Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Debate Tuesday - Who is a Feminist

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So I come across this debate a lot of the time. What is the meaning of Feminism? Who is a Feminist. I am one of the people who identify as the later. And while people tiptoe about the issue or the word, I say it plainly. I am a feminist. I am not confused by the noise, I know where I stand. I think the more we quibble, the more we allow ourselves - and dare I say men - to draw lines between us, the less chances the less lucky women may have.

Yeah I live within an economic and social status where I am educated, I have a voice and so on. What of the poor girl in the less developed parts of Nigeria, the rest of Africa, India, China, even in some parts of the Western World. No I cannot become relaxed. It is working for me so let me keep my head down and not rock the boat. No way Jose! Whatever it means, who ever else bears the name, let me join the ranks. If some of those women did not talk or take action in the past, we wouldn't be here. Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, The Aba Market women, you name them. I sure want to be counted among them.

The latest episode started when a discussion cropped up on Sefi Atta's Everything Good will Come. Those who've read the book will know that there are some gender issues raised in the book. Actually, I also explored male chauvinist domination in A Heart to Mend. Maybe I did not push it as much as in EGWC because the focus of my story was the relationship between Edward and Gladys but it is still a topic very close to my heart. Aunt Isioma in AHTM had gone through a very disturbed marriage but remained due to being subjugated almost to the point of abuse. She only became free to live a full life after her husband died.

I think it's a man's world. At this stage of my life, I have come to accept it. However, I believe that women should have a choice to carve out a portion of that world for themselves. If they want to be bad, it's their choice, there are bad men too. If they want to be workaholics, good on them. Do they want to remain single, sure. Travel the world? Of course. Men have been doing these things for centuries so why not women?

The person I actually got into the debate with was another blogger. It was on chat sha. She thought that the extreme feminists have taken over the name and giving others a bad rep? Really? Have the Neanderthals among men given them all a bad name? Along the line, I cooled down and allowed her to make her points. Some I actually see the point of, others not so much.

1. Some Feminists actually go ahead to degrade men,
2. Some Feminists mistreat people generally, and make bad primary earners
3. Some Feminists are workaholics and do not pull weight in the household
4. Some Feminists go into clubbing and all that
5. Some Feminists will blink twice before going for divorce, etc.

More talk that came up involved Gender roles (boy, how I loathe that phrase). How women are supposed to take care of the home, how women are weaker, how only women can have children (the only point I agree with BTW, and it is not a ROLE!), how only women can be satisfied by staying at home, and all the other stereotypes and generalizations that go alone this line of thought.

OK, I have vented. Talk your own. Convince me.

Thank you.


  1. I actually saw something FFF wrote on FB but decided to keep shut. She said she's not a feminist which is fine but that does not mean she sould fail to understand what feminism is all about.

    Feminism is not about competition it is having the right to pursue the path you wish to pursue in life without hindrance from social, economic or cultural systems. Everyone is born equal and everyone has their ability to acheive greatness in what they have chosen. We should not live in a world where one thing is reserved for men and women cant partake. That is not to say that from experience that some things work better with men than women. It's just life and it doesn't have to bring conflict.

    Some of us are here today because of the feminist movement and we must not be ashamed to rejoice in our strenghts and embrace or weakness while co-existing in harmony with people of the opposite sex. We cant be the same but we must enjoy the same priviledges and that my friend is what feminism is all about.

  2. feminism: the belief and aim that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men; the struggle to achieve this aim.
    so we know who a feminist is.

    i dont see anything wrong with being a feminist. there are of cos extremists just like every idea, faith, belief can have extremist view or actions to them - thats just normal

    we may not be as active as the Ekpos and Ransome-Kutis etc but it may not require that much to be a feminist (none extreme type).
    i resent every kind of person, thing or idea that suggests i cant do something, especially with my head just bcos am a girl.

    some men are just used to the idea that women dont know much and cant do much cos they are women and they do rob it in ur face. I dont hesitate in correcting or at least making my mind and stance known to such a person, no matter who.

    u can be a feminist without being chauvinistic about it. just like u can make ur own points in an argument without insulting anyone or making it end in blows.

