No patriarchy, no feminism

Last week, I shared a video on my timeline that opened up a very interesting conversation about feminism from an African perspective. As expected, there were many who agreed and many who disagreed- the most amusing criticism being that the equality of women be advocated for ‘to a certain limit’. Sigh.

I’m writing this post to highlight a few other points I didn’t manage to address in my video.

I’ve heard many make a claim that feminism unfairly advantages women over men. If you think about feminism in a vacuum, you would probably think that. But feminism is a response to a societal problem- it exists to counter the patriarchy. As I said in my video, there’s no better place to see the patriarchy play out than in African society(s). Stripping women on the streets- men having the prerogative to decide what is deemed decent or indecent for a woman and then proceeding to punish her publicly if they feel she violates this- is a symptom of the patriarchy. The legal system- that means that men can be sentenced to cutting grass for raping a woman– is a symptom of patriarchy. Cultural norms- such as FGM (female genital mutilation) and forced early marriage- are a symptom of the patriarchy. For years, women have been set back by structural oppression. So it’s a vacuous criticism to say that feminism is ‘unfair’.

This illustration says it all.

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The image on the left conveys many people’s idea of equality- giving all the same ‘leg-up’. But that changes nothing. You can’t continue to empower those who are already structurally privileged. This is why feminism is important- it provides a platform for women’s achievements, rights and struggles to be affirmed. For as long as the patriarchy exists, there must be a movement fighting against it- and it must be led by women.

The word ‘feminist’ isn’t saying that women are better than men. It’s an explicit and powerful acknowledgement of their oppression in society- it’s a political statement.

I’m a strong believer that there’s a place for men in feminism. To me, this means standing up and speaking against manifestations of patriarchy which could include catcalling, groping, rape, victim blaming, and most importantly, letting women lead their own liberation.

It’s difficult to be a feminist. There’s a lot of resistance. But its important that you make a political stance when taking on a monster like patriarchy. We can’t afford to be nonchalant- women’s lives are at stake.

For anyone who hasn’t already watched this (I doubt there’ll be many of you), please check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism. She speaks about feminism from an African perspective with some hilarious and very relatable anecdotes.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

(UPDATE- As I edited this post yesterday, I read the best news I’ve seen in a while- three men have been convicted and found guilty of gang-rape and causing grievious bodily harm to ‘Liz’ and as a result sentenced to 15 and 7 years in jail respectively. They had previously been ordered to cut grass as punishment. Read more about that here. Also check out the petition and protests that pressured courts to catch the perpetrators- feminism and activism at its’ best!)

 

#faves – African changemakers

It was only when I came to study in the UK that I began to identify as ‘African‘. Before that, I was just Kenyan. I never saw myself in the context of the wider world and I guess that’s one of the benefits of studying abroad- you discover a lot of new things but also begin to see old things from new perspective(s).

I’ve watched myself become fiercely protective of African identity (if there is one at all). I recognise the difference between when an African speaks about Africa and when a non-African speaks about Africa. The former is usually from a place of understanding the many similarities between African nations while the latter is more often that not, bound with ignorance. I’m reminded of a time when someone asked me “Are you planning on going back to Africa?” Excuse me, but what do you mean?

Things are changing and there are people who are at the forefront of this process- undefining stereotypes and challenging global perceptions about Africa in small and big ways. For today’s #faves post, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite African changemakers. Here we go!

Africans are activists – Boniface Mwangi

Boniface-Mwangi-Web-Profile

(picture courtesy of bonifacemwangi.com)

Boniface Mwangi is a Kenyan activist and a photographer by profession. For me, he defines what it means to be a patriot. This past year working in student politics has taught me the importance of grassroots activism and community organising. When politicians misuse and manipulate systems to benefit themselves, the most powerful course of action is to take the streets and make our voices too loud to ignore. Boniface has pioneered and set the pace for other young Kenyans to take a stance and not let powerful politicians get away with setting our country back. His courage is inspiring!

Africans are creators– Sharon Mundia

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(picture courtesy of thisisess.com)

Internet and connectivity is opening up opportunities for many to have a space of their own which they can use to express their creativity. Sharon Mundia’s ‘This is Ess’ is my favourite example of this. She’s created a brand from a simple idea, consistency and quality delivery. It’s a worldwide phenomenon but in Kenya and other African countries, there’s still a slow response to the huge platform that bloggers provide for brands. People like Sharon are changing this- one blog post at a time.

Africans are educators– Patrick Awuah

Patrick-Awuah

(picture courtesy of myafricanow.com)

Patrick Awuah left a career at Microsoft to set up Ashesi University– an independent, co-educational, public benefit education institution operating on a not-for-profit basis. I think it’s wonderful that there are some visionary leaders setting up educational institutions with a focus on how people can use their skills and knowledge to transform the continent. It’s so important that these universities exist to challenge the perception that one must get a Western education to succeed in life.

Africans are entrepreneurs– Tara Fela-Durotoye

Tara-Fela

(picture courtesy of globalblackhistory.com)

If you’re African you know the stigma that was once attached to careers that are not medicine, engineering or law. But things have changed and we have people like Tara Fela-Durotoye to thank for that! Tara is the Founder of House of Tara, a cosmetics company with a focus on make-up. It’s tough enough to be an entrepreneur, let alone in the untapped beauty industry. House of Tara is a reminder that Africans can succeed and pioneer, even in fields that are perceived ‘non-African’.

As a continent, we are nowhere near reaching our capacity. We are an awakening giant. Slowly but surely transforming our communities, our brands, our economies and our world.

I love you Africa!

Share some of your #fave African changemakers below!

 

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© Tessy Maritim