I have this one friend who gives me daily updates of everything that happens in her life. She says it from her point of view and most often than not, I say nothing but just listen – and listening is enough, sometimes she just needs to say it – most of times. She is a pseudo-feminist.
I made that word up, I use it to describe people who are “feminists” by their actions but won’t agree to being called “feminists” for various reasons. For this, she doesn’t want to be called a feminist maybe because she holds on to some parts of tradition – or just because she doesn’t want to be identified as a “feminazi”.
Yesterday, as she spoke to me of her day at the office, she shared a tale of how she had worn brassieres without some form of cotton padding and the low temperature in her office made her nipples erect. But that is not even the interesting part, more interesting was when she said her one of female colleagues remarked on it, saying “Eii, someone will rape you oh”.
That statement struck a chord, it exposed to me one of the core problems I see with the way some feminists approach the issue of blaming of rape victims for the crime. Majority of the conversation and strive by feminists, both online and offline, have been about “usurping the male supremacy”; their attacks on societal norms have largely being around telling men to stop being the MEN they have been trained to be over the years. I have seen several examples of feminists forgetting that the core of their messaging should be on empowering women and not attacking men.
When I lived with my parents, I was the eldest child and there was such a huge age-gap between my next sibling and I, I had to take care of them most of the time. This included cooking for them and washing for them amongst other things – it was my job as their big brother to do so. To put it in better perspective, I have a younger brother, Selassie and an even younger sister, Setornam. In 2018, I had to move back to my parent’s house for a short while as I sorted out my accommodation issues. As this time, they were of age, and they had gotten used to not having me around so the chores I would have taken over was woven into their daily routine quite easily.
But even though Selassie was the oldest of the two, it Setornam – the youngest of us all – who would partake in cooking, washing utensils and other core duties. But this did not mean Selassie did nothing around the house, he would fetch water from the Polytank into the kitchen and vice-versa. If you have lived in the Adenta, Madina, Oyarifa areas in Ghana, you would understand why fetching water was such a crucial task. So, from this angle, it looked like the workload was fairly distributed.
But no, it was not. Once, Setornam was busy with other things (to be fair, she was not in the right) and had not attended to her core duties, and because I was around, I reassigned the task to Selassie. I didn’t see a problem with it until our mother got back home from work.
Like that my friend, my siblings also give an update of everything to Mother. In giving his updates, Selassie “reported” that I had made him do all of Setornam’s work and Mother chided Setornam. Of course, the little wouldn’t stand for it, she retorted angrily and to my surprise, Mother told her “Don’t you know it your job as the woman to be cooking? If you don’t learn how to cook now, how would you cook for your husband? Selassie, dee, he is a man oh”. I cringed a little in my bedroom, as I listened in – Setornam was around 13 years then.
The two examples I have given are super-common, I have come across various contradictory behavior and utterances as such from people who are championing feminism – especially some of those people championing feminism on social media. And it makes me wonder, are we doing the most we should be doing with the way we are handling our messaging with feminism and victim-blaming in rape?
Have we looked too much at the problem and forgotten that, in empowering people, we need to let them know they have the power and also rather target them at the formative ages?
I believe one of the true efforts we should be taking as feminists to dismantle the predominantly patriarchal system is making sure that women get to understand themselves that they are not “second to men” and do not need to be validated or other by how they make men feel.
Our activism should also extend to parents (especially mothers) as they are shaping the upcoming generations with their actions, inactions and way of training in their homes; our campaign should reach out to young women, to let them understand that what they wear does not give the right to anyone to touch them.
When you’re born into a patriarchal world, every person – especially women – needs to go through a process of re-education, to identify oppression that’s been dressed up as “natural” and common sense, and understand that women are entitled to a better deal.
Feminism, like every other uprising, is a big and broad fight, many factions in the suffrage would disagree on many things, and that is okay. But we can all agree that the women’s suffrage movement should be more than just social (mostly online) uproar when a Minister of State says young girls should not wear skirts as a way to avoid rape and extend to very people we’re trying to liberate.
Feminism should be a battle waged on many fronts; in our quest for equality and liberation for women, maybe we should also understand that it behooves on us to also mentally liberate the demography itself from years of social conditioning and oppression.