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 matter?”
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”
The debate 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.
When 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 year!
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!