Culture is no joke. Saturday night, in my socialization, I was talking to this nurse from Nigeria who migrated to the United States with her kids a few months ago to be reunited with her husband who has been in the country for years.
In that encounter, I must admit that I learnt a lot from her just by talking to and asking her questions about her culture, which is different than mine, of course.
Talking to her, I found out that in the Nigerian culture, the wife is like the husband’s property; she is owned by him. She must be submissive and obedient to him at all times. That is expected of her.
She also told me that regardless the woman’s social status, academic background and professional life, her socially expected role is housewife. Her presence is in the house and kitchen as she is expected to clean the house, cook and feed her man and family.
I asked her how a Nigerian woman would react if she finds out with convincing evidence that her man has cheated on her. She said she would have to accept it as polygamy practiced by the men is legally and socially accepted.
We were talking about domestic violence and what the law says in Nigeria to that respect. She said that he, being like the owner of his wife, is allowed to discipline her physically. And if she reports that to the police, they will tell her that this is a family-related issue; therefore, it should be addressed in the family.
She said to me that a woman who does not birth a son to her husband has no value whatsoever, and that husband can leave her for another woman just so he could have that son. I asked her why it is so important for the husband to have a son. She said that when or if the husband dies, all his estate goes to his son(s), none to the daughter(s). She said the only thing women in Nigeria have is an education from their parents, nothing else and nothing more.
We went on to talk about sex and how in the States it is considered rape if a husband forces sex on his wife who refuses to have sex with him. She said that the Nigerian woman is to please her husband sexually whenever, however, wherever and for however long he needs sex; she cannot dare telling him no, regardless how tired she is.
She also told me that in the Nigerian culture, the woman’s money belongs to her husband; he can do whatever he wants with it. After she said that, I felt compelled to ask her if she is allowed to send money back home to his relatives. She said yes, but she must tell her husband, whose only decision matters, to validate the gesture as she is taking his money to give away.
Isn’t culture amazing? Well, that’s the beauty of it all -no one culture is inferior or superior to another. We just have to respect and tolerate them all. Despite our many judgments we may have about her for being different than most of us, she told me she loves her culture and would not trade it for anything in this world. I would love and not trade it for anything either as a people without its culture is nothing.