This is 2019 why do we Still Need Feminism?
What rights do women still lack in 2019? This question is what most people ask when feminism is brought up. Individuals that are anti-feminist are quick to diminish the necessity of feminism in this current world. while others claim it has done more harm than good because not all individuals identify as one. Recently, there have been social media debates and discussions on feminism being anti-men or individuals that are stupid. Most anti-feminist think feminist should stop searching for equality. Feminists that were interested in their reasoning inquired further by asking why? it overshadows individual uniqueness instead strive for fairness was the response given. But the response got feminist wondering if it wasn’t true fairness could be found in striving for equality. While for those accustomed to privileges, equality might feel like oppression.
Gender matters everywhere in the world, but the purpose of this paper is to focus on gender in Nigeria and Africa in general, because of the possession of knowledge on the level of gender injustice being experienced. Nigeria located in west Africa, is the 14th largest and the most populated country in Africa. Africa is a continent full of upheavals, with the immense ones such as the horrific rapes in Congo and the depressing one such as the fact that over 700,000 people apply for only 500 job positions in Nigeria (Kazeem, 2016). Despite the upheavals there have been and are still great stories about the continent and its people.
Background and History
Brunell, a professor of political science and international studies and Burkett a renowned American journalist defined feminism as the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. (Brunell & Burkett, 2019) Though largely originating from the west feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutes dedicated to activity on behalf of women’s right and interests. Feminism today has been interpreted and misinterpreted because today feminism means different things to different people, but at its core, the origin was traced back in the late 18th century, it is mainly a social movement for the liberation of girls and women. Although the terms “feminism and feminist did not gain widespread use until the 1970’ s it has been proven that they were feminist theories in the late 18th century” (Brunell &Burkett, 2019). There have been various feminist studies of gender and it has been proven that society needs concepts to differentiate and analyze social inequalities between girls and boys and among men and women that do not reduce biology as destiny. To Masequesmay, a renowned college professor and author, the notion of sexism clarifies that prejudice and discrimination based on sex or gender, and not biology inferiority, are the social barricades to women and girl’s success in various areas. (Masequesmay, 2016) To overcome patriarchy and chivalry in society is then, to dismantle sexism in society.
Feminism in Africa. There are no really research reports and articles on feminism in Africa but lately they have been feminist voices in Africa especially in Nigeria. Adichie a Nigerian renowned novelist and feminist defined feminism has a movement that seeks to achieve equality and social rights for women in all key areas which include education, employment and the cultural sphere of human endeavors. (Adichie, 2015) She then claimed according to the dictionary a feminist is the same thing Brunell et al.’s (2019) defined. But recently feminism in Africa has been associated with a lot of garbage and negativity. Hence, feminists are considered women who hate African culture, who do not shave, do not wear bras, use deodorants, women that kills babies, females that are unhappy because they could not find a husband. It is also funny in the way sad things are funny because most individuals in Nigeria, tend to brush off topics and issues that have to do with feminism. They are quick to refer to a woman trying to explain her opinions or her perspectives as a feminist, with the intention of not complimenting her, but as a way of saying she is a supporter of terrorism.
Adichie thinks that notion needs to be changed and people should be made to understand feminism is not garbage neither is it the support of terrorism. Anti-feminist in Africa should be aware feminist do not hate African cultures and they are not women who are angry because they can’t find husband, but women who are angry with the way gender functions. (Adichie,2015) Feminism has long been associated with negative words and people have become stereotyped towards this issue. Adichie put is simply well when she said in one of her speeches that the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete because they make one story becomes the only story.
Feminism lite. Adichie also warned and address people on feminism lite because it is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea, members of feminism lite have analogies and ideas she disagrees with. (Adichie, 2017, p. 20). According to the origin of feminism, it should be about equality, all individuals should matter equally not just “if only” nor “as long as”. It is about equal rights for individuals regardless of gender or gender identity. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not. Usually, members of feminism lite believes feminism is conditional female equality. They often use terms like this, a husband is the head while the wife is the neck, he is driving but you are in the front seat, and a woman should be allowed to do what she wants as far as her husbands allows her. Adichie disagrees because the second feminist tool is that can you reverse “X” and get “X” back? Now let’s reverse the first term. A husband is not a headmaster neither is a wife a school girl, they are partners. The second term is that men should always be in charge or control, but women should be there for men has a subordinate, the world should be led by morals and principles not just by men. And, can we as well say men are there as subordinate to women? No because it makes no sense.
