Do you profess to be a feminist?
Or are you still thinking about it? Are you a half feminist then? A not so good/ bad feminist perhaps?
If one yields to half feminism or bad feminism, why would they identify as a feminist in the first place you may ask?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably
too nice to be feminist. Yet too feminist to be nice.
‘A mess, full of contradictions.’
The other day, I smiled at him, a moon sized smile. To be honest I was cringing as I listened to his flippant platitudes of entitlement.
Words-entitlement-words-entitlement, seeped through this
scrubs mans mouth. But I smiled. Tap-tap, that’s a lesson ladies, In case you inattentively missed that scrubs.
- A good woman always honors a man. To achieve this you must hide some words, better yet erase some words edit-edit-edit till they sound like nothing you were trying to say. Be reminded-different people read your posts. Your
maleor whitefriends may read your writing, refrain from sounding disillusioned and hyperbolic and too blackangry nobody did it to you.
Really this must stop. Note to self: this conversation is about feminism, race aside today. Besides, we are all part of the
human race what? erasure-erasure-erasure. A mess of contradictions.
Back to the point. Glancing down memory lane, three events cement my half feminism case.
The first time I watched the play virgina monologues I dribbled in my seat, rusting away. The rickety stool I sat on, the cold theater room personified my discomposure. I cringed for so long I began to mouth soiled grainy spittle. I was astonished,
virginas they had characters? Characters that were permitted to speak on a stage? In public?
The second event that cements my bad feminism confession is from when l was seventeen. I recall coming back from a weekly youth group session and overhearing younger girls happily share intricate details about a woman and her menstrual cycle with some guys. I sat through that thorny bus ride, tightening my jaws on behalf of my ears.
I was pedantic about the matter. So much so that I once scalded my older sister for informing a male suitor of my whereabouts. “She’s in the shower,” she said, “do you want to leave a message for her?” I was bothered. How could she divulge such intimate and provocative information? She knew that men were visual.
We (me, her and all women) carried their purity and self-control in our dress sense in our words. Our duty was to tread consciously, softly to protect them from lustful musings.
Surely she understood this?!
You see, no-one sits to teach you the gender constitution but before you’re ten or tall the rules are tenuously sketched into your thinking. With time, the laws and taboos are reified and naturalized. With enough repetition, the strands interconnect. Then you learn to hide-your growing chest and butt and stretch marks.
No-one sits to teach you, but you quickly learn that
vaginas are shameful, that having a period is inglorious, that when purchasing tampons or pads you must shelter them in your shopping basket, beneath the bread loaf covered by a newspaper.
And in all this hiding, we learn to be less honest.
Speaking of honesty, South Africa
rainbow nation continues to place its footprint in the global world. A couple of weeks ago I gleaned from this trotting in Beijing, enjoying braaied steak and chakalaka at a proudly South African restaurant called Pinotage. The time had come for another African to return home. All the African expats joined to bid her farewell.
Heated discussions, calm reminisces, heaps of laughter filled the atmosphere creating a euphonic ambiance. In my conversation corner, we spoke about China’s political status, reviewing the ills seen in our continent, analyzing the shortfalls of democracy measurements. As the political conversation faded everyone at the table agreed to having had a friend or aunt say, “you might marry a Chinese now, hey 😉
you’ll have kids with closed looking eyes.”
As we got ready to laugh at that another guy quickly chipped in “I didn’t think it would happen but now that I’ve moved here, I’m starting to find Asian women attractive. I don’t know what my type is anymore.. you know?
His voice a concoction of an African-American & Nigerian accent
For instance, I was chilling with an African sister on my flight back from Nigeria. When we said our goodbyes, I wasn’t sure if I should keep in touch with her o’rrr.
I was standing there like erm, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with all that bum and breast no-more, (this said with him pressing the long bones of his fingers on the far ends of his subtle palms, this motion symbolic of the anxiousness of having too much bosom and bum to fumble with all at once) I mean you know how (his fingers-press-press-on-his palms ends) yo’ll African sis’tars are built,” this said with his hand spread out, wavering in my direction.
I listened. Then I gulped. Then I manufactured a smile.
I cringed. His words circle running in my mind,
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do with all that bum and breast no-more.”
Shock rushed to my lower limbs, I scuffled my feet, rolled the back ends of my eyes enough to release the tension, yet so mildly, so mildly I did not disturb the peace. He finished his statement
entitlementmanifesto and happily sought my approval, “you know what I’m saying?!” I then said: “no! I don’t know what you mean. You just met her! What do her bums and breasts and belly have to do with whether you stay in contact with her or not?!” Also, what’s with the fingers-press-press-on palm-ends motion. Just Staaaahp!
I just sat there gulping-gulping, whimsically smiling and sl-0-w-l-y no-ding my head. Irritated yet polite. “A mess of contradictions.”
My first real encounter with Feminism was in 2013, I was invited to attend a conference in Zimbabwe organised by Katswe Sistahood. The key objective of this gathering was to build strong Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) activists in Southern Africa for the review and implementation of SDHR policies in line with the SADC protocol on Gender, the Maputo Plan of Action on SRHR, the CEDAW; and other (sub) regional instruments.
I wasn’t sure about going. I remember calling my mother to say “this conference sounds too feminist(y) for me, you know, and I don’t know if I can really relate to it entirely.” Her response to me was simple and seasoned:
“If you are going to work in policy and strategy, you must understand the struggles of African women”
And so I traveled to Harare Zimbabwe to be part of this sistahood.
The room where we first met felt warm spirited and safe, with bright colored quotes on the walls to awaken us. To get us to “see it sooner.”
+40 women from across Africa, sat around a circle, connecting. One by one each shared their stories. I was stunned-humbled to be honest.
I had lived in a world that protected and privileged a few. I had been completely oblivious of the chains that had long wrangled the bodies and minds of women. The gridlocks of absurd customs that normalized violence against women. Patriarchy. A sista at Katshwe aptly illustrated how patriarchy works when she said:
“Patriarchy guarantees even the most idiotic man a woman, even if he never owns anything else, he will own a woman.”
For the first time, whilst sitting in that warm spirited room, It dawned on me that souls could nestle bone-crushing pains with smiles.
I did not need to ask why most of the women in that room were feminists. Their stories told me things. Most of the women in that room were tired, tattered, and threadbare from teaching and teaching and correcting sexist statements.
I on the other hand, I felt young among these women, less burdened perhaps. My inner revolution had only begun to tick. Even when I felt a mild riot arise, I had learnt how to swallow my words-how to chew my tongue-to not offend.
F-E-M-E-N-I-S-T. My upbringing had told me things about this word.
That demanding equality was asking for far too much.
You see, secretly I still wonder whether marriages can last without the extra years of work a wife puts in, performing to ‘materialize herself in obedience to a historically delimited possibility’ of her. I wonder how instinctively she slips into her place even as a
half feminist. Carrying with her the beliefs “the shadows the dreams the fears and the dragons of being a woman, (beliefs that breathe) under her skin at the extreme corners of her eyes and possibly in the gristle of her earlobe.”
I wonder how quickly “w-o-M-A-N” reminds her to sit down.
For this reason I feel like a half feminist, brave yet uneasy. Trying to find this voice. My hope of living in an equal world is intermingled with trepidation. The fear that at the gates of marriage a large sign post will read:
“you can be a feminist/free in public but when you enter through the doors of this home
that you’ve built, ungumfazi-you are a wife.“ If you’re anything like me, you’re probably afraid too-that you will instinctively bow to the sound of that summon.
‘A mess, full of contradictions.’