Is there such a thing like “Good Disobedience?”

by Oluwadamilola Akintewe

“Chocolate or coconut flavoured?” I asked.

“Is there a difference?” Sade responded to my question with another question, so typically Nigerian.

 “Well”, I continued, “one tastes like chocolate and the other like coconut”.

“You’ve drank it before?”

“No, Ma”, I replied with a sarcastic emphasis on the “Ma”.

“Shebi it is colour white, I mean, coloured like water?”

“Colourless is the word, madam”, I interrupted while she smirked and rolled her eyes at me.

“So, uncle, how much is this one?” Diana inquired from the shop keeper. “One thousand, Eight Hundred Naira”, he responded. “And that?” Pointing to another bottle on the shelf. “Na, 2k. You wan buy or not?” he said in Pidgin* and I could feel the anger and frustration in his tone.

Of course, he was justified, we had been in the store for over thirty minutes, indecisive on the brand of Vodka to buy. How would we know which is best as it was going to be our first time tasting anything alcoholic?

Getting an alcoholic drink is not a big deal – if you are a boy

I met Sade and Diana in the first year of university. They’re those kinds of friends that you cannot vividly remember how you became friends in the first place but three years down the lane, we were inseparable. The three of us clocked 21 recently – “the legally legal age” we jokingly say taking a cue from the last Hollywood movie we saw together, “21 and over.” In it, the protagonist was granted entry into a bar for the first time on his 21st birthday.

Now, getting an alcoholic drink is not a big deal – if you are a boy. I remember my brother was given a Guinness bottle at grandma’s burial while I got Fanta. Don Simon (that paper packed red wine, the once-upon-a-time toast of the town) was always available in the fridge. It is noteworthy that I, as the girl who runs the house grocery errands, including buying the said drink, was never allowed a taste!

Of girlhood

For small town girls like myself who were conservatively raised with gender roles demanding conformity to societal norms and constructs, drinking alcohol is an aberration. This double standards in raising boy and girl children shows how one is allowed free rein while the other is subjected to customary expectations.

Furthermore, limits have been set to what a girl can or should do. From the day she can hold a spoon, she’s been groomed to accept that her importance is attached to an institution as old as time – patriarchy – and dutifully trained in the art of appealing to the male gaze both in words and deeds; lower your gaze, bat your lashes, be quiet and don’t forget to smile – men marry smiling girls.

This deep conditioning consequently creates a woman with no identity or individuality.

In fact, the true essence of youthfulness and being is snatched away in her teenagehood – no alcohol, late evenings, parties or social life, less food for staying in shape and the expected faux humility.

Now, attempts to create different narratives or break free often get the girl a disobedient title. The “shameless ones” who fail to adhere to the proper rules of conduct expected of well-respected young women. They not only bring shame to their family but also encourage other innocent untouched ones to follow suit in their journey of perdition.

Come to think of it, it was disobedient women who actually changed the world. Women who got their freedom, biting, clawing at oppressors and later allowed themselves to live life on their own terms and not just stay alive.

  • Harriet Tubman went to that all-whites school despite being a black woman and risking death.
  • Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti did not even respect Ori-ade [Yoruba word for crown depicting royalty or kingship] when she was fighting against excessive taxation on businesswomen in Egba, South-Western Nigeria.
  • Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is disobedient, so also her older tribe woman Buchi Emecheta whose husband expressly commanded her to not pursue her writing endeavours. And what did she do? She ran away with her children and ended up giving us one of the best female-centred literary pieces of all time “Joys of Motherhood”.

Our act of rebellion

Seeing this great number of witnesses, that was what brought us to the shop that fateful evening to purchase a bottle of Vodka. It was an initiation of three young women transitioning into adulthood, our act of rebellion, a little detour from the constantly demanded obedience. Because if we are to finally disobey, why not go all the way?

In the end, we agreed on the chocolate flavoured one. At least if it tastes horrible, we can pretend we are drinking a cold Choco and raise a toast to our “DISOBEDIENT MOTHERS” who fought for our rights.

Oluwadamilola Akintewe is a 21 year old feminist activist, a law student and social entrepreneur. She describes herself as “good trouble” and often runs her mouth too much for gender equality. She can be reached on social media @TeweDami on Twitter and Instagram, as Oluwadamilola Akintewe on LinkedIn and Facebook or on her blog, Forbidden Topics.

*Pidgin is defined as “a language that is formed from a mixture of several languages when speakers of different languages need to talk to each other” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Image shows a black woman’s fist raised in the air with the word REBELLION beside it. Part image credit: