The White Handkerchief and Female Sexuality in Nigeria

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A lot has been said when it comes to female sexuality, over time, and a lot more is still being said. The shaming, lies, abuse and so much more. No matter what has, or is still being said, the truth remains that women are still cheated in the society. The Nigerian society, our case study, still, to a very large extent, maligns women.

The case of women’s sexuality ALWAYS comes with an uproar, especially if a woman chooses to be defy the rules of the society. Men scream ‘foul’ whenever the topic comes up. This is quite nauseating because it is the same men that would not allow the women ‘drink garri and leave cup,’ as is said in vernacular, that are responsible for their corruption, yet, they will never own up to the fact that they are the ones to be shamed instead of the gender at the receiving end of their malice.

Mainframe’s The White Handkerchief and Female Sexuality in Nigeria

Let’s bring this home to the Nigerian entertainment industry. Women are not given much honour. There is always a bad tag for every woman, particularly, anyone who dares to create a niche for herself. She is either called a whore, a witch or other unsavoury names because it is believed that women cannot make it without opening their legs to one man/producer/director or the other.

As early as the 90s, Tunde Kelani and the Mainframe crew found out the evil of this unequal and unfair treatment of women and chose to address it in the short film – The White Handkerchief.

A scene depicting Awero’s movement to her husband’s house

The White Handkerchief tells the story of a lady who is betrothed and set to marry the love of her life, after she has turned down several other suitors. She gets distracted along the way and is deceived or forced or even chooses to test the other side of chastity, before her wedding day, which leads to her pot being broken. Her beloved ‘husband’ does not deem it fit to keep her secret, and she becomes the talk of the town, an act that eventually leads to war.

In the period preceding the 90s when this movie was shot, it was totally unacceptable for a woman to be deflowered before her wedding night. If she was, she and her entire family would be shamed publicly. It does not matter if her betrothed was still chaste or not. It is a pity that this is still in practice today. Although it is not the way that tradition had it before, it is nonetheless grave.

Another scene from The White Handkerchief

My point is, why are women still the scapegoats even now, despite civilisation, and men left to strut about freely like the ‘animals more equal than the others’ according to George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

The White Handkerchief is a Mainframe Productions film produced and directed by Tunde Kelani, featuring Yemi Sodimu, Sola Adeseko and Yemi Komolafe. It is an adaptation of Bayo Adewale’s first novel The Virgin.

Written by Gbemi Adebare.


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