Feminism is not relevant to African women. The misery we feel as African women in our noisy efforts to be treated with respect and ask for equality and equity is simply because we got educated by the white man. Why would an African woman want to marry someone she loves rather than someone her family loves? Why would an African woman complain when at 16, a wealthy and slightly educated 50-year-old man wanted to marry her? Why would we be against polygamy and FGM and sexual harassment? Which real African woman wouldn’t enjoy being grabbed in public? Would a real African woman not enjoy losing six children through childbirth and having 13 more in their place because they couldn’t plan parenthood? Which woman, wouldn’t want to be ridiculed because the man responsible for her pregnancy refused to take responsibility and hence she got shunned? Not a true African woman.
Despite all the various efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion, despite all the affirmative action and the advanced education with African literature trying to shed a light on the empowered African woman; African literature has not been a friend to Feminism. It has depicted feminism as UnAfrican in every way possible.
In as much as African literature is covering feminism, feminists in our African bestseller books are either sexually promiscuous or they have left their husbands to become prostitutes so that they can fend for their families. Makes me wonder if there aren’t any decent other jobs for African women in the survival settings. In the case of our female heroes in the very books we are forced to read in the school curriculum such as Muthoni in the River Between; they die from the very practices we are voicing against- FGM. Why would a strong African woman be potrayed as a rebel against her Christian parents by choosing circumcision? Is that what defines a strong African woman? These are the books we are subjected to for us to pass our exams and become high-value women in the society? A book where any woman that speaks up- is a dead woman.
African men have been claiming that education ruined their women. My own teacher told me education ruined me- I should have focused on a better career rather than be a feminist. Ha! Can you believe my eyes when I read it? So, feminism is a career now? By Jove I almost peed on myself laughing until I realised the seriousness of the context and immediately stopped laughing.
Turns out, they do not need educated women because we take up their roles. We speak up, we get jobs, we have a choice on the number of children we want, we start our companies, we join in on activism, we get good grades and heck- we can voice for those who are not as privileged as we are. Men do not want that. They prefer early marriages and overpopulation and circumcised women and a woman who only listens and never talks. Those are educated men I am talking about. The men that cyber bully feminists online- African Feminists. The men that ask women to get a husband so that they can stop being feminists. The men that ask Feminists to stop polluting the African woman. The men that use education as their asset but deem it a liability for women. The men that cry foul the minute a woman progresses. The educated men who use their influence to paint an African woman in an inferior setting. The writers, the CEOs, the teachers, the priests that ask women to stay in SGBV marriages and our leaders who defile our children without any shame- without any fear of the law because they are the law. Case example of Kenya MCAs who were found with underage girls and zilch has been done. African women… Sigh.
The African woman cannot at any point have the privileges with her trust and honor that the African man does. Relationships and sexuality are a gamble for the African woman but a necessity for the man. A woman’s nudes are shared every day on the internet, and we all gang up against the owner of the nude. What we are forgetting is that men share their Nude pics, but we never see them spewed on the internet- wait I am not talking about the Indian nudes we receive on our messenger daily, no not those. I am speaking about real nudes from our boyfriends and lovers. It is a two-way traffic on such matters but what do we do? We sit high, greater than the maker of the universe and pass real harsh and hardcore judgment on the African woman. A common phrase used in Kenya today is Dunia isimame nishuke. Well, so that you know; the world is never going to stop for you to alight just because a woman took a nude picture and sent it to some douche bag.
Last year, the tabloids alleged a feud between 2 feminists. Chimamanda and Beyonce. 2 black women- with different lives and backgrounds and heck- cultures. I was asked by a few women and friends to weigh in on the matter in relations to who was a better feminist, with better ideologies and how the feud would have gracefully been embraced in a feminist way. How could I?
I am a 24-year-old woman living in a one bedroom apartment in one of the largest formal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya in Africa- A place called Eastlands. Eastlands is one of Nairobi’s largest estate. A vast one at that. At 1 P.M every day, one of my neighbors is beaten by her husband. Both she and her co-wife, he clobbers them in their studio apartment. They wail and plead and ask for forgiveness. In the morning, they see him off- as the good wives they should be. My other neighbor gives her advice on which cream to use to heal faster. I am moving out and one of the reasons is because I gave out a different advice on how they can leave and now I am an enemy of the people. The main reason I am moving out? That is a story for another day. My other neighbor wants to be a lawyer. She has no money for school and her grades do not allow her either. So she braids hair- talking about her dreams. Most women in Eastlands are house wives or work in salons or own a stall or they have a temporary job. Just like I do. I have good days and bad days too. I was unemployed for a whole year after graduating. I got a 2 month old job. I am back to being unemployed. That is the life of an average educated woman in Nairobi. If you are lucky enough, you get a low paying job So how could I talk about Beyonce and Chimamanda?
I experience different issues from the two feminists every day. These entails dust, noise, being groped, struggling and by Jove- having a boyfriend; something most African feminists shouldn’t have and is something that makes me less of a feminist. After all, it is said that feminists hate men. African feminists are supposed to hate men – that is possibly the reason why they keep trying to have a better society for women. How could I weigh in on which ideologies were better between the two? Mine seemed better from where I am seated. Mine worked for me. I could get comfortable tabling my issues down and feel like I am part of a movement that advocates for gender diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion. So, I shrugged and sighed. A deep sigh. I was an African feminist, and that made me UnAfrican. How could my opinion make my situation better?
Recently, I posted on Facebook that I am in a relationship, which I am; and the replies I got made me realize that Africans (I have Facebook friends from all over the continent)- have an expectation of Feminists that we must uphold to be considered one. Feminism to us is manual from the Western world, and we are buttons to be pressed daily. Martha Gellhorn, a woman who claimed some feminists were using feminism as a party rather than a movement; a woman who was the first female war correspondent, and a woman who divorced Ernest Hemingway- the man who had never been divorced but did the divorcing is my icon. Heck, her ideologies are far different from mine. In Africa, a feminist is not a human being that deserves a listening ear and understanding but is a machine and is expected to come with a manual and fail safe. She is a woman that refuses to be African. She is a lonely woman, a lesbian perhaps or simply not good looking enough to be tamed by men. Ha!
Feminism is UnAfrican because we have refused to let Africa be flexible, accepting and embracing and until it does – let us redefine African culture, norms and traditions. Feminism is the only way to become a better continent and until we accept that; feminism is just a label and not a movement.If you believe that feminism is of no use to African women, it simply means you do believe that African women do not deserve respect and inclusion globally and that, sure is a shame. If feminism makes me less of an African woman- I can live with that!