So much fuss over Nigerian feminists and feminism
Apparently, there is this misplaced rancor “within the Nigerian social media space” over the meaning and application of the terms feminism and feminist on one side and the perceived ignoble activities of feminists on social media. A huge misunderstanding has taken over the already chaotic social media space and this needs to be addressed. Failures or misfortunes in the marriages of some “feminists” have also been attributed (ignorantly and falsely) to their feminist posture in family and business. be that as it may, feminism, no matter the guise or garb, has become a moral revolution that cannot be ignored. Today, notwithstanding our efforts to cling to our valued “customs and traditions”, we have all become feminists…though at different levels.
Let me start with the meaning of Feminism. Feminism, just like feminist, is a noun. It means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities….” The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and opportunities. Who then is a feminist? A feminist is therefore a believer, promoter or adherent of this moral revolution, feminism. “Although the terms “feminism” and “feminist” did not gain widespread use until the 1970s, they were already being used in the public parlance much earlier; for instance, Katherine Hepburn speaks of the “feminist movement” in the 1942 film Woman of the Year.”
Feminism has been studied by various authors and social scientists over the years. One historical account by Simone de Beauvoir holds that “the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex” was Christine de Pizan who wrote Epitre au Dieu d’Amour (Epistle to the God of Love) in the 15th century. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi worked in the 16th century. Marie Le Jars de Gournay, Anne Bradstreet and Francois Poullain de la Barre wrote during the 17th”.
Experts have also divided the history of feminism into three waves. The first feminist wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. So many feminist theories have emerged from these feminist movements over the years. This is manifest in a variety of disciplines.
Many Nigerian youths have also pointed accusing fingers at the feminists within the Nigerian social media space, citing failing marriages as consequences. These commentators, (not qualified here as) anti-feminists say the Nigerian feminists are taking the theories too far – a form of extremism, radicalism that should be checked. Though not misplaced, the apprehension is somewhat misplaced. “Radical feminism considers the male controlled capitalist hierarchy, which it describes as sexist, as the defining feature of women’s oppression”. The Nigerian radical feminists hold our culture and cultural prejudices responsible for sexist-based ills in marriages and outside it. The attention of radical feminists in Nigeria is tilted towards making Nigerian women and naturally the general public appreciate the loopholes in the sexist cultural practices that hinder women. They believe that women can free themselves only when they have done away with what they consider an “inherently oppressive and dominating patriarchal system, as evidenced in our cultural and traditional practices. Radical feminists, all over the world, feel same way. They believe that “there is a male-based authority and power structure and that it is responsible for oppression and inequality, and that as long as the system and its values are in place, society will not be able to be reformed in any significant way. Some radical feminists see no alternatives other than the total uprooting and reconstruction of society in order to achieve their goals”.
I do not think that Nigerian feminists (old and emerging) are advocating or prescribing anything bad or socially retrogressive. They are merely drawing our attention to the immense potentials the world holds; if only the women can be given equal rights and justice to contribute deploy their full potentials. An average Nigerian girl child should grow with a sense of equality (and responsibility) with her male counterpart. The difference in their success and attainments in life should not be based on biological differences between male and female or limitative cultural dictates of our time. Each child, male or female, should have equal rights to develop and contribute. It is our duty to ensure this. After all, Nigeria is a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). “This is an international convention adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it came into force on 3 September 1981. Several countries have ratified the Convention subject to certain declarations, reservations and objections. Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Qatar, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and the United States have not ratified CEDAW”.
*Credit to all the Dictionaries utilized. Also to Wikipedia and all other online resource platforms from which materials for this piece were taken.