Bongiwe Nkomazana on Gender
Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal which is to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.
This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.
This is the context of feminism we will be talking about. Without using the word feminism, ask yourself if you believe every human being particularly men and women, should have equal human rights.
If your answer was no, please do share with us why you believe we should not live equally and if you answered yes, believe it or not, you are a feminist.
More and more people today are actually advocates of gender equality but there is something about claiming the title “feminist” that still takes us aback. It is no secret that feminism rubs people the wrong way.
My question is why do we look at feminism from a negative angle? What is it about the word feminist and what it stands for that makes us apprehensive?
I was writing my bio for one of my social media pages and I had pumped myself up for stating how I am a feminist. When I started typing it out however, I became hesitant because I started to think of all the undertones that go with the word feminist.
I swear to you when a woman says she is a feminist, people’s guards go up because they expect the worst behaviour from her. They expect an angry, bitter, stubborn, hot-headed female who is unable to stay calm and collected through conversation.
These are individualistic traits and although I can be stubborn sometimes, it has nothing to do with my desire to see women and men at par.
Remember that when I say at par I am referring to equality in things like access and opportunity so let us not raise things like our biological build up and physical abilities.
I am always agitated by people, mostly men, who try to dishearten women by ridiculing us for wanting 50/50 rights yet we cannot carry heavy loads. I have been called a feminist from a place of insult for writing on gender and pointing out certain inequalities.
I felt attacked for a minute but the more I thought about it I realised that that’s exactly what I am and from my understanding of feminism, that is exactly what I was trying to be. The insulter probably has an inaccurate understanding of feminism that made them feel like they could slander me with the title and “put me in my place”.
That is when I see that we still have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to understanding gender equality.
I truly believe that most men, whether they be educated or uneducated, powerful or a pauper resist feminism because in a way, to them giving power to women means that power will be or should be taken away from them.
They want to remain in a position of power at work, in their relationships and everywhere else so keeping the woman at a lower level will ensure that they are the first grade option for all upcoming opportunities and that the fate of the women remains in their hands.
Call it a conspiracy theory if you may but the way feminism is shrugged off like it is nonsense is really to make women believe that they are wrong for hoping that anything will ever change in their favour. It is also a counter-action to the women inclusion policies that the world seems to be taking up nowadays. Almost as if to say look, we will make you equal but not too equal.
I did meet one man though, whom I am hoping represents many more others, at a workshop. Prior to our one on one conversation, I had already judged him for being pompous and I had promised myself not to get close to him because he was the type that released spit showers when he spoke.
On one of his loud contributions in the discussions he bellowed how he was a feminist and I could tell how he was proud of the work that they do for gender equality. My perception of him changed immediately.
Not only did he become a tad bit more attractive; because nothing shouts secure more than a man who is happy to help propel women further; but it also dawned on me that his eagerness to be constantly speaking was the universe’s way of getting the beauty of feminism and the importance of gender equality out there faster and LOUDLY . . . the guy was loud.
Like me, many women are afraid to claim being feminist because our society dislikes a woman that talks too much, also known as strong, forceful, unwavering and/or confident.
There is a stigma attached to being that kind of woman who will stand up. She will be looked at as a man-hater who wants to topple tradition over but that is not the case.
I keep saying that African women love their traditions and appreciate even the gender roles that are within that culture. However, to ask to be recognised as equals within our roles is not too much at all.
To tell a man that male privilege is real and that a woman deserves all the good qualities of life that he has is not to hate him.
To stand up as a woman and declare how you should be respected is not anger and therefore it should not be punished with segregation and stigma.
Our favourite feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it perfectly when she said that we should all be feminists.
If anything it is a beautiful thing and according to my experience as a woman for almost three decades, it is the vehicle that we need for gender equality and with gender equality comes all things productive like community development, food security and higher school enrolments. Be smart and be a feminist.