The last term “ALLOW” is a very disturbing word. Theresa May is the British prime minister and here is how a progressive British newspaper described her husband: “Philip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.” (Adichie, 2017, p. 21). Allowed. Now let’s reverse it. Theresa may has allowed her husband to shine. Does it make sense? If Philip May were the prime minister, possibly we might hear that his wife had “supported” him from the background, or that she was “behind” him, or that she stood by his side,” but we would never hear she had “allowed” him to shine. “Allow” is a troubling world and the premise of “allow” is about power and feminism lite supports this. More disturbing is the idea, in Feminism lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.” Adichie strongly refutes this idea because there must be more than male benevolence as the source for a woman’s well-being. (Adichie, 2017, p. 21)
Early gender stereotypes. Late congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American to run a major party presidential nomination. Chisholm once said, “the emotional sexual and physiological stereotyping of females begin when the doctor says, “it’s a girl.” Many individuals should acknowledge the fact that stereotyping affects how humans see themselves. There is a popular quote that “If you keep showing people as one thing, then it’s that manifesting as that is what they believe they are and what they would become.” People know that stereotyping affects how girls and women see themselves starting from a young age, making them feel if they do not look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all humans, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
There is a growing number of researchers and philosophers that have proven that humans are born without the knowledge of the world, beings are products of what parents, society and experiences teaches or tell them. In other words, the human species is socialized by the environment and culture. Boys and girls are raised differently worldwide and there are gender roles that society enforce on individuals. It is correspondingly interesting how society starts early to invent gender roles and then these roles become internalized. Most clothing sections for infants in stores are sectioned into 3 different categories. Male infants, female infants, and gender-neutral. Why can’t baby clothes be organized by age and displayed in all colors? Since the body of male and female infants are after all similar. Adichie can’t help but ponder about the clever marketing person who invented this pink-blue binary and gender-neutral section. Adichie believes gender neutral is silly because it is premised on the idea of a male being blue and female being pink and “gender neutral” being its own category. (Adichie, 2017, p. 16)
Society gives boys more room to explore and fewer rules, it is believed that it is biologically inherent for boys to be naturally rough but there is no genuine claim to back up this argument, they run around, jump around and play because it is ok for them too. Parents and society start of by buying more active toys for boys because that is what is in the toys section. These toys are not just active, but they also involve some sort of doing- trains, to cars and all sort of inquisitive toys. Most boys are kept engaged and curious from a young age, so they grow up and can explore.
The rules are different for girls, they are socialized to focus on likeability. Society and some parents start of by buying mostly passive toys for girls and overwhelmingly dolls then give them less room and more rules. They are not allowed to run and play around like boys do because of the assumption based on their fragility. Humans are quick to conclude girls can’t do certain things without giving them room to try. Like boys became experts without trying multiple times. Feminist in Africa believes the society start of by raising girls to see men has their primary focus and making them have it in mind that marriage and motherhood are the most important. Young girls are socialized to always be nice, not to play rough not mainly because they can hurt themselves but because of the absurd idea that it isn’t ladylike.
Society demands the protection of men from women. Girls are criticized and told not to wear certain clothing’s not because they might hurt their selves or get cancer but because of men, yet, women are expected to be sexy but not sexual. The reason is that they won’t be abused or assaulted by men and the ridiculous idea that most men can’t control their sexual desires hence being influenced by the absurd gender-based idea of “men will be men.” Which means having a much lower standard for men.
Position of power. Men and women are irrefutably different, but socialization exaggerate these differences and then it becomes a self-fulfilling process. Both genders have different hormone, different sexual organs and different biological abilities such as women can have babies men cannot, (at least not for now) men have testosterone and in general appear physically stronger than women. Adichie, claims that there are slightly, more women than men in the world, about 52% population is female (Adichie, 2015,) but most of the position of power and prestige are occupied by men. The late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate, Wangari Mathai who put it simply well, that the higher you go the fewer women there are.