Our Thoughts on… Feminism

*DISCLAIMER*: Okay, it’s not much of a disclaimer or a warning. Just to say that, this post was inspired by the video below. We didn’t fully agree with their answers, so we decided to do a post of our own…because, we’ve dropped the word “feminism” in our convo, more than once, for one reason or another. Enjoy our commentary, and feel free to leave your own comments. Thanks!

Makafui

I’ve gotten some flack about this over the years. A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. It’s a yellow poster, on the wall, directly on top of my workspace.It’s to remind boys not to mess with me. Just kidding.

In fact, I don’t fully subscribe to the saying. For me, it says, “A fish has a bicycle? Cool! A fish is sans bicycle and likes it? Cool too!” If that’s too abstract for you, I’m basically saying that singlehood (singledom?) is no better, or no worse than couplehood (or coupledom?) However, some of my friends and acquaintances read much into the poster. I’ve been called everything from “men hater” to “Feminist” (for some reason, meant as an insult). Yes, the F-word. Many (especially guys….and yeah…African guys) say it like it’s a disease. What do you mean you don’t agree that women should stay home and raise the children? Some would even say jokingly, “You’re a feminist? Great! Now, get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!” She’s a feminist! Oh no, don’t mess with her. She’s…you know…. Protect your privates…if you know what I mean…

So, we start off our “Thoughts on” segment with…the F-word. What does Feminism mean to you? Do you consider yourself one? Why?

Credit: NC State Community Wikis

Makafui:

For me, Feminism is about women’s rights, women’s empowerment and the realization that, compared to men, women are vulnerable, in many aspects. From ever since I could remember, the women in my (direct and extended) family have made sure that I got the message: “Life as a woman in this world is hard….Better get used to it”. The more I read, the more I see, the more I hear, the more I realize that they weren’t exaggerating. Feminism is standing up for women, and being able and willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.

Do I consider myself a feminist? You’ve probably figured out the answer to that one. Yes, I would consider myself a feminist. No, I’m not going on any campaign to eradicate men. And no, I don’t think women are more valuable than men. I’m just blatantly aware of that most of the world holds the exact opposite view. I’m a feminist because Injustice angers me, because  I say “why get used to it if you can change it?

Credit: A blog of our own

Adey:

Sometimes this discussion seems like a big misunderstanding to me– a game of semantics and unnecessary assumptions. Does it really matter if I’m called a “feminist” or not as long as I care about women’s rights? As long as I make it known that we must acknowledge and change the disproportionate burdens and unequal opportunities for women worldwide? What about women’s rights activist–is that a less loaded or threatening term? How can we portray the image of a feminist who’s NOT radical (bra-burning), NOT only white (a “feminist” like me, or like Mak) and NOT “man-hating”? Or is the contention actually over caring too much about women’s issues?

You might think I’m kidding about the bra-burning bit but there was this one time I was describing my FGSS (Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies, as the department is called here) class to someone (yes, a gentleman) … and he jokingly started teasing me about the bra-burning, white feminists of the 60s. I have no doubt this same person would agree with me on the importance of a number of related topics- overwhelming maternal mortality stats in the developing world, unequal pay and workplace treatment for example- and the need to do something about them.

I remember another instance with a young man during my summer in Tanzania who also jokingly asked me if I was one of those “American feminists”. Funny enough, with the way I usually use the word feminist, I would have labeled him as one. He’s a fifth year medical student whose spent hours delivering babies as volunteer work, aspires to become an OB/GYN and stay in his country to fight the serious issue of maternal mortality. Although we held many similar views about the role of gender in our respective African communities and especially in our interests in global health/medicine, our perceptions about this trigger-like word were very different. His sentiments echoed those I’d heard before in the African community, most likely from both men & women.

Maybe my use of the word is incorrect. Maybe “feminist” should be reserved for those more political than myself or the medical student I mentioned above…I’m sure this has to do with why so many women shy away from claiming the word, thinking it’s part of a larger, more politicized movement with an agenda that doesn’t really serve them. Though we all probably really can’t say till we read enough bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Alice Walker or many more scholars…

At the end of the day, I don’t care as much about labels–it’s more about defining the issues & working for change.

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About Adey

New to the world of blogging and excited to get started -- student/opportunity seeker/lover/singer/writer/sister/daughter/friend/music-head (my new word) -- and apparently now a blogger -- much more...
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5 Responses to Our Thoughts on… Feminism

  1. Adora says:

    I am a feminist and would never “apologize” for carrying such a label. The strongest people I have ever known are women, so I will always fight for their right to justice, livelihood, and freedom. A “feminist” to me is simply someone who believes in that both men and women each should have the equal right to fulfill their potential in life. It has nothing to do with denigrating stay-at-home motherhood or traditional “femininity” (whatever that may be to you.) In other words, a woman, just as a man, should be able to choose what is best for her life. If a woman feels valued and powerful as a wife and mother who stays home to perform domestic duties, THAT’S GREAT! If a woman feels intent on remaining single and focusing on a career focusing while changing the lives of those around her, THAT’S AWESOME TOO!
    All in all, feminism is VERY relevant in our modern times. Women around the world are realizing this and no amount of hissing and naysaying at feminism will knock it down.

  2. Adora says:

    I’m also sort of confused. I don’t understand how when it comes to “feminism” many women claim they don’t want “labels” yet are the first ones to call themselves a proud “black woman,” “African-woman,” “educated.” etc. Aren’t those labels as well?

    I’ve also noticed how some of the same people that are completely against racism suddenly become insensitive to sexism (men, mostly). An injustice to any person is an injustice to the whole human race.

  3. thatabeshagirl says:

    Thanks for reading and RESPONDING thoughtfully Adora!!!!! You bring up a great question in your second post that can definitely be further discussed. Why do some women of color shy away from claiming that term?
    I’m glad to know we have like-minded young women reading. I’d love to hear the entire spectrum of reactions from other folks as well, men and women, where-ever you fall in this discussion 🙂

  4. That African Girl says:

    Go, Eudora! I think the word “Feminism” has to do with branding. The word evokes some images that Adey has already mentioned in her commentary. Also, one reality to be faced is that, one of the reasons why we’re not where we can be, a place where men and women feel equally upheld and valued, is because of differential treatment based on gender. To mention that, however, put men on a defensive, because they may feel that the finger is being pointed at them. They feel like they must defend their “kind”.

    So, that means we get nowhere and everyone leaves angry. I believe that we can’t move ahead until men and women stand together to say no to “sexism” and to re-brand “Feminism”.

    I was listening to a professor, this Thursday, talk about a conference she went to, in Kenya (?) where young men were giving talks and presenting papers on the status of women in Africa, and how things need to be changed. Sort of like the guy Adey mentioned. There is hope, then. As the number of these guys increase, I believe that we will be moving forward.

  5. Adora says:

    Please read this article from AllAfrica.
    It sums up nicely how I feel about this issue.

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201004010957.html

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