By Zulaikha Usman Salihu Danjuma
It is a fact that Nigerians are generally humorous people. We tend to make a joke out of everything. If there are five videos on any of your social media sites; it’s almost guaranteed that three will be a short comic skit or a recorded stand-up comedy clip; that’s how much Nigerians love and appreciate a good laugh. Because if we are sincere, this is a hard place to live, and the only way to survive is by taking a break and decompressing.
Comedians over the years have entertained a vast mass of the Nigerian populace with doses of their humorous performance and productions. Jokes, commonly referred to as cruise in Nigeria, have been caught with a variety of topics from the dilapidated state of the nation, failed governments to the corruption of security agencies. Satire worked good in unbolting up the average Nigerian man’s frustration on the failures of leadership.
The comedy industry was never more apt to highlight issues of concern through their humour, which helped citizens deal with the awful state of things. Kudos to them!!
However, over the years, this satirical industry of jesters seemed to have found a new thing to joke about. Nigerians, well, some Nigerians, seem to enjoy the jokes made even more when they are about violating women on the streets.
In 2014, one of the most known comedians in Comedian in Nigeria made a distasteful “joke” about rape. He suggested that African women held out sex for too long, leaving men with no other option than to rape on the ninth date. Not taking into account why most women do this is inherent in our cultures, social constructs and religions. His particular comment met with an outrage amidst support by others defending him, saying “it was a joke”, “people were too sensitive for nothing”, etc. Although the said comedian made a retraction saying his comments were misunderstood, the culture and normalization of “rape jokes” in Nigeria’s comic skits and stand-up shows is no longer news, Sadly!!
Month after month, a skit gets produced which either outrightly or subtly reinforces a particular rape culture; Hence, normalizing or making light, giving excuses and justifying rape and other female abuses and harassments. Purported comedy skits make light of delicate and sensitive issue like catcalling, groping, consent, battery, objectification and even rape. For stand-ups, there is always a comedian ready to makes “jokes” about how women’s love for money led to their abuse or how women provocative attires draw out the “animal” in a man leading to her being raped. The list of such distasteful scenarios and commentary is endless in the Nigerian comedy industry. But wait a minute, hasn’t it been proven to be a myth the notion that men can’t control their sexual urges?
Regardless of what we choose to believe, entertainment shapes culture. Entertainers or comedians, or other artists, to a great degree, influence the populace, especially the youths. That is to say that when an issue as weighty as rape is used as points for cheap “jokes”, it will in no way or another devaluate the seriousness of the crime, subtly enforcing a subconscious belief that rape is not that serious of an issue.
It is one thing to know a problem and another to know how to stop the problem. Nigerians will never lose love for a good laugh (If we are honest, we probably really need it for our mental health), and comedians will always make skits and perform at stand-up shows. Here are four (4) ways to actively stand against the normalization of rape culture through Nigerian comic productions.
- Counter the idea that men and boys must obtain power through violence and question the notion of sex as an entitlement: Many of these skits portray men as having to forcefully obtain sex from women after being denied despite their spending. Please, we highly advise that you do not do things for sexual favours. If you are expecting sex, this should be communicated so that consent can be given beforehand. Remember that no is no. You are not entitled to anyone’s body because you’ve spent a few bucks.
- Stop victim-blaming: Disregard language and words that blame victims, objectify women and excuse harassment. It is not okay to have a skit where a man sees an endowed woman and rushes to grab her, then blame it on her dressing while excusing his behaviour. Body autonomy is a concept; please learn it.
- Broaden your understanding of rape culture: rape culture goes beyond a lady being assaulted by a man at night as she walks by; this means any and every behaviour, utterance, action or inaction that normalizes and trivializes sexual harassment and abuse, which in one way or another will leads to a slippery slope of normalizing the violation of women.
- Don’t Laugh at rape: Rape or any form of abuse is never a punchline; humour that normalizes and justifies sexual violence is not acceptable. Cut it out, and Call it out.
Together we can achieve the change we want to see globally, but we must start at home first. It must begin with us.