My maternal grandmother climbed trees and refused to marry my grandfather. My grandmother’s daughter knew too much. She was the kind of woman most men aren’t comfortable with. These African women were the first feminists I knew even if they never identified themselves as one. Therefore, when people say feminism is un-African I smile.
Introduction To Feminism
While my mothers never labeled themselves feminists, they knew what they wanted. Growing up around these female figures made me liberal minded enough to question certain stereotypical assumptions. This upbringing unconsciously led me to feminism. In spite of the progress feminism has achieved over the years, third wave feminism still battles with issues such as sexism, inequity, social welfare e.t.c just as the first and second wave of feminism. Rightly, many may question the relevance of feminism in the 21st century as women do not have it as bad they used to (bad being Mad Men). However, it is important to note that we as feminists have not yet reached where we ought to be. Where we ought to be is a space where everyone has equal opportunity as rightly stated by Professor Amina Mama and Professor Ama Ata Aidoo.
Feminism Is Neither A Label Nor Gender
In a world of labels, feminism is sometimes worn to feel hip just like natural hair is hip at the moment. As much as I try not to judge people for their brand of feminism or how they chose to express it, I am more inclined to see feminism as a daily, sustained practice. This is not a label one gets to wear or speak about whenever it’s convenient.
Following this line of thought, my feminism is neither sexist nor gendered. Therefore, I do not engage in men versus women discussions or down with patriarchy chants. My version of feminism is grounded in equal opportunity and fairness. It does not blame the men for all the woes befalling women. Yes, a system of patriarchy certainly exists, but the honest truth is when life gives you lemons, you make Lemonade just as Beyoncé did. Do I hear a formation?
Work Place Feminist
As a third wave feminist, I am still my mother’s feminism. My affiliation with the past is because it is still very much my present. This is because I still exist in spaces where sexism thrives. Anyone with an understanding of the concept of fairness would agree that sexism exists in work places. Work place sexism is hinged around the belief that women are less than men and therefore should be protected and reserved. This belief to an extent may influence how formative work experiences are assigned to men and women and ultimately their unequal advancements. Therefore, it is sexist to place women on the welfare team and not the project management team based on the stereotyped assumption that they cannot handle challenging situations. Research has shown that a challenging work experience is an effective tool because it presents an individual an opportunity to learn. If a challenging work experience is an opportunity for learning why leave women out of it? Let’s promote inclusive boardrooms.
My Version of Feminism
While I am not a cupboard feminist, I am neither a placard carrying one. I have made certain choices not because I have a point to prove, but because I believe in being comfortable in my space. For instance, I hold a camera because I love it, not because I want to prove women can capture moments better. Consequently, to me feminism is not an ideology of competition. When feminism becomes a battle of who did it better, then it is as sexist as the society we are trying to correct. I think we should all be humans and if you’re one for labels feminist is just fine.
Why We Should All Be Feminists
- More than 43 million people around the world are forcibly displaced as a result of conflict and persecution. Half of them are women.
- Women hold 24% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
- One in three women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partners sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Around the world, only 22% of all national parliamentarians are female.
- Women around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
I’ll end this write-up with feminist scholar Dale Spencer’s words.
Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties.Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions…for safety on the streets…for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?
P.S My feminist grandmother stopped climbing trees and eventually married my grandfather. You probably figured that part already.
Adebisi Adewusi is a writer and photographer. Follow her @biswag.