Don’t be! It’s really not what anti-‘f’-ers make it out to be. A few days ago a virtual passer-by left me a comment on a previous post suggesting that I forget about the “feminist nonsense” as it was a “curse on humanity”. I would have loved to hear why my visitor thought that way but instead I was left wanting. As some of my very close friends know, I don’t like to put myself in a capsule of a specific identity as I am of the belief that identities are constantly shifting and transforming as we interact with the multitude around us. Yet I strongly and unwaveringly identify with feminism, defining it and making it relevant for me in alignment with my reality and experiences.
I remember one afternoon last year when my friend, former classmate, ally and fellow feminist, Andres, asked me which school of feminist thought I identified with. It did not take me long to give him an answer since in the preceding days I had been engrossed in this contemplation and decided that feminism for me was not a dogma, a code of conduct or rules by which I must abide by and that from each there were things I agreed and disagreed with. Simply put feminism, for me, is an acknowledgement that a system has been of great disservice to one grouping of people for millennia and this system needs an overhaul to bring into balance the perspectives, needs, choices, abilities, voices and contributions of both groupings, male and female without preference, repression and domination of one over the other!
Without “going down the rabbits hole”, if I may steal a line from Alice in Wonderland, I would like to briefly share with my readers my perspective on what feminism is and is not by placing it within an Ethiopian context. Contextualizing in such a manner is not intended to deny the presence of similar issues elsewhere in the world. Rather, the focus of my blog is on gender issues within Ethiopia, and therefore where I lay my gaze of scrutiny.
Not about male bashing
Of course a little too often there will come along a guy who says something or does something inappropriate on a gender sensitivity scale that ruins it for the rest, but on a general note feminism for me is not about hating men. In fact, I believe the feminist movement in Ethiopia can be more effective by garnering the support of male allies.
“Men of quality are not afraid of women for equality”.
I don’t know who said this but I appreciate the gist of this quote and admire the very few men I have come across who identify with feminism. However, this identification for me is more than simply paying lip service to concepts of gender equality. Rather it is a hands-on engagement in working to reshape discourses in their respective spheres of influence. It means becoming an ally. Not being afraid to speak your mind when a sexist remark is made. Not being complacent when an injustice is committed. Not taking for granted the power you have to shift a perspective in your immediate community. Zumra Nuru, the founder of the community of Awra Amba, is one such man who I consider an ally to the women’s movement in Ethiopia. (See Why You Should Know Awra Amba).
Not about breaking family ties
I believe that when there is an underlying imbalance in any type of relationship, awareness by one party of that imbalance and taking steps to re-imagine the existing dynamic can introduce tremendous change that the other party may perceive as threatening. Feminism is not about breaking down family ties, but bringing the awareness to women that the choices and possibilities they have in their lives are limitless and empowering them in ways that they can live to their full potential. My cousin was a victim of domestic violence for a number of years before she decided enough was enough and walked out with her children. I would tell any woman who has seen the fist of a man used on her to walk out and not look back, be it a marriage of 50 years or five minutes, for if truly that was family, then there would be no fist!
Not about being “Western”
There is nothing Western and un-African or un-Ethiopian about women’s freedom to choose the life they will to live and equality of opportunity. If I should have saved a penny, or in my Ethiopian case putting the inflation of the birr into consideration 16 santim, for all the times I have heard that feminism is un-African or is an imperialist venture, then I would probably be writing this from a sail boat in the Caribbean sea. I acknowledge that context is important when it comes to prioritizing what issues to work on but to undermine some concerns over others because “it’s not our culture” (culture is not static) or that “we are not ready for it” is in my opinion simply denying the presence of the mouse from being distracted by the elephant in the room!
So, no. I will not forget about Feminism, even if some find it “nonsense”.
Love & Light