My Stand On Feminism
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Every time I have an intense conversation with someone about feminism, I end up being in the mode to write again, to state my mind and to say where I stand. Beliefs change and really, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with no longer believing in what you used to believe it. If you believed in Donald Trump and you used to think he was the best thing that ever happened to the United States and to the free world. But now, giving the circumstances, seeing Black Lives Matter, the small matter with Greenland, immigration laws, ill-treatment of women; if with all these, you realize that you were wrong to have made your initial statement of desire in the man Donald Trump as the US President; there is nothing wrong in coming out to say: I was wrong.
The ability to acknowledge failure and wrongdoing is one of the rarest abilities in humankind. We have developed the ability to spy on our fellow planets and to talk to each other across oceans but we haven’t quite mastered the art of acknowledging wrongdoing. And so, in a bid to not be wrong, some choose to not be right either; they choose to not have an opinion. And so when you ask what they think about global warming and climate change, they sigh and say It is well; which is quite baffling because there is nothing well in the fact that as we speak, the Amazon is burning away and in case you did not know, that’s the forest that produces twenty percent of the oxygen we breathe in, the forest containing millions of species of plants and animals, some not found anywhere else in the world, that’s the forest burning away. And ‘all is well’?
I once had this fear and so when I am asked sensitive questions where I am supposed to take a side, I simply deflect. Watch this:
Some random person: Hey Michael, which would you prefer to be the next American president, Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton?
Me: Ronald Reagan.
Now that is a neutral answer which can make people laugh or shake their head depending on their sense of humor. But then, it is also a completely useless answer because it has not answered the question asked. It has simply diverted the attention away from the question. There is nothing wrong in picking a side and giving an explanation. For example:
I would prefer Hilary Clinton speaking as a non-citizen and someone who values democracy and equal rights though I think Donald Trump would do more for the American economy. That is an answer. From there, we can say that I would vote for Clinton but I don’t see Trump as a completely empty bag.
But then, I could be wrong. For example, I could end up voting for Clinton and realize that she did not really believe much in democracy and global politics and was more of a nationalist. The expected thing is for me to say it when asked: Oh, I am sorry I was wrong. I thought Clinton would do better but now, it is quite obvious I was wrong.
However, we often see being wrong as a slap on our identity, our dignity and sense of judgment. While this might be in a mild way, it is never a reason to not be on any side. It is bad to like Buhari before he became president and not voice it for fear of what he would do when he becomes president. Say it. Declare it that you like him. If he turns out to be a terrible leader, declare that too. Let people know where you stand.
Last week, I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine on feminism amongst many other things. This friend, Joy, happens to be a feminist. We talked about a lot of things that made me question some of my beliefs and she asked a very important question: Michael, how do you define value?
No one has ever asked me that before then and I asked myself, how do I define value? Really, I had no answer. There are those who define value based on the color of your skin. For them, it could be that once you are white and American and your ancestors were on the Mayflower, then you are a person of value and they most certainly want to meet you. But if you are like me, black, Nigerian, grew up in a small town and was shivering before a carton of pizza at eighteen, then you are not valuable and they don’t exactly want to be your friend. That’s for someone who defines race as value. Some others define gender as value. They relate with you based on your gender and in this case, male or female. These people are better called sexist. Really, that’s what they are. And the earlier category is better called racist. And don’t get it twisted, even a black man can be racist.
I launched myself into a sea of thoughts after having this conversation with Joy and knew almost immediately that I had to write about this. Joy, of course, beat me to it and published a blog post on all we discussed that evening while I was still looking for the right song as muse: I later found Reece Lemonius Love Me. You can read her post here:
After the conversation with joy, I googled “ten contemporary feminists to follow”. I tracked a few of them on social media and read a lot on feminism that night. Then I went to sleep. Few days later, I met another friend who once again troubled my mind. Of course this friend did not intend to but nevertheless, she did. She did so much that I picked up my phone and chatted up a friend and asked, Are you still a feminist? And thank God for reliable friends. Sure, she replied.
Just yesterday, a friend called me out of the blues and asked where I was. Then, I was in a dark classroom on my campus trying to write a blog post, read Mariama Ba’s So Long A Letter and watch a movie all at the same time. I told her where I was and we talked for more than two hours on love, the societal definition of love, the restriction in the male and female relationship and, you guessed it, feminism. And then I knew, I had to write this post.
