What is this thing called feminism?

There are a whole lot of movements in the world, more numerous than can be recorded in this space. Some are fundamental and mainstream, some others are not so essential. There are others that are outrightly absurd and silly. What does it matter though? We must all hold our -isms.

Feminism in Nigeria is one of those terms that is tossed around but is want for a befitting, if not definitive explanation. All over social media, people can come out with the magic wand “I am a feminist” and that is enough to excuse all of their excesses from image dragging to slinging baseless accusations, but is that really what feminism is about?

The answer is a simple no. I have held long conversations with people where I have maintained that most people who do these are not actually feminists but misandrists and members of other movement. It just seem as though people love to drag the movement.

I believe that this expose is a necessity in unraveling the enigma of feminism and distinguishing feminists from the wannabes who are doing havoc under the guise of feminism.

Feminism is the female movement that believes that gender should not be the focus of the decision-making process. At its core, feminism is the belief in equality. It seeks to eliminate the social, cultural, and legal barriers between men and women. Its goal is to create a truly egalitarian society. Beyond that, the waters grow murkier. The different factions of feminism in Nigeria cannot seem to agree on what exactly constitutes this equality.

If you have any doubt as to the reception and the growing rage that seems to accompany feminism, these definitions by adherents of the movement and people who are averse to it should be enough to set the ball rolling:

“I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West, 20th-century British novelist, and journalist

“A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men.” — Gloria Steinem, journalist, and second-wave feminist leader

“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” -Bell Hooks, black feminist author

“[The feminist agenda] is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” –  Pat Robertson, Christian broadcaster

“I do not think that’s how God created us, especially in the household anyway. So I think as females when we realise that, we can be strong in our career and stuff, but when we are home we have to realise that the man is the head of the house.” – Tiwa Savage, Singer, and Performer.

“A man or woman who says, yes, there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. That, for me, is a feminist” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author.

 

The roots of Nigerian feminism

Global feminism started off as a splinter from the suffrage movement permitting women to be able to vote in the United States and elsewhere. It was the drop of female authority that precipitated Nigeria’s first wave of feminism.

Women’s liberation – the ultimate goal of feminism – has always been part of the narrative of Nigeria. The very same year that Nigeria was formed in 1914, women staged a significant protest, which the scholar Nwando Achebe has referred to as the “Ogidi Palaver,” against both indigenous and British men who had jointly side-lined them in decision-making.

The explicitly feminist movement in Nigeria finds its roots in WIN (Women in Nigeria), an organisation, which was founded in 1983 with a clear agenda to establish an“ideologically feminist movement” in the country. WIN has since been replaced by the Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) in 2008.

Against this backdrop, the Nigerian feminist culture has thrived, bringing more into the fold. With the rise of digital media, there has been an even greater influx of feminists lending their voices to the issues that matter. This has created issues and even more animosity towards the movement.

 

How inclusive is feminism in Nigeria?

A movement that is aimed at bettering the lot of women and breaking down the wall of gender must be one that includes women from all walks of life, right? Perhaps, this is not the case with feminism in Nigeria. The focus of feminism in Nigeria is usually on the middle class and the upper class.

One of our current leading feminists, Chimamanda Adichie, has been accused  of focusing only on middle-class feminist issues such as chivalry and sexual objectification.  Like other accusation against the movement, these accusations ignore the multiple issues that the movement have helped solved.

When the question arises about the rights of domestic staffs or women who are in domestic roles or vocation, a lot of feminists are not so loud. This is a dent on the image of a movement that is supposed to be by all and for all. Like Martin Luther King Jr. puts it, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere. Perhaps, everywhere but here in Nigeria. In this aspect, Nigerian feminism needs to do better.

We also need to see men identify with the movement. The ideals of feminism are not so strange to men; some uphold it, they will not just come out to be part of a movement that is largely opposed. This gender bias needs to change too.

 

What is the prospect of Nigerian Feminism?

If properly coordinated and excesses are weeded out, Nigerian feminism can become an acceptable standard. It is safe to say it is already mainstream. However, the focus must remain sane. Every campaign and movement is not without the risk of hijackers who want to use the movement to set their own agenda, this must be closely guided against. It is also necessary to distinguish Nigerian feminism from misandry. They are two distinct entities and should be treated as such.

For a movement that has achieved so much in terms of getting justice for the oppressed, the Nigerian feminism movement should be studied closely without getting the occasional drag in the mud that the movement currently suffers.

Next week, the topic for discussion will be getting over your crush.

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