Thursday, June 3, 2010

On being Feminist...

On being feminist...

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute. ~Rebecca West, "Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice," The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982

It never ceases to amuse me when my friends refer to me as a feminist. Initially, it bothered me. I tried to defend my stance whenever I made a statement, remark or suggestion that was branded feminist. Over time, I grew tired of all that defense. I really thought, felt and believed those things I said and if my thoughts, feelings and if my thoughts, beliefs and feelings branded me a feminist, why resist? If not being a feminist meant renouncing any of those things, then it also meant renouncing who I was and I’d rather be who I am, feminist and all, than waste time failing at the alternative (i.e. pretending to be otherwise)

One might think I accepted the brand feminist too readily. Not really. I began to enjoy the name even, shortly after acceptance, when I realized what the general Ghanaian (read Ghanaian men I have debated gender issues with) definition for feminism is. I may not be able to give you a strict definition, but it is very close to what my starting quote says. Now, I will answer readily to the name feminist, sometimes thanking you for the compliment, and sometimes exaggerate my stance to poke a bit of fun at those brave enough to debate me on gender issues. The frustrating thing about this is that most at times, my interlocutors do not get my joke and I laugh alone.

I think I remember my debut ‘single’ which launched me into the feminist industry. I was one fine Saturday, overhearing a conversation between two guys (I refuse to call them gentlemen) and a lady when I got the inspiration for this ‘single’ It was around that time when some women’s rights advocates were agitating for 50-50 representation in parliament and I was in a tro-tro (bus) headed for the central business district of Accra from Legon campus.

The subject was being discussed on radio and immediately the topic was broached, these two guys, having out-numbered this young lady, proceeded to give all the reasons why women will never be equal to men (as if that was the point of the radio discussion!). The lady tried – I must give her some credit for that – but these two guys bullied her both conversationally and physically. She was of a slight frame and she was sitting between the guys… what chance did she stand? Again, they talked over her whenever she started to talk. In the end, she laughed and conceded defeat saying she was all talked out.

I, who had been sitting behind them all this while doing my best to keep my thoughts to myself, tapped her lightly on the shoulder and said “Sweetheart, don’t worry your head over them. Who says we want to be equal to them anyway? Why would we? When we are superior to them in so many ways? Becoming equal to them would mean a demotion from our superior place. And we certainly wouldn’t want that would we?” With that, I smiled sweetly at the trio. The guys were shocked into silence and I was able to enjoy the rest of the ride in peace. I’m sure they restarted the discussion after I got off; but my point had been made.

Recounting this to a friend that evening, he said; “Herr, Feminist paa dis!” I thought I had been stating the obvious. Men and women will never be equal. Equal rights will not make us equal. Giving an apple the same rights as an orange will never make the two equal.


  1. Hahahah - I wish I was in the trotro when you made your comment. I consider myself a feminist and in fact started a group called 'Fab Fem' which is a safe space for like minded feminists to get together, support each other, socialise and generally hang out. The negative connotations attached to Feminists and feminism is part of how patriarchy (the social system which says men are superior to women) tries to keep women in 'their places'

  2. Hey, nice meeting you. We shall get them to see the light...