Sometime last month, I heard a lady talking to her group of male friends about how pointless feminism is. According to her, women are inherently less than their male counterparts because there are very few female inventors and innovators mentioned in the history books. In retrospect, I wish I tucked my shyness away and addressed her and the men–who were very much pleased with her for proclaiming their superiority and for being “sensible unlike those feminists”.
On the surface, it seems logical; if the sexes are equal, then women should have been just as prominent as men. However, it is absurd to expect equality of outcomes in any scenario, even more ridiculous where equal opportunities do not exist.
Asides the widely accepted sexist ideals that have always existed, and still do, women’s contributions have been trivialized or outrightly ignored. We only hear of femme fatales and nameless women, typically identified with their fathers’ or husbands’ names, involved in one tragic event or the other.
Sadly, the disregard for women’s achievements still continues till date especially in the art world. People find it hard to admit that a performer as exceptional and iconic as Beyoncé is the best in this era. She has been repeatedly compared to mediocre male performers who cannot hold a candle to her vocal prowess, and performance art even at its lowest point, simply because it’s unfathomable to some that a woman can be the best at something her and other men do.
Nigerian comedian, Maraji, whose skits are just as funny as they are creative has also been compared to other male comedians who recycle the same tired jokes that are almost always offensive and have no shred of humour.
Yemi Alade, a Nigerian singer once stated in an interview that she is on the same level with Wizkid and Davido who are both well on their way to attaining worldwide acclaim. As overreaching as I found this assertion, I saw some takes that got me thinking. Someone said her music does not meet the standard Nigerian pop music is held to. Considering the sheer amount of songs with meaningless unoriginal lyrics, subpar vocals, overused beats that leave much to be desired, it is very interesting that her music is expected to surpass the usual to be as accepted. I also realised that people feel uncomfortable when women assert their brilliance or are confident in their skills.
This culture of dismissing female content did not begin today. Female writers like the Bronte sisters, Violet Paget, Mary Ann Evans, and many others, had to use male pseudonyms at some point in their careers. It is also believed in some circles that a good number of works credited to Williams Shakespeare were written by a woman named Amelia Bassano.
Harsh criticisms aside, it’s been found that for some weird reason, men typically don’t consume art produced by women. Little wonder J.K. Rowling was advised by her publishers to use her acronyms as opposed to Joanne which is very feminine to ensure her commercial success. Her Harry Potter series went on to sell over 500 million copies and become the bestselling book in history after she took on a gender-neutral name and identity.
Issa Rae’s visuals and writing have also faced some unnecessary scrutiny, and have been dismissed for being unrealistic and defamatory, even though works with similar themes by male producers are more accepted.
To my untrained eye, it seems as if women’s works are held to a higher standard than men’s by art critics and consumers. This makes it even harder for women to garner a wide audience that appreciate their work. Even the very talented ones–in Big Sean’s words–have to extra extra try.
Shutting out certain works simply because they are produced by women will only limit your worldview and perspective, and you miss out on beautiful things. Appreciate talent regardless of the gender of the possessor. It is very possible that a woman is the best in her field, male domination does not matter. Stop classifying amazing women as “best female” or “one of the best” when they are indeed the best. Try it, you won’t choke. I promise.