Patrick is a man who has been able to set up political, economic, religious, social, cultural and technological institutions, which have endured from generation to generation, he is a smart guy. Patrick has an intimidating legacy, which has seemed immune to the changing times. When he feels his power is diminishing in one part of the globe, he simply tightens his grip on another area. Thanks to Patrick and his machinations, billions of women and girls all over the world have an inferior place compared with men. Women get less education, harder access to the healthcare that they need, are vulnerable to violence and abuse in private and in public, and most of the work that they do is not as remunerated as that of men. Patrick is clever. Every now and then, he allows a few women to defy the norm and break through his rigid structures into prominence. He then proudly displays these women as proof that his existence is imaginary, and only rests in the minds of the deluded bunch who blame him for all their misfortunes.
People often ask, since there is approximately an equal number of men and women, how come Patrick has survived this long? Why haven’t women worked together to take him out, if indeed he has been such a menace? Patrick has been able to survive for so long because he has actively recruited Patricias to do his dirty work for him. Patrick relies on Patricia for certain things such as socializing male and female children appropriately. The socialization is highly regimented and relentless.
When Patricia gives birth to a girl, the family kills a chicken. If it is a boy, they kill a goat. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Patricia is, therefore, empowered by Patrick to teach her sons to be strong leaders, providers, adventurous, ambitious, dominant and forceful. Patricia’s sons never cry. A boy who cries will grow into a useless man, and Patricia knows that Patrick has no use for useless men. Patricia’s daughters grow up learning how to be submissive. They stay indoors to cook and clean, while their brothers play outside. They wear pink, symbolizing their femininity, while their brothers wear blue, signifying their strength and masculinity. Patricia’s daughters are allowed to cry, that is what girls do. That way, they grow up as ‘damsels in distress’, knowing there will always be a man to look after them, provide for them and keep them safe. It is Patricia who badgers her daughter into getting married, even when she feels she is not ready or does not want to. If Patricia’s daughter is a victim of violence, she encourages her to stay on and ‘be a good wife’. Good women never divorce. Patricia, in her capacity as a sister or mother, oversees the ordeal of widows whose husbands pass away – no man dies ‘just like that’. Note that it is the same Patricia who will take a woman to ‘comfort’ a widower who has lost his wife.
Patricia terrorizes her daughters-in-law because no woman is ever good enough for her son. Patricia assists Patrick in keeping track of the number of male children born into the family. It is only little Patricks who grow into big Patricks and carry on the family name. Little Patricias are not a worthwhile investment because at some point in their lives they move on to become some other family’s Patricia and produce Patricks elsewhere. These roles delude Patricia into thinking that she has power in her own right. Little does she realise that she is only a gatekeeper for Patrick, the one who truly possesses the power. He can give and take it as he deems fit. When Patricia finds herself at the receiving end of Patrick’s power, for example, when she is abused or treated badly herself, then she realizes that she has been lulled into a false sense of security. And so the cycle and circles continue, with Patrick very confident that his empire is safe.
Patrick, however, knows that he has never been truly safe from attack. Every now and then, there has been the odd woman who has refused to cooperate like all the other Patricias. Long before the white men and their missionaries showed up, Patrick has had to deal with ‘deviant women’ such as Frederica. It is the Fredericas of this world who used to dare anyone to circumcise their daughters or granddaughters. It was the Fredericas who refused to be inherited by their husband’s kinsmen as tradition demanded. And it was these bothersome Fredericas who became richer than their husbands through their enterprise, which even included long-distance trading. Patrick, and the Patricias in his employ, had to do something about these terrible Fredericas. So, they were labelled them ‘Witches’, and they proceeded to create many fanciful tales about them. How they used to fly at night, kill and eat their own babies and would pass on their witchcraft to their daughters.
Fast-forward to present times. Patrick is still alive, not necessarily doing very well. He still has an army of Patricias doing his bidding, but the descendants of Frederica have also survived. And there are now so many of them. In the good old days, all Patrick and his Patricias needed to do was say ‘Boo’, and the Fredericas would either disperse or be silenced. Not anymore. There now seems to be an innovation. There are now Fredericks around. Frederick is a man who believes that Patrick’s ways are old and selfish. Frederick watched his mother suffer at the hands of his father’s relations after his death. His mother was forced to drink the water that was used to bathe his father’s corpse. His two sisters were taken in by relations who refused to send them back to school and used them as maids. Frederick’s mother managed to retrieve her two daughters from the relatives. She moved her children to another town, and sold all her valuables to start life over again. She struggled to put all her children through school single-handedly. No one needs to give Frederick a lecture on the role and contributions of women – he knows from his own experience. This is why Frederick now convinces other men that the empowerment of women means a transformed life for all. Lo and behold, Frederica now has her own allies too.
Patrick probably never knew that a day would come when even his fellow Patricks would say no to his controlling and domineering ways. After all, he has always worked to protect their interests. While all men are indeed socialized as Patricks, some of them do come to the realisation that Patrick’s ways are not necessarily the best. When Patrick feels the pressure from the Fredericas to give them a voice in how the affairs of their country are run, he decides to be ‘magnanimous’ and he responds by propping up a Patricia, who comes to reap where she has not sown. It is the Patricias who climb up the ladder of success and give it a kick with their high heels.
In order to cover his tracks, one of the tricks up Patrick’s sleeve is to pit Patricia against Frederica. ‘See, women are their own worst enemies,’ he declares smugly. No, women are not their own worst enemy. It is Patrick who is the enemy, and the institutions, structures and processes he controls. With the gains the Fredericas have made over the years, the Patricias now know that they have choices and they do not need to continue to do Patrick’s bidding. The number of Fredericks, out of their own self-interest and in solidarity with the Fredericas, is also increasing. Patrick’s days are numbered, though he will probably never truly lose all his power. The world Patrick has controlled for so long will hopefully change for the better, because it is one in which all women and men, Fredericas and Fredericks alike, can live in harmony. Frederica has never said she wishes to live in this world alone. Sure, some of her sisters, at some point, were so disgusted with Patrick’s ways that they certainly felt they were better off without all Patricks altogether. Commonsense prevailed. Now, the deal on the table is that there will be a world in which Frederica will live a life of dignity and respect, free from fear and discrimination, and Frederick will not feel the need to diminish Frederica in order to feel powerful. When Fredericas, Patricias and Fredericks all work together, Patrick will be history. Patrick stands for Patriarchy. Patricia helps Patrick prop it up. Frederica is the Feminist and Frederick opposes Patrick and supports Frederica. Ask yourself, are you a Patrick, Patricia, Frederica or Frederick?
•Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a gender specialist, social entrepreneur and writer. She is the founder of
Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State and can be reached at [email protected]