This is one of the ‘few’ statements that irks me to no end. I am supposed to be getting super important work done at the moment, but this sentence won’t stop ringing in my head and asking for a post to be made about it. I will sacrifice sleep to deal with the work later. In the past two weeks, someone has said to me that feminism encourages lesbianism, people have said that feminism is not a balanced view/approach and someone has said feminism is a “white people concept” etc. Just see what someone said in response to a serious issue and folks still say there is no need for feminism.
I am a feminist. Full stop.
I am not a “feminist but….”, “a feminist however…”, “a humanist-feminist (whatever that means)”. I am a feminist. Full stop. Too many people become antagonistic when the hear the word feminist and assume that we are bitter women who hate men or have been hurt by men. It is even more irking to hear women who actually do feminist things say they are humanists not feminists.
I have several friends, many of whom I respect, one of whom I am even in love with, who say they do not believe in feminism but in humanism. I think that they are just being close minded and judgemental, sorry boos. While I do not oppose what ‘humanism’ stands for, what I do not like is them putting down feminism as opposed to humanism. I think they simply have gone with what the crowd says about feminism, what people have labelled it to be without ever actually studying the concept itself.
When people raise objections to being called feminists or raise eyebrows when people say they are feminists, I take it that they are against the word not the concept. I usually ask a couple of questions. Are all Muslims terrorists? Are all Nigerian Northerners Boko Haram members or supporters? Are all pastors corrupt? Are all men scum? The issue with these categories of people I mentioned is that some of their members have done things that have tainted the entire category as a whole. Yet, would it be wise to judge the entire category based on what a small section of them have done?
Are all human beings sensible? No. Are all human beings logical? No. Are all human beings kind, fair and nice? No. Are feminists human beings? Yes. So a feminist can have the ideology of feminism twisted by the different traits and character flaws s/he might have. This is why you should not because of that label the movement or concept as a bad one.
What is feminism? Feminism is not far from what those who say they are humanists claim they are. Actually, if they truly are humanists, then they are feminists too. Feminism simply wants equal opportunities for men and women. The only difference is that feminism focuses on a system and works at changing that system. That system is patriarchy and it is one that has subjugated the woman for generations long and worked to subdue her power of choice. Denouncing feminism will mean you are saying that patriarchy does not exist and we all know that is a lie. Feminism just wants a woman to have a choice, make that choice freely and act on that choice without anyone or the society infringing.
The choice she makes can now be anything. She can choose to be a housewife, a rocket scientist, a stripper, a guitarist, a writer, a lab technician, a developer etc. Whatever the choice, she should be free to make it and execute it for as long as she wants. True feminism does not look down on women who choose to be housewives, or on women who choose to cook and clean for their families. That is far from what feminism is, it celebrates those women actually as equally as those who choose otherwise. Those things are even non-issues. What feminism says is that do not ascribe these roles to her simply because she is a woman and stop her from reaching to other things. Do not deride her if she chooses not to be a housewife either or if she says she does not like to cook and clean. How many people really like to cook, clean etc. sef? I assure you, it is not a feeling that is wired to our vaginas.
Feminism does not advocate for women over men, please note that. For example, because we want equal number of women and men in a group does not mean we should bring in women that are not qualified. No, that is not the point of feminism. I have heard quite a number of people say that, please be enlightened now. Feminism is not saying do not cook or clean for your family. That is your choice and one that should be respected whichever way you go. The whole feminism and homemaker thing is another post. I should say briefly however that being a feminist and a cooking/cleaning wife and mother are not mutually exclusive. Note though that a woman that does not like doing these things is not less of a woman, she might do them because she loves her family but she is not obligated to like them or enjoy doing them.
So if as an individual, you have acknowledged that there is a patriarchal system at work in our society and you are working to get it changed so that everyone can have a fair chance, you are a feminist. So do not say, I am not a feminist, I am a humanist. Do not run away from a label just because it is misunderstood. Why not help to make people understand it better? Should all Muslims stop being called Muslims just because they have been wrongly tagged terrorist?
Before I end, biko I am not trying to force labels on anyone, what you choose to identify with is your choice. I am only saying do not disregard or dislike a label just because you do not understand it or because you are projecting the dislike of other people unto it. Please be more open minded than that. I call myself a feminist proudly and anyone who has a problem with me doing so or with the word without any true and just reason is just the kind of person I do not want to interact with. Open your minds and your eyes, folks!
Here is what CNA had to say about this issue
Some people ask, “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is of course part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. it would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.
To end, I will quote a paragraph or two from the Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists.
“As African feminists, our understanding of feminism places patriarchal social relations structures and systems which are embedded in other oppressive and exploitative structures at the centre of our analysis. Patriarchy is a system of male authority which legitimizes the oppression of women through political, social, economic, legal, cultural, religious and military institutions. Men’s access to, and control over rewards and resources within the private and public sphere derives its legitimacy from the patriarchal ideology of male dominance.” “Our ideological task as feminists is to understand this system and our political task is to end it. Our focus in fighting against patriarchy as a system rather than fighting individual men or women. Therefore, as feminists, we define our work as investing individual and institutional energies in the struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression and exploitation”
Feminists are not bitter, men-haters. We simply want equal opportunities and access for everyone without sex being a basis of judgement. We recognize that patriarchy is a root cause of this issue and is what we fight as feminists. Rant over.