By - Isaac Joseph
Over the years, feminism has been a perennial issue which has generated a lot of controversies. While many have called for the traditional gender roles to be upheld, others are clamouring for a radical departure from what has been the supposedly “inhumane” norm. The wave of outcries for feminism is fast sweeping across continents and Africa has been on the headline for what many see as the birth of the gender revolution. In times past, there were several women who had contributed to the struggle for feminist goals and they include Adelaide Casely-Hayford, who was popularly known as the African Victoria feminist, especially for her role in the attainment of pan-Africanism and feminist goals; Charlotte Maxeke, who founded South Africa’s Bantu Women League in 1918 and Huda Sharaawi, the leader of the Egyptian Feminist Union founded in 1923.
However, the tides seem to have changed recently as the clarion call for feminism seems to have grown in leaps and bounds even if there have been different claims on what feminism exactly entails. The call for a rethink of gender roles got a new champion in Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda, who expressed that: “Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda, the self-acclaimed feminist, who is one of the major protagonist of this movement shares her thoughts on the modern concept of feminism and gives reasons why we all should be feminist. In her words, she says: “Feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” What remains striking about her definition is if truly, we all can see anything wrong with gender as it is today. We are all brought up differently under various circumstances and backgrounds. To assume there is something wrong with gender might not actually be a popular opinion; a fact that Chimamanda recognizes when she said: “I often make the mistake of thinking that something that is obvious to me is just as obvious to everyone else.” What remains bothersome is if this outcry would be heeded since there are various views of the concept of feminism. Many see feminists as persons who are not willing to be submissive while others see feminists as those who hate men. While it would be totally unfair to completely trash these views, probably because of the extremists or those who really do not understand what feminism entails, it is also important to note that feminism preaches peaceful co-existence and gender role balance which Chimamanda skillfully asserts in her essay, We Are All Feminists!
We Should All Be Feminists and the Theory of Inclusion
Chimamanda’s concept of inclusion suggests that the changing needs of both sexes needs to be catered for in the society. Traditionally, the female folks are expected to take a passive role in several roles that are considered manly. This custom is seen by many feminists as old fashioned and a call for rethink has been heard in several quarters. Gender roles are seen as inhibitors to development as everyone is on the receiving end. Patriarchy seems to be the order of the day. Men are naturally seen as superiors and women are seen as inferiors. This mentality has been instilled in both sexes right from childhood, thereby stereotyping their thoughts towards playing out their different societal-imposed roles accordingly. This hegemony has led to women’s charge for emancipation. Chimamanda believes that: “The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.” From this expression, it is evident that the problem is basically not with who we are but rather on how we should be recognized.
Many male folks are of the belief that feminism in the African sense is a threat to their age-long supremacy. But the theory of inclusion preached by feminism is the right to peaceful co-existence of both sexes with none feeling intimidated or oppressed. Inclusion will definitely reduce the weight of gender expectations which has led many to the pit of depression thereby making them develop a mindset of inferiority complex. “What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?” These striking questions by Chimamanda provide a template for a radical departure from what has been the norm in our different homes. We could raise our children based on their capabilities, with a blind eye on their gender. Their interests could be harnessed and not suppressed. For sustainable development in all spheres of human lives, both sexes do not have to be apologetic about which they really are. Chimamanda rightly said: “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.” It is fundamental to know that self-discovery is integral in the journey to self-actualization. But will the society permit this clamour for self-discovery? This is a question that can only be answered with time.
We Should All Be Feminists and the Theory of Awareness
Chimamanda has decided to take on the baton to champion the course of feminism wherever she finds herself and uses all platforms to preach her stance on feminism to whoever cares to listen.
While many might find her sermon displeasing, it is no longer news that the message is gaining momentum across boards. She believes instilling the spirit of feminism in the young ones is core to a sustainable future. But to achieve this, it has to be made a way of life. Chimamanda carefully asserts that: “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”
The full humanity of women must be preserved and it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that they get what rightfully belongs to them. Though, many are yet to come into terms with Chimamanda’s stance about feminism and while those who claim to have a knowledge of feminism claim so out of mere shared sympathy.
For a proper transition of the feminist virtues, it has to be totally embraced by the society for its general acceptability just as she rightly put it: “If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal.” According to a statistic from the United Nations, women in sub-Saharan parts of Africa spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water.
This simply means that they shoulder a greater burden of responsibility than their male counter-parts in house chores duties. Raising awareness for a more balanced role would definitely increase their productivity in other aspects of life. Over time, both sexes have been regarded as the wheels of the same carriage.
It is not unexpected for critics to come up with the cards of feminist identity crisis, Chimamanda’s cardinal reasons stating why we should all be feminists settles that score. The theories of inclusion and awareness have nothing to do with the extremists’ view of feminism. What is important is that the human rights of women are not being light handled. It is important for all to know what the true concept of feminism entails and do all that is necessary to ensure that feminist goals that encompass inclusion and awareness are attained.
While there are several reservations raised against the concept of feminism, it is also pertinent to note that the theories of inclusion and awareness are pivotal to the actualization of a sustainable society where gender roles are balanced. It becomes nonsensical to see women’s human rights disputed as a result of patriarchy. It’s only right to say that for sustainable development in terms of gender roles to be achieved, We Should All Be Feminists.
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