First, I want to say, I do not speak for all women. I speak for practical thinking women like myself who understand how reinforcing rigid gender roles sends a very false narrative to young girls and boys.
An unacknowledged problem in Nigeria’s gender dynamic (at least in the South) is that while the girl-child is encouraged to be empowered, have a trade, go to school, etc, the expectation of household work, childcare, everything that was exclusive to her as a gender role is still reserved for the woman.
I presume Maggi’s aim was to give accolades to the supposed ‘realities’ of women. They got it right in depicting today’s woman navigating all areas of her life in career and domestic work. It was also realistic that housework is still the exclusivity of the female in Nigeria.
But they sent a very unrealistic message while doing so. They romanticized the working woman and domestic work narrative. The reality of women mixing a career and ‘unpaid’ household work is NOT a joke nor is it a romantic venture. It is a back breaking, strenuous, punishing, laborious job.
Growing up we were assailed with stereotypical adverts like this. The smiling wife doing the most, a husband with an air of subtle or aggrandized petulance when requested to do the barest minimum, or let’s just go there- an angry husband who is appeased by the sweet cooking of the wife.
All this, the woman must take on with a dazzling smile on her face. But we know this is a LIE for a significant amount of women. We know that smile is filled with a damning concentrated dose of resentment. We know this is a lie, because her anger will be unleashed on her subordinates.
That little girl in the Maggi ad that runs in to eat with her brother, will soon be relegated to the kitchen. And mother, father and son will kick their boots to be waited on by the daughter who must continue the cycle.
She looks forward to Mother’s Day where all her praises, sung by her loudest sons in the choir, is laced with all the sufferings she has endured. These same sons (shielded from the responsibilities of the kitchen) sing her praises to the highest heavens, because loving mothers must come with back breaking sacrifices that if critically analyzed should have been avoided.
Some women consider this as ‘rewarding’, but I and many women like myself do not consider it as such. And are utterly disgusted by this sadistic display of love of mother and wife.
While girls were enwrapped in typical ‘romantic’ fairy-tales, the Nigerian boy visualized his own ‘romantic’ fairy-tales.
His idea of a fairy-tale is a wife engrossed in housework, depicted exactly as the Maggi ad. He watches Nollywood - whose story-line on wives is an overwhelming case of the extremes. It is either the ‘bad’ wife is cantankerous and crazy, or the so-called good wife takes on a virtually glorified house-maid status with the nonexistent opinions of a housefly. There are hardly any sane, normal, rational females. No healthy balance of a normal woman.
It is these depictions Nigerian boys are watching and fed to. They internalize this regurgitated nonsense from TV, same way girls internalized the whole fraudulent concept of the ‘Prince Charming’ fairy-tale.
All the boy sees is that he needs to provide. While the reality is that women in Nigeria today provide and still have to come back to cooking and ‘washing plates’. This romanticized notion of overworked wife has bred a generation of entitled men. And it is not a joke!
Nigerian boys and men MUST share the house work, childcare etc. Nigerian men MUST evolve and stop depending on women for food or domestic needs. We should begin to see men who depend on women for food as an anomaly, a glutton, a greedy hungry fiend, the same way today’s men identify women as gold diggers when women argue to be catered for financially.
Lastly, our generation of women may have to suffer the consequences of our delayed pro-activeness in redefining gender roles and actions, BUT our daughters do not have to.
P.S. If you as a woman do not want gender equality, or want it but prefer to limit it outside the family, this subject is not for you, sorry! Just respect yourself and stay in your lane!