I Am A Feminist; Here’s What I Mean

I Am A Feminist; Here’s What I Mean

Aaron Allston says feminism is like God; many people profess their faith in a Messiah but no one seems to be able to properly define Christianity to everyone’s satisfaction. Not that the proponents of Christianity are seeking that everyone agrees to their definition of faith and spirituality. As humans, there are bound to be opposing views and sides to everything.

I seek to explain myself and my stance. However, I do not make a case for everyone who is quick to wear the feminist tag. There are factions like an insurgent group whose members wake up to realise they have worthier causes to fight for than what the commanding leader thinks is a worthy cause. From radical feminism to conservative and Islamic feminism, the struggles, contexts, methodologies and dispositions slightly differ. You should bear this in mind before you continue.

Feminism is defined as a range of policies, ideologies (mindset) and sociological movements (culture)  that define and advance the rights of women in all spheres of life. Believe it or not, in the 1960s’ women were more or less doomed to being wives and mothers for life. They were not allowed into professional programmes like Medicine or more technical stuff like Engineering. When they did work as teachers or nurses or secretaries, they earned less than their male counterparts on the same level. Husbands had control over wives’ property and finances and they could not vote as well. The first wave of feminist movement had pushed for women’s suffrage and culminated in the 19th amendment that allowed women the right the vote in the 1920s’. The second wave of feminist movement shifted focus to women’s rights and equality in the everyday lives of women including the fight for salary equity in the workplace.

I think it is folly to assume that the feminist movement in its entirety is feeble-minded and out to usurp cultural roles that maintain our society at its semblance of saneness.

I also believe that we live in a patriarchal world where males assume more authority and leadership positions in various spheres, this in itself a product of cultural orientations birthed centuries ago and transcending time into governance, civil society, corporate and religious spheres.

Take Nigeria for example. In 2015, there were only nine female senators to 100 male senators representing various zones around the country in decision-making. In the house of representative, the female to male ratio of representatives in 2015 was a miserly 23 to 337.

The current global issues of illiteracy, poor representation in governance, sexual harassment, domestic violence, child marriages, and human trafficking are too much in our faces to ignore that there is a real problem.

Feminism has come to mean different things in our world today. A male colleague at work told me he didn’t believe I was a feminist because I hadn’t started an argument over a trivial comment he had made regarding gender. As a feminist, people automatically expect you to be angry and anti-men, vehemently opposing all things male and supporting all things female regardless of right or wrong.

A feminist has become a woman who believes in female superiority and dominance. She is the woman who believes men should cook their meals and act like the vulnerable human beings that they are. She says that she can do whatever it is a man can do, only better. She says that women in their entirety are always the victims. Sometimes, she hates men and all they stand for because they are the worst thing to happen to humanity.

Men are quick to lend their voices to. “Since y’all want equality, you should share the bill, be able to turn on your generator, heck why not even propose to the guy you love – if you find one with your westernised beliefs!”

Some say the feminism thing is pointless, men are also victims of social injustice and rightly so. But feminism is more than just a battle of the sexes along the lines of gender roles in the home which by the way are cultural dispositions as we know it today.

I am a Feminist and I do not hate men.

I am not an angry or bitter young woman neither do I lack the love or attention of men.

I am not a disgruntled unmarried woman whose ‘prime has passed her by’ and is antsy at her single fate fuelled by the disappointment of her family and derision of her friends. I do not believe all men are dogs and all women are victims of circumstance. Generalizations, you see, are one of my few pet peeves.

I am a Feminist and I am not a marriage instructor. I cannot tell you what you should or should not do as a 21st century wife and mother in your home. I am not pro #WifeNotCook neither am I anti #WifeNotCook. It’s your home to run as you deem fit.

 

Robert Webb said, “Feminism is not about hating men.”

 

I am not an advocate for female superiority and dominance because the whole point of the feminist movement of the 1970s’ was gender equality, women’s rights and female dominance tilts the scale once again, you see.

My pain is not about the roles individuals should play in their homes because of their gender but with the policies and mindsets and cultural dispositions that disable women from choosing their life’s path and its intricacies. My pain is the laws that are passed year in year out around the world that seek to protect women but are never implemented and keep things at a status quo.

My fight is for women who have been preconditioned to believe that their lives revolve around men and will make sense if they have one in whose arms theirs are intertwined regardless of making partner at a law firm or inventing a light bulb.

