According To The AfroFeminist

Not just another Feminist

The Haitus, Nigerian Bloggers, Feminist Stuff…I’m Tired

 I am feeling nothing right now. An update:

1. My mother and I had a talk about my “behaviour”. Let me rephrase- My mother talked to me about my “behaviour”. My behaviour is not up to standard. I wake up too late (8am). I don’t do around the house (I concurr). Although, I think I should get a little bit of credit for cooking every other night AND all Sundays. Whatever the case, she doesn’t like the fact that I don’t scrub floors or mop the house in the wee hours of the morning. My response? Okay. I cleaned out the store room the next day and she thanked me. Sigh. A) I did it to keep peace. B) I know she means well C) I was rather annoyed when she gave the example of a girl whose marriage ended because she could not keep her home together. Her mother was talked about, that she hadn’t raised her daughter well. My mother has raised me well, she should know that. Also, stupid man probably didn’t do any work either. Why isn’t anyone talking about him and his mother/father not having raised him well.

2. I rekindled a past flame. Lies. A childhood crush. We were talking everyday, and I fell asleep the last time, and he didn’t text again. I’m slightly dismayed. I was growing too dependent on him, I guess.

3. In moments like these, I think i’m not a feminist. Feminists aren’t supposed to crave a man’s attention, are they. 

4. Me and God. He loves me, but I’m being a jerk. 

5. Matt Forney is a stupid jerk, and I will not waste my breath rebutting his points. 

6. I’ve realized that on the blogoshpere, Nigerians seem to be Africa’s voice. Very few Africans from elsewhere on the continent blog (in comparison, that is). 

7. I’ve started reading again. I’m happy about that. 

8. I am tired of being around my parents. Arrgh. 

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Girls Are Supposed To Kneel Down When They Greet Men

My exceptionally irritating uncle came today. I’ve never liked him. I was never sure in the beginning. He was just the boring uncle when I was little. I never thought much about him besides that- that he was boring. My extended family is pretty loud. During family gatherings, people were always laughing and chattering, and whatnot, and there he always was, laughing half-heartedly in the background.

I set it in stone that I didn’t like him one day when I was about 11 years old. He had come over to our house for something, and I was giving him a handshake as he walked in (because that’s how we greet- with handshakes), and he wouldn’t take my hand. I, puzzled, was smiling sheepishly holding my hand out. After a few seconds of awkward silence, he looked at me and said, “Well, what are you waiting for, kneel down.”

I kept my smile pasted on, thinking he would laugh about it and proceed to ask me how school was. But no, he continued, “Girls are supposed to kneel down when they greet men. That’s how you do it.” I could feel a rage (probably one of my earlier bouts of feminism) rising inside me, but me smile stayed on. I knelt down slowly, and I felt every bit of my dignity crumble the closer I got to the ground. He feigned a proud smile. Beneath it, I saw a revolting satisfaction. Like he was happy to have taught me what my place was.

It was in that moment that I decided I had a heavy-duty dislike for him. Today, he came home and had lunch here. When I heard he was coming, I was annoyed. And when he came, I made sure I greeted him right at the door. So that he wouldn’t be sitting down when I greeted him (because kneeling is almost automatic when the person you’re greeting is seated. It’s simply a matter of convenience, but knowing him, he’ll take it as me “assuming my rightful societal position”.)

We need to change the way we greet. A girl is expected to kneel down when she greets guests, and to avert her eyes. Boys are not expected to kneel down. Heck, when they do kneel down, people will laugh and ask them why “they are greeting like girls”. As though greeting like girls will kill them. Hmph! When I ask about it, it’s apparently “a sign of respect”. Oh, so when you’re a dude, you’re somehow exempted from courtesy and showing respect? RUBBISH!

Why should we kneel down? I’m pretty sure a lot of people reading this post have never felt what it’s like to physically assume a position that shows your inferiority. It’s dwarfing. You acknowledge your smallness, affirm the bigness of the male in question, and (this is the part that disturbs me most) somehow hand them the power to, by the very virtue of that “smallness” treat you like crap.

It’s a stupid concept- girls should kneel when they greet and boys should not.

Today, when my uncle came, and I gave him a handshake, he said “you haven’t finished,” and he glanced to the floor and back to me. In my head I was like, “OH HELL NO…”. Of course, I didn’t say it out loud. But I know my fake smile did. It said: “Excuse you, Mr I’m so much better than you because I have a Y chromosome, but I am NOT that 11 year old, and I will NOT bow down to you for the simple fact that I am a girl. Educate yourself, and do NOT insult me or my femininity by expecting such foolishness.” I held his gaze (because he didn’t expect me to) and wished I could say all these things out loud. But he got the picture. My smile explained it- pixel by aggravated pixel.

