On Bride Price and Wife Material

I hate marriage talk. I swear, I do. But being Nigerian, it’s something that one can’t avoid. It’s like a rite of passage; the minute you turn 18, that’s all anyone around you talks about- older aunties gather around to trade marriage anecdotes so that the “younger ones can learn”, people advise you to drop certain behaviors so that you’re seen as “wife material”—one time, this woman told me that I should stop reading so much so that men wouldn’t be scared off. Good times—, people caution you about choosing certain career paths because your marital clock might tick, tock and die while you labor away in some high-powered career that’s not “suitable for marriage.” It’s marriage-talk-o’clock every damn minute, and I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the emphasis placed on marriage in Nigeria. I’m sick of people acting like marriage is the sole factor that legitimizes one’s achievements as a woman. I once heard someone say “if you like, get a PhD. Your most important degree is an MRS”. (Yes, really. To make matters worse, she felt so clever with her dead joke). Nigeria is a society in which a woman’s essence is predicated upon her being adjoined to a man. You can cure cancer, you can go to the moon, you can eradicate malaria and Nigerians would still ask where your Mrs. tag is. It’s ridiculous. We should know better, yet the entire social fabric of Nigeria is built on such stupid ideals.

The process of marriage itself is another part of Nigerian culture that I fundamentally disagree with, especially with the issue of the bride price that is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s. This can range from 1 Naira (as a symbolic gesture) to millions of Naira. I’ve always found it an absurd tradition. Why should there be a price paid for the bride? Why does the price seem so arbitrary? Doesn’t this bride price give the groom the upper hand in the marriage; won’t he feel like he bought her and she’s indebted to him? In many instances, I’ve heard of husbands shutting their wives up by saying “shut up, I paid your bride price!” (I have sonneted, memorized, and rehearsed my retort for the hapless man that dares to say this to me. No, seriously, I have). It’s a useless tradition that puts a bounty on women’s heads and vests a sense of ownership in men. In my opinion, if we are to maintain this tradition, it should be merely symbolic (1 Naira?) and not as exorbitantly monetary as it is in many cases.

I stumbled onto an app called BridePrice and, given my reservations about marriage in Nigeria, I was ready to be enraged. How dare they make an actual app for this archaic tradition that subjugates women and makes them chattel for men to trade and haggle over? By digitizing this tradition, they were basically telling us that this tradition isn’t going anywhere. I ventured onto the website with my latent anger boiling under, waiting to implode. I turned out to be a satirical simulation of the arbitrary calculations that go into deciding a bride price. Metrics such as the shape of a girl’s legs [Sexy Bow Legs (Beyonce)/Okocha/Straight]; facial beauty [Just Fine/Normal/Complete No Try]; Skin Color [Half Caste/Lupita/Whitenecious]; Residency [Nigeria/The Abroad]; Education Level [PhD/Masters/Bachelors]; Cooking Skills [Calabar/Indomie/Boiling Egg] are included.

It all seems like a joke until you look at the figures beside each option. Why should fairer skin come with a higher price premium over darker skin? Why should a PhD come with a 100,000 price deduction (which hearkens back to a culture that says a woman can be educated but not too educated, else she intimidate the man), why should a woman’s facial features being more Eurocentric attract a higher price valuation than more “Afrocentric” features? This app is telling of a culture that valorizes certain characteristics over others, and dictates to men and women alike what’s desirable in a wife and what’s not. It is indicative of a culture in which we tell girls that they can never be too domesticated, too light-skinned or too beautiful, but there is such a thing as being too educated. It is indicative of a society that tells girls that their prime achievement is tied to a shiny piece of jewelry on their ring finger and what they can toss around in a pan. It is indicative of a culture that tells boys that they are perfect just the way the are, but holds girls to impossible superficial ideals. Despite its flippant nature, this app highlights some of the wrongs in a very pervasive yet extremely normalized culture. It starts a conversation by simulating the superficiality that we, as a culture, are subjected to. One way or another, Nigerians are complicit in this ridiculous culture. This app is us, wether or not we choose to admit it.