I fight against all the clauses and excuses that come after a because (inserts gender denotation).

Women are fighting to break the glass ceilings in the corporate world and get on as many boards as they possibly can without restrictions and conditions attached. Young girls are fighting for a chance to choose to be educated over being given away in marriage to men old enough to father them. Women want to walk the streets of Mumbai in India without being raped in broad daylight.

Women want to drive themselves in Saudi Arabia and to make their choices of spouses and attires without these being imposed on them because…. Women want to seat with men in government positions and make decisions that shape the future of the nation for their daughters and sons. Not because a woman can do what a man can do better but because our voices need to be heard and the decisions being made affect us all.

My Feminism is a battle for the mind of our generation and the ones that are to come. It is about challenging what our culture and society enables one to do or disables one from doing because they are male or female.

And while we have learned and are unlearning cultures and norms that shape our perceptions of gender roles to the point that it became okay for a man to hit his wife because well, she’s his wife and he has to respect him as such, Stanley argues that we have to teach our sons and daughters differently. We have waved the feminist flag for too long and ranted enough on social media.

Teach your sons to serve and teach your daughters that service isn’t reserved for a particular gender.

Send your sons to the market and teach them that preparing meals is not reserved for a specific gender.

Teach your daughters to chase her dreams and break glass ceilings and not hound her about when she will bring ‘the one’ home.

Tell your daughters their future is reliant on the string of choices they make in the course of their lives, one being the choice of a spouse, but it never being the ultimate. Teach your sons same.

Convince yourself you will accept the girl children God gives you and not run around prayer houses asking God for a male child. Tell your mother to give your wife a break.

Men and women are inherently different, in so many obvious and subtle ways from physiological differences to biological makeup.

These differences do not have to be the reasons why they can do or not do something; be or not be something.

 “They let women do stuff at NASA and it’s not because we wear skirts.

                                          – Hidden Figures

Kavita Ramdas of the Global Fund for Women said; Feminism, unlike almost every other social movement is not a struggle against a distinct oppressor. It’s not a ruling class or the occupiers or the colonizers. It is against a deeply held set of beliefs and assumptions that we women far often hold ourselves.”


I wrote this piece with amazing inputs from my friend, Stanley Ude. Call it serendipity maybe; here I am studying and making enthusiastic drafts of this piece when he sends me a two paged article that resonated deeply. And that fueled my enthusiasm more so I went full throttle polishing and writing till I could see my soul in these words. This does not sum up every one of the pain and struggle of women’s rights in our country and around the world. More pieces will come after this one.

What are you fighting for?

 

Love, 

The Quiet One

 



9 thoughts on “I Am A Feminist; Here’s What I Mean”

  • To each his own. I find it difficult to speak for feminism but prefer to speak against female discrimination. My colleague says they mean the same thing. I don’t agree because I have seen over 50 varying definitions of feminism. I agree that everyone should be given a chance to live their lives as they deem please rather than preparing them to be the stereotyped version of their gender.

    However, I also understand that genders are not the same and equality of the gender does not necessarily mean justice. I prefer the term “Equal opportunities irrespective of gender” rather than “gender equality”. One might say they mean the same thing but I have also heard varying definitions of gender equality.

    I have more to say but I am a terrible writer (the worst I know) so it would be great to have a phone conversation with you to discuss this if you don’t mind. I would like to hear more of your perspective regarding feminism, marriage, career etc.

    • They all mean the same thing but are interchangeably used if you ask me. Feminism has one definition; the fight to advance the political, social, economic and cultural rights of women world over. It may be interpreted to mean different things to different people but the core message for me; the core struggle is to break the stereotypes surrounding gender, give women level playing ground, and put laws in place to address any exceptions. Gender equality as well – level playing ground. You can send me your number (kugwuede@gmail.com) so we can talk.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your opinions as well.

