I have been thinking about my secondary school experience a lot lately because of my blog and I realised that there were several problematic things that were accepted. I remember there was a female teacher who used to make girls wipe their lips whenever it was glossy. It didn’t even have to be lip gloss: she asked the girls to wipe their lips even when we used Vaseline (how are we supposed to moisturise our lips in Harmattan?????????? Insert confused face emoji). I’m saying glossy so I don’t make her come off a crazy irrational person but she had a problem with moisturised lips of any kind. I guess she wanted us to moisturise our lips by licking them. I don’t know why she had an issue with glossy lips, maybe she thought glossy lips would tempt the boys and the male teachers. I don’t know why a person would sexualize glossy lips but even if they are sexual on whatever planet, shouldn’t the boys/male teachers be educated on consent and self-control instead of body policing girls.
Whatever the reason for her strong dislike of moisturised lips on only female students her actions reinforce the idea that girls should alter their behaviour and appearance to avoid sexual assault or rape. I don’t think that was the message that she wanted to send or at least I hope that wasn’t the message she wanted to send but that was the message that was received. It is this kind of thinking that makes people say “What was she wearing?” or “Why was she out that late?” after a girl has been sexually assaulted/raped. I don’t know why people don’t understand that the perpetrator is the only criminal and should be the only one put on trial. [The biggest lie that women/girls have been led to believe is that they can avoid sexual assault/rape].
The incident that exposed the blatant sexism in school was when we had to pick a class monitor and an assistant. It was the beginning of a new academic year and so we had to pick a class monitor (class president for non-Nigerians). Our form teacher came to the class and said we had to choose a boy to be the monitor and the girl to be his assistant (insert face palm, smh, angry and sad emojis). Two other female students and I were shocked and decided to question the teacher’s demand. We asked him why it couldn’t be the other way around and he said (prepare yourself for this strong dose of unapologetic misogyny) that boys are better leaders than girls. The three of us who initially questioned the teacher decided to protest loudly and respectfully (respectfully ofc because nobody wanted to get flogged on a hot afternoon). After a few minutes of debate and cheering by supporters, I remember very distinctly that it was other female students that told us to “Keep quiet” and “You guys are making noise”: a perfect example of internalised misogyny. We were challenging the teacher to give a female student a chance to be the class monitor and the people who told us to stop were female students. We did stop and a boy was chosen to be the monitor while a girl his assistant (LONG LIVE THE PATRIARCHY).
I had no interest in being the class monitor because I was a class monitor in a previous year and I absolutely hated it but I protested because I wanted to give a girl a chance to be the monitor.Also, there might be a girl who hears that and believes that she is a less competent leader than any other boy just because she is a girl and a boy who hears that and believes that he is naturally superior to girls/women in all areas except in domestic affairs (Yes, they can let us have that one- rolling my eyes) thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of oppressive patriarchy.
Schools should be the last place misogyny should occur because schools are meant to educate young people and inspire social change that will make the world a better place.