The first blog post I wrote on feminism and gender equality got me in a lot of trouble. I often tell the story of how after publishing that post, I had slept and woke up to go to class the next day. While in class, a guy approached me and looked at me with demeaning eyes; he was obviously angry at something. He asked if I was the one that had written that blog post. I said I was. He kept his eyes fixed and for a fleeting moment, I was worried. And then he said something along the lines of, I am coming for you. So no worries, it is already expected that even this particular post will get me in trouble.
I am a feminist. I believe in gender equality. That is the simple definition of what I just wrote There is no need to read more to it. And of course, there are many questions attached to this singular claim. Why feminist? Why not masculinist? Well, you’d have to ask the brains behind the English language. I don’t know. The only thing I know is that there is a word in the English vocabulary and it describes something that I am and that word is ‘feminist’. If the word had been masculinist, I definitely would have used it.
Now there is the question that says feminism, even from the word itself focuses more on women than men. Are we saying that men are not also suffering from gender inequality? Definitely not. It is the same way Americans go out and say Black Lives Matter and some confused beings come out and say, All Lives Matter. Of course, we know all lives matter. It is just that right now, the people suffering from racial injustice are the blacks and we are fighting for them to be seen as what they are, humans, just like whites. Because that is what they are; humans. A black man is not less human than a white man. If you understand this, then you have to understand why feminism is feminism. If at all you are going to have anything against feminism, please don’t let it be in the name. The name is too trivial. Most of the names and the titles we respect are not respected because of what they mean in the English vocabulary (or in whatever language they are). But instead, it is the value we place on names that makes them important. This tells us that the meaning of a name is not just in the meaning of the many letters that form the name but in what the name intrinsically means. For example, the demons who tremble at the name of Jesus do not do so because Jesus is J-E-S-U-S. If that is the case, then the popular Italian who bears Jesus and my secondary friend whose very name is Jesus would also get the same response when their names are mentioned. But they don’t. That is because a name or a title is not just a title, it is a belief, a concept, an ideology, a form. So can we once and for all put the argument of the word ‘Feminism’ behind and focus on what it really means? Yes, we can.
“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
Now the problem with most social issues is that they don’t have a globally accepted definition. And really, it is the same with most things in the world, most beliefs. There are fractions. There are classes. There is realism. And then there is neo-realism. There is liberalism. And then there is neo-liberalism. Why? It is simple. Because we are humans and we are different and no two people see things the same way. Now that may sound a bit oversimplifying but it really is not. It is just the truth. We may think that we are seeing the same thing but the deeper we go and the closer we look into it, then we realize we are actually seeing two different things, though similar. That is why you’d see two sets of Christians; one speaks in tongues and one doesn’t. And guess what? They are both Christians. And God is the Father of the two of them. It is why you’d see two Muslims and one is so pleased with Jihads and religious wars and Islamist expansion and the other isn’t. They are both Muslims. They just don’t know the same thing or don’t believe the same thing or don’t understand the things they know the same way. But you ask? Why then are they both still called Muslims? Well, because the things that separate them are not the core beliefs of their religion. They both see Allah as the one true God and Mohammed as his last and great prophet. Same with those two sets of Christians. They have differences but their core beliefs are the same. They both believe that Jesus Christ came to die for them and is exalted at the right hand of God.
Feminism is one and the same but feminists are not the same. Hence, the fact that two people call themselves feminists does not mean that the two of them actually believe in the same thing. Their core belief will be the same, trust me. But there are little fragments on which they may not agree.
And also do not forget that marriage is a personal affair. The fact that you and your husband have an agreement in your marriage that he is the head does not mean others have the same agreement in their marriage so when you leave your home in the morning, you leave that belief at home and meet it when you return, except you meet someone who has the same belief with you.
“This point is often missed by evangelical feminists. They conclude that a difference in function necessarily involves a difference in essence; i.e., if men are in authority over women, then women must be inferior. The relationship between Christ and the Father shows us that this reasoning is flawed. One can possess a different function and still be equal in essence and worth. Women are equal to men in essence and in being; there is no ontological distinction, and yet they have a different function or role in church and home. Such differences do not logically imply inequality or inferiority, just as Christ’s subjection to the Father does not imply His inferiority.”
