From My Archives: African Feminism

From my Yahoo360 Archive: April 25, 2006

My friend and I were sitting in the garden having our morning coffee and cigarettes when we noticed a van pull up to the cabin across the street. Next thing a woman gets down and they start offloading luggage; suitcases, blankets, a mop, groceries. Three men have been living in that cabin for almost a month now without any of these things!!!?

It occurred to me how dependent men actually are on women. I started wondering whether we women are really the oppressed ones. These men can’t live well without a woman and that is true for so many men I have met in my life, especially here in Naija, in  America most of the men were actually quite self sufficient in that department at least most of the ones I met and knew well enough to judge.

I can’t deny that women suffer from discrimination and exclusion etc. etc. etc. but it would appear that men are in there own ‘prison’ so to speak. Have you ever watched one of those movies set in a prison and felt amazement at the fact that the prison guards are their own kind of prisoners really, even though they can go home to their families in the evening? And I wondered whether their brutality is a reaction to their situation?

It would also appear that the African woman knows her power and for this reason jealously protects her position as mother and matriarch. Could this be why African feminists reject western feminism so vehemently? Could it be that they believe that they are in a superior position of power? Is there a link? I have often wondered whether female genital mutilation isn’t part of this exercise of power, after all the procedure is usually performed and controlled by women and they have actually been the staunchest resisters to it’s abolition in Africa.

Could it be that removing the clitoris as a site of pleasure was initiated not by men to control women but by women to control men? Presumably, after the procedure a woman would be more difficult to arouse and therefore less inclined to have sex for pleasure as opposed to sex for manipulation. ‘You want some? What you gonna do for me?’  Just a crazy thought.

I can’t ignore the fact that sex is very much a transaction in some tribal philosophies that I have encountered. I have heard having sex with a woman and not paying her be in it cash or kind described as a theft and the belief is that such a woman’s curse can ruin a man’s life especially if she prays naked in the middle of the night.

Many incidents of rape and sexual abuse are settled financially. The victim’s family doesn’t always insist on marriage. Outcomes usually depend on the social status of the abuser vis-à-vis the victims.

Chinweizu in his book The Anatomy of Female Power certainly implies as much although he never directly accusses women of sexual manipulation and seems to suggest that its not about the vagina (i.e. sexual pleasure) but more about the womb and man’s need to procreate and beget heirs.

Catherine Acholonu implies that female power is about ‘motherhood’ as an institution and not just a biological function. Motherhood was elevated to a cult in many parts of tribal Africa. The assumption in western feminism is that motherhood only benefits the patriarchy but according to Acholonu C. motherhood also benefits. She argues that in Africa motherhood has a value and that women are far from powerless. She also argues that Africa was not patriarchal in the classical sense of the word.

Rose Acholonu shares the view that motherhood is the power base and is also critical of western feminist ideology for their attitude towards motherhood and family but she is also very critical of tribal patriarchy and traditions unlike Acholunu C. and Helen Chukwuma.

Chukwuma sites women’s power in their use of their collective political leverage in the community, describes how that power is exercised and recommends that those methods be documented, reevaluated, and tested.

All these writers share a firm belief in their status and power as women, mothers and wives.

As Foucalt said, there is no person without power, everyone resists, negotiates or accepts.

What do you think about African feminism or African women and power? What is her ‘power’? Where does it come from?  How does she use it? Is it in the kitchen, the bedroom, the boardroom or the living room? Is it her womb (biological capacity to procreate) or her vagina (the capacity for sexual pleasure)? I’m being a bit blunt because I want an honest reaction.

I’d really like to know your opinion if you would like to share it.

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One Response to “From My Archives: African Feminism”

  1. Uju Okorie Says:

    A great deal of African cultures actually hand women enormous amounts of power.
    It has always been a question of whether the will and the wisdom to use this power is there or not.
    Like my husband would say:
    “There is nothing on earth that women want that they cannot get.”
    I agree a hundred percent.

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