    i also believe u can be a feminist and still know ur rightful place as a woman in the home altho i think thats a different topic entirely. i consider myself to be feminine and also a feminist. u should just know where to draw the line, like everyone should, including men

  3. I like this debate tues idea oh:):)
    Hmmm,i am so upset i am not in front of a computer right now,dis fone typing isn't fun:(
    However,this is my own view.i like to think of myself of a feminist as well cos it's beginning look like,all one needs to be tagged one is not been stupid,not been a coward,not been afraid to air their opinion,been able to speak for one's self&stand one's ground......i totally agree it is a man's world as well,infact i wasn't deluded about this fact for a long time @ al.l
    As for bad eggs misrepresenting the matter,i generally refuse for a character to be super-imposed on me,d fact that "Nigerians" are fraudsters won't make me stop been a nigerian so by induction,extremists wont stop me from been identified as a feminist....and then one size prolly dsnt fit all,if some feminists degrade men,tough luck...men degrade women as well,as for d workaholics part,it's a bit dicey..career Women will confirm to u it is NOT beans to manage d homefront&d career.......i want to believe it's not a deliberate act of non-challance
    What is wrong with women going clubbin??did i miss d real meaning of ur sentence??i dont go clubbin cos my husband is a slacker dat cant stay awake but i can go with my friends if i so please IMO
    Of course i think one should blink twise b4 going for a divorce....truthfully,d only thing that can make me go for a divorce w/out blinkin once as i type today is if my hubby as much as raise his hands to hit me otherwise.......God willing,every other issue can be sorted
    My husband HATES to wash,i totally don't mind,i do it happily&get him to hang d clothes,trust some nosey in-laws to think he's washing my clothes bla bla&he actually acts like he did d washing,so what????
    Okay i rest my case:):)
    I agree with parakeet too:):)

  4. I am not sure what feminism means. But I recognise it when I see or meet it. Like with all other movements, there will be good and bad parts of it. It is just not good when you see certain would-be or self-acclaimed feminists treat their women subordinates worse than men. It has happened a lot in Ghana. Many young women now prefer male bosses to female bosses (including or especially the females who are touted to be feminist).

  5. With you 100%.
    I hate 'gender roles'.
    We do not have 'roles' in our home. We do it all, together.

    If Nigerians and Africans generally, can just get out of this role thing! There is no place for gender roles in modern society, anywhere in the world.

    I am a feminist and proud of it. I share and believe in equality. But I'm also sensible. It is important not to be petty or divisive. There is no need to insist on our children taking my name. I know who I am. My daughter will also know who she is.

  6. I think a feminist is any woman who would not allow herself to be limited simply by her gender. Regardless of what the task is. I think sometimes we focus too much on the obvious mundane tasks such as cooking, taking care of the children, our office jobs, etc. A feminist is a woman who doesn't mind wearing a construction hat and boots and heading down to work at the the construction site. Same goes for the woman who opens a church and is the main pastor.

    It is in situations like these that we know who the real feminist are. I remember a woman pastor I knew back in Nigeria. Many people, including those who labelled themselves feminists, refused to attend the woman's church because they simply didn't believe that a woman should pastor a church.

    Another example would be the women who feel they need to explore their sexuality to the fullest, regardless of whether it involves one night stands, etc. Such women feel empowered by their act. Like, hey, if a guy can do it, why can't I. On the other hand, another feminist might look with disdain at such an act.

    Basically, I feel that the term is too broad to define. Its definition really depends on the situation or circumstances, and it means different things to different people.