Yes, my fake smile said that. Yes, we tend to talk through fake smiles, my irksome uncle and I.

 

It’s Cool To Have An American Accent

You thought British accents were sexy.

Where I’m from, people are automatically drawn to you when you have a nice accent. And by nice I mean American, A few years ago, my cousin came home from Florida for a visit. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken her anywhere with me (because she was an irritating human being). But I did. Because it hugely impressed people when they greeted her with “How are you”, and she nasally responded “Goodhowaryoo?”

It’s crazy, I know, but there’s a lot of politics surrounding accents in my society. You can be fine as hell. You can have abs like a chocolate bar. But if your English accent carries a twang that is too drenched in our local language, all the babes will laugh at you. It’s a fact. And it irks me.

When I was in primary school, much like other schools, my school had a “No-Vernacular” policy. If you were caught saying even a word of our local language, a bunch of tattle-tells (usually in the form of a group of little girls who ran around holding hands absolutely unnecessarily so that they wobbled awkwardly) would report you to the teacher, and you would be “On Punishment”.

We were conditioned to view our mother tongue as the enemy right from the start. To look at it as though it were an indication of our backwardness. And it is, right now. Your level of backwardness as a person is directly proportional to how much vernacular twang that in your English.

I worry. Right now, the Afro Wave has hit my country, and many countries (both in Africa and outside). We fly the “African Flag” high. So many girls are doing “The Big Chop” and “Embracing The Kink” and are wearing traditional prints (including me. I’m wearing a trad print peplum top as I type). We are falling in love with Africa. Or so we make the world think. We are African when it’s convenient. When it’s hot. But when people giggle because we pronounced a word differently, we try to squeeze the Africanness out of ourselves.

I hate this, with a passion.  I once spoke with an accent that I don’t know how I got. People told me it sounded American, and I beamed in pride.

Just a disclaimer: I don’t hate America. I’m not one of those people who damns the Western world to hell.

I’m just being realistic, right now. I just wish my people (especially those in my generation) didn’t suffer from such a serious case of Americophilia. (I tried to Google “the american equivalent of anglophilia”, to no avail.)  In my society, America is a god that we all break our backs to worship. A diety that we all change ourselves to resemble.

I don’t blame us too much, though. We’ve grown up watching and listening to Americans in the media. We love the movies, the shows, and the music. We love the lives we see in there. In comparison to our streets, the ones we see are far more developed. In comparison to our schools, the ones we see are far more advanced (or so we think). So we’ve linked all these great things to the fact that since America is developed, then being like them is the only way for us to develop, too.

I hate this, too. I want us to develop in our own way. I’m not saying I want us to be as far from being like America as we possibly can. It’s not a demon to be shunned. I’m saying, let’s just focus on progressing. If we end up looking like America, let it be merely out of consequence, and not out of a conscious effort to do so.

Americans, I love you, and I have absolutely nothing against you, but you would write a similar post if your kids went around faking various accents from Africa.

I say, our accents are jingles. Each different one adds to the music of diversity. Some plain monotone we’re going to have if we all sound the same. Let our mother tongues leave their glorious fingerprint on our words. Let us shun the need to as much as forgive ourselves or apologize for saying words differently. There is nothing to forgive. And there is nothing to apologize for.

-Afrofeminist

Blame It On The Oestrogen 2.0

Yesterday, our house help, a short lady in her early fifties, came to my room in a bit of a frenzy. She was coming from the home affairs station where you go get your headshot done for an ID. She was both angry and irritated that she was unable to get her picture taken before they had closed the doors.

“Aren’t they supposed to close at 4?” I asked her (It was only 4:11 by then, and it’s about a 30 minute walk from where we live.)

“They closed early today! Those arrogant fools! Just because they felt like it. I was still waiting in line.” I could empathize. I was about to be all “Lady, I understand your pain. They had no right to treat you all like that,” and give her a pat on the back, but then she said something that made me bite my tongue and cringe a little.

“I would have been able to have my photo taken, even before 3, but those fools put a woman there to take the pictures! Can you imagine? A woman!” She was looking at me, eyes wide with anticipation for me to agree with her, and realize the gravity of the situation- THEY HAD STATIONED A FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER.

