I recently watched Sista, an emotional, relatable and thought provoking film written, produced and directed by Biodun Stephen. I dare say that although the story is not exceptional, it is well delivered by Kehinde Bankole as Sista and Deyemi Okanlawon as Folarin.
Without spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it (I recommend that we all do), it tells the story of a man and woman, nay two women, the choices they make and can’t make because of their gender, sense of or lack of responsibility, and the children who find themselves through no fault of theirs between them all.
At the end of the movie, which by the way affected me deeply, because it mirrors a lot of injustices that women go through for the sake of their children, the anguish they face when they discover their husbands have homes outside their marriages, the sense of betrayal they feel when their children aggravate towards the spouse that left or offended them and the plight of the single mother in the society. I came to the unpalatable conclusion that in spite of all the gains women have made through the years in the science, creative, economic and financial space, when it comes to our relationships, it’s mainly a man’s world.
A woman’s role is cut out for her in her relationships, though many men infer that she is their equal, in reality she is treated like a highly placed subordinate who is expected to defer to her man and any attempt to redefine her roles is resisted as being contrary to religion and nature. She is expected to put everyone and everything above her desires, dreams and happiness.
A man can leave a woman and his children and walk away without looking back and come back again on his own terms to claim the family he left behind and be justified because his blood runs through his children’s veins. A man can take advantage of a woman, betray her love and affection, disgrace her publicly before friends and enemies and expect her to forgive him after all he is only human and he is not the first man to do so.
A man can after playing the field and trampling on all a woman holds dear, apologise with the expectation that life as he knew it with the woman will go on as before and that because he has apologised and recanted she will understand and forgive him and if that forgiveness doesn’t come as quick as he thinks it should, begin to berate her for holding out on him.
I have felt Sista’s pain and watching that film I relived it. The pain of seeing someone you love treat your love as common, the pain of having to be the strong one who holds everything together whilst your better half is sowing his wild oats without a care in the world, the injustice of having to be the one who does the sacrificing, praying, forgiving and mending, the pain of watching him seemingly go through life unscathed by the pain he has caused you.
I know the bewilderment she must feel when she realises she is all alone holding both the baby and the bathtub and that it is her responsibility to preserve both. The despair she feels when she realises that unlike the man she can’t up and go because she doesn’t feel up to the responsibility or is afraid of it. I know the desire for revenge and how it drives her to do good by her children. I identify with the bitterness and resentment she feels when he comes back and is welcomed with open arms by those who should have sworn to have nothing to do with him. I know the pride she feels in being able to raise her children without his help and how that pride becomes a burden of some sort that she can’t put down even when it becomes too heavy to carry. I identify with the fear she knows when it seems that all her efforts are unappreciated and dimmed in the face of what her children’s father is able to give them that she can’t.
There are many Sistas out there, many even in their matrimonial homes living with the man that is called her husband. She brings in the bacon, tends to his needs, sleeps with him, takes care of his home, lies to her children and portrays that everything is good and he takes it all in the belief that it’s her job as a wife to stick by him, cover his shame and protect him. He consoles her by acknowledging her strength and goodness but seems to ignore the pain she goes through or the effort it takes for her to remain with him. She is applauded by society for being a good woman, a strong woman, a woman who remembers her for better for worse vows when he doesn’t.
There are many women like Tiwatope, Folarin’s wife in the movie played by Bisola Aiyeola whose life is dramatically altered by her husband who expects her to handle his past without any consideration for her feelings. Women who either by choice or convention stand by their husbands, masking their own feelings and disillusionment either because they love him or because they need him in their lives. Women who discover that the man they live with is in many ways a stranger. Women who will be cast as evil, impatient and unforgiving if they insist on their rights and place in his life. Women who if they had had a child before marriage would be heavily criticised for not disclosing that fact to their husband and whose marriage may come to an end because of the revelation of their other children.
I know that there are exceptions to the rule -men who have been left with their children when their wives walked out of the marriage, men who fought for custody of their children because their mothers are not good mothers, men who want to be part of their children’s lives but have been denied that opportunity by their children’s mothers, but it is most often the case that when a marriage or relationship breaks down the woman is left with the children.
There are many men that if not for an intervention of some sort- either sickness, poverty or misfortune that will go on for years without enquiring about people they have at the very least a genetic affiliation with. Nigeria is filled with loads of women who have been abandoned by their husbands and the father of their children. Men who waltz into their children’s life when they are grown and have made something of their lives but need a father to represent them especially when they want to get married and these shameless men begin to dictate what they want even though they have no financial or emotional stake in these children’s lives.
Many men walk away boasting that their kids will come running to them when they appear at their doorstep and unfortunately because every child yearns for a father their boast is often true but is often short lived too as the children gradually if not immediately, see for themselves, the kind of person that they are.
It’s a man’s world all right but I can’t but ask what kind of man will sleep well at night knowing he has not done well by his wife or his children, what kind of man will not provide for his family and yet spend money on side chicks and turn a blind eye to the person they claimed to have loved. The truth is that you cannot love someone and use them, you cannot love someone and abuse and misuse them, you cannot love someone and treat them as if they have no feelings. That is not love it is exploitation and many men are exploiters- taking advantage of the love their women had for them.
James Brown’s it’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world holds true till today and at this rate I am tempted to even think that he was wrong when he sang that “it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl” because women still end up holding the shorter end of the stick, especially when the relationship fails.