In 2012 I had an opportunity to make a contribution this international
feminist art journal, n. paradoxa.
These were my opening
and closing lines respectively;
“Am I a feminist? I’m not quite sure.”...
“So am I a feminist? Does this label really
I am still asking myself this question four years later.
For the past few weeks, I have been conversing with a friend
on feminism among other subjects. We talked about women’s rights, women in
marriage, cultural expectations of women and some of these conversations were even
sparked by my own work. Need to mention, he is feminist.
One day he
concluded and said “You’re a feminist”
I responded quite
defensively “No I’m not”
went on for a while, days even, but I couldn’t defend my position, I was at
loss for words, so says the artist whose work focus mostly on women. I have
always refused to associate myself with feminism and I wasn’t going to start
now. I regarded feminists as women who were rude, loose, men haters/ bashers,
who posted nude photos of themselves for the public, insecure, lonely, you name
it! And I didn’t do any of those things so how could I possibly be a feminist? Another
reason was because I focused mostly on western feminism and feminists which to
be honest I have issues with till now; hence the last thing I wanted was to be
associated with feminism.
However I have come to understand that feminism is beyond
all of those things, feminism is pretty deep. If a person is any of those
things I mentioned above, it’s just because it’s who they are, and not a feminist
trait. Feminism differs from place to place and person to person.
Different things or situations shape us already as individuals. A single mother
who is feminist may not necessarily share the same feminist values with a
happily married stay at home wife. Same difference can be seen between an
African feminist and one from Europe.
The main umbrella that apparently brings all feminists
together is as simply put “equality for both men and women”, after that level,
it begins to vary and for the most part even present opposing views on certain
matters or subjects. From this point is where I have come to realise that all
feminists should accommodate and empathize with each other’s views but not necessarily
agree with them (to everyone and their own o).
On a personal note and in trying to find my own feminism, I
think roles should not be confused with equality. I think certain roles have
come to fit men better than they fit women and vice versa, but it doesn’t mean they
are fixed and cannot be interchanged. For example I am a (female) sculptor but
it is seen as a masculine profession because of what the job requires, it is a
tough job! But it doesn’t mean a woman can’t aspire to it. So to that head of
department in Ekenwa campus Benin that refused to allow me pick up the direct
entry form that year... thank you oo! . I still studied sculpture anyway! (Sorry
I had to veer off and vent.)
Feminism simply means it’s ok to switch roles; roles should
not be fixed to one gender. It should be fluid and not be set in stone. My
gender should not define what I can and can’t do; only my choice should.
I live in a society that has preconceived expectations of
women. Personally to be really honest I am ok with a few of them and this is another
reason why I thought I couldn’t possibly be feminist. Let’s take cooking for
example. I love to cook and I will most likely treat the kitchen as my
territory when I am married. Some feminists may not agree to this but to the person
who doesn’t, it is ok, he or she won’t be committing a deadly sin and neither
will I. Again everybody and their own o! But let’s be honest how many men can really
cook??? And whose fault is it? For generations girls have been raised to
believe this is their role, sons on the other hand are taught other things the
kitchen excluded, and even when they have, they are raised to believe that
eventually their house girl, sorry wife or girlfriend will do it for them just as
they have seen from their parents. (In J. Lo's voice “I ain’t your mama”)
I also found out two things about feminism. First is that feminism does not apply to women
only, it is not gender based; feminism is a state of mind that should be present
in both men and women.
Second is that women who are Feminists do not necessarily need
be working class executives, rich or independent women; a stay at home wife can
be feminist, any woman can be feminist no matter who you are. However being feminist
is not an excuse to be rude to people, just thought to add that.
So does it matter if I am a feminist? Yes it does.
By choosing to be feminist, I do not have live under the
pressure of society. When I choose to be feminist, it means I will not allow
myself to be undervalued outside and most especially within marriage. When I
choose to be feminist, I will not accept the norms of society that says it’s ok
for a man to cheat and for me to accept it. When I choose to be feminist, I
refuse to be hit by a man and still stay for more beating. When I say I am
feminist, it means that it’s ok to be unmarried at 32 and that nothing is wrong
with me, I don’t have spiritual problems, I don’t need deliverance, it’s just life happening and my time will come
and you will all eat my jollof rice too, but for the mean time, I’ll wait.
I say I am feminist, it means it’s ok to live in a house or apartment by myself,
not because I can’t stand people but only because I need space to practice my
art. When I choose to be feminist, it means I won’t allow anyone to talk me
down because I am a woman especially with that disgusting statement “don’t you know you’re a woman!!!?!”
When I choose to be feminist it means I treat all my friends
the same and not sideline some because they are unmarried as though being unmarried
or childless nah disease (so annoying). And if I had chosen to be feminist
earlier on in my life, I would have bought that car I had saved up for that
Everyone should be feminist more especially Nigerian women
so we can teach our sons to be one. So yes I am a FEMINIST.
It is how we choose to express it that makes us different.
All the images on this post are from the new series I
started during my “feminist” musings.
Remember when in school if you did something wrong, you are
asked to write a statement apologizing or denouncing your bad behaviour, in a
hundred or more lines. So this is me telling myself that I am feminist in many
many many sentences. The drawings are in charcoal and coloured pen and they
represent the conversations I have had with my friends, myself and you as
regards feminism. My feminist antennas have been turned on, and I am on that
path of finding my own feminism. There are many things to consider on this
journey, but it’s an opportunity to find one’s self.
Coincidentally I read this satire titled HOW TO BE A WOMAN IN NIGERIA by Nigerian writer El Nathan John today and i thought to share it here,
Thank you for stopping by!