― John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (Emphasis mine)
“Yes. I believe in Jesus Christ. When I accepted Him, my Spirit instantly changed. That was the first thing that mattered to Him. And then He told me to renew my mind. He has not changed my body ever since (to a guy’s or something), and I doubt He has plans to do that now. (That might show you His order of priority). And you may have read that in Him, there is no race or gender or ethnicity.” – Adegbite Joy Asepeoluwa, Girls Are Not Special.
This will explain why I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her feminism but I don’t believe in all she believes. I have read all her books and listened to her speeches all over the world and I have watched her interviews and all and I am happy she is a feminist but I don’t agree with all she says. The same goes for all the people I love and respect for their advocacy for feminism: Bell Hooks, Emma Watson. I think the person whose feminism comes close to mine (aside from my inner circle) is Sheryl Sandberg. You can google her.
“A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
If you are confused already, I am sorry. Let me let you in on a little secret: even I get confused sometimes. I get so confused I ask, what exactly am I looking for? And it is on this note that I am going to end: gender equality. I am looking for gender equality. There are those who will tell you that they don’t believe in equality but in equity and when you ask them critical and intellectual questions on what they mean by gender equity as apart from gender equality, you realize they don’t have an answer for you. They just want to play safe and avoid the burning bush. Gender equity seems like the cool thing and people don’t really fight against it so they say they believe in equity. Well, I don’t know much about equity. But here is what I mean by gender equality:
- A state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected and undetermined by gender.
- Gender equality means that the different behaviors, aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favored equally. It does not mean women and men have to be the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. (The Polygot Group)
- Gender Equality is aimed at a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. (UNFPA)
Feminism: the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state. The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of sexes.
Already, you may notice that feminism seems to focus more on women while gender equality seems to mention both. That only tells us that gender equality is the ideology, the noun while feminism is the movement, the verb, the action, the doing of gender equality and as explained earlier, because those who are suffering presently from gender inequality are women, feminism is not an inappropriate word.
I am not so sure I have convinced you that feminism is your thing but I am sure I have emphasized that feminism is not the fight against men but the fight against inequality. Feminism is not a fight for women to be men but for women to be seen as equal to men because, really, they are. All humans are equal, not the same. And, the one I am most certain of, is that I have raised questions in your heart. And perhaps that is the whole point of this post or thesis, perhaps it is to raise questions in your heart and make you rethink some of your beliefs and stands before now. If you have questions, and I know you do, you can ask in the comment. If you don’t want it in the public, you can send a WhatsApp message to my number: +2347037147081. I don’t promise an answer but I promise a response.
“I believe that men and women are equal. As important as another. As valuable.
Note that I do not say that men and women are the same, cos that will be crazy. I am not even the same as my sister. But our difference does not connote a hierarchy in value. That she is inferior and I am superior, or vice versa. I am as much of a daughter to my father as my sister is. As much of a child as my brother. Actually, if someone said men and women were the same, I would not engage them in a conversation. For obvious reasons.” – Adegbite Joy Asepeoluwa, Girls Are Not Special.
One last thing: don’t be scared to say what you believe. If you don’t believe in equality, don’t be scared to say it, here or anywhere else. Let us hear your views and let us reason together. If you are not a feminist, don’t be scared to say so. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. You have the right to be wrong and to come out tomorrow and say that you were wrong and now know better. Let nothing in your life be governed by the enemy called fear.
“I’m willing to be seen.
I’m willing to speak up.
I’m willing to keep going.
I’m willing to listen to what others have to say.
I’m willing to go to bed each night at peace with myself.
I’m willing to be my biggest bestest most powerful self.”
― Emma Watson
Please note that I have quoted quite a number of people in this post. This does not mean that I agree with everything they say. It only means I agree with the portion I have quoted. I have quoted men and women, Christians and non-Christians, theists and atheists, gay and heterosexual, etc. I don’t believe in all they preach and teach. I only believe in what I have quoted. and you can read between the lines but do not read anything into them.