Becoming A Feminist: The Feminist Handbook
Today’s topic is about becoming who I am. I hope you enjoy it.
In primary school every social studies text book, told us that in the family, the father is the head of the family, these text books even depicted the man’s superiority in the home with pictures of the father in the living room, watching TV or reading a newspaper, while the mother would be in the kitchen cooking food for the family.
These text books did not paint this picture out of thin air, this was what actually obtained and still obtains in many Nigerian homes. The idea of a woman is to be a care giver, take care of the children, take care of the husband, manage the resources available, do the house chores, whether or not she’s a working woman, all these duties falls on her, while the man is to provide money for the upkeep of the family, it doesn’t matter if the wife also contributes financially to the home, the husband is to be served, respected and worshipped.
Growing up, I have never really been comfortable with that sort of lifestyle, where as a girl I have to be raised to be a woman who serves a man,a woman who only speaks when spoken to, who would defer to the “better opinion of men” or a woman who can’t be free to make decisions for herself. I never really understood the concept of gender roles, I asked a lot of questions:
“Why do girls have to learn how to cook and clean, why do girls have to be shy, quiet and soft spoken? Why do boys have to learn to be stronger, to carry heavier stuff, to keep their emotions in check? Why aren’t boys allowed to cry, What is the reason behind the statement; “you are man”?”
As a young girl, I was told to sit properly, to keep my legs crossed (I still don’t know how to sit this way), I was told not to let boys touch me otherwise, I would get pregnant and it would be a shame on me but, who was telling the boys not to touch a woman without her permission, to respect women and their choices, to understand that NO means NO. NOBODY!
No one was teaching boys the concept of consent, rather boys were being told “boys will boys.” A detrimental statement that not only affected the safety of women, but also ingrained into boys that they could do whatever they wanted with the bodies of women and get away with it.
I was never comfortable with these values that the society was raising us with, why can’t we teach girls the same things we teach boys and vice versa, what makes boys different, what makes them superior to girls. In secondary school, my voice would be the loudest when an argument on this topic broke out because I just wasn’t comfortable with it and then I did not even know the word feminism existed.
As an adult, I detest cooking or kitchen chores, not that I cannot cook, I am an average cook and at some point I thought I owed myself a duty to improve my cooking skills but I don’t enjoy doing it, so why force myself to learn something because that is what society deems fit for me.
My mum is getting to understand the kind of woman I am/becoming, but, sometimes she still jokes about me not liking kitchen chores and how I have to try to like it for the sake of my husband, I am a woman after all. I find it funny because, I am still not sure I want to get married at all but even if I do get married, I have no intentions of marrying a man who is not a FEMINIST.
As I read more and got more exposed I learned that apart from gender roles, and male entitlement, women are being oppressed in so many other forms, there is child marriage, girl-children not being educated, rape and rape culture, unequal pay, domestic violence, gender based violence, female genital mutilation, violation of women’s reproductive rights, and many more cruel acts against women.
I began to speak out more, raise my voice through writing, through discussions with people to help eradicate this oppression against women. I began helping people to unlearn the unhealthy values that society has thought them.
Yet, I still would not call myself a feminist because I thought feminism was about waging a war against the men and I don’t hate men, I hate patriarchy. Little did I know that I was being held back by the same patriarchy I was trying to fight. Thank God for a dear friend, Salmah, who explained the meaning of feminism to me. Also, thank God for writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Buchi Emecheta, Bell Hooks amongst others, who shed a very bright light on feminism and now I am proud to call myself a Feminist.
Becoming a Feminist has made me understand that as a woman, I should not let myself or other women be treated like second hand citizens, we have rights, we have brains, we were not created to be subjugates to men!
Women, in becoming who we are and to realise our goals we must put our feet down and stand our ground. We should also fight internalised patriarchy, this is important to the journey of becoming independent.
There you have it, the abridged version of my journey into feminism, let’s see what Bami’s journey’s like, I am sure she has some interesting gist for us.