Being an African feminist is risky

Being a feminist is, I imagine, a lot like being pregnant: people feel an overwhelming urge to give you unsolicited advice. In addition, the question “why are you a feminist?” is sometimes not a question in the conventional sense but a questioning of validity. It’s usually orchestrated to divide and, in crass terms, is a case of what T.O Molefe calls addressing the fly when the issue is the sh!t.  Despite the risk of hurting a discussion (or connection),  “killing a vibe” or not getting the lame joke delivered by way of a rape reference, I still assert my feminism with the intention of opening a dialogue. Not to would be to commit what Amina Mama calls “a gross simplification of my self-hood.”

E-mail subject: Interest to collaborate on AfricanFeminism.com 

I had originally planned to write about #FeesMustFall, the fading veneer of rainbow nation and uncompromising women, but I was struck by an episode of feminist-in-her-feelings.  For several days after accepting the invitation to be a part of the African Feminism family, I mulled and tossed and procrastinated (those familiar reactions to self-doubt. On a related note, replying “yes!” when you also mean to say “I’m nervous” is toxic internalisation) about whether I wanted to write so publicly about my thoughts on”African Feminism.”

Gender is one of the most resilient tools in the production and reproduction of power because it relies on our consent and not just coercion. Gender is not “out there.” It is simultaneously a spectacle and a performance. So while my feminism is a tool for analysis for how I view society, identity and the evening news,  I am also the unit of analysis. As the physicist Arthur March puts it “the world is inseparable from the observing subject and is accordingly not objectifiable.”

Billene: Ready to post on Monday! 

So like other fellow feminists, I’d come to terms with the opportunities and risks that come with identifying as such in private and in my interpersonal relationships. I now, with this opportunity, became fixated on the risks of making my private thoughts public.

What do I risk to lose?

What do I risk to know?

What do I risk by risking?

Perhaps you’re expecting a grand reveal on how I conquered the risk. There is none. I’ve concluded that despite my constant mulling-and this Guardian study on the experiences of women writing online- I would be disappointed if I didn’t risk it. There are not enough spaces that allow us to deconstruct and build an African feminism that is centered on us, our lives and our aspirations. When spaces like AfricanFeminism.com do exist, where questions are openings and understanding is cultivated, it would be foolish not to risk it.

In her poem “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop instructs us to lose something everyday. I would like to replace lose with risk.

—-

Stay low, keep firing

Notes

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