*I’m writing this knowing that portions of this post are going to irk some of my conservative and liberal readers alike. The moderates might not be so mad at me. By “moderates”, I mean only one person: A-Dub, my sister.
I was recently interviewed by the Ndeye, the curator of Under the Neem Tree and was asked the following question:
What are you[r] thoughts on African feminism as opposed to western feminism? Does African feminism even exist? If yes, how do you see it evolved in the struggle between modernism and traditions? And finally, do you consider yourself a feminist?
Time constraints didn’t allow me to answer the question as fully as I would have liked. After all, there is a lot in those four questions to address! I fired off an answer, hit ‘send’ and closed my laptop. But late last night, the question haunted me in my sleep and followed me into the morning.
Malaka; do you consider yourself a feminist?
As a modern woman, I would be expected to reply emphatically in the positive and politely ask for the next question. Maybe I’m not that modern. I’m okay with that. I’ve never done too well with following trends. As you will see from the article when it is posted, I answered that I do not consider myself a “feminist”.
First of all, I have several hang-ups with feminism as I have experienced or read about it. Now, I have only experienced the idea of feminism from the Western perspective, and as Ndeye points out in her question there IS a difference between Western feminism and African feminism, and even a debate about whether African feminism even exists. When I was first introduced to ‘feminism’, it was via some documentary I was made to watch in the 80’s. It talked about the suffragette movement, the Pill and women’s right to work. It was the women’s right to work bit that stuck with me. What nonsense was this? Black women have ALWAYS worked in this country. We’ve picked cotton, been maids, chopped tobacco, swept streets, minded children… all for a pittance and with no pomp or fanfare. “Right” to work??? Tsseeewww. Nonsense. It was only later that I came to understand that the heralds of the American women’s rights movement/early feminists were the wives of aristocrats, and that there was a direct relationship between a man’s perceived success and the idleness of his wife. The richer the man, the more idle his wife. That’s not a lot of time to get out and be of much use, is it?
So who do these rich, idle, seemingly incapable women call on to further their cause of freedom? Well, former female slaves, of course. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and probably dozens of other nameless Black women who suffered under the lash in fields, and rice swamps, and God knows where else. These women were the picture of strength; the anti-type to the image of female frailty that White men had appended to their own women. Harriet and Sojourner made impassioned speeches about the ability of women. You know what happened next. Eventually, the suffragettes won the right to the female vote in 1920, won the right to work in factories for pay during the industrial era, took over work at home during the war effort. And my sisters? Black women didn’t earn the right to vote until the end of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. We didn’t have the right to work alongside our Caucasian ‘sisters’ in their mechanized factories either. Could they have fought as hard to work alongside us as they did for their own rights to fair pay? Sure they could have. But they didn’t. They didn’t even speak up for Quvenzhané Wallis when the editors of The Onion called her “a little cunt”. White feminist don’t care one whit about Black women until it’s time for the next crisis.
Hey! Hey! Quick! Close your eyes! In one word, describe ‘women’s rights’!
Chances are, if you’re sitting in your big comfy American couch reading this blog, you said “abortion”.
That’s right: Today’s feminist issue is all about abortion, aka the Issue Formerly known as A Woman’s Right to Choose. And at the beginning of this fight for the “right to choose” who did these elite women in their structured suits and beaded friendship bracelets parade around to validate their cause? Poor Black women. Again, they used our bodies and our wretched state to get their government to kowtow to their personal wants. A couple of years later and a more “appropriate” icon of the birth control movement is introduced to the public in the person of Sandra Fluke. There is a history of White women using us, making promises in the name of “sisterhood” and failing to make good on their promises, as recent as Paula Deen.
So no, I do not identify as a feminist. As you can see, I wouldn’t make a very good one, anyway.
I once had this troll that used to follow and harass me on M.O.M. and on Twitter until I finally HAD to block her. She made all kinds of pronouncements about me.
Malaka is a conservative. Malaka is un-evolved. Malaka is a knuckle dragger who doesn’t believe that sex should be had outside of marriage. That last accusation amused me, actually, considering my first child, just like Jesus Christ was conceived outside of wedlock. What? Do you think God was confused when He sent the Holy Spirit to impregnate an unwed teen? I don’t have any problems with children being conceived outside of wedlock, and I don’t think the church should either. We should be encouraging life, not driving people to destroy it out of guilt because we have issues with our warped Victorian era Christian views.
Which brings me to my last thought: does African feminism exist?
I don’t know if you can put the idea (or least MY idea) of what African feminism is into a tidy little box wrapped with kente cloth and call it African Feminism/Exhibit A. Many of our societies prior to the Christian/Islamic invasion of the last five centuries were matriarchal. For instance, in the Akan culture, an uncle had more right to his sister’s children than that woman’s own husband did. This is because a woman’s child was her child for sure, and her brother would be confident that they were indeed a part of her lineage. To that end, there was a time in Africa – or Ghana at least – when the news of a pregnancy was met with celebration. Now, a girl gets pregnant and anguished screams of “Ooohhh!!!” echo in the village/city halls.
We just do things differently. For instance, the way we historically appropriated land in Africa is different from the way Europeans did. The land belonged to everyone in that community, not just some feudal lord in his stone fortress atop a Scottish knoll. To my knowledge, there was never the sense of competition between the sexes as Caucasian men and women have experienced it. Our Queen Mothers and Kings were afforded mutual respect, and we celebrated their unique roles and expectations within those roles. So in short, no: I do not believe “African feminism” exists. I believe African feminism is a euphemism for human decency.
I read that there is a push for feminists to stop using the term as their moniker and to come up with some other name. There is this idea that they need to re-brand, because feminism/feminist has so many negative emotions attached to it, even among other women. Feminists, like any other clique, can be a cruel bunch if you do not share their same views. You can throw Catholics, Southern Baptists and Shiite Muslims in that category, just so I’m not accused of picking on feminists.
If I HAD to categorize myself, and put myself in a box, I’d like to say that I am a Decent Human Being…inist. Does decency have a gender or race? Of course not. At the end of the day, that’s all I want: to treat people fairly and to be treated fairly.
Can I get an ‘amen’ from my moderates?