Fabiola Nguembu: Feminism – Misconception or reality
Several initiatives to make people understand the importance of feminism are growing across society today. The echoes of this rising consciousness reverberate in so many aspects of our day to day interactions; from publications, to forums, to meetings, to social media trends, to TV debates. Gender equality is increasingly at the center of political, economic and social conversations, and the term feminism is today used by all social groups.
Indeed, I realise the sensitive nature of the subject, and I hesitated a lot before deciding to write on it. Frankly speaking, I’ll admit that it’s not easy to be neutral on this subject, because i am a woman, nevertheless I shall endeavor, in my way, to share with you my understanding of this ideology that is feminism.
What is feminism ? According to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in “We Should All Be Feminists”, a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.” I personally find this definition very apt. It simply implies that Feminism is as much an ideologie as is panafricanism; the latter implies unification and a collective effort towards a mutually beneficial goal. Likewise feminism isn’t so much about the sexes against each other, but, like panafricanism, is about the sexes working together to do better for each other. This understanding helps us to be more supportive, to help each other out more. It moves us towards unity, towards togetherness, and when you talk about union, you talk about strength, prosperity, development.
Feminism has always existed, it is a concept that results from the fact that, in a largely male dominated society, women have always been considered as the weaker sex. This ratio of inequality is the root cause of frustration among women in all walks of life who crave for equality. The cause of feminism, however, is predominantly female driven, and is of growing interest to women. According to a survey by TNS-Sofres, 66% of women in West Africa are concerned about inequalities between men and women. It must, however, be recognized that this cause is not sufficiently defended by men.
I find that in most cases, men are either aggressively counterposed to the notion of feminism or, at best, passive and indifferent. Most men have grown up with a cliché perception of the woman as the one who stays at home, who cares for children and who cannot and should not have responsibilities in politics and big business. Most men don’t want to loose all those privileges they have exclusively enjoyed, and they feel that having women come into those spaces would threaten the exclusivity they enjoy therein.
Feminism, however, comes to solve a problem of inequality and non-respect of a part of the population (women). This gender inequality is almost as limiting and harmful as tribalism. Indeed, it can be likened to colonialism, because we have a part that is not considered or is given little consideration. Indeed “29% is the percentage of african women in senior management positions“ according to the Women Matter Africa survey conducted by McKinsey & Co, which reflects the high gender inequality mainly in the formal sector.This is a significant loss to the formal economy, as more women in the workplace would translate to a stronger, larger and more productive workforce. Clearly, feminism is a positive cause because if we have more women educated and working, we will have more human resources to develop our economies. This assertion can be justified by the study “Women Matter Africa” by McKinsey & Co which shows that 25% of Africa’s most advanced women-to-men gender equal companies have earnings before interest and taxes that are 20% above the industry average.
Though feminism is indeed a positive and powerful force, unfortunately i think a reasonable deal of the negative perceptions surrounding it ascend the negative press it receives is mostly caused by the way many people use the word to make it come across negatively for many people. Most of us (women as well as men) just use the word feminism or gender equality without really understanding it. Consequently, there are a lot of Africans who are persuaded that the idea of feminism is not for our continent, because of our traditions, cultures and the upbringing we receive come across as being in contrast to our vague ideas about what feminism really is. Even women themselves are divided with regards to the concept of feminism. We need to come to a strong, progressive and common understanding of what true feminism is. As women, we need to stop complaining, stop asking for favors, and start proving that we deserve to be considered. We need to start engaging people to respect us. Likewise, men should sometimes stand on the side of the woman and wonder if they can bear all these injustices done to women.
In my opinion, feminism is an ideology that affirms that we as women want to consider ourselves as human beings who have rights and duties, and who must organize themselves to live better together without distinction of sex. It’s about respecting others, seeing and loving others as much as oneself. Feminism is not about dominating men or showing that women are more clever than men, but about encouraging men and women to be better at what they love, what they are passionate about, driving them to contribute more to their respective environments in which they live. It’s about giving everyone the chance to excel in his or her ambitions and dreams. Let us stand together, educate ourselves, become good people and excel in what we do daily. Most especially, let’s do it for us and for the next generation, to move the continent forward.
It is up to everyone to learn more about this concept and to define their own conception, in their own words, in their own language and according to their own feelings of what feminism truly stands for. I consider myself as a human being who respects and loves her neighbor ; a great “mad woman” who has dreams and ambitions as big as her “madness” and above all a person who has confidence in herself, in her potentials and who is determined to realize her dreams. I don’t know if this is feminist, but what I’m sure, is that it’s Me.
Fabiola Nguembu is a Critical thinker, researcher, curious, passionate about cultures, traditions, life, photography, reading and social facts. She is a self-learner, focused on people, and motivated by challenges. She lives and works in Dakar, Senegal.