ANYWAY, in case you were wondering what my bride price is, after consulting with the elders, it came up to *drum rolllllll*:

Image

That’s right, ladies, gentlemen, haters, lovers, friends, well-wishers and under-g bad-belles, I am of PREMIUM status in this bride price game. Nobody believed in me, but I made it! I am wife material, cord lace (whatever that is) to be precise! I should send this image to all those aunties that have secretly (and overtly) banished me to a life of spinsterhood. “Who is smiling now????”

Excuse me while I burst into some celebratory dance moves

#LookMamaIMadeIt #TeamPremium #AhNeverEsperredIt

 

 

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27 thoughts on “On Bride Price and Wife Material

  1. Indian women have to put up with exactly the same nonsense, about not being overqualified or overaged for marriage. But there is one big difference… the bride’s family pays a dowry, which increases if the bride is older than 21/darker/not so pretty etc, and also increases if the groom is highly qualified/rich/in a great job etc etc. In some places, families can go broke trying to marry their daughter.
    So it looks like whichever way dowry is given, it complicates lives.

    • You’re right; it does complicate lives. That’s why I think it should be more symbolic as a way to “preserve tradition” without holding on to the almost transactional aspect of these ridiculous bride price/dowry amounts.

    • Lol. Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad that I can provide some form of diversion, while you’re at work.

      And thank you for showing me what cord lace is. Actually wasn’t being sarcastic on that one; I didn’t know. Haha.

      • Lol, thanks to years of free labor in my moms fashion house, I learned things about fabric that will be considered unmanly by cultural standards. Glad I could help. :0.

        I am not able to work rather, so home I it is and I’m enjoying your blog. Dope isn

  2. I am in stitches right now. Its amazing how in the world we live in women are on a constant interview by the opposite sex to see if we are quality women. And yet not once do we ever stop to think if the man we jumping through hoops for is a quality man.

  3. Haha! Your blog is really good.
    About the bride price tradition, it’s really sad how husbands now lord it over their wives. In the past, when Okonkwo wrestled with the lion in the forest of the dead, bride price was mainly symbolic and it made “divorce” easier for them. If a marriage was to be terminated, the bride price paid initially was simply to be returned to the man’s family. I agree that if we are to maintain the tradition, it needs to return to its symbolic nature.

  4. Hi Motley,

    Very interesting blog. As someone from the inside team, I’m glad to see these conversations go as predicted. Proof that ad agencies aren’t just meant to cut press ads, but can actually influence social conversation and urban culture. This is a good thing.

    A few things to point out – the app is for fun, and there’s a disclaimer on the first page to that effect. However, the criticism regarding the value of African women is rather misplaced. If you looked well, you’ll find the the highest rated skin colour was Lupita – about the darkest possible hue you could get in Nigeria. The app also puts a premium on jobs, and not housewives. It takes marks for being “Maga dependent”. It also takes marks for bleaching (Whitenicious).

    Must be said again, this is a fun stab at ourselves as a society (even though this is also reverse engineering our own cultural reflection), and because it’s fun, over 2 million people have used the app, 86% women.

    But thank you for the writing. And for helping validate a few agency hypotheses.

    • Hey,

      Thanks for reading. I absolutely loved your website; I felt like the satire spoke to serious truths about what our values and I feel like people need to think about why these things are this way. I didn’t even think about some of these things until I saw them on your website, and that’s why I blogged about it.

      I’m glad I was able to “validate” some of your hypothesis…

  5. Seriously……..(big smile), I stumbled across your blog accidentally. You defiantly have a gift for writing and comedy. Totally hilarious. In a world filled with tasteless writing, I have finally found something worth reading. I will definitely follow you. Please continue to entertain and spread the spirit of humour and laughter while bringing to the front serious issues that should certainly be discussed.
    Kudos *I hail oh *
    🙂

  6. Ok,I just finished reading the ‘jollof rice’.I had tears trickling down my cheeks from soo much laughter.. and suddenly I have found myself trying to hungrily devour every other previous post. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!!!! This was a great read..you are good. 🙂 and i’m soo definitely following..kudos.

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