A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 2: A Woman’s Power

 

At first I found Yemisi’s definition of power problematic. She calls Beyonce and Adichie “the freshest, shiniest most intoxicating insignia of global feminine power.” And that’s when I get it. She isn’t taking about feminism at all. She is talking about feminine power. And she probably means Chinweizu’s ‘bottom power’.

What is feminine power? When I think of feminine power I think of the power of the female collective, as historically exercised by the Umuada and Ndiyom in Igbo-Nigeria for instance. However, feminine power is also most popularly associated with ‘bottom power’, that intrinsic fuckability  that all women have and frequently exploit in traditional gendered relations. Feminine power IS NOT feminism.

Minna Salami gives an enlightening post on ‘feminine power’ here.

Feminism is a political struggle against the patriarchy. African feminisms are about dismantling the structures of patriarchy, imperial and home grown. Its nice that celebrities and pop culture figures on both sides of the pond and in both hemispheres are recognising their ‘feminine power’ and calling themselves feminists but its not always feminism.

Still its great for consciousness raising. The 70’s were the last time feminism had this much media attention. And this time its global.

Yemisi’s obsession with fuckability also becomes clear. She, like so many of the men she calls friends seem to have been pussy whipped by the women in their lives and are resentful and intimidated by this new white man’s version of fuckability and the ‘immodest’ women that are not afraid to exploit it.

Reading her essay I could feel her torment as an awkward clumsy teenager  surrounded by fuckability but who hasn’t been there? We were all ugly ducklings till we became swans. Which woman hasn’t struggled with self image? Even the most blindingly fuckable have and do. The pressure of fuckability is a feminist issue.

That’s when she confuses me. She talks about feminist issues and uses feminist language to denounce and reject feminism but keeps mixing it up with feminine or woman power. And its that association between ‘feminine power’ and feminism that seems to put her off. She sounds nostalgic for the good old days when feminists were plain frumpy odd balls.

She sees this New Nigerian Feminism as consolidating an already overbearing feminine power. Now that I get her point (and I kept wondering what her point was) I just want to say – is that what you think?

As an ‘old school’ Nigerian Feminist I am delighted to witness the growth of this New Nigerian Feminism. I am delighted to see so many young women identify as feminist. Identification with feminism is related to outcomes like where their support and donations goes. And if there is one thing that we need is more support for feminist causes – like the Mirabel Centre.

This new feminism is also inspiring grass roots action. The outrage and action  against domestic violence and rape in Nigeria has never been louder or bolder.

 

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