Dear #BandAid30: Yes, We Know It’s Christmas in Africa

I mean, we own calendars. We are all quite aware of the fact that December is coming up. We are also aware that Christmas happens in the month of December. It’s basic knowledge, so I don’t know why BandAid seems to think otherwise.

Here is the situation:

Bob Geldof *extreme side eye* and a group of musicians just put out a remake of the 1984 classic—”Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

It starts off with footage of an Ebola patient being carried out of his/her home (gotta get that shock factor in. You know how Westerners love them some starving or dying Africans). The next scene shows the stars of the song on some sort of red carpet, waving at flashing cameras, laughing, smiling, hugging…the whole shebang. With this level of camaraderie and good cheer, one would think it’s the Oscars. But, no, they are there to sing a somber song about dying Africans. I don’t know why the producers of this video thought these two scenes went together. I mean, really?

Here are some of the winning lyrics from the song:

And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom”

First of all, most of us don’t even use Christmas bells. I’m pretty sure that’s a purely Western concept. Clanging. Chimes. of. Doom. Really, Band Aid? Even after 30 years and COUNTLESS think pieces, you still don’t see what is problematic with this imagery?! This “here” versus “there”, “us” versus “them” binary does nothing but create an inverse through which the plight of some Africans can highlight the good fortune of Westerners. We don’t exist for your personal introspection, we are not some grim, sobering example that makes you relish in how good your life is. We are real people, with real personalities and real complexities, not a faceless mass that you can use to tell yourself “look how good we’ve got it”.

And then, OF COURSE, you have Bono. The self-appointed Patron Saint of African Calamity. Poster boy par excellence for the “white savior industrial complex”. Basically the African Jesus, if Jesus wore oddly tinted sunglasses. OF COURSE he is here; nothing gets his engine running more than swooping in, in his White glory, to save distressed, voiceless Africans.

Here, we have African Jesus and his disciples.

Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa”

Sigh. How many times are we going to go over this? Adding the “West” to “Africa”, is not any less totalizing than referring to all African countries as “Africa”. Granted, I understand that singing “bring peace and joy this Christmas to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone” might not have been gone well with the song. But the song is crap anyway, so adding a bit of geographical specificity to the lyrics couldn’t have made it any worse than it sounds.

A song of hope where there is no hope tonight”

Yes, of course, in your bid to raise funds, go right ahead and paint this group of people—the whole of West Africa, if we are to go by your lyrics—as hopeless.  Ever since the outbreak started, countless brave women, men, girls, and boys have come together to fight Ebola in their communities. Every single day, these people are out there on the front lines, risking their lives and helping their communities. But, you glossed right over that, didn’t you, Band Aid? That fact detracts from the disaster porn that you’re peddling, so you ignored it. Africans are hopeless and helpless. That’s your story and you’re sticking to it.

“Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time”

I’m confused. By downloading this atrocious, sonically discordant song, are we feeding the starving Africans or telepathically “touching” and curing them of Ebola (à la Jesus, of course. Look at these miraculous Westerners healing the sick from thousands of miles away. What a wonder!)?

“Buy the song. Stop the virus”

True humanitarianism is not an economic transaction through which you can solve world problems by throwing in a dollar here or a pound there. There are no simple answers to these complex, structural problems that you’re trying to solve. True humanitarianism requires you to ask difficult questions about what you’re being incited to act upon. Questions such as: where exactly are the donations going to? Which on-the-ground organizations are they being donated to? What exactly will they be used for? You ask, “does this really matter?” Yes, yes it does. As a do-gooder, you have the responsibility to deeply understand the issues that you are trying to solve and, more importantly, be able to think critically about the adverse effects that arise from your lazy attempts to “help”.

As my friend, Julia, put it: this song is “patronizing at best, neo-colonial at worst, and exploitative throughout.”This use of reductionist tropes, just to get people to “help”, is tired, and we are sick of seeing it over and over again.

