Few years back, a close friend of mine told me she doesn’t want to be labeled as feminist. “Whenever I say something about women or that we should get something in return to whatever we give, they label me as a Feminist. And I don’t like that term. It has this uncomfortable tone which is ineffable”, she said. “Well, I’ll tell you what that feeling is. It is the sense of marginalization, a sense of taking a side and neglecting the other end.”, I said to her. She nodded in agreement.
In an attempt to escape the “heavy negative baggage”, as she describes it, the renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie narrowed the term and at one time called herself a Happy African Feminist, who doesn’t hate men, who likes lip-gloss and who wears high heels for herself and not for men. This is the existing narrative.
Feminism, however is never a one sided concept. Yes, it does speak about the rights of women being protected. Yes, it does speak about women having an equal opportunity as men. But it never proposed dismissing men. It fights to end the oppression and suppression of women and to allow them to speak their truth, to laud their arguments and harness their potential.
The international women’s day has been doing one hell of a job in getting the message across the globe. But the narrative, despite encouraging progress, still remains disappointingly perverse. Women are still subject to discrimination based on their sex, are still subject to violence (both physical and psychological) and are subject to lack of education among various other things.
This stems from different ways of perception of Feminism. As there are people who are for the idea of feminism, there are also people who are part of the society who think Feminism is a western thing and not Ethiopian, or African. They think we are brainwashed by the ideology of the developed countries into believing that women are equal to men and they deserve to be given an equal chance.
There are also people who think men are supposed to be superior to women because either they think religion or culture has told them to do so. But institutions like those have highly been manipulated through the years, sometimes to entertain individual use instead of mass gain.
Such misconstrued understanding perpetuates the gender inequality, which is already entrenched in our society. Our youth must be able to comprehend that Feminism stands for protecting women’s rights and privileges. I accept it not because it is western thing but because I believe in the idea it stands for. And for all fellow feminists and non-feminists out there, it must be crystal clear, being a feminist doesn’t mean being against men.
It is only through acknowledging our women and their achievements that we can go forward. There are women who are in need of our help, who still struggle from various societal narrative. There are women who struggle from fully expressing themselves, who struggle from speaking about the damages done to them by men (because the society will vilify them instead of the perpetrators), who struggle for access to education, work, opportunity to decide by themselves for themselves. These women need our help more. This is the 21st century, that shouldn’t be happening and women, like my dear friend, who are afraid of being called “A Feminist” must not feel as such.
Written by Michaelson
Art by Alexander Schwarzer