Beautifully scripted and cinematically engaging, Wives on Strike 2 is a strong and compelling guide on how to tackle oppression, build movements and win power.
I have to admit that I didn’t go to watch Wives on Strike 2 with high hopes. In fact, I was literally dragged there by friends (thank God for them!) and the boredom that lonely Saturdays can inflict. After seeing the movie, I am now more than eager to see the Part 1. However, at the moment of writing this article, I still have not seen it, so all my inferences are solely based on the second part.
I am not a movie junkie, neither am I a skilled reviewer, so this article will be bereft of the intricate cinematic and aesthetic details that movie reviews are made of. But I am a policy freak, political ideologue and feminist, and Wives on Strike 2 is surfeit with all three, and it is from this viewpoint that my article is written. So rather than focus on the aesthetics, which many beautiful reviews have already done a great job of, let me go straight into the movie as a manual for how we tackle oppression, build movements and win power.
How We Tackle Oppression
Wives on Strike 2 is largely built on how to tackle one of the most pervasive forms of oppression that women in Nigeria face — domestic violence. The movie, in fact, begins with people mourning the death of a woman, who we later learn was killed by her husband during one of his routine beatings. We would never have learned this if the wife beater’s daughter didn’t open up to her mother’s friend that she had seen her father commit the crime. This serves a critical lesson for our society, where women speaking out is still very much discouraged.
In the movie, we see how the dead woman’s daughter is taken in by her friend, cared for, encouraged to speak up and listened to. Surely, the teenage girl would not have said anything if she didn’t feel secure opening up to her mother’s friend. Today, many young girls and children, in general, don’t enjoy such luxury. Children of abusive parents most likely have neighbours, but they never say anything, because it doesn’t feel like anyone outside their homes gives a damn. The worst hit are the children turned into domestic slaves in the name of helps, who even when battered and bruised, have no one to beckon for help. If we are to tackle the plague of domestic violence in our society, then we must, as individuals, reach out more, look out more and seek out those wailing in silence, who oftentimes are all around us.
Perhaps, one of the major reasons many people don’t bother to lend a helping hand to victims of domestic violence is because they don’t also feel they can really be of any tangible help. Our institutions, weak at every turn, is at its most ineffectual state in the battle against domestic violence. In Wives on Strike 2, we see this too. The dead woman’s friend—and her friends, not trusting the police to investigate the death of their friend, employ the service of a vigilante, who kidnaps the wife killer and lures him into confessing to his crime, before submitting him and his confession to the authorities.
In real life, many people know no such vigilante services hanging around, and there is a thin line between vigilantism and criminality. So, seeing that it’s a waste of time to report to the authorities and that we have little powers of our own to deal with the matter, most people choose to look the other way. Hence, it is absolutely essential that governments enact policies that make the tackling of domestic violence a priority for law enforcement authorities, but this won’t happen if we don’t build movements that pressure governments to do the needful. And therein lies the next big lesson from Wives on Strike 2.
How to Build Movements
Wives on Strike 2 is centred around a group of market women who work through their Market Association and in alliance with an upper-class woman to tackle the many injustices that women face at home and in the society at large. The women, through the issues that they discuss, in their house, at their shops, and during their market meetings, show just how we should build movements to make a change. This is a lesson that city dwelling working and middle-class Nigerians badly need to learn.
Although our hearts and minds are in the right place, with regards to desiring positive change in Nigeria, our hands and feet are not. Hence, we as the working and middle class of this country need to recognize that tweeting their frustrations, sharing Facebook inspirational posts and liking Instagram declarations will not get us the change we desire. It is only by going out and actively engaging with the masses, as the upperclasswoman in Wives on Strike 2 does, that we can build the movements that can change society. There is a growing tendency among Lagos and Abuja folks to view the world solely from the screens of their smartphones. It couldn’t be a more limiting view. Giving that less than 30 percent of Nigeria’s circa 180 million people own a smartphone, and just about 50 percent have (often limited) access to the internet, we are losing so much out of conversations by conversing only over the phone and online.
In Wives on Strike 2, the upperclasswoman steps down from her high class and out of her comfort zone and builds solidarity with women on the streets. She doesn’t lecture the market women, instead, she listens to them. She doesn’t try to speak for them, rather, she amplifies their voices. She doesn’t tell them to join her “NGO,” instead she attends their market association meetings. And, as much as the market women look up to her, she never looks down on them. This is the most beautiful message of the movie, not just because it depicts that we should care deeply about others’ challenges, but also because it emphasizes the critical role of communication, trust and solidarity in movement building.
There, today, is a real distrust and lack of solidarity between the middle class and the poor of this country. The former looks unto the latter as a menace that they must dissociate from in their aspiration to be elite-lite. The latter looks unto the former as a bunch of privileged spoilt brats who already get a better share of the Rich’s handouts and still complain vaguely about everything using unrelatable grammar. Yet both sides must unite if they are to succeed in tackling the issues that trouble them at night and make them restless during the day; issues that emanate from the excesses of the rich and powerful. Here again, we learn the last, but not the least, lesson from Wives on Strike 2; How to Win Power.
How to Win Power
2019 is around the corner, and the political rhetoric is heating up for the general election. Many good Nigerians, justly fed up with the incompetence of either major political party, are vowing to shun the false choice always thrown up by our birds-of-the-same-feather political parties. Prominent activist, Oby Ezekwesili is leading one of such campaigns, tagged the #RedCardMovement, to discourage votes for the APC and the PDP with exceptions, and encourage votes for reformist parties. The problem is, this is hardly enough.
In Wives on Strike 2, we see firsthand how to change politics. Firstly, the women unite on issues of common interest, then they form movements based on those interests. They pursue and win concessions on those local issues and interests to build credibility, and lastly, they contest for power using the movements they have built up and focusing on progressive issues which they know concern the masses deeply. So the message from the women in Wives on Strike 2 is clear; it isn’t just enough to be against bad politics, we must demonstrate what good politics looks like, and attract people to it.
An even more salient point is how our political contestants emerge. In Wives on Strike 2, they emerge from the struggle. Even in our so-called reformist political parties, contestants still come from the stables of privileged families. If we want to win power over the oligarchic schemes of the rich and powerful, then we must break the role of privilege (gender, financial, tribal or otherwise) in selecting political contestants. We must create political parties that have wide open spaces for market women, spare parts traders or keke drivers to come in, talk, be listened to and enjoy our support and confidence to run for and hold political office.
On a final note, for all the great things that Wives on Strike 2 does, there are still what I consider flaws. This is okay; no movie script is perfect and no point of view is 100% error proof. Yet, it is important that we talk about these flaws, one of which is the movie being built on a premise that the single most important bargaining chip of women in their struggle for equality and social justice is access to sexual pleasure for men. This is a dangerous postulation, as it may mislead some people to judge the importance of a woman solely by what she can give in bed. I am also a bit troubled by the title, “Wives on Strike” because it builds on the already sad disparaging of unmarried women as incomplete and exempted from serious society matters. These said, I can still understand that perhaps the folks behind this movie meant access to sexual pleasure as a metaphor for leverage that women must build to achieve solidarity. I would have liked a little more nuance here though, perhaps using food as the leverage and not sex, in order to depict the critical socio-economic role that women play.
In all, Wives on Strike 2 is a damn good movie; entertaining, engaging and downright sound on how we better our society. To paraphrase Chimamanda Adichie, it is a feminist manifesto in 93 minutes. You should go and see it, again and again.