Feminist is not a Slur

Do you know who my icon is? The person I hope to be like or be better than someday? It’s not Michelle Obama, not the President of Croatia and definitely, definitely not Beyonce. The person I look up to the most is my mom. I’m aware how cliché this sounds, believe me. But who says cliché has to be a bad thing?

Mom grew up in a backwater village in Anambra state, the only child –until she was 13- of nobodies. Her father was a trader, her mother sold akamu. She always tells me of the ridicule she got from her neighbours in her face-me-I-face your apartment. Who did she think she was, spending all her time reading and being the best in her class? What use is a girl that doesn’t know how to make fufu? While other girls in her village were settling into their “roles” and trainings as future wives, my mother decided she wanted to make something of herself. She resolved to be more than just someone’s wife. She planned to climb up the social ladder and not “marry up”. At the BIG age of 13, she decided. She worked hard, got a scholarship that put her through secondary school and university. All while her classmates were married off to one “rich” man or the other. Today, those mates with their “rich” husbands are uneducated traders with no form of independence. All their worth is attached to the number of sons they could bear.

There’s one particular story my mom told me that will forever stick in my memory. One day, while she was on “long vac(ation)” from secondary school, a man and his kinsmen came to her modest home in the village. They came in with their shoulders raised; looking down on her like she was nothing. They asked her to walk about and turn around so they could have a good look at her.  One of them said, “She will do nicely” in Igbo and gave her a sizeable bundle of money. A few days later, they came back to meet her father to say they were “ready to marry” Chinyere. My grandpa called my mom to ask if she’d agreed to this. My mother said “No one came to discuss anything with me, they only came to prize me like a cow and left. Am I a cow? Moreover, I am not getting married until I become a doctor”

And my people, that was exactly what my mother did. Dr Chinyere Ilonze is my forever mood.

But do you know what is funny? As much as I love this woman, her spunk and the defiant way she approaches the world of men, there’s still something missing. She never managed to unlearn some of the self-hate the world promotes in women. Maybe self-hate is a strong word. What better term should I use to describe the belief that being sexually harassed is either normal or somehow my fault? Or that certain jobs or roles cannot be filled by me, not because I’m unqualified but because I’m disqualified as a woman? Or how about defining my existence by my marital status, when a man is always a man but we are only complete women when we bears the Mrs.? What better word  than “self-hate” is there? Sure, just like my mother’s peers in the village, society suppresses women to the point where the only option they (believe they) have are to either take oppression lying down or make the most of it but allying with the “benevolent” man and master. If you ask me though, as much as society enforced this embargo on womankind, we as women also accepted it. And that, is where self-hate comes in.

You know what’s worse? The only force that exists to free us from this figurative and literal imprisonment is taking more hits that the women themselves. My mother gets so terribly awkward and uncomfortable around the term “feminist”. So did I, once.  Unfortunately, It took working in an organization that caters to women and girls going through all kinds of hardship, solely because of their gender. That’s what it took for me to realize that to be feminist is to be human, or at least to be rational. I’m ashamed that I needed that much convincing but now that my eyes are open, I can’t unsee it; the inequality, the discrimination, it’s alive, touching everything, leaving a distinct dirty aftertaste. Feminism is the only step in the right direction to fixing it. And we’re doing to it what we have done to every beacon of hope; trying to quench it.

In the bid to discredit us, the women who truly see, they mislabel us. Man haters, lesbians, ugly women, lonely women, women who have been hurt by men, rejected, gone unnoticed. Call us all sorts of things. I can’t help but notice that all these insults only prove our point. They think that the universe of a woman has to start and end with a man.  But you know what? I could be all of these things that you think a feminist is, or I could be none of them, it still doesn’t change the facts; I am human and I am no less human than anyone else, I shouldn’t be treated like I am otherwise. I am not out here trying to take from what you have, I only want to get what I merit.

Feminism has been criticized by thinkers and non-thinkers, and even by myself at one point, as a movement with no clear definition, no clear goal. We squabble amongst ourselves; who is a better feminist than the other; whose brand of feminism is best, more achievable, more realistic, more please-men-able. But here’s the truth, feminist can not mean one thing, because we’re not all the same and our lives are not all the same. Each feminist’s attainable milestones can not be the same. We’re a very unique movement, we cut across cultures, races, religions, ethnicities and realities  Can you think of any one human movement as big and diverse as us? Any one social problem that touches the lives of nearly 4 billion people? We’re allowed to have different voices. What we won’t allow is misconception that our diversity delegitimizes our cause.

The truth is, the whole conversation has been so skewed. It’s not actually about being equal to a man. I mean, no two men are even equal. It’s about being as human as men, deserving of the same rights, choices and privileges. And these rights and choices and privileges look different for each one of us in all our corners of the world. And that’s totally okay.

So, to all my ladies out there, still stuck behind the curtain, veils not having been removed yet; we’ll be here to catch you, if you ever happen to walk or crawl or stumble through. To those who can see but are still afraid of being called that dirty word: FEMINIST; I say embrace it, it truly does free you, I promise. And to the other side of this, you who have decided to stand as an opposition; I only hope that one day you fall through the curtain too and join us. The world is a better place when everyone embraces the equalness of our humanity. Feminist is not a slur, it’s the most rational state of being.

