We live in a world of inequalities and discrimination, that stem from a patriarchal system where men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it, where men’s needs are placed ahead of women’s needs, where men determine rules of engagement and women simply abide. We live in a world that is harsh to women and girls simply because they are born without a penis.
As a feminist, I have dedicated my life to the cause, but it comes with a cost, which I am happy and willing to pay. I believe that as a feminist if you are not insulted for what you do or believe in you are simply not challenging the status quo enough. Today feminism is under serious attack, but it has never been more relevant. So as a mother I often ask myself whether I am raising a daughter that will be able to navigate this world and play her part to ensure it is equal and just some day. One of the important things is to raise her to be an unapologetic, radical feminist.
So what does feminist parenting take? What advice do I give her? I have a long list, but today let me speak about five main things.
Be yourself, the world will adjust. Girls are taught to be delicate and soft-spoken, boys are taught to be strong, courageous and adventurous. But you are adventurous, you are bright, you are strong, you are ambitious. You are everything society says you should not be, but you are exactly who you should be. The world is unfair to girls, the world is sexist; but do not let anyone tell you you do not have a place in it, that your needs come secondary, that you cannot be or cannot do, simply because you are a girl. Do not let anyone dim your light, baby girl. Do not let anyone stifle your voice. You have immense potential.
Gender roles are absolute rubbish. From the time we are born, we are socialized to play distinct roles in society. Culture and religion determine how to behave, who is a good girl/woman and who is not. Yet culture and religion have been at the centre of oppression and inequality for years. So why should you listen to the oppressor? Why should you allow them to rule your life and tell you how to live it? Gender roles are nothing but boxes that we are put in so we can be controlled and governed. Let these never be a limitation to you. Defy the norm, baby girl. Reject these roles wholeheartedly. Define who you want to be.
Celebrate uniqueness and diversity. The world is full of diversity and uniqueness. Accepting and promoting the uniqueness and diversity in us is tolerance. Today, our mother continent is full of hatred for LGBT people and everyone else who defies what is considered culturally and religiously right. But Africa is about love and diversity, isn’t it, so let no one tell you that the differences in us should be a source of division, bigotry or hatred. It is when we embrace uniqueness and diversity in humans that we can only achieve a society that is tolerant and equal.
Your body, your rules. Girls and women are policed on what to wear, how to behave and what to do with their bodies. Our governments have gone to the lengths of adopting policies that restrict us from deciding what to do with our bodies. Our bodies are politicized. They have become a battle ground. They are everyone’s business but ours. I cannot stress this enough, only you have the absolute right to your body and what happens to it. Because if you do not own your body, do you really own your life?
Smash the patriarchy. Patriarchy is the root of evil, imbalance and oppression. It is a system that favours men over women, boys over girls. Dedicate your life to dismantling the patriarchy. Let the fire burning in your belly be put to great use, to bring about change. I have no doubt that the sexism we see today will be a thing of the past soon. But for now, we will never achieve change in a world that is built on an unjust and unequal system. We will never be free as long as patriarchy exists. So never be silent when you or others are suffering, speak up! Because “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” as Desmond Tutu said. In fact, baby girl, do not just aspire to being equal to men, aspire to rule the world! Today the world might belong to men but tomorrow it won’t. I promise you.