  • I don’t intend to change or rewrite the historical discrimination & maltreatment of women. However we cannot afford to dwell in the past, but grasp the opportunities presented before us now. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any laws or legislation in the Nigerian constitution that discriminates against women. If there is such, it should be promptly expunged. Decrying the disproportionate representation of men over women in our government when there are no laws that hinder women from equal participation seems like the foremost feminist objective of achieving equal outcomes in favourable positions for women & herein lies the hypocrisy of feminism. Are there any demands that women be equally represented in shitty hazardous male-dominated jobs like mining, construction, security oufits, armed forces & others from the feminist brigade? Until we realize that these ideologies like feminism, conservatism, liberalism, capitalism etc are trojan horse gifts from the oligarchy to ensure the perpetual division of the masses along these ideological lines & permanent retention of their influence & power, we would always be victims of the ancient but effective divide & conquer strategy.

    • It’s not the laws that discriminate against women that is the problem but the non-existing laws to protect them in the face of discrimination. How many women in power do you know personally? How many of the unregulated and informal frustrations in these disproportionately dominated spheres do you know about? How many of those same frustrations in the supposedly male dominated spheres do you know?

      Long story short, you missed the point of my article. Women should be allowed to choose what they make out of their lives with no hindrances, no cultural barriers, no inadequacy of protection rights, nothing.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your views!

      • I went back and did some reading and discovered that truly the amended Nigerian 1999 constitution does in fact discriminate against WOMEN and men in some instances. I sincerely hope our legislators would look to change that, but I wouldn’t hold my breath though. As per your questions, I frankly do not understand it’s relevance to the points I made initially, maybe you could explain more. I think I get the point of your posts, maybe I don’t but what do I know.
        “Women should be allowed to choose what they make out of their lives with no hindrances, no cultural barriers, no inadequacy of protection rights, nothing”
        No hindrances? No nothing? Come on, now. Isn’t that utopian? If for a second we considered the possibility, we are looking at world scale social re-engineering (majority of cultures are patriarchal & some have valid & cogent reasons for that) or a government so powerful that it beats us all into desired shapes and forms that conform to the feminist world view. Believe it or not gender differences are not all social constructs as some would believe. We have innate differences that make some group perform better in certain areas than the other. Cooperation and complementation is the way forward.

        • I’ll just conclude this discourse with something Malala Yousafzai said . You know her, don’t you? She’s at least one of the many who are in the heat of the fight having been at the verge of almost loosing her life to stand up for her rights in Pakistan, one of the seats of patriarchy. Her father told her, she says, “You really don’t need to do too much for women. Just don’t clip their wings.”

          This is the point of my article. This is what the feminist grudge is. And no, it’s not utopian.And like you rightly said, cooperation and complementation is the way forward largely because feminism is not a fight for equal stance with men. It is for rights, the freedom to choose. The policies that protect. A society that is more inclusive.

          ”My grouse however is that most feminists don’t move to these areas and fight their causes rather remain in the relative comfort of their respective communities that have already achieved equality of opportunity for everyone regardless of gender.” If you are talking about people who are more of internet feminists who possibly do not understand what the struggle is about and think it is a #wifenotcook agenda, then you are right.

  • I’m glad you spoke just for yourself and not other feminists, the stereotypical types that every other person knows. I also dislike the fact that you don’t appreciate the sacrifices and agency of women who CHOSE to be 24/7 housewives, the roles these women play in taking care of their families will always be more important than any career or slaving away at any corporate job. For a cause that claims to empower women & give them the exclusive rights to chart what path their lives would take, isn’t it ironical that once a woman decides to be something that doesn’t fit the feminist narrative, she & whatever role she plays is denigrated by same feminists.
    It’s also very simplistic & misleading to say that women were not allowed into certain professions simply for being women. Before the advent of industrialization & ground breaking technological advancements, work was in fact very labour intensive and most women were not up to the task. I also recognise that women were denied certain rights, however they exclusively enjoyed certain privileges like being exempt from the draft or conscription.

    • You speak of your immediate environment and what you believe is obtainable in the world you live in. There are societies where women are still treated as the least in the cadre of human lives. In 2017, with all our industrialisation and ground breaking technological advancements.

      • Of course, societies remain aplenty that still mistreat women. We could start at home; Northern Nigeria, most third world countries & Arab/Islamic societies. Those are the main culprits though I’m sure there are others. My grouse however is that most feminists don’t move to these areas and fight their causes rather remain in the relative comfort of their respective communities that have already achieved equality of opportunity for everyone regardless of gender. I stand to be corrected though but the Nigerian Army does not fight BokoHaram situated in the Northeast & Sambisa forest without sending troops to the very epicentre of the problem.

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