And, yes, we know it’s Christmas in Africa. Dammit, we might be “starving and dying”, but at least we can afford calendars. AT LEAST, give us that credit.

PS: No, throwing in Angélique Kidjo as the token African doesn’t make this any less problematic.

Me, in a perpetual state of “can’t”

Humanitarians of Tinder #PoorPeopleSelfies

I’m sure, by now, some of you think I wake up like this:

This is actually untrue because, on most days, I actually wake up like this (pun very much intended):

And then I go about my day, being ***flawless and slaying everything within a 1-mile radius like this:

My daily slaying regimen aside, I have taken a break from my Orange is the New Black binge to blog about this great website called Humanitarians of Tinder, which is way too amusing to even be offensive. Yes, there is an actual website that curates screenshots of Tinder-ians in Third World countries, smiling while draped in “indigenous peoples”. Of course, because what’s a better accessory than poor people in the Third World? Those picture perfect natives, bless their hearts. It’s awesome, isn’t it? Now, at the swipe of a finger, you can “connect” with singles in your area, and hit it off by trading stories about your mutual affinity for poor people of color. Life-changing technology, this one.

For those who don’t know what Tinder is, Tinder is an app where you can “connect” with people in your area. When you sign in, you’re presented with different profiles, and you can swipe right or left to indicate your interest. If you get a match, voila!, “connection” made.

Sounds harmless, right? Except, Tinder is chock-full of hormonal, dubious-looking college kids and divorced dads in the throes of a mid-life crisis. This one guy’s profile only had pictures of his van, and I’ve watched enough Law and Order:SVU to know what a van means, Mr.!

(By the way, I only know this much because I once made a Tinder profile. For social anthropology research purposes, of course.) 

I think this is my favorite photo of a Tinder humanitarian:

I mean, what’s not to love about this guy that’s smack in the middle of this sea of “indigenous peoples”? The fact that one can’t tell why he seems to be dressed in the same uniform as the students (seriously, Jeff Gulliver or whatever your actual name is, some context would’ve been nice) or the fact that it seems like he’s looking into the camera and pleading to be air-lifted out of this vortex of swarming Africans? Or the fact that the picture looks very much like this scene from Game of Thrones?:

I really don’t get the point of putting up such pictures on Tinder. Let’s be real- nobody is on Tinder to admire the largesse of your heart or the depth of your character. Nobody. If I wanted to get someone to pick me as the object of their alcohol-induced affection, and I knew the said person had all of 3 seconds to swipe right for yes and left for no, I wouldn’t put up a picture of me sweating, with damp hair and no make-up. I would probably Catfish by putting up pictures of one of those perpetually upcoming, picture-perfect Instagram “models”.

On a serious note, these people that you parade in your pictures do not exist for your personal gratification. They are not a garland that you can wear around your neck, they are not a pin to put on your lapel to show everyone how well-stamped your passport is, or how well-heeled “fortunate” you are. Stop using them as props to capture your fancy conquests; they are not there for your entertainment, nor are they there to sate your desire for social or personal validation. They are most certainly not there for you to use as Tinder “single-and-ready-to-mingle” signifiers in order to capture the attention of potential-serial-killer Larry from 1.5 miles away.

You probably took such pictures while you were “giving back” in a developing country. It is admirable that you gave up your summer of First World luxuries to connect with your inner philanthropist and observe poverty at a micro-level. Really, it is. “The people” thank you for it. However, save your cool tales of self-redemption for your grad school application; Facebook doesn’t care and Tinder most definitely doesn’t care. There is barely any justifiable reason to pawn poor people in exchange for social media validation. Come on, show some restraint.

For those going abroad this summer (or any time in the future), here is a top tip on how to take poor people selfies: DON’T

#SayNoToPoorPeopleSelfies

PS: I realize that I just referenced 4 TV shows in one blog post. Is there such a thing as TV rehab?

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