• Aisha Musa

'Politics is a man's game': Marginalisation of women and more.

‘Politics is a man’s game’, a statement uttered by a Nigerian politician Who while working locally within the Nigerian community, also deals with politicians in the country. An interview was conducted with the local chancellor of Niger state, Nigeria on the extent to which the lack of women’s involvement in Nigerian politics was due to the heavy cultural and religious beliefs. Despite the interview being conducted with two other members, one of which was female, the one that raised a topic of discussion and stood out the most was the one that included the statement ‘politics is a man’s game’.

Over the years, politics in many countries have been run by men and seldom women perhaps due to the idea that women are not fit for such positions. Women have been put in a box that outlines what they are ‘meant’ to do and how they are supposed to do it. It is like a guideline on how to exist and survive through this male-dominated society. Need I ask who created these guides and specifics on how women should live their lives? The simple answer is the ‘most powerful and the men’. A man is taught from young to see himself as royalty hence the treatments he’s given and the treatments he believes he is entitled to- this way of living has been created by a society that believes that women are weaker vessels and are not capable of being in the same roles as men. Occasionally, when women are given words of affirmations such as ‘be successful’ or ‘be happy’ or ‘do good’ or ‘pursue a career’, these affirmations and words of empowerment are made with a restriction that does not ‘threaten’ a man’s power or place in society. So, it is as though women are to do what they choose but not in a way that overtakes a man’s power or dignity. This is why the reference to the Nigerian writer ‘Chimamanda Adichie’s words from the song ‘Flawless’ is suitable and appropriate in this context. In the song, the writer introduces the following lines that show that women can achieve anything they want as long as it does not interfere with a man’s power and stability. The following words from the song are relevant and appropriate for this discussion:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller

We say to girls: "You can have ambition, but not too much

You should aim to be successful, but not too successful

Otherwise, you will threaten the man"

Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage

I am expected to make my life choices

Always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important

Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support

But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage

And we don't teach boys the same?

We raise girls to see each other as competitors

Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing

But for the attention of men

Why are there limits to what women can aim for? We say ‘aim for the sky’ but in reality, there are already specifics as to what should be aimed for and this is why there are issues of very few women in politics especially in Nigeria. This is because of the deeply-rooted cultural beliefs that try to impose the idea that a woman cannot be in a position of leadership- ‘A woman is not born a leader, simply a follower and even if she decides to go into politics she needs a man to lead her before she can succeed’.

Since when was politics a game of gender, a game of discrimination and inequality? Don’t the key concepts that form the foundation of politics deal with justice, peace, human rights, and most importantly equality? Why has politics been viewed as a game that can only be truly played by a man simply because society has labeled it so?

According to Professor Christina Boswell, politics is simply about who gets what, when, and how. This means that there is no attached gender that can take on this role, it further touches on the topic of ‘skills’ ‘ability’ ‘potential’ and ‘capabilities’. A political position like any other demands skilled individuals regardless of their gender, social background, and nationality. Politics as a game should be a fair one, which means it will be termed ‘unjust or unfair’ if only male candidates are allowed to partake in it. Thus, if a woman can get the work done, there is no reason why she should be viewed as weaker or not fit. If a woman is skilled and capable enough to take on the role of a politician, she should be given the role.

On the other hand, some may agree that women are indeed capable of being politicians, but the reason why it is somewhat frowned upon or viewed as not the most appropriate line of work in certain communities is due to the traditional idea that women are only meant to take care of their homes and children. One cannot blame society’s way of thinking but can, instead, work on being adaptive and current with today’s world and way of life. This can be done by implementing schemes and projects that can increase the participation of women in politics or any field that society has labeled as inappropriate for them.

In contrast, one cannot deny the fact that certain societies are built under religious and cultural beliefs and it will be unfair to judge a certain culture based on the criteria of another. This is why the theory or concept of cultural relativism aims for one to not judge a specific society’s way of thinking by another’s criteria in order to appreciate the different perspectives that exist today. The point is, despite wanting women to be empowered and pursue their goals, one must be patient with some communities that may need time to adapt and implement new ways to empower women. Therefore, whilst one cannot fight the system in place, we can only hope for a better system that is not gender-specific. A system that focuses more on potential, capabilities, and intelligence rather than gender. This is why we must work on being socially equal first, before trying to achieve that in a political sphere. Thus, Martin Luther King states ‘We must face the fact that in reality, you cannot have economic and political equality without having some form of social equality. I think this is inevitable’ hence if one wants change to occur in politics, we must change the way we think as a society first before we can succeed.

The Politician Independent Newspaper, created in 2020