I have gotten into trouble with a number of “card-carrying feminists”. You know those feminists who believe that anything a woman does, including stealing during exams, is empowering and worthy of praise because women have been oppressed for generations? They are those feminists who see gender before they see a human being. When a powerful woman is accused of stealing, the first thing they think about is that, “a man did it”, I mean, stole and then heaped it on the woman and that, women as a species are completely incapable of doing any harm. The progressive thinkers among this lot will tell you that men have stolen so much anyway so a woman should be allowed to steal a few times.
I once listened to a supposed scholar who stood in front of serious academics to say that men should not review works written by female writers and that is when I said to myself, “if that is women empowerment, I do not want to be part of it”. For a long time, I thought I was being emotional until I actually saw her sitting down after saying that all the available reviews on a particular book were by male reviewers a fact that seemed to annoy her to no end. I wished she had told us what was wrong with men reviewing books by women or why no female reviewer had reviewed the book in question…
Here is the thing, it is good to carry a card and call yourself a feminist and breathe fire and brimstone any time a woman issue hits the media. Just make sure that your actions can back your words. They say talk is cheap and anyone can afford it. Feminism is serious business. It is about sober, critical and logical thinking. Feminism is not disillusionment from reality and it is not even hysteria. Feminism is not a label you take up when you want to validate ridiculous things. I will not name these things because I do not want to die yet. You might want to read through the history of feminism if you have not and you just woke up and became interested in being a feminist. Many serious feminists, however, will tell you that they learnt the importance of feminism from their great-grandmothers who did not even know that the word existed. Translation: feminism is something you do. It is not something you deliriously say you will do.
Here are some of the feminists that I struggle to believe:
- The ones who carry the name of empowerment in vain
I think most of the generation now in their early 30s read Margaret Ogola’s The River and the Source as a primary text in secondary school. Notice how unpretentiously empowered the women in that book are? And Margaret Ogola does not even need to say that, “Now look, my female characters are strong and empowered!” As a reader, you feel that it is the deeds that define these characters and not simply what the author says about them. They go to school, make good use of the opportunities that they have, rise above social glass ceilings by dint of hard work and determination and voila, we see success running through their generations. There is no way you will need convincing to respect a woman like that. Margaret Ogola does not forget that values makes people so her female characters, who come across as intended to be role models for women because of their ideals are not without virtue. You will also notice that the calibers of men these women attract are dignified. Wandia Mugo ends up with a respectable man, same to Elizabeth, Alicia (You have to read I Swear by Apollo, sequel to The River and the Source to meet the man Alicia marries) and Imani in her third book; Place of Destiny. These women live their empowerment. They do not speak their empowerment.
I have no doubt that women have problems that are inherent in our gender, I just have problems with people merely creating the impression that they are working. It is important that women are not hypocritical about this passion for empowerment… which brings me to my second point.
2. Camera feminists
These are those women who are very vocal about feminism. The ones who have Chimamanda’s “We Should All Be Feminists” at their fingertips and their username is “Miss Independent”. Now, by all means, express your passion for women however you like but let it not end at the ‘words level’. How will I believe that your passion for women is genuine if you have no atom of respect for your house girl? Or if you treat your mama mboga like trash because you think that she is beneath you? Wole Soyinka says, “A tiger does not declare its tigritude” and Margaret Thatcher says, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people that you are, then you are not.”
Those two statements are self-explanatory, right? Perhaps not. Wisdom says you should let your actions be more than words. Let your passion for women be real and true. By the way people are watching you and the more you preach water and drink wine, the more people start confirming their suspicions that feminism as packaged today, could actually be a joke. So when you start to wear the label of feminism very publicly, know that people are watching you.
3. The feminists who do not understand who the enemy is.
No matter what situation you are dealing with in life, you have to always separate the issue from the person. I am a woman so I know that some things in the relationships between men and women need an overhaul. I know that patriarchy is real. But I do not believe that feminism is the answer to all the problems in the society. There is a difference between a girl who remains illiterate because she did not get a chance to go to school because of patriarchy and that girl who was afforded a chance to go to school but opted for illiteracy because she chose to sneak out and attend discos. This works both ways. If as a boy you have a chance to go to school and you spend that time sneaking out of school to drink kumi kumi, surely we cannot blame patriarchy or feminism if your schooling fails to yield anything.
We must be willing to separate issues. Lethargy, bad attitude, hormonal problems, lack of ambition, glass-ceilings, allure of shortcuts in life, poor judgement, patriarchy, laziness, disobedience…If you use your own hands to destroy your life my sister, feminism cannot remake your life for you. Rose Muhando would say, “umejiroga mwenyewe.” And if you are a vocal feminist, do not cheat girls that feminism can save them (or anybody for that matter) from poor judgement.
4. Feminists who cannot stand a different opinion
This one sounds like a medical condition. It is wisdom to entertain an idea without accepting it. You need not agree with what your ‘foolish opponent’ is saying. I understand that some people are emotional thinkers but you cannot refuse to talk to everyone who has a different opinion from yours. Oh and by the way if all your friends on Facebook, Twitter or on your WhatsApp contact list have very many outlandish and stupid opinions, shouldn’t you be asking yourself questions? I mean, how come all your friends cannot think? Again, be open to the possibility that you might be wrong.
I will go back to what former US Secretary of States, Condoleezza Rice says as I close. “If by the time you are Secretary of States people still treat you badly because you are a woman, then it is your fault not theirs.” Tafakari hayo.