Disclaimer: This post may sound preachy. It was not intended so. It is a collection of accumulated opinions on social media posts that I cannot help but share. Based on some exchanges, I have a few simple, probably obvious points to make to those that are willing to keep an open mind. I am going to get right to it because preludes are not my style. That which is not contentious does not have to appear to be so because we are busy silencing when we should be listening. So here goes.
- Feminism is for Everybody
It might shock you to discover that Feminism is not just for feminists. Feminism is for everybody. Feminism is the simple believe that women are human beings and men can do more than the narrowly defined masculine norms relegated by Patriarchy. Feminism is not perfect. Nothing in the history of the women’s rights movements or feminist theory has been a straight line and it gets a lot more muddled when you add race, class and all that is African into the mix. Basically, we are still figuring it out. Why not do it together. I know that agree to disagree is not a phrase one can aptly coin in my language, but at the very least, we need to learn some form of what that represents to make this work. I assure you it is for our mutual benefit as a species.
- The Personal IS Political
There is a connection between our situated knowledge and our political activism. Whether it is about our sexual and reproductive health, economic empowerment, our sexuality, hair politics or prefixes and pronouns, each one is deeply personal. By using our voice, by sharing our experience and finding those that feel as we do, that want what we want, we create movements, we make it political. None of this happens without voice. No one connects without dialogue.
- Listen, do not Silence
After four thousand years of civilization and four thousand years of gender inequality, if a woman finds her voice long enough to voice her problem, hear her out. Society ensures that women and girls are silenced from the get go, where from day one, a girl is socialized into silence. It is important to remember, for a woman to find her voice and speak up is a miracle on its own. Listen, do not silence and you might find it is worthwhile. After all, a “loud” woman must have fought a thousand battles to find her voice and she must have one hell of a story to tell. Take a step back and listen.
- Sexism is Systemic
This may be stating the obvious but I see a lot of discussions on social media from gender activists, feminist activists to basically anyone with a social media handle on what the most relevant agenda should be for the Ethiopian/African women’s movement. All voices with more or less the same end goal, criticizing each other for not being “woke”(I hope I am using that right) to the challenges of the average woman. Sexism is not just based on the opinion or judgment of just one person. It is an internalized social norm. It is not just based on what you and I think, it is systemic, deeply entrenched in our social fabric and that is what makes it potent. It is important to stay conscious of that, all the nuances that we must unlearn and perhaps we will learn to hold each other up rather that tear each other down.
There is a Tie that Binds
There is so much internalized sexism in our lives and many have no qualms in voicing it in public or have it reflected it in their work. Women’s empowerment is more often than not, instrumentalized, where women’s rights are only relevant if it is aligned, supports or compliments the male centered objective. The role of women in state building or markets is conveniently overlooked in history and over and over again, women have to plead for their basic human rights while economic models conveniently leave out the care economy. So we convince ourselves it is never about women’s humanity or collective agency. If we cannot put to practice the long talked about wisdom of women then we are being duped. Go after the big game; pick out the tie that binds.
Sewit Haileselassie is a bold feminist with a background of Economics, Communication and Gender Studies. She’s a serial reader, critical thinker and analytical conversationalist. Follow her on Twitter @sewithst