How Do We Hold Ourselves Accountable?

Being a Feminist is fabulous!  Those of us who have identified as feminists often feel smug – we are smart, we have sussed out the world and its inequalities, especially those between women and men, and we have even been gracious to dabble into other forms of inequalities – among women (rich/poor; rural/urban; gay/straight; and the list goes on).  We have figured our sexuality out – we like sex just because we do.  

We want to explore our bodies, we do not exist for the satisfaction of the other, and we pursue our ‘pleasure’ with the zeal it requires.  We have often found our passions and turned into jobs, and cherry on the icing, even found fantastic feminist men or at least some close to that, to call our partners.  Let us face it, what is it not to love about ourselves and our lives?   

In all the backslapping and positive vibes we are almost spiritually guaranteed to give ourselves – from bonding at workshops, ‘sisterhood’ meetings, undertaking exercises in our places of work “safe spaces” – constant pats on our respective backs.  ‘Oh my sister, you totally slayed that presentation’, ‘aww you look so pretty in that yellow dress, headpiece’, ‘dreads are totally working for you today’. However we seem to lose the ability to hold ourselves accountable to why we are feminists in the first place and if we are upholding the standards we expect from a post patriarchal society.

There are a lot of ‘feminists’ and ‘gender activists’ who are not quite sure why they are advocating for women and how they should be advocating, and the saddest part – there are no mechanisms to check their actions against their words. 

Women in the movement who recruit housekeepers and treat them very badly, without providing rights to them as the rights they are advocating for other women and girls.  

There are very many women in movement who run non-governmental organizations as if these organizations belong to them and their families because they are the ‘founders’.  They lack accountability to the women who they serve, to communities and taxpayers who shell out money year in year out. We have ‘feminists’ and ‘activists’ who  are the quickest to showcase all the reasons why ‘women are difficult to get along with’ – they are jealous, they are not supportive, they bring others down, and all other stereotypes patriarchy has taught us. In the process, they communicate the very antithesis of feminism, that men are easier to get along with, are not jealous, always supportive and never bring each other down.  

There are issues of corruption, might not be the high level, high stakes corruption that includes inflating government contracts, takes all our resources to foreign lands through illegal means, impoverishing us.  No, not those obvious ones. We are talking about corruption of organizing workshops all the time rehashing issues without any concrete actions so we could have opportunities to make extra money through daily subsistence allowances and travels.

Training all the time with funds for women that do not in any way improve women’s lives, fighting all other women who have political ambitions because they might take our seats.  Then there are the ‘feminist’ leaders who cannot be bothered to do the mentorship and are almost boastful of the fact that as women, they are now among men, totally due to their achievements and brilliance.  Women who do not acknowledge the tears and blood and decades that has gone over the years and decades into women are now. 

When we fail to demonstrate these standards we want to hold our new envisaged society to, how do we hold ourselves as feminists accountable? 

The first step is finding circles of sisterhood that support but also check behaviors that are antithesis to the values we espouse publicly.  We cannot ask poor rural women to report sexual violence when we do not provide the safe reporting mechanisms and support.  We cannot police women’s bodies while asking men not to do the same. We cannot believe and say in public spaces that ‘women are women’s worst enemies’, blame women for their rapes and harassment. 

We cannot as women leaders, abuse our authority, undertake unethical practices to make money illegally.  We cannot use public resources to advance our personal ambitions. As feminists, we must constantly call out behaviors that are not consistent with our mission among ourselves.  It does not diminish our sisterhood.

Funmi Balogun

Funmi Balogun is a Nigerian feminist writer.

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