MY STORY AS A FEMINIST: THE FEMINIST HANDBOOK

by - June 12, 2019



Hello lovelies! Today on the Feminist Handbook Series,I will be sharing my experience as a feminist.

I always knew I was different from my siblings right from a very young age. Although, I was a very shy and quiet kid growing up, my mind however was always processing different gender issues I see around me then instead of voicing them out.  I grew up in a large compound which catered for different neighbours with diverse backgrounds and I was sort of exposed to their different perspectives. A particular couple who lived in our compound then was quite interesting. The man worked in a reputable company and was automatically the breadwinner of his family, his wife, on the other hand, was a stay at home wife. He paid every bill in the house while his wife stayed at home all day taking caring of the kids and the house because that was how he wanted it.

I was playing with some kids in our compound one sunny afternoon when a trader passed by. The trader was selling lovely undies for adults and kids, and this woman decided to buy some for herself and her kids. She picked a lot and when she finally asked for the price, it was clearly above the money her husband had given her for the day's stipend. She told the woman selling the goods to come back at night, saying specifically that "My oga will pay you once he gets back from work" Her "Oga" in this context is her husband. I always find it baffling whenever she calls her husband "Oga". I would always ask myself if the marriage was a master/slave entity. I was mortified on behalf of that woman when she uttered that statement, because the nine years old me at that time couldn't comprehend why an agile adult would depend on another before she can buy basic things for herself. I made up my mind there and then to always strive to be independent because of the feeling of satisfaction that comes with it. I would later ask around why the woman preferred to stay at home all day looking miserable instead of pursuing her dreams just like her husband and I would get the same vague answer that she's a woman, and in their culture, it is the responsibility of the man as the "head" to provide while the woman stays at home grooming the kids.

I grew up watching my mother waking up very early and dressing up for work daily. She was an accountant in a tertiary institution. I remember how I always wish to grow up and start working like my mother. She was and is still very sophisticated. The air of independence she carried always radiated. There was never a time she directed me to my father like most mothers do whenever I needed anything as a child, and even now as an adult. Instead, she would always be ready to part with whatever amount I wanted. Of course, my father had a job, but my mother made sure she contributed effectively to the running of the house. I remember one time when my father got a new job in Port Harcourt and asked my mother to resign to enable them to relocate. My mother protested against this decision vehemently and refused to resign. She told my father plainly that she wasn't ready to let go of her steady source of income. The job didn't later come through, and my father had to stay back in Lagos to continue his old job. My mother would later advise me, stating categorically that I should never leave behind my source of income just to be dependent on another person.

My very beautiful friend Ada was always looking stressed in class each day she comes to school. She would later confide in me that she does all house chores in the house(cooking, cleaning, sweeping etc) without her brothers helping her out, because her father made it clear that the responsibility of the home front  lies on the female, and since my friend was the only female in the house after the demise of her mother, she had to bear the burden alone while her brothers roamed about the street each day after school. Ada was about 10 but she had been caged by man-made rules of becoming a "responsible adult" at a very tender age because of her gender, while her brothers were free to experience the beauty of childhood without any restrictions or expectations whatsoever. I hated this discrimination with a passion. Even at that age, I knew it was absolutely wrong to stifle the humanity of someone simply because of his/her gender. My parents never did that to any of us. In fact, my mother made it a point of duty to include my siblings and I in every single chore. It is was just a necessary rite of passage in our home irrespective of your gender. Till date, my two bothers are good cooks, while my immediate elder brother cooks better than I do. There was never a gender-selective chore for any of us. My big sister didn't automatically become the unofficial housemaid because of her gender, everyone participated actively in the house chores.

I didn't know about the word "Feminist" till I was about seventeen, but I was really passionate about how society views the girl child and the male child differently. I would always ask questions about these gender issues I see around me daily and would always wish I could put a stop to it. I read a book when I was about thirteen years of age titled "Nwayibuife"( which means, a woman is something) . This book explored the various ways women were being subjugated in the society mainly because of their gender and how a male child is preferable to a female child. After reading this book, I found out that it actually resonated with every one of my perspectives about gender issues in the African society. I decided to then to tag myself  "Women's Rights Activist" who would love to cater for women in the future with the help of my NGO. This tag will later metamorphose into the word "Feminist" when I stumbled upon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel, because I strongly believe that I am not an appendage to any man whatsoever, and the definition of the word "Feminist" just succinctly portrays my mentality about gender issues in the society.

As an adult now, I have gotten so many backlashes from people for identifying as feminist. Most people still feel feminists are angry women who are protesting unnecessarily against gender inequality and would never get married to any man. None of them is making reference to how the feminism movement has helped the African society effectively concerning gender issues. The issues of female circumcision, girl child marriage, rape, widow victimization, etc, have reduced to some extent and will go into extinction someday all thanks to feminism. A girl child is getting liberated from the age-long shackles of patriarchy and can become whatever she deems fit in the society, and someone somewhere still believes that feminism is un-African. Although, the feminism movement is essentially western, if we are to look beyond this, we will find out that most women in the history of Africa have always protested against injustice. Think about the Egba women's revolution which led to the paramount leader then abdicating his throne, think about the Aba women's riot which led to the death of so many women by protesting against the heavy levy being placed on them. Think about Funmilayo Ransome Kuti the jewel of Lisabi, that great woman who always fought tooth and nail about gender injustice and was also a politician. Think about Margaret Ekpo who was an activist and also the pioneering female politician in the country's first Republic. Think about Hajia Gambo Sawaba who was also a gender activist and politician. These women have broken the normal stereotypes without letting their gender get in the way. The feminism movement has always being a part of the African history, although most people didn't know about the name until recently.

I always laugh whenever I remember a friend's unsolicited advice to me to tone down my feminist stance because guys will run away from me. To her, every woman should aspire to marry and if you label yourself a feminist, you will definitely end up old and lonely. I wasn't angry when she mentioned this statement. Instead, I was quick to point out the fact that patriarchy is responsible for her mentality. I have gotten so many curious looks from guys whenever I tell them about my ideology. Most of them always term me as being "Daring" for speaking against the age-long tradition which has subjugated women thoroughly. Identifying as a feminist has been really liberating for me. I have always been a nonconformist to the various gender issues from a very young age, and will always question why a woman has to give up her career in order to take care of the kids,  why a man gets away with cheating but a woman who tries that will be labelled a prostitute, why a woman must take her husband's surname and let go of her own,  why a woman is always discouraged  to try something out because of her gender. I had these series of questions and more conflicting with one another in my mind as a child, but now,I know that patriarchy is responsible for this inequality; And as long as I live, I will always write and talk against gender inequality. No, I am not bothered if men will run away from me as a feminist, heck some even tag me a lesbian.  Instead, I will keep propagating the essence of feminism, and why everyone should be a feminist in order for the society to thrive better.
Let's go to Amina's blog, to check out her own story. Kindly click on the link here. http://thisblackwoman.com.ng/2019/06/07/becoming-a-feminist-the-feminist-handbook/

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