Feminism. Bemused. Insomnia.
In that particular order, the three words with which I have suffered the longest love-hate relationships. Today I’ll focus on the first, and I’ll get right into it by admitting that there was a time when I couldn’t be convinced to touch it. No. Not with a seventy-foot long bargepole. Not if it had just stepped out of the most expensive autoclave. Not, even, if it participated in scientific research and won the Nobel Prize three times in a row. A friend made me promise, some time back, that I would never allow myself to ‘get into that feminism crap’ [sic]. Howbeit, the days go by. They do, really. I must now go back on my word because I’ve gotten to that point where I can only afford to keep the promises I made to people that have since passed on. (John1, you should not be reading this, but if you happen to, I would like to say I’m sorry. I’m just trying to be my own person now. Honest. I hope you understand. Friends?)
Nowadays, days, I’m attempting to figure out why a piece of me has always been wary of feminism. Except it is taking much longer than I anticipated, and though I should like to spare no costs in finding the underlying cause of this mistrust, I am unwilling to consider psychoanalysis. Alas, I distrust Freud more than I could ever distrust anyone or anything else. However, I will let him be. It is far too early in the year to digress.
In the heart that beats within my heart, I know what feminism is [supposed to be] about. Let it be said, here and now, that I support [the bits of] feminism [I understand] 500%. Nay, 1000%. I am all for women holding down top managerial positions. I am all for women walking out of a marriage with at least half of the money they helped rake in. I am all for giving girls equal opportunities to access education.
Yet I will acknowledge, and not without a bit of shame, that there are times I can’t help but think there’s something I’m missing. Something that continues to give me pauses, after all this time, after I have made the decision to align myself somewhat with the movement slash doctrine slash crusade. Because of this something, I am yet to come out of the closet. Sure, I would wear a tee with ‘F IS FOR FEMINISM AND M IS FOR MOVE OVER’ on the front, but if you asked me if I’m one, I’d probably say something like, ‘you first’ or ‘depends on why you are asking’. None of this reflects well on me, of course. What, a modern African woman that isn’t a feminist? Sacrilege. They don’t make them like they used to these days. And other such sentiments. As if the suspicion and tut-tuttery isn’t enough, I have to deal with my own nagging questions and regular episodes of self-incrimination. I love feminism. I love it not. Mirror, mirror on the wall, does the fact that I don’t get feminism all the time make me a bad person? On and on it goes.
Some say it is simply that feminism has managed, consciously or otherwise, to give itself a very bad reputation. That it should find itself a goodwill ambassador ASAP or forever hold its piss peace. Others say any word that ends in –ism is a bad word, no matter how many syllables it has. Others say it is the name, and could someone please change it to something that doesn’t remind everyone of sanitary napkins towels pads?—because, geezes, what’s NOT in a name? Moreover, feminism is mostly a lost cause—most programmers say it has a powerful inbuilt failure algorithm—because, apparently, society has already seen to it that, for whatever reason, 75% of women will remain constitutionally incapable of looking out for each other. That that is our curse—that for even the most frivolous, most unlikely reasons, women will decline to extend a helping hand. That for the longest time, we have believed men to be the extremely competitive ones, yet women are sixteen hundred times more competitive.
Women: We want equal rights.
Men: Well, you can’t have them. What about us?—what rights will we be left with then?
Women: We don’t want your rights, silly. You can keep your rights. We want our rights.
Men: Say again?
Women: We want equal rights.
Go on; repeat the succeeding bits until the lights fade out. I’ll just sit here wondering:
Am I part of that 75%—is the empowerment of [certain kinds of] other women actually a threat to my own empowerment? And what about the men who should like to be called feminists? And who are we kidding?—doesn’t feminism only work for white chicks with 2.5 kids, a mortgage and a Buick Enclave? And most of us are for equality, but can we skip the labelling, for favour? Some of us are scared to death of passing off as misandrists that hate all their ex-boyfriends and won’t shave their legs or wear perfume. Moreover, labels of any sort have become quite tedious; there are already too many labels people have slapped on me, and the space the nametag society gave me can only hold so many.
On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, it is simply that I don’t take too kindly to the business of standing up and being counted—perhaps I thrive better at the back and in the closet, where my left hand hardly ever knows what my right hand is getting up to. Maybe I just need a bit more time. Yes, I suspect that’s what this is all about – the need for time. And space. Time and space to make up my mind about the sort of feminism I wish to endorse. But how do I choose?
Should I go with third-world feminism, because I am from a third-world country? Yes, this seems reasonable. What seems even more reasonable is least-developed-country feminism. Do I want to dig into some Sex and the City ish feminism? Huh. Tough call. Let’s see, how much do I not want to be the half of a relationship that’s sacrificing my career at the altar of [some abstract concept like] love? How much do I want to perpetuate the myth that life is but a bed, and women can sleep around and be merry, only occasionally taking a break to buy themselves as many Choos & Louboutins as they don’t need? Hmmm. Boy, that’s one helluva tough call.
Hang on. I know what I’ll do. I’ll go with any sort of Vagina2 Monologue-esque feminism, just for the unusual literature and biology of it all. And because controversy is such a dude magnet. I think. I hope. I will survive. And because I’ll have such a great time counting the number of niminy-piminy folks whose faces will fall every time I ask, ‘hey, did you know that va-JAI-na3 is not a swear word?’ Then there’s always the I-love-men-but-I-hate-patriarchy feminism. That’s bound to be a boot and a half as well.
1 After much deliberation, the perpetrator’s first name has been changed to protect his identity. Ostensibly.
2 A perfectly credible noun in the biological world. As credible as chlorophyll, penis4, and embryology. I’m just sayin’.
3 Author’s own spelling. Licensed by creative commons.
4 How is it that the rest of the world says pee-nis and/or pea-nas, while we say pe-niece and/or pen-is? Someone, anyone, please explain it to me. Use the word conspiracy as many times as you want. Thanks.