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#HERStory – Episode 15: Not Daddy’s Son

What Was Her Experience?

Gender Discrimination from My Father

Not Daddy’s Son: I never had a close relationship with my Dad. My mum says it is because he always wanted a son. She said he was very disappointed the day I was born. Even worse when my younger sister followed. He was a quiet man but he would always crawl deeper into his shell whenever we came around him. It was as if he did not know how to relate with us because we were girls. I did everything I could to make this man happy and proud of me. I grew up with this constant feeling of wanting to be accepted by him. No one can understand the pain of feeling like you are not enough for your father.

In the summer holiday of 2005, Daddy sent me to this holiday camp for three weeks. The camp was this fun place where you got to learn a lot of physical sports and non-academic skills. At the end of camp, we were given a series of graded physical and practical tests to help our guardians see if we wasted their resources in camp or not. When the test results were pasted on the board, I got so nervous. I had hoped I would do well so Daddy would be proud of me, especially because the camp activities were mostly sporting activities - something a ‘son’ would excel in. As I walked to the board to check my results, I got a lot of grins from my camp mates. “Great Job, Whitney”, “You deserved it, Whitney”, everyone seemed to be excited for my results. Then I saw my name. Top of the board. First in the set. I was in shock. The girls rallied around me, cheering. It was the first time a girl had emerged as the ‘Number One Camper’. It was a victory I could not wait to share with my Dad. Maybe he would finally be proud and accept me after this.

As soon as Daddy came to pick me up, I told him the good news. He was unbothered. I repeated myself frantically hoping to get a positive reaction. Nothing. Then as I got into the car, he said the words that absolutely changed the way I looked at him “You don’t know you’re a not a boy. Those are not the kinds of things you should be excelling in as a girl”. I still remember the heart-breaking feeling in my chest. It felt like I was less than human, like I was a sub-standard, unwanted, entity. It was like in that moment, Daddy changed from my father to some misogynist I resented.

Those words kept resonating in my mind for the rest of my teenage and young adult years. I became very competitive. Especially against boys. I needed to prove to myself and to my father that I could do and excel at anything even though I was not a boy. After that Summer, I started doing better in school, I eventually graduated as one of the top students in class. I got admitted into one of the top universities in the country, and kept competing my way to the top. I graduated from the university with an exceptional GPA and soon after my service year got a job in one of the leading Nigerian Banks. With every triumph, my father would continue to make his sexist comments and try to downplay my successes because I was not a boy. Nothing I did was good enough for him to acknowledge, it meant nothing to him because I was not his son. He would rather rejoice and talk about the achievements of the sons of his friends than boast about my accomplishments. After sometime, I realized that I needed to do things for myself, not for validation from my father. I had to accept that no matter what happened, my Dad was always going to be misogynistic and nothing I did could change that.

A Moment That Tried Her

Seeking Validation from Him

Not Daddy’s Son: Every time I tried to prove myself to him and failed, it was frustrating. Seeking validation from someone who refuses to acknowledge your worth is the worst thing you can do to yourself. For many years, I felt like my Dad was just ‘managing’ me and the rest of the girls in the house. From the way he would talk to me and my sister, to the way he treated my Mum, you could see that he was unhappy being around the women at home. Whenever he was out with his friends, he would be so alive. He even seemed to be closer to a lot of his friend’s sons than he was ever close to us. To him, all we were good for was cooking and cleaning. He would always refer to the fact that we would be married off soon. The idea of a son-in-law always seemed to excite him more. Perhaps because it was the closest he could get to having a son. Growing up with a sexist, misogynistic man was extremely difficult. The whole experience tried me.

Her Eureka Moment?

Finding My Self-Worth Outside Home

Not Daddy’s Son: Moving out of the house and being in an environment where women are constantly celebrated and treated with respect and valued for their worth and contributions helped me find my new identity as a woman. I finally realized that I was not less than perfect or less than complete because I was not a man, unlike how my father made me feel. I also understood that my father was not a bad person, he was just someone conditioned by society to think the way he did. Now, I am free to soar, not because I want to prove anything to him or to anyone, but because I want to and I can. I love my Dad more now. He is getting old, and even if he has not changed. I will always love him.

Gender stereotyping and discrimination in the family unit has occurred in many societies for many centuries. Some would argue that this culture of segregation stems from the biblical era where Kings would rejoice over the birth of a male child over a female one because it meant there was an heir to the throne. Despite centuries of progress in the fight for equality of the sexes, this culture of gender discrimination and stereotyping in the family unit continues to linger in the new world.

The major output of this unfortunate culture is its ripple effect in the minds and hearts of the children as they grow up carrying this same culture into the next generation. As more young girls are stereotyped as weaker, unwanted sexes, more young girls grow up with the inferiority complex, unaware of their self-worth and value to society. In the same vein, young boys grow up with the superiority complex and a sense of entitlement over the female gender. This negative acculturation of children from the family unit transcends beyond the household into the lives and future of these children. This sets back local and global efforts towards the achievement of gender equality. The solution to this challenge is glaring - the elimination of gender stereotyping and segregation in the family unit.

Make a change today. Call out and correct any form of gender stereotyping and discrimination you see in your family unit today, let's build a generation of confident women and disciplined boys.


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