A LETTER TO CHIMAMANDA ADICHE ABOUT FEMINISM, EGALITARIANISM AND ME
Author: Blessing Abeng.
I planned to write you this letter privately through A mutual friend but he likes to shy away from controversy. So I thought to write it here on social media, hoping it gets to you and you read it objectively and maybe we can discuss it sometime in the future.
In your TedX speech about Feminism, the part Beyonce adapted in her Flawless song, you described a feminist as a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. This definition/intention sits well with me as it doesn’t favor any gender.
I have read almost every book you have written and to be honest, you are my favorite African writer. You have strong opinions, strong female characters and wield a special storytelling power rooted in simplicity and skill. One of the books I truly enjoyed was Dear Ijeawele. It held certain truths but one thing was clear, you understood that societal’s pressure and flawed ethical concepts affected both men and women. You understood that women were undermined by society and men were held to standards by society as well. You admitted that we were both broken but what you didn’t do (like many feminists) was show empathy for them as victims of circumstances just as we are too. I see their “braggadocio claims of being higher species” their attempt to live up to societal standards.
My first issue with feminism is the name. You can’t ask for equality of the sexes and have bias for one of the sexes. What you would end up doing is creating reverse oppression because the women will grow so strong and oppress the men, and the cycle will continue. In finding my path, I first blamed women, because in my short time of existence, women raised me and most of the people around me. They chose that I cook and clean while my cousins played. They said “you are a woman, no man will take this from you”.
They said “with this your attitude, you won’t find husband”, “your opinions are too strong for a lady, you need to listen more when your man is talking”, “ Don’t buy a big car or live alone o! You will chase men away” “why are you not married yet?” “You need to learn to cook o”. Women told me all these but never did I hear them tell the male kids around me the same thing. Instead I heard “you are supposed to be strong for your sisters”, “are you not a man? Why are you crying?” “The older babe slept with you, ahn ahn you are enjoying o”. While these are different reactions, they are also different forms of oppressions and as I have learned, you can’t compare oppression. Pain is pain, our thresholds are different. We are all victims of the society. Even from Gender roles, the foundation of our future is laid.
In Nigeria and many parts of the world “what would people say?” Controls our every action. We live a certain way to live up to the expectations of the society. It influences how our parents bring us up and form the basis for many things we do. Men are going through their bit. They are going through a lot, keeping up with the weight of pseudo strength society burdens them with. Many women practice feminism by convenience. Many men see that when it comes to the subject they have to be politically correct. Women are given opportunities (some they don’t deserve) just to ensure political correctness. Feminism is becoming a “walking on egg-shells” subject.
Some people take feminism to extremes – like the abort the male child campaign (according to them he is a rapist or chauvinist waiting to happen), the no pad movement, just to mention a few. Men are now the enemies instead of society. I don’t think women or anybody at all should be given things, I think it should all be based on merit not “politically correctness”. I think we can negotiate for what we want. I have earned higher positions and salary based on my negotiating power. Anyone who undermines me because I am a woman does not deserve me as a staff nor contractor, that is a mental and culture fit problem. Greatness/Excellence cannot be ignored. I know this because people like Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey exist.
No, I don’t belong to “feminism lite” group who think we should compromise our standards based on some religious or cultural standing that divinely named a gender/sex superior. A description that sits better with me is – Egalitarian. Which is what your definition of feminism stood for. The challenge of feminism is similar to most of the isms that exist – racism, classism, many other delicate isms.
I find that the solution is all encompassed in one word – Respect. Respect gives room for understanding. I understand when people say respect is earned but mine works in a reverse manner. I meet you, respect you first till you prove otherwise. Reason – you are a human being, not a negroid, Caucasian, rich, poor or whatever boxes society has created for you. Just a simple human. For me, that is worth respecting. Why is respect the ultimate solution? I believe your beliefs and choices should be respected. I believe in treating people as individuals and not a group. I dislike that feminism has watered down the place of a housewife.
Being a housewife is a job in itself! It is a strong role. I have seen housewives and I could never do what they do. I believe that if a woman chooses to be a housewife, she should not be dragged. I believe she should not be cited as an example of a woman who cannot stand for herself when feminist speak. I believe that she has her right to choose. I also believe that a househusband should be a thing. There are many men who do not want to work. They perform better as care givers, I think that should be fine too. The worker and the carer should not be a thing of gender and this should be clear before people decide to date. It shouldn’t be a gender apportioned thing. I believe that anyone can pay for dates based on agreements between the people going on dates. There are women who want to be dominated,I don’t think we need to fight for them. I think some of them genuinely like it and we should let them.
There are men too who want to be dominated, let them. There are women who think they shouldn’t work when they have men, let them. There are men who like to live off their women, that’s fine too. There are women who do not want to get married and have kids, let them be. There are men who do not either, let them be. There are women who would never cry for anything and there are men who would cry themselves a river at every little thing, please let them be. There are women who hate to cook and hate domestic activities and men who love domestic activities and cooking, just let them be. Treat every human as their own person, not as a male or female.
if you have three candidates for a job and the two men are better qualified than the woman, don’t be afraid to give them the job. It’s not a thing of gender but a thing of qualification. I had a conversation with someone last year about Tiwa being the only woman booked for End of the Year shows. Fortunately or unfortunately, judging by Nigerian music standards it is difficult to name other female musicians beside Tiwa who should be booked for shows. You’ll mention 5 men before you think of another woman. It’s not a male or female thing. It is a thing of qualification, hard work, skill, consistency. I only have a problem when 2 people are qualified for a role and the tie breaker is gender (with no logical reason). Which is also a societal issue. Many people say women take maternity leaves, pregnancy, period leaves etc. I think men should be allowed paternity leaves too to let them bond and help their wives. They say men would waste it. Let’s try first and see.
Our Years Of Oppression Would Not Be Fixed By A March, Or A Gender Bias Equality, It Would Be Fixed By Egalitarianism Or Simply Put RESPECT.
When a security man does not greet you, you can choose to educate him, if you think he would understand or walk away because you perceive he may not understand. Not in anger, but in enlightenment and with a little love and empathy for his ignorance. Same goes for when a woman takes emotional or sexual abuse on a man for granted. Societal Wars are won by finding a common ground and I think both men an women can find a common ground in societal oppression. We can either choose to make the rules of society our enemy or make each other enemies. The ball is in our court.
I look forward to a day when toys would be bought based on a child’s preference or individuality, when colors or clothing items are chosen based on the child, where individuals are raised as individuals not based on some crazy moral code. I look forward to a time when men and women would be taught about abuse. A time when women would not use abuse as a weapon to destroy a mans career. A time when men would not see it as their weapon to ruin lives of women. I look forward to a time when women would not laugh at the abuse stories of men and say things like “but you were hard na” and men would not say “what was she doing there by 11pm wearing short skirt?”. I look forward to a time that people of any gender can cry openly, and be whatever they want to be…….
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