This article was harder to write than I expected. Partly because it is my first piece for African Feminism, but mostly because this is a topic so dear and near to me. While trying to translate all my personal and somewhat intimate thoughts on what feminism means to me into words is difficult, it is something I can’t afford to get wrong.
The world doesn’t extend to womyn the many small courtesies that it extends to men. There is gender injustice. We see it in the workplace, on the street as we dare to walk and go about our business and online where hoe, bitch, cunt when referring to womyn have been normalized. We remain dispensable or worse still, we are symbolic regal trophies. Our “cultures’ demand it, we affirm it.
Girls are taught from a young age how to be likeable, how to twist themselves into shapes that suit others, regardless of if they suit you. We are taught that we must make choices first not thinking of ourselves but others.
Womyn’s cooking skills, reading habits, skin color, sexuality, economic empowerment, aging, choice of motherhood and or marriage have been policed for centuries and this conditioning has been classified as innate. The gift that feminism has given to me is the ability to never have to silence my voice, something we have been trained to do for so long. I am unapologetically myself. So the first thing that feminism means to me is liberation and choice. It means that “because you are a womyn” is never a reason for me to do or not do something. I am appreciative of the fact that while we continue to live in a world that far from equality, I have no qualms about my loud feminism and I wear my black with pride and honor.
To borrow the words of Audre Lorde; I am a black feminist and therefore my struggles on both fronts are inseparable. I am grounded in my everyday experiences coupled with the knowledge that I seek daily but I am also aware that there is a unique similar experience that black womyn in Africa and all over the world share. Feminism to me means ministering radically, practically and if need be, getting my hands dirty while trying to connect, mobilize, educate – and learn first and foremost from these black womyn.
I would like to debunk the ridiculous idea of twitter feminists that alludes to the falsified notion that womyn who identify as feminists stop at just that, identifying. I should point out first, that that too is enough. I would further like to call out the attempts to quash legitimate reactions of self-protection and self-preservation by turning them into comical burdens reduced to memes and hash-tags. I do not get to choose and pick when I can be womyn or black. This isn’t a lifestyle choice for me, it is my reality. I am actively involved every day in ensuring that the people I come into contact with; men and womyn appreciate the nuances of black womyn.
The way we raise our children or influence the children around us, the labor we put in to try and educate and the big and small changes we influence within the spaces we occupy. All of this coupled with the conversations we have every day, the personal choices we make, the blogs and articles we write. This continued effort to try and ensure that at least one womyn’s life can bettered and the hope that all this effort it will trickle down and have an impact of the next person and the one after and so on can’t be reduced to “twitter feminism.”
Feminism to me means that I have a responsibility to introduce black intersectional feminism to the next generation and that can’t be reduced only to working in an organization or even threading online. It is a daily practical affair that involves the big and little things that I am actively pursuing.
Feminism has come with confronting my own privilege. Privilege, by its nature is blinding and it only takes conscious willingness to unlearn to be appreciative of how this privilege affects people around you. The reality is that where you sit many times determines how you experience oppression. Particularly this year, I have been faced with the mundane task of confronting and tackling the reality that my class and education privilege has often blinded me and as such, I have not always been alert to the nuances of those who were different from me. It is a process of growth that demands that you challenge most of what you know. For me it has come with questioning and reassessing my political beliefs, a reflection on how as an able-bodied womyn I for so long might have neglected the needs of persons with disabilities, and actively trying to unlearn the most subtle ways in which I too might have been benefiting, at the expense of those around me from my privilege. I am aware now, more than ever before that we can’t be free until all of us are free.
Black feminism for me is trying to articulate the duality of identities by advocating, writing, reading, talking to and supporting black womyn, having full autonomy of my body, calling out misogyny every chance I get, pushing for legislative framework in big and small ways, enjoying the different facets of me, unlearning and trying to create solutions.