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Tiwa Savage: A Reminder of an Oppressive Culture

May 02, 2016 at 09:29 am | Opinions & Features

Sanna Arman

Sanna Arman | Columnist

May 02, 2016 at 09:29 am | Opinions & Features

Tiwa Savage in her wedding dress- 2014

If you are aware of the publicly unfolding events of Teebillz and Tiwa Savage’s marriage, that may have contributed to your clicking on this article. You may then be hoping to have sugar added to the already spilt tea because we are a fast food culture attracted by drama more than we are by substance. You will be disappointed to know that this article will address the patriarchy within most of the Afrikan societies when it comes to marriage.

I know, yet another article on patriarchy in less than a week. If you take issue with this, it is because you are a product of a society that has normalized patriarchy and/or misogyny and perpetuates it, whether consciously or otherwise. The issue therefore, is not that I, along with other women and men keep raising this issue, but that misogyny exists. With that settled, since you already have one foot in, you might as well take a seat and read on, after which you can leave me a comment on your disagreement; perhaps even help me see I have it all wrong yes?

“Just Like Teebillz and Tiwa, See Baby That Could Be Us” ~ Ice Prince (That Could Be Us)

My interest on the trending subject was sparked when a friend shared Tiwa Savage’s interview on my Facebook timeline. She pointed out the patriarchy it reeked, asking me to look past the tabloid-like headline and give it a watch, which I did.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), I have no interest in celebrity gossip. If anything, I think we have robbed celebrities of their ability to truly live by taking over their personal lives, denying them the space to be humans who much like ourselves, are imperfect. We hold them to unreasonable standards; tearing them down from behind our screens when they do not meet them, while expecting them to answer to us on issues we have no stakes in whatsoever. That is another topic altogether though, so without digressing, let me say I shall not probe into the personal aspects of the marriage.

Marriage in most Afrikan cultures, is considered an extremely great deal, to such an extent that one is not considered to have achieved much, until they are married. Something I am well familiar with; I completed and graduated with a strong masters degree in Law at the age of 21. Though we live in an age when teens are enrolling in PhD’s, I considered, and still consider this one of my most significant lifetime achievements – I am 23 now.  My parents and a few relatives consider it the same.

However, with most of my other relatives, that is not the case. A close relative once asked me “even if you touch the sky, complete a PhD and become the greatest professor or writer that ever lived, what will you have accomplished if you did not get married and started a family?” Marriage is considered an accolade to which all other achievements are supplementary. Without it, all other achievements do not hold much meaning.

To be clear, I have nothing against marriage. On the contrary, I am actually enthusiastic – not desperate – to get married and look forward to it. Women though, I believe experience this pressure for marriage more. Women need to be careful not to overachieve or be too successful. Should they do, they run the risk of being “too overqualified”, in the words of another relative. Women do not choose the men they marry; the men choose them. This is the general consensus; One that is not put in these exact words but is certainly implied.

Therefore, we, as women of the 21st Century, need to be smart and work hard, but be sure to remain mediocre enough to be ‘marriage material’. From a young age, we are raised and prepared to know how to run a household and provide domestically for the men in our lives, and eventually the men we will marry, while the men are raised and prepared to know how to take over the world.

In his song ‘that could be us’, Ice Prince presents ‘Teebillz and Tiwa’, among others, as examples of ideal relationships and models for marriage goals. Yet, as we now know, the public display of their marriage as a successful one, for most part, has been a smokescreen. Of course being celebrities has added to the pressures to present it as an all happy affair. The holding up appearances for the public however, is not unique to celebrities. We all in one-way or another, conceal our struggles, presenting forth to the world only our best selves. Whether on social media or at family gatherings, we do our best to hide our vulnerability. Successful and happy marriages are also one such case sometimes based off appearances, not least because of the societal pressures.

Tiwa and Teebillz tied the knot in an extravagant Dubai wedding in 2014.

Once married, the pressure to get married takes new form i.e whatever the circumstance, the marriage must work. In the words of Tiwa Savage, “everybody says you can’t walk out of a marriage, our culture frowns on it, you have to stay in it, you have to make it work”.

No doubt this pressure is mounted on men too, who are considered failures if they cannot keep their families together. This needs to be acknowledged, but should never be equated to the pressures faced by women because of tradition and culture. Why you ask? Our society is patriarchal, built on a bias that may or may not be intended to work against women, but manifests as such.

Men have an upper hand, which is the reason there is no shame in polygamy or in a man who has children re-marrying. It is the reason men can marry at any age but women must watch their biological clocks. I am aware of the arguments about reproduction, but why do we assume, more so decide, that women must reproduce? And if they do not, then that presents a problem and they are shamed for it. What about women who cannot do so because of medical conditions? What about those who just have no interest in reproducing? What about choice?

This upper hand is the reason Teebillz was confident to emotionally intimidate Tiwa, using the taboo that surrounds women walking out of marriages to keep her from leaving the marriage. In her words, “I was scared, will I ever find someone else to marry me, like he said, my age, and now I have a child”. Hence women break their backs to make unfulfilling marriages work. They stay in unhappy marriages. If a woman is unhappy, she is reminded, just like Tiwa that “you’re a woman, you have to stomach a lot of things”. She is reminded, the woman is the one that builds the home”.  

They say there are three sides to every story. In this case there is Teebillz’s side, Tiwa’s side, and truth. Though I do not think Tiwa Savage owes the world any explanation, I am glad she came out to talk about her relationship. Through her story, facts of which I am in no position to confirm or deny, she is, as an Afrikan woman, shining light on the strife of many other Afrikan women. Regardless of what the truth is, Tiwa’s narrative shines a light on an issue affecting a lot of Afrikan women. Women who are unhappy in marriages but will not walk out of them for reasons unique to each woman and the nature of her relationship, but the status quo, and one that keeps many women in abusive relationships – both physical and mentally – is the stigma attached to leaving their marriages, regardless of what causes them to do so.

The pressures to marry put on girls by Afrikan cultures, contributes to them settling for men who do not deserve them, and those put on women to stay in marriages and make them work regardless of how unhappy they are, has led, to the irreparable psychological damage of women, even their demise in some cases.

Obviously this is not the case with all marriages. There are definitely men who get cheated on in their marriages and women who do not deserve the men they married. On the other hand, there are those men and women in great marriages. This article is therefore not one to vilify men and sanctify women, but one written solely in the context of abusive relationships dominated by patriarchal standards and cultures.

Click here to Watch Tiwa Savage’s Interview.

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