It’s 11:14 in the morning, and I’m in my room, at my laptop, fighting a raging war. A war against that head-bowing, wrapper-wearing, “Yes mom, Yes dad” uttering, grandmother-pleasing girl inside of me- I should be in the kitchen right now.
People are different kinds of feminist for different reasons. I don’t know what brand mine is. All I’ll tell you is this (at the risk of reinforcing to some of you people out there who are still in Plato’s cave the erroneous assumption that Africa is a country): I grew up in Africa. I grew up in a country on the continent that is inconveniently conservative. I mean, seriously, I am forced to wear jeans in the summer and sweat profusely while I’m at it, because if I wear shorts, all the men in the streets will take the liberty to undress me with their eyes and bathe my naked body in vulgar remarks. So I prefer to wear jeans, or long skirts, because then they will only sprinkle me with their crude remarks. I prefer to be damp than drenched.
When I was fourteen, My Wife and Kids used to air on one of the channels on our Fortec Star decoder at 6:30pm. I watched it in rushed bits and pieces. In between cutting onions and rinsing utensils, I would sneak out of the kitchen, look left and right, and left again, and dash to the sitting-room to watch Claire being a snob and Junior being a dumbass. When I heard my parent’s bedroom door open, I would dash back to the kitchen and perform my womanly duties. My brother would, after all, tell me what happened afterwards.
One day, my mother was ironing one of my dad’s shirts and I was passing by.
“Can you iron a man’s shirt?” she asked.
“No,” I replied.
After about five seconds of silence, she said, “You need to learn. One day you will have to do this.”
My parents are both educated. My father has a masters degree, and my mother has a degree. They are both literate, and they both have good jobs. I don’t pin their attitude on a lack of education. (You will get to know that I’m a huge advocate for education). I pin it on culture, and I pin it on religion.
You should also know that I’m a Christian. Which means that I am sometimes hesitant to label myself feminist, because while I’m all for women, I believe in God’s design, at least in marriage, for male leadership. Not dominance- leadership. Which is also why I don’t know what my brand of feminism is.
I was saying, I pin my parents’ attitude on culture and religion. Traditionally, my culture has it that a woman is there to please a man, serve a man, have his babies, and be whatever else he chooses for her to be. Granted, we’re breaking out of this culture. This breaking-out happened as one of the consequences of the Missionaries who brought Christianity- this idea of everyone being made in God’s image. The idea of God’s equal love for men and women alike. But another consequence was that Christianity unintentionally reinforced those bits of culture that irk me- now domesticating women is absolutely alright- all under the guise of Being A Woman of Virtue.
I am not against doing chores. I just don’t like to be told to do chores because “I am a girl and I have to learn these things”. You will find that I don’t have the answers, and I am confused about a lot, and that’s why I’m starting this blog. I mean, where do I strike a balance between Proverbs 31 and not being oppressed?
It irks me- EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING- that I have successfully been conditioned. Into feeling like I’m wrong for being in my room at lunchtime. Into basing what I wear on the level of remarks I will potentially receive.
It angers me that there are some things I have to conform to- Serve The Men First in social/family gatherings. I don’t have the strength to fight against it. (Another glitch in my claim-to-feminism? Aren’t they supposed to be strong?) It will be me against my world if I do. But here, on this blog, maybe I can. Maybe readers out there can help me figure things out? Am I a feminist? Do I have the right to be?
I think there is an audacity that comes with standing on a platform like this and speaking out. A demand to be heard, a declaration of the value of one’s opinions, a bold decree to the world that you not only deserve to be heard, but that they are privileged to listen. I realize that this audacity will colour my every word. And I hope I will grow into the big shoes that this audacity has laid down before me.
(I considered calling myself AfroFaithoFeminist, and it proved to be too much of a tongue-twister.)