Here comes the Feminist!

Dear Reader,
Happy 2018!
This year, not for the first time, I contemplated what my reflections and dare I even say resolutions should be for the New Year and of course my feminism took a big part. I am fully conscious that labeling myself feminist has, for better or worse, made me a social pariah or at the very least, some kind of fanatic to be avoided at all costs. Perhaps it is because I do the least advisable thing of carrying the Feminist banner for all to see. So it comes as no surprise that those closest to me have told me, more than once, to ‘tone down the gender thing’ which does nothing to stop the inevitable series of disagreements that follow.
More than once, I have freehandedly and quite immediately labeled those closest to me sexist. These recurrent conversations have made me question what I consider a threat to my sense of self. You need to understand that the painful paradox of existing in a culture and heritage so deeply rooted in sexism and misogyny while at the very same time, identifying as feminist and commitment to challenging that which we take for granted do not exactly go hand in hand. To maintain some semblance of sanity, I consistently speak about my feminism, loud and proud, on every platform I access, without discrimination. For me, there is not other way to be.
That said, I wish I had it in me to placate your fears that feminism is equality and once women get equality, everything will go on as it has always been. It would make things much easier but that would definitely be a lie. I am not going to sugarcoat this and tell you that my feminism is different, that I do not want to step on anyone’s toes. Feminism’s objective is to ensure that nothing resembling the status quo continues to exist. If you do not agree to that, then you should definitely be uncomfortable if not outright scared. Feminism should be petrifying if you are  invested  in patriarchy. This goes for both men and women.  
It catches up with you…
” When those who have power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you, whether you are dark-skinned, old, disabled, female, or speak with a different accent or dialect than theirs, when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of  psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in to a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul – and not just individual strength, but  collective understanding  – to resist this void, this nonbeing, into which you are thrust,  and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.” –  Adrienne Rich
Imagine living a good chunk of your life, if not all of it, being othered and invisible. Constantly being made to believe you are even more of an outsider just because you care conscious of the inherently cruel misogynistic cultures, systems and ideals. What’s more, you regularly speak out and talk back because to be heard is all that you have. Constantly feeling both ” defective and dangerous” at the same time, you keep speaking out because you know you are not alone. You cannot be.
Yet, even when we speak up and talk back, we still communicate with the constant fear of trampling the male ego and inadvertently upsetting the delicate balance of patriarchal status quo. You do not want to but you do it anyway, you catch yourself and you ask yourself, how is it possible to aptly communicate a feminist agenda adequately while tip toeing around other people’s fears and hang-ups? Maybe not those exact same words perhaps, but it all comes down to this: good girls do not upset people. So, how do you propose to do away with the status quo that is our collective comfort zone while being solicitous enough to placate the patriarchy? The answer is simple, you cannot.

Sewit Haileselassie

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.

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