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May 4, 2024

Of cross-dressing, Bobrisky, and double standards, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Of cross-dressing, Bobrisky, and double standards, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

I know of an era in Nigeria – not too far from my growing-up years – when only the bold and courageous of women wore trousers. Even then, they knew when and where to wear them – there are a couple of women I know who till today, don’t wear trousers to church. So it was easy, growing up, to distinguish a boy from a girl simply by what they wore.

Now, the lines have become blurred. Everybody is cross-dressing so much these days that it seems nobody is cross-dressing anymore. I have seen girls wear ‘danshiki’ perhaps the most distinguishing and seemingly inviolate form of male dressing. I have seen them wear ‘agbada’; I have seen them wear ‘fila’ and not just on stage.

Nothing, from footwear to head wear, is a male preserve anymore when it comes to dressing. Males are also slowly inching towards exclusive female preserves as well. Some even dare to wear a form of skirt. So far though, only the Bobriskys of this world have dared to wear high heels and headties (gele). But how long it would take themale gender to swoop in onto those preserves – with brassieres to boot – is anybody’s guess. 

Just the other day, I had trouble identifying the gender of some youths on TV and I am not exaggerating. Their mode of dressing didn’t give away much. As for their hair styles, some wore low-cut which one or two dyed ginger for effect; some plaited theirs in different styles; the rest wore ‘rasta’ or dreadlocks. Almost all of them wore earrings of different designs – in any case, we now live in a society where some boys wear earrings and some girls do not.  I had to rely on their voices to identify their gender.

At another time, I played a game, and almost lost, when I saw four youths walking about twenty meters ahead of me. They were dressed alike in tucked-in shirts and jeans with trainers for footwear – everybody wears trainers these days. The game, as I walked towards them, was to differentiate the boys from the girls. With their shapes and boyish haircut, they looked so much alike, and so asexual from the back that at the risk of being seen as a dirty old man, I had to look closely at the swing of the hips to identify the gender.

To the best of my now limited knowledge, men don’t swing hips unless again, they are the Bobriskys of this world.As I walked past them, I found I got three of my four guesses right to my joyous surprise. Cross-dressing in its basic form is so common these days that eyebrows are hardly raised unless it is taken a notch higher which is what trans-gender people seek to do. Still, I wonder how I would have reacted in my hiring days if a male job seeker came to me for employment in plaited hair and earrings. It used to be said that one is addressed as one is dressed.

Is it old school therefore, to believe that men should dress as men and women as women? And how much of cross-dressing should be allowed without crossing the lines? I am aware that many see it as fashion or a fad that will pass. But the lines are getting so blurred that we are now fast embracing an asexual culture. We should pinch ourselves to reality.  This is not our culture. Speaking of culture, the art of placing money on the forehead of entertainers was as old as time in the Yoruba culture. It used to be with coins and not notes. It was an act done to appreciate and encourage talent. It was never meant to be vulgar and it was not. On the contrary, it was honourable when done properly.

Then the net got widened to include honouring celebrants by friends and well-wishers. Then coins went out of circulation and notes in different denominations came into the ‘market’. That was when the term ‘spraying’ came to our lexicon. The abuse was gradual – starting with small notes – but inevitable in a society that covets a public display of wealth. In its pure and tasteful form, it was something one could show the world as part of our culture. In its current form, with people dancing on new, crisp notes like drunken sailors, it is an abuse of values that would make the world cringe. What has been happening is vulgar, tasteless and an abuse of tradition.

Nobody but the debased and the amoral, can be proud of the current crass display of wealth in public places. It takes a certain level of inebriation and a certain form of intoxication to spread a carpet of money, only to trample and dance on it especially if it is money you have worked hard for. It is not only a disrespect for our currency, it is a disrespect for our culture by people who have no respect for values or even themselves.

Many of those found in the social media throwing money around belong to a class of people who seek validation. Bobrisky to my mind belongs to that class. People of low self-esteem always seek validation and money in many a society is the ultimate validation. After all, it is believed that you must have done something right to make money. Unfortunately, these people poison young, impressionable minds into accepting odd behavior as normal. The challenge now is how not to throw out the baby because the bath water is dirty.

Bobrisky was probably used as an example when he was found guilty of currency abuse and sent to jail without an option of fine. Bobrisky is a first offender and for all his deviant behavior, he is not a hardened criminal. Six months among hardened criminals is not corrective to me. One wonders why the option of fine was not exercised. Or six months of community service given his ‘celebrity status’. Makes one wonder if is there more to the sentence especially in a country where people literally get away with murder.

How many examples have been made of politicians who routinely impoverish us? How many have been sent to jail? It does not take a cynical mind to think that nothing, for all the grandstanding, will probably happen to Yaya Bello at the end of the day. We have seen his type of script play out many times before. Or to Obi Cubana whose alleged offence is similar to that of Bobrisky who has been sent to jail. Bobrisky’s jail term can only be justified if more high profile jail terms follow. Otherwise, we shall merely be reinforcing the belief that we operate two judicial systems. One for the rich and powerful, the other for the poor and vulnerable. They say the ‘time’ must fit the ‘crime’. I don’t think that was what happened in Bobrisky’s case.

Abuse of the Naira is bad and it is right that an end be put to it. So is double standard. So are the many abuses in our moral, political and judicial fabric that we need to put an end to. 

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