Yes, you heard me, lets talk about feminism; because we need to; because we have to whether we like it or not.
There is one thing that I wish everyone would understand, that feminism has come to stay. It doesn’t matter if it is welcome in our society or not; this unwanted guest is not going anywhere anytime soon until it fulfils its purpose for visiting.
In this regard, I think it is best we try to understand it as much as possible. What is it about? Why it is here? What it wants? What is its purpose?
I have noticed a very interesting trend; the moment a woman seeks to speak out about her rights as a woman; as well as that of other women, she will be tagged a feminist with immediate alacrity.
I have had many people ask me; are you a feminist? Yes, she is a feminist! She is advocating feminism! She has feminist ideas! As at then, I absolutely had no idea what feminism is because I had never heard of it.
The quest to know who and what a feminist it led me on a journey of interesting discoveries during which I made lots of startling revelations and realised lots of certain truths which I am sure that the majority of people out there do not know.
I am of the mind that for us to fully understand what feminism is about and what feminist are fighting for, we have got to first understand what patriarchy is.
Listen to my story…………………..
From the very beginning of my time here on this earth, right from when I was a little girl, I understood one thing, that someone pulls the strings on our lives with the objective of ensuring we follow through to the later without question. And that the strings are tighter and fiercer on me, than on my brother. I discovered that while my male siblings get hailed for climbing that mango tree and winning that relay championship game at school, I get chastised for it; reminding me that I am a Girl.
I realised that the strings on me and my sisters are exactly the same as those on our mothers and their mothers before them. It took me years to understand that, that someone that pulls those strings is in truth, Patriarchy.
Wikipedia describes patriarchy a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line. It is an entire system built on a pervasive use of Power to suppress, overpowering others and aborting differences, denying them their rights to hear or be heard, inferring them to virus status, truncating their will and by subjecting them to obedience and total surrender.
I have walked that path from the very beginning, for I am born a woman. I have been shamed, denied my rights, have my will aborted and I have also done same to others, for this is what we learn from the Master.
I remember, I was shamed for how I look, for how loud I laugh, for my high-pitched voice. I was shamed for menstruating, for my petite body frame and for my frizzy short hair. I was shamed for crying when I get hurt and in pain, I was shamed for being a nagging ninny when I try to express my self in any way. I was shamed for my dreams and my ambitions; I was shamed for moving out of unfavorable oppressive circumstances. I was shamed for filing for that divorce and for the children I gave birth to; while the same master somewhere shamed other women for an empty womb. I have been there; each step has been a price to pay for having made the conscious choice to move out of the master’s House.
I was called evil and brandished all sort of unsavory names; but I know I am not the only one. For every step I took towards walking away from the master, I meet, saw and read the stories of endless women and some men who have tread the same path’.
Patriarchy has been so embedded in us that while you are out there, trying to slip off the master’s sticky gluey tentacles, the master’s guardians (in the form of family and friends) will hunt you down and do anything to drag you back to the very dungeon you are fleeing from. You will be SHAMED with the objective of dragging you to the status of absolute nothingness.
Feminism is not about angry old women with bald heads and thick hairy legs and arms. It is not about sex starved women who are envious of those that have men in their lives. It is not ‘a socialist anti-family movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians’, according to how Pat Robertson, a popular Christian broadcaster so puts it.
Feminism in the real sense of it according to the renown women to be labelled such is:
Rebecca West: I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat (story of my life)
Gloria Steinem: A feminist is someone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men.
Bell Hooks: Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.
And according to Chimamanda Adichie: A feminist is a man or woman who says there is a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it. We must do better, all of us women and men must do better. Feminism is of course part of human rights in general. But to choose to us the vague expression of ‘human rights’ is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. Feminism is a movement for which the end goal is to make itself no longer needed’.
Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncontrollable, sometimes even irritable. Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable.
There are actually men who subscribe to feminism principles; former US President Barak Obama is one of them. He said, “We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs’.
He is not alone, as there are a lot of other men who also ascribe to feminist principles of ending sexual discrimination and patriarchy.
The core of feminism is equality not proscription or an agitation for supremacy. Our societies are formed in such a way that men have always enjoyed some degree of gender-based privileges, regardless of their class or race without regard for the rights and privileges of the opposite sex.
Right from way back in history, the feminist movement speaks of people rising from a place of hurt; who play the same pervasive Power game to gain their rightful place. I speak of my peers who are now hitting back using the same tactics that Patriarchy uses.
And in truth, it is alright to be angry after centuries of endured atrocities; and it is healing to be wild and roaring.
Feminism is about inclusiveness and this is where Patriarchy has failed; it is not just about respecting differences but rather about holding space for these differences, for these different polarities play a vital role in the ecology and balance of this world. As it is from these polarities that inter-dependency is birthed.
And this is where patriarchy has failed.
And it will continue to fail because the time has come for the world to recognize and identify with women, their rights, struggles and freedom.
Hawwah A Gambo
Is a Journalist and Social Enterprenuer