  7. i have had this argument with a male friend of mine, several times, and I concluded he was just a male chauvinist pig (lol, i guess dat was an extreme)... i dun really know the exact definition of feminism, but I know I am not one of those extremes who go and on and on about women this women that. However, I do recognize that there is a bias, and there are 'gender roles' which need to be changed.. there are also double standards, and I find all those things offensive and try to make my point whenever I can. I enjoy things that 'women are supposed to do', like cooking and cleaning and such.. but I resent the fact that some people think thats all we are good for... and I also resent the fact that succesful women can sometimes be such bitches to other women who are also simply tryna be succesful.
    If one claims to be a feminist, one must focus on the important things.. take the good parts of the movement and throw away the negatives..thats the only way people will start taking us seriously.

    d.e.u.c.e.s :)

  8. I'm afraid this post, in paraphrasing our chat (myne ddnt save the particular chat and was therefore writing mostly out of her impression of what she tot I said), I was grossly misrepresented. Most of the idealogy attributed to me are completely not mine. It's an honest mistake by myne, & we've sorted it out.

    I did say am not a feminist, and I stand by it. My rights were never infringed on (from my father's house to my husband's house), so in what way am I emancipated? Nobody has ever told me I CANNOT do anything cos am a woman - not those who matter anyways. For this reason, I don't view myself as a feminist.

    @paraket: as u ddnt respond to my facebook discussion, I will reserve my comment on ur comment.

  9. I have not really looked into the definition for feminism or feminist; one thing i know is let everyone do what they are capable and want to do regardless of gender. When the issue of gender is brought into any situation i see it as an easy way of not discussing the real problem at hand. After all, better to let the person try then to assume failure based on role-specific generalities.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone. It seems the people on the other side have...

  11. ... I believe in gender equality. I believe people should be encouraged to achieve their goals irrespective of their gender.

    If that qualifies me as a feminist, then I guess I am one! I have no regrets!

  12. My favorite topic on earth:-) Myne, I read the debate. Love it and agree with you 100% Those who know me (and have read my articles) know that I don't mince words when I say I'm a feminist. I say it without fear and without intimidation. Does it mean i hate my father, my brother, the many close male friends and family member, and the man in my life? God forbid.

    It only means that I demand they treat me, and all women, with dignity and respect as human beings - that the law (and customs) is fair on both sides, that economic opportunities are open to both, as well as social and political.

    I have too much to say on this topic and I just don't have the time. Let's just say that you said all that I think about feminism. Men (and women) have found a way to make feminism something that it isn't and that's why many shy away from begin associated with it. If feminism was today, about what it was 50 years ago, many would feel different. Imagine a marriage where a man can rightfully rape you without any recourse under the law just because you are his wife - a woman. Many women live this reality everyday because they are not seen as equals under the law, but property to be had when and how her husband wishes (this is just one example).

    Feminism, just like many other labels - Christian, Catholic, atheist, Islamist/Muslim, Democrat, Republican, Socialist etc. - simply defines a set of beliefs, and just like all these labels above, those beliefs have discourses with a single goal in mind. Those who twist the beliefs/labels for their own selfish gain fail to speak for the majority. In the same way that all people are free to choose whether they want to be Christian or not women are free to stay away from being feminist or not, but I personally don't see why.

  13. I am not a feminist because feminism represents some of what I am and then also some of what I am not. I empower women and concentrate more on the big picture and less on knee jerk reacions to prove points about the lesser stuff which I see a lot of and consider unecessary. I however have the utmost respect for many feminists and have nothing but love for all women.

  14. Thanks Dee, Amma and Folake.

    I love all women too, I would be a fake feminist if I didn't, right?

    @Amma, that's so true. I love your last paragraph.

  15. I am also a feminist. I do get angry when people think feminism is about male bashing and bra-burners. Like seriously! That is so far from the truth. I loooovve men. Amazing creatures they are:). We also need men to support the movement. But you're right, without the sacrifices from women like Gloria Steinem, Susan Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Betty Freidan, Margaret Ekpo, Funmi Ransome-Kuti, Funmi Iyanda, my mother, and millions of nameless women who go against oppressive norms, i wonder where i would be. I feel that's what every woman should ask herself. Because indirectly you are benefiting from feminism, which is, you now have a choice.

    I did notice that with aunt Isioma in a heart to mend. Because i found myself getting angry that she was only just beginning to live only after her husband died (tres sad). Oh yes, i totally totally abhor gender roles and norms. For me, it's about compromise and understanding each other.

    Nice post Myne. It really does get one thinking...


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