Thursday, September 13, 2012

Defining Feminism As An Expression Of Femininity

I never thought I would be revisiting this topic anytime soon. This is one topic I am guilty of over flogging, and for my friends, I have gone a step further to kill the subject. I plead guilty, but I am tempted to revive the subject again to clear the air on what I believe are desperate attempts to talk women out of their beliefs or what they recognize as an ideology that gives them freedom. I am one of those feminists who have had to explain times without number what feminism is all about to my male friends, and while understanding their narrow perception of what feminism is all about, I find the constant need by African men to brow beat feminists over their beliefs as unnecessary bullying. To say most African men still hold on to the picture of the 60s style feminism that swept the West is to speak the absolute truth. They see the era of hard faced women brandishing placards and burning brassieres as the whole essence of true feminism, and that is far from the truth. The era of militant feminism is as old as the first computer designed by man.

What is feminism? The online free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defines feminism as a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. The most important part of this definition is - "a collection of movements and ideologies". Feminism like very school of thought has different proponents pushing for recognition of their own unique idea as to what feminism means to them, but in spite of this, these proponents are united in their belief that women should be able to enjoy socio-economic and political advantages like their male counterparts. They disagree with ideologies perpetuated by patriarchal run societies. However, not all feminists ascribe to the same philosophies which is perfectly normal as human beings are different. I have had a long running arguments with male friends who think that having different ideologies defeats the purpose of feminism. I pointed out that nearly all religions in the world have different ideologies, but were connected with the same message.


Now, like all movements that undergo change, feminism has been dynamic and susceptible to change. There has been a drastic change in the feminist movement. While we continue to have conservative and liberal feminists, women have come to realize that our femininity is in fact our greatest strength and that nature never intended or meant for us to be men. For feminists like me, who absolutely refuse to be boxed into one narrow definition of feminism, the move from militant feminism is a welcome idea. Even then, there are men who will scoff at the idea that you can be absolutely feminine and still believe in the emancipation of women from archaic philosophies. Some even take the pains of lecturing you on what they believe feminism preaches with the occasional skeptic glance at your plum red lipstick or nice tailoured suit. When I am in a good mood I point to history as evidence that Africa has had its share of feminists. From female warriors, queens, seers, griots, to amazons, the African woman was never a second citizen. The concept of the weaker sex is a borrowed philosophy that came from the adoption of foreign Abrahamaic religions. In fact, most African countries had matrilineal cultures. I tell them that the average African feminist is only pushing for what her female forbears enjoyed - A place among men that did not compel them to act like men, except of course for the warrior like amazons.


I believe that most African men who scoff at the idea of feminism do not even know their own history. They have bought into foreign ideologies, and that is the root cause of the problems in Africa. The continent is torn between its own identity and foreign identities that demand more subdued females or where they preach liberation, choose to twist natural laws to suit their own purpose. Feminism has come a long way, and while modern feminists owe much to the feminists of old, we are not bound to continue with rules that deviate from nature's own rule. A feminist can be a beautiful, self assured, ambitious woman juggling motherhood with boardroom duties. The feminist does not have to shed her femininity to demand a right to a voice. The feminist has every right to be a woman, just as nature intends it. The scoffers may continue to look back on the 60s to understand feminism. Modern feminists are not bound to wait for their nostalgia to come to an end.



Umari Ayim

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