And then…?

I don’t understand, they put a female photographer and what… her boobs got in the way and slowed her down?

I humoured her, and asked, calmly “what’s wrong with a female photographers?”

“Men are fast!” she said “You go, they take the picture, khaa! (that was the sound effect she used) and it’s quick quick!”

-_-

I have come to a point where when someone makes a remark like that, which has all the innocence of ignorance, I have no rage, honestly. I feel a deep sense of pity that they can make such a “rationalization” and feel like they are actually making a valid point.

So I just told her, “It’s not because she was a woman. It was because she was slow.” And I told her she can try to go earlier tomorrow and hope that there will be a faster woman there!

So far on this blog, I’ve mentioned the some of the things that are wrong with my society, but I think it’s safe to say that mine is a more enlightened generation when it comes to gender issues. It’s actually kind of refreshing when I see [some of] the older generation with such attitudes- it allows me to see the contrast, and appreciate that although it’s rather slow, we are making some progress.

Blame It On The Oestrogen

One day, my mother and I were driving out from the crammed market in town on our way home. It was a blazing Saturday, and the heat left foreheads glistening with sweat, and large patches of dampness spreading under arms. My mom’s air-con system was busted, so our windows were rolled down all the way. In the hustle and bustle of everything, my mother was driving slowly, when a man was suddenly crossing right in front of the car looking somewhere else and shouting to a mate of his on the other side of the madness. The loud sound of my mom’s car horn stopped him mid-sentence, and he stilled in front of the car, and looked at my mom in horror until the hooting ceased. That pause- that glare- it said to my mother: Are you friggin’ crazy? She had almost hit him. And it was clearly his fault.

He ambled over to the other side of the street and remarked, “Couldn’t you see me?”

Another man said, “You would have been hit, my friend.”

Another man said, “It’s a woman!”

And a woman said, “Women are like that when they drive.”

Women are like what when they drive? At that point I was thinking oh, so if it had been a man driving this car, you could have moved smoothly across the road, looking in a direction completely opposite from where you were going, and would have crossed with ease, with no loud hoot to interrupt your sentence, and not been almost hit? Wow! The difference having a man behind the wheel can make.

I’ve witnessed a lot of these kinds of things in my country. Something bad happens, and people are perplexed. Until they find out a woman was involved, at which point they smile and say, “Oh, that explains it!”

I know of this school that’s now run by two sisters. Originally, it was run by their parents, and the ladies took over when they died. It’s not what it used to be, to be honest. The logical explanation is that the original founders of the school had a vision for it. They founded it on that vision, and on their shared passion for education. After their tragic deaths, their daughters took it up. But it wasn’t their passion. All they want to do is keep it running, and, minus the passion, that’s all the school is doing now- running. No more impact beyond the classroom like it used to have. The explanation people have: “It’s now run by women. There is no more male leadership. See what it is becoming?!”

WOW.

And there’s the time when I was in one of my previous schools and we had to play football. Two boys were picking teams, and half-way through the selection, when the coach realized that all the girls still remained unpicked, the coach said “Each team must have at least 2 girls!” At which point the two boys scrambled for the burliest girls, and then the tomboys, and then us, nobodies who weren’t masculine enough. During the game, four girls wanted to go in at once, much to the protest of the boys. Apparently four girls was too many. They were only meant to have at least two, so why not keep it at a minimum and save themselves the loss? If the team chose to play four girls at once and lost, the explanation would be “they had too many girls on the team”. BULLOCKS!

Granted, the average girl on that team wasn’t good at soccer, but it wasn’t because the very fact that she had a vagina made her genetically inclined to sucking at football, it was because most of these girls had zero to no interest in soccer, and hadn’t had the training these boys’d had. I would have much preferred if the explanation for the loss was that “they had too many inexperienced players on their team”. Just like I would have preferred it if the explanation for the failure of that school was that “the current owners aren’t as passionate and dedicated to making the school become an impactful institution” or that “the guy should have looked where he was going”. (If it had been my mom’s fault, then she should have driven more carefully. Not that she should have been a man!)

People in my country should seriously learn look at the root cause of problems that happen to involve women. Their femaleness should not be the problem. It isn’t.

Anybody had any similar experiences elsewhere?

Maybe I Am A Feminist

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.

Still growing,

AfroFeminist.

(I considered calling myself AfroFaithoFeminist, and it proved to be too much of a tongue-twister.)