Republican Party’s candidate Trump documented history of aiding the objectification of women albeit consensually as he has always insisted the women he got entangled with did everything of their own will, Sonni Anyang had this to say: ”There is a strange, Alice- in-Wonderland quality to the reasoning that the misogynist is the person who says we should not make a commercial object out of the female nude form while the one who sees the woman as nothing more than a sex object to be drooled over is a champion of feminism. I guess two centuries of industrial pollution has pumped enough dope into the air we breathe that the entire world is now  stoned out of its collective mind.”

But is he right? Do men get a say in what a woman should or shouldn’t willing do, the morality or not of it regardless? As posted by Kingsley Mark Akpan, famous actresses and feminists Emma Stone and Gloria Steinem think otherwise. According to both feminists, “Feminists can wear whatever they want. If we cannot choose freely how to  behave, speak, act and present ourselves, then we are moving backwards” . Feminists can wear whatever they want. If we cannot choose freely how to  behave, speak, act and present ourselves, then we are moving backwards” . 

 Are we? Are truly moving backwards for suggesting moderation or just being plain misogynistic by even remotely dictating to women? UnyimeAbasi EyenLuke Odong doesn’t think so and countering Ms. Stone’s stance on feminism, here’s what she thinks: “The thing with wanting to be right at all costs is that you then push these extremist views way past reasonable limits. And you can’t retrace because you don’t want to concede any ground. 

It is this same thinking that endorses sex work, a demeaning way of earning income that debases women,  a ‘profession’ in which women are disproportionately represented, and justifies it as ‘the women want to do it’

It is almost invariably women who will be asked to grace the covers of GQ and other publications near-nude and we still pretend like it’s their choice. And a man will make an inappropriate request of a woman with whom he enjoys an asymmetrical power relationship and insist that the woman consented when she wasn’t given any real choice. Is feminism about choice? Yes! A resounding yes! Is it choice in the way framed by Steinem and company? A resounding No!”

Fiery. What then is feminism? Is it an evolving concept? Does it have splinter groups and varying ideologies? So many questions.

Responding to Sonni Anyang‘s probing question and challenge of Gloria Steinem’s assumed spokespersonship for the feminist movement, Kingsley Mark Akpan added: “No, she’s not. Well, no, it’s not my place to define what a female movement should be. I only reiterated the tenets of their dogma, if one would call it so.

One of their tenets is, a man shouldn’t police a woman’s body. Trying to dictate or suggest what a woman should or shouldn’t do with her body or time would earn you the misogynist tag or toxic patriarchy, even if she decided to be a nude model like POTUS45’s wife or pole-dance every other night.

Kingsley was simply reiterating without stating if he believes it or not as used in the alleged Trump misogyny analogy you had quoted.

Oh! It is their choice. None of the nude models mentioned they were coerced to pose nude. And trying to explain the obvious objectification and dehumanization to those willingly walking this path would be you mansplaining. Yes, that’s a coinage in the community for men who try to have an opinion on women and issues about them. Supporting her choice – objectification even – would be you being an ally and the poster man for gynophilia. According to the community, that is.”

Who is to blame?

So, with all of the above stated, do you agree? Do you think feminism has gone too far or some of its adherents have taken extreme positions which undermine the very ideology which drives feminism? UnyimeAbasi EyenLuke Odong thinks society pays too much attention to the relatively small crop of feminists espousing extreme stances under the guise of feminism. She believes if we focus on real issues which cause gender divide like pushing for policies to alleviate peculiarly women situation of playing dual roles as homemakers and office workers, and deconstructing policies which systematically put glass ceilings above the ambitions of women in any sphere as against paying heed to feminists who focus on, in her words, superficial issues like willing nudity as a mark of body positivism and choice, the extremists would get no attention. Good point about exerting too much energy on the minor while not channeling same to major pressing gender issues. 

Kingsley Mark Akpan, on the other hand, thinks moderate feminists ignoring the excesses and seemingly deviating stances of the admittedly few but visibly vocal ultras is counter – productive. “When the logical majority are silent, the insane minority get bolder to be louder. Even Chimamanda [Adichie] herself renounced them and called them “Bitter and wicked” – her words which I can provide video evidence for.

Today, the thought leaders of neo-feminism have large followings on Twitter [X] and Facebook, and recently ganged up to attack a woman this January (Mummy Zee) for saying she wakes up early to cook for her husband. , and recently ganged up to attack a woman this January (Mummy Zee) for saying she wakes up early to cook for her husband. Maybe if moderates speak [up] and get louder about the actual ideals and stance on feminism, the ultras would be drowned out.

But looking the other way when these ultras champion the outrageous while blaming the rest of the ‘neutral’ would for pointing out the disconnect in their stances would be selective hysteria.”

While conceding that moderate feminists could actual do a whole lot more to counter the few ultras and reiterate the founding ideals of feminism, UnyimeAbasi EyenLuke Odong insists the antics and shenanigans of the ultras should in no way deflect from  pressing gender issues. In her words and in response to Iboro Otongaran‘s position that society has advanced in what it deals women, and, in a lot of society’s, women enjoy just as much opportunities as men, especially professionally as merit would always shine through, with the most meritorious being rewarded, male or female: “This, sir, is an oversimplification of a rather complex issue. It proceeds from the assumption that women who didn’t get in the spaces didn’t offer quality. If women who offer quality are chosen based on that quality alone, we would not be here having this conversation. But we know that’s not always the case. Sometimes women have to provide twice the quality of their male counterparts because they are compensating for the kneejerk ‘she’s a woman so she’s not good enough’ reaction, even from her fellows.

Women feel more compelled to – and more often do –  take on office roles that tend to correspond with their gender, like organizing events and the likes; and in the unlikely event that they put their hands up for more serious roles, it is unlikely that they are chosen over their male colleagues, and, no, it’s not often because the male is more competent or has even proven himself so. Asking for quality from women is often the polite-speak of ‘Do double the work, then we will maybe consider you for half the recognition. Real progress is slow. 

We seem to be making progress only because these easy non-issues are very easily resolved. Presented with them as low hanging fruits, we are quick to pluck the discussions around dress codes and appearance and other superficial matters and run with it while the major issues remain largely unresolved. 

There is progress indeed, but much slower than social media makes it ought to be moving.”

“There is progress indeed, but much slower than social media makes it ought to be moving.” Probably a poignant note to sum the debate but gender debates never really end, do they? They are as old as society and would continue in many forms and on many platforms until society gets it right, if we ever do. Well, hopefully we do. Until then, these gender debates – some as constructively civil as the Uyo Book Club gender debates and the back-and-forths – would rage on. 

Then again, it’s exactly what a book club should be: a platform for constant mental intercourse, the examination of issues and ideas – topical and benign, and stances and positions viewed through the lenses of logic and dissected with factually-sharpened scalpels.

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