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.
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.
© 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!)