Message From The Editor
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectation.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Feminism. It’s a word that excites some but, sadly, scares most. The notion that “the feminists are taking over” is about as dated as the idea that women are not equal to men. Women are the majority on the earth – at last count at least 52% of the world’s human population was female – and yet many still live under the cloud of gender inequality.
A few months ago, the pages of glossy fashion magazines were littered with pictures of Hollywood films stars, models and social influencers all wearing the very same thing – a white shirt, with the words “We Should All Be Feminists” boldly written across the front. It seemed to be the “it” piece of clothing of the season – and I had completely missed the memo. Where did this quote come from? Who said it? And where on earth could I get one of those chic shirts?
It turned out that the shirt was a joint venture of singing superstar Rihanna and the famed French fashion house, Dior. The price tag made my normal income-earning eyes water, but the proceeds go to a good cause – Rhianna’s Clara Lionel Foundation – and so, I could see the attraction.
Still something troubled me – I knew I had heard that quote before. As a big fan of TEDX talks, I was looking through their Youtube channel one night and there it was – We Should
All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Speaking of her experiences as an African feminist, she retold stories of growing up in a male-dominated culture. She first heard the term “feminist” at the age of 14, and quickly learned that many people thought of feminism as fundamentally “un-african”. Obviously this completely disregards the experiences of women in first-world countries that also suffer from the seemingly undefeatable patriarchy, but still, the concept was allegedly “un-african”.
This got me thinking about what feminism is in Africa, and how the continent’s traditional backbone has both hindered and helped the feminist struggle. Again, I’d like to point out that feminism, to me, is nothing more than equality – to be considered for a job, for example, the same as a man if I too have the same qualifications. Feminism is wanting to live in a world where your gender simply does not matter.
In the words of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate, “The higher you go, the fewer women there are.” This is true across the globe and not just in Africa. When we read about a female CEO or a female chair of the board, we silently note, “Oh, she’s a woman.” The day that feminism’s work is done is the day that you see a female chief of surgery or a female president and her gender never once crosses your mind, because it simply isn’t unusual anymore. There are plenty of women in positions of power, but sadly in comparison to men in power, women are under-represented in the professional world.
This Women’s Month, remember that being a woman is not a hindrance. It is not an excuse for a company to pay you less than your male co-workers. It is not an excuse for someone to dismiss your ideas because “you don’t know what it’s like to be a man”. Adichie said very proudly in her We Should All Be
Feminists speech that she has “chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. All I want is to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be.” This is the message that you should carry with you, this month and every one after.
Enjoy the read