A good friend of mine started a long-distance relationship between Europe and Africa where they for over a year communicated over the phone, via email and many other means professing love for each other.
I was wary, simply because my friend had spent more than half his life in Europe; fundamentally there was no cultural affinity between them apart from a geographical space. Outlooks had changed due to his integration into another culture, community and society, but who knows?
When it appeared things might not work out, I thought he had invested too much in that relationship that the least he could do was go and meet with the family of his love interest and make up his mind after that.
We went shopping for gifts and all sorts of arrangements for an introduction and he travelled over to meet the family. When he met the father, they appreciated his interest, took the gifts without as much as a thank you and then gave his companion a printed wedding list that read like greed of the world in objects and payments that baffled the mind.
There was nothing I could do but seek the wisdom of my mother, she sounded a very cautionary tone, to the effect that there was nothing in that relationship than an opportunity to milk and bilk my friend, in the end he cut his losses and ran – the event was scripted in 6 blogs that I titled, “Opening the mouth of the Father.”
Breaking the bank
The wedding list had that one item that caught my eye amongst that many other ridiculous things that I distributed in a narrative of derision and incredulity. My friend at the wedding ceremony would only be able to get the father of the bride to speak by shelling out 50,000 Naira, whilst the whole list came to over half a million Naira and that did not include the cost of the wedding ceremony and the bride price.
The Bride Price App
Which brings me to the topic of the Bride Price, because yesterday I came upon a web-based application that claimed to calculate the Bride Price of a prospective wife based on a number of attributes, achievements, looks, diction and status of the lady.
When I first clicked through the application, I commented on Twitter that it spoke to the ridiculousness of the things we place value on.
However, as people discussed the issue, it got to a point where there was a broad spectrum from views from the misogynist, sexist and objectification of women through to risible levity maintaining no seriousness to it apart from jocularity and laughter.
A friend then engaged me in private conversation on Twitter about the Bride Price Calculator and then persuaded me to consider putting my thoughts in a blog. Which started as the following Direct Messages on Twitter.
Asking about my views on the Bride Price App, he said, “I've seen it being misrepresented as sexist and objectifying women. Be honest, is this true?”
I answered back as follows:
“There are many angles to this, looking at it with Western eyes it is sexist and objectifying women, however, not in Nigerian eyes.”
The point I am making here is the danger of conflating different cultures and then using an unrefined standard to assess another culture without first accepting there is an issue to be properly reviewed before making comparisons.
“The fact is the bride price is an unscripted reality in Nigeria that borders on greed and the ridiculous.” As evinced by my introduction to this blog.
The Bride Price App simply put online what in many cases people think when giving away their daughters and the cultural construct that feeds into making those demands without second thoughts. To see the bride price so illustrated in almost an atrociously vulgar manner was upsetting but not divorced from Nigerian reality.
“We must have an honest discussion as to how the cost of marriage harms the institution of marriage in the name of tradition.”
The question is what really determines the bride price traditionally and how have things changed to accommodate not only modernity, but the need to keep up with the Joneses and attempt to outdo others?
“However, many of these traditions have no cultural significance they are new fads of hedonism and ostentation.”
This feeds into the previous comment, we have to ask whether paying up for the bride and the wedding is of greater significance or giving the newly married a firmer foundation on which to build their marriage
“The Bride Price App is a mirror on ridiculous female statuses we use to place value on women is as marketplace objects bought for marriage.”
If we are to be honest with ourselves, a number of the options in that App have informed how the bride price is determined and what kind of wedding is planned for.
The dilemma of the bride price is summed up in Part 2 of Opening the mouth of the father, “It appeared I was to be sold a woman for a slave rather than being given a lady for a bride.”
The unintended consequence of a high bride price makes the pain of cost dampen the required utility of love in a marriage, a certain threshold can be breached where cost begins to determine ownership when love should mature partnership – I would not even delve into what might result from the former.
Critically, we must have an open honest discussion on the issue of the bride price, the wedding and most importantly the marriage, the first two are easy, usually a question of means; marriage requires work, patience, love, perseverance and with it would come joy, pain, happiness, sadness, togetherness, distance and whilst many would be at the wedding, only two can really be in a marriage.
You make it work or make it fail, hopefully not because of the cost of the bride price or the ostentation of the wedding, if you want the marriage, you probably can make it work against all odds. The Queen celebrated her diamond wedding anniversary on the 20th of November 2007.