A July article written by Betty Kankam-Boadu and (re)published on Starr FM made the social media rounds yesterday afternoon to the mirth and amusement of all who chimed in to comment on Ms. Kankam-Boadu’s contribution on the conversation surrounding feminism in Ghana. My initial reaction after I read the article entitled “To the so-called feminists on social media; the struggle is real!” was one I struggled to unriddle, until I went to sleep and drifted off into dreams of my children. Betty Kankam-Boadu’s (who shall at some points in this post be referred to as ‘BKB’) written attempt at shaming what she calls “social media feminists” (and it was such an attempt) reminded me of watching a toddler waddling into rush-hour traffic on a long holiday weekend. It left me alarmed and tense. Like, who let you outside of the safety of your crib and into these dangerous streets? You ain’t Barry Allen. You ain’t the Flash! You ain’t equipped to be here! Bless your heart…
In Betty Kankam-Boadu’s somewhat waffling analysis (which you can read here) she takes potshots at the advocacy efforts of feminists like Lydia Forson when she says:
“Let me give this to them, I like the fact that they get people talking about whatever issue is being discussed. But after jumping on Hamamat Montia’s viral red carpet “situation” by telling all women to get naked and do whatever they want with their bodies any day any time anywhere, how do you measure results?”
There were a few other people on Twitter/Facebook to support Ms. Montia’s choice to wear whatever she bought and paid for at a celebrity event – since she IS a sentient being and all – but they are not as visible as Lydia Forson. So yeah…It’s safe to assume that Betty was dissing Lydia specifically for not having measureable results. She then goes on to cite the work of a bunch of people with whom she has no social or cultural connection (Brandon from Human’s of New York, a barefoot Julia Roberts at Cannes, etc.) who are doing what she feels is tangible and therefore more admirable activism. It’s really disappointing (and telling) that Betty couldn’t point to a single Ghanaian/African feminist activist to drive home her argument. Perhaps our local champions are not good enough, eh? Kinna Likimani, Dorcas Coker-Appiah and Jessica Horn are all women doing the work on and offline…and more importantly, doing it with respect to our cultural context.
Which brings me to my next point.
Maddddaaaaaam. Come ON! How much does Accra have in common with New York? How does Cannes even compare to the VGMAs? Sister…please. You say Julia Roberts showed up barefoot at an event in silent protest to women who were previously turned away for not wearing heels. Just this weekend, Becca showed up on the Glitz red carpet preening in a plunging neckline, greedily posing for pictures next to a grand piano until the morality police swooped in and demanded both an explanation and an apology for her attire. It could have been her moment as an African woman to reclaim agency not over just her body, but stand for women whose bodies are routinely poked, commented on and commodified all over the nation. Instead, Becca threw her stylist under the bus, blaming her for the now-deemed fashion faux pas all while playing the victim. You know who came to her defense? Those ‘social media feminists’ you so clearly disdain. Don’t try to deny your revulsion for this group. Obviously, the term – like ‘armchair researcher ‘and ‘Instagram model’ – is used as a pejorative and not meant to be complimentary… shaming people into ceasing behavior that you take umbrage with.
Here’s the reality we live in today: Our veritable lives are lived out online and often through and/or social media. Heck, it took the creation of Pokemon Go just to get droves of millennials – who spend the better portion of their day online – just to go outside for a few minutes. Brick and mortar businesses are closing shop all over the world and focusing their retail sales efforts to online channels. Whether you want to believe it or not, a hashtag CAN bring an organization to its knees. Reputations are won and lost online. For the first time in history, people can participate in the political process in real time thanks to social media. So it would ONLY make sense that there would be social media feminists who concentrate their advocacy efforts to online spaces. It’s often the only spaces that these voices are ever heard. Right now, a hoard of feminists are in Bahia plotting ways to create a feminist internet, so BKB and any other like-minded individuals had better get their minds right and their hearts ready.
The idea that these women (and men) speak up are “just in for the cheap popularity” is absolutely laughable. The sought popularity Betty Kankam-Boadu so glibly assigns to these women often comes in the form of online and threats of physical abuse. There is a very good reason that very few of Ghana’s celebrity or civilian core speaks up publicly about hot button issues in this patriarchal society. It’s more beneficial to stand with the oppressor than to number yourself with the oppressed. Wanlov the Kubolor is only one of the few names in entertainment I can think of to take such a stand repeatedly, and we’ve seen how Ghana’s music industry has treated him and the FOKN Bois duo over the years. So no: I very much doubt anyone does their social media activism for the benefit of cheap fans. If anything, it comes at a great cost. That’s why Becca and Hamamat chose to cower and cast blame on stylists and photographers: they’ve deemed the cost of seeking self-actualization as too high and therefore sought real cheap popularity by kowtowing to the whims of a fickle public..
Since Ms. Kankam-Boadu spoke so boldly about her objection to social media feminism, I expected to Google her name and find a list of great activist exploits revealed to me. You know what I saw? Some social media activism. One thing on #MarchAgainstMisogyny (a hashtag and online movement created by Philip Ashon) and…nothing. Even her LinkedIn profile is devoid of any tangible work she’s doing as a self-proclaimed feminist. She’s a journalist…period. But she admonishes others “You better get on your feet and do the hard and uncomfortable stuff.” Does SHE have a cause she’s leading and she can rally feminists to? I’m sure everyone would love to hear it. Because if BKB were to be judged by the same standard she’s upholding others to, there’s going to be Big Trouble in Little China.
To conclude, I’ll leave you all with quotes from these three brilliant women whose reactions sum up the matter succinctly. Listen, all ye who have ears, and perhaps learn.