Here we go again. Another white feminist telling every body else what feminism is what it should be and what it could be without an acknowledgment of her privileged position. I’m so sick and tired of all these over educated feminists, white and black, telling us working women what feminism is. You all should really start listening to us. You all should come asking humble questions and listen. Get off that high horse that makes you think your PHD makes you smarter than me or makes you know more about me than I know about myself or for that matter that its gives you the answers to my problems. If you haven’t spoken to me do not come preaching your ivory tower solutions, just stay the fuck away from me and stop confusing us real women.
I spent much of my youth rejecting the label of feminism because like most everybody else on the planet I thought they were just a bunch of frustrated, ugly, hairy, argumentative spinster and lesbian professors that didn’t wear bras and smelled funny. Whenever I was told I was a feminist I was outraged and very loudly rejected the suggestion. Me? A feminist? I read Cosmo and Vogue religiously, I loved sexy tottering stilettos, I wore slutty revealing clothing and sultry makeup and I expected men to buy me dinner if they invited me out. Dutch was a person from Holland. Then again I frequently went out on my own or with just the girls and paid my way. I didn’t sit around waiting for prince charming to buy me the better things of life and I was no man’s push over even if we were in an intimate relationship. But I was no feminist. So what that I spoke up when I saw sister’s abused or exploited by their men and encouraged them to be independent and strong, that didn’t make me a feminist. So what if I challenged men at every opportunity I had. I was competitive with men, never with women though. I was always soliciticious and deferential with women. I wonder why? Latent homosexuality? Who cares. I identify as heterosexual.
Then one day exhausted at the energy I expended defending my non feminist self and newly empowered by the internet I read up what exactly feminism was. I was in Owerri Imo state at the time and had the further privilege of working with the erudite Prof Rose Acholonu. She introduced me to emerging voices in African and Nigerian feminism and so I got a well-rounded education. Feminism seemed cool once I found out what it actually was and here is what I found out – feminism meant it was okay to be a woman, it was okay to be a tomboy, it was okay to be a femme fatale, it was okay to be a mother, it was okay to childless, it was okay to be married, it was okay to be single, it was okay to be myself, I didn’t have to play by man-made rules, there were woman-made rules too, and that was okay. I also learnt that as a human being you had to work to eat and survive or maybe this is just a bye product of my Russian and Igbo Nigerian upbringing. Financial dependence, full time home maker, sit at home mom were not even mentioned as options. Those were the lifestyle of the rich and the lazy. None of my honest, God fearing, hard working Russian and Nigerian female relatives would possibly consider not working. They would be insulted at the suggestion.
How To Get more women and men to call themselves feminists by Christina Hoff Sommers writing in the Atlantic suggests a new definition for feminism – freedom feminism – to counter the unpopularity of ‘feminism’. I am tired of all these academic types trying to score brownie point and justify their tenure by making obtuse arguments that have little if any applicability to real women’s everyday live. You know last time I looked there were already more than 20 branches and sub themes of feminism and they only have relevance in the ivory towers of women studies curriculums and in hoighty toighty parlour conversation of the uppity new age save the world types. They rarely if ever affect the price of garri. For real women feminism is not defined by words and isms. It’s an everyday struggle, to work, to raise kids, to access health care especially reproductive health care INCLUDING abortion and contraception and stay gorgeous while doing it because you know what we like to look good.
In Africa where I come from not working was never an option except for the rich and privileged. Not working was seen as a slothful and unattractive existence and even the rich and privileged had some means of earning a living that did not necessarily involve hard labour but there was no such thing as a stay at home mother that did nothing. Work was something every human being that wanted to eat did, and there was a clear distinction between productive work and domestic work. Domestic duties like cooking, child care and fetching water did not replace productive work such as trading, farming/agriculture or artisanal occupations. Whatever was their occupation they were never dependent on their husbands. When they were married they were given land to labour for their own and their children’s food. The homemaking women of America and the west think pursuing their interest, taking care of the home and making sure their husband is happy is feminism all aided by the lastest labour saving gadgets no less. It’s infantilizing! Only children live like that and then again not African children. Or do they? Women are treated like children when they behave like children.
Women in my Igbo Nigerian communities also had powerful lobby groups that both protected women’s rights and had power to sanction men and hold them accountable for bad behaviour. Feminism as defined by Sommers as the emancipation of women is applicable only to the west. African women were emancipated. Western ideology, social, religious and political is what has led to the enslavement of African women. I just don’t think ‘all feminist want is choices’ is my brand of feminism. I want a grown up brand of feminism. This freedom feminism reeks of western individualism where the standard for correctness is ‘I want’. I come from Africa and Russia where what you want is not as important as what you can earn. So no matter what Sommers says about developed and developing world difference’s and the need for cross cultural cooperation her critique and narrative is still strictly a white western middle class critique.
I’ve been living in England for the past couple of months and I totally see the difference between African feminism and western feminism, sisters here have babies and children and husbands and ARE literally the house maid, the cook and the nanny if they can’t afford child care. That shit don’t happen in Nigeria! We got lots of help to raise children and do house work. I did anyway because there was never any shortage of relatives more than willing tohelp out. Of course the modern Nigerian woman doesn’t want all the ‘stress’ of relatives. After all you have to listen to and solve their problems. So instead they hire strangers who do only God knows what to their children when they are absent and do social work to solve the problems of complete strangers. It’s less messy that way you know. Western women are suffering indeed if you ask me and to think that they are always feeling sorry for us? I feel sorry for them! What a sad existence no wonder they always bitching about house work being work and trying to make out that what I do in Africa is the real suffering. Sister no way!
Anyway folks like Sommers and all them stuck up white privileged females can continue to console themselves that their lives are better than mine and that I’m the one that needs their help. I been here long enough to really appreciate why expats that settle in Nigeria while looking down their long noses at the natives are loath to return to their emerald isles. Hell, we don’t even have the wage discrepancies that they always trot out as impeachable proof of their oppression. Our male and female workers receive the same thing, equal slave wages though it is sometimes but that isn’t white peoples fault my black ‘elite’ brothers did that. They never feel so good as when they feel like big man and how can they feel like big man unless everyone is poor because really the richest of them isn’t all that rich really. Only seems rich cause everyone is poor. Anyway that’s my story. How was your day?