 

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Dear Future Daughter, The World is No Longer Safe For You

Dear future daughter, the world is no longer a safe place for you. It has changed dramatically. I may be wrong, maybe it never changed and I have just realised that it never really was safe. I’m writing this to you and not your brother because although he too is will be in danger and life will attempt to drown him with the social responsibilities that “male factor” brings, you are more vulnerable because there are those that will seek to take advantage of your femininity.

Predators are everywhere. There are those that want your body and nothing more, whether you’re a young innocent baby or a full grown woman. They want to display you on their trophy chest, another set of opened legs, conquered meat. They don’t want to share your joy, your pain, your passion just for you to bankroll their personal gratification. Beware of them.

There are predators who will not be too subtle, they won’t try to manipulate you to get the cookie from your empire. They will try to take it by force. They are vile, disgusting and have no morals. They are sons, brothers, fathers, best friends, teachers, pastors, mentors and even doctors. Be very careful my future daughter because they are everywhere. Learn self defence if you need to, never go out alone with people you’re skeptical about, find God and trust him to keep them away from you, and always keep open arms for those that became victims to the sickos.

The cabal of society will try and blame you if and anyone who falls victim. Men, women and children alike.. They will say you shouldn’t have shown skin, you shouldn’t have spoken with an accent, you shouldn’t have spent your hard earned money. Know that you are never at fault, it maybe natural to fell some level of shame but fight and don’t agree to lose this game of life. Be strong and stand tall.

Never close your hearts to people in need but never give them your trust before they are tested in their deed. Don’t shut your heart to love if you get played, there are men out there who will love and be prepared to die for you, no strings attached. Just be patient, they’ll come. Be a strong girl, an independent woman, and a contributor to all human kind.

I’d be here, becoming a better father for you.

Your future Dad

UgoTalksAlot

It’s Simple Logic: Men & Women Are Equal 

I believe gender equality, gender equity, gender fairness or any other conceptualised explanation of men and women having equal access to equal rights are separated by nothing other than semantics. They mean the same thing from where I stand and are just products of everyone trying to find intellectual self expression, which isn’t a bad thing.

As the human race has evolved it has had to deal with acknowledging that different factions of the human race are equal, which led to movements like the civil rights movements. Now we’re embroiled in a battle over what again is simple logic. Let’s remove all the intellectual, religious and cultural red tape and call a spade a spade. Men and women are 110% equal and yet totally different.

Things don’t have to be the same to produce equality. 1+1, 4-2, 12-10, 22-20 are not the same mathematical problems but are all equal to 2. The left and the right side of the human brain perform completely different functions and are responsible for a lot of dissimilar activities but not only are they both equally part of the brain, they are both of equal importance to the functioning of the human body.

It’s that simple logic that says men and women maybe totally different but are also equally important to the furtherance of the human race. It’s common sense!

To insinuate God didn’t make man and woman equal is tomfoolery. God gave man and woman different family responsibilities. Ask yourself why both Adam and Eve were punished for a sin that some might argue would not have happened if Eve hadn’t listened to the serpent. They were punished differently but both to equal devastating effect. Even in the ministry of Jesus the women were the bread winners while the men did the caring.

The global society has seen women lead homes and businesses better than men ever could, it has also seen men raise homes better than women ever could. A woman might not lead like a man, a man might not care like a woman, but a woman can lead, should lead if she wants to, a man can care and should care if he wants to. Besides not even all women care alike, neither do all men lead alike does it now mean that even amongst men or women not all are equally ‘man’ or ‘woman’?

Both genders deserve equal access to equal rights, a level playing field where no one starts the race several steps ahead of the other and where no one gets to use a bicycle while the other runs.

Feminism & Other Stories

My neighbour passed away recently. He had been sick for a while, from diabetes to high blood pressure, everyone knew time was one thing he didn’t have. I heard his health problems started after the death of his first wife and child. 

He remarried, a woman probably in her late 20’s and had 3 kids. He was probably in his 50’s by my estimation. I don’t know much of his wife’s educational qualification all I know is that she’s a house wife and not by choice. Make no mistake or wrong assumption, they were in love (at the very least they cared for each other more than friends do) but for him, his wife working was always off the table. My mum had talked to him about letting his wife go to work or open a shop at the very least but he just brushed it aside.

There were days when his wife locked him inside the house and stood out in the sun all day just to prevent him from going to work and killing himself. Those days were always dramatic and sometimes funny. 

 He died in my mums arms as she tried to rush him to the hospital. His wife has to move out of the government house and I have no idea where she’s going to continue her life. I have no idea what the future holds for the kids in this very unkind country.

What some people choose to neglect is that men in this part of the world are brought up to believe that even till death and even in their death, providing for the family is their sole responsibility. The effect is that we as men have relegated women to the kitchen because we believe we must carry a Mount Everest sized responsibility on our backs.

I disagree that the bible is anti-gender equality, because God said when creating woman, that she should be a helping hand. The rest were men’s words. The fight for gender equality doesn’t start with women empowerment alone, it starts with teaching a new generation of boys that it’s okay to ask a woman for help. That you aren’t inferior to a woman when you do so and that women aren’t inferior you because you did so.