Happy International Women’s Day! Every year, I am growing to become more excited when it comes to talking or writing about women.
First things first, here’s a poem dedicated to all women:
Here’s to women
Here’s to fears which have become jettisoned.
Here’s to obscurity turned to light.
Here’s to you bursting at the seams,
But also to you burning the bridges of weaknesses.
Here’s to love.
Here’s to heartbreak.
Here’s to all of the headache
That have made us healers.
Here’s to joy.
Here’s to gifts.
Gifts of life and of a baby’s cry.
Here’s to you.
Here’s to women.
On the paths of womanhood,
You will find queues of brokenness,
But longer than those queues
Are hope and strength driving Ashok Leyland.
Here’s to seats of power waiting to uphold your tired knees.
Here’s to women.
On the 31st of January, I picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” and I wrote all of my agreements, disagreements, thoughts and questions, which I will be sharing today. I have seen all of the seeming wars which go on all over the internet on what being a feminist really means or entails, and I must say that I think a lot of people have it all wrong.
First things I agree with Adichie on, are her “feminist tools” as she calls them:
- My premise: “I matter. I matter equally.” Not “as long as”. I matter equally.
- Can I reverse ‘X’ and get the same results? As said, “Teach her that if you criticize X in women, but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women”. What this interprets is that if you criticize, for example, “laziness” in women, but not in men, you do not have a problem with laziness, you have a problem with women.
Adichie’s Fifteen Suggestions and my comments:
- Suggestion One: Be a full person.
Agreed? Yes. What does this mean? Do not be less of yourself. Do not let motherhood, work, marriage or anything stop you from being a full person. We have heard it over and again that our relationships are only as good as we are. When a marriage, friendship, job or anything holds you back from being a whole human, edges of those things begin to chip off till the entire wall comes crashing. So, be a full person.
- Suggestion Two: Do it together.
Agreed? Yes. Being a mother is as important as being a father. Adichie says “reject the language of ‘help’ “. Fathers do not “help” the mother to take care of the child. It’s a co-responsibility. As an aunt, I can “babysit” or “help” my sisters to look after the children, but for them and their spouses, they just do it.
- Suggestion Three: Forget this gender roles thing!
“Because I am a girl” is not a reason to do anything. Agreed? Yes. A girl does not have to like dolls only, she can also like trains or toy cars. It should be her choice, not “because she is a girl”. Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Four: Beware of Feminism Lite.
What does this mean? Do not be described as “allowed”. It is good to be woman and powerful. There should be no such thing as, “she was allowed to work”, you know? Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Five: READ
Agreed? Yes! You bet this is my most supported suggestion! Get into those books and gain some knowledge! You cannot take power away from a reader.
- Suggestion Six: Question Language
As an English major, I could reason with this on so many levels. Language is powerful and as Adichie says, “it is the repository of our prejudices, beliefs and assumptions”. So there really is nothing like “lady mechanic”, “female doctor” as we like to say in our society. A mechanic is a mechanic and a doctor is a doctor. I actually always had thoughts about this until I read it here. Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Seven: Marriage is not an achievement.
This does not, in any way, mean do not get married. A lot of people have this upside down. But the truth is “fulfilling purpose is an achievement, not marriage”. Marriage comes along the line, yes, and it is a beautiful thing but “it is not an achievement”. Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Eight: Reject likeability.
Lol girl, it is not by force. Hard truth? Not everyone will like you, no matter what you do and that is fine. Rather, do your own thing. Be honest, and as they say, have courage and be kind. Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Nine: Have a sense of identity.
Adichie is a proud Igbo woman. When I think of identity, I think of myself as a proud Christian and a proud Yoruba woman. However, as Adichie writes, embrace parts of [Yoruba] culture that are beautiful and reject parts that are not. Understand the beauty and resilience of Africans and black people. Shun tribalism and what not. Take pride in the history of Africans and the black diaspora. Give dignity to all who mean no harm. Be kind to the household help. Greet the driver. Revel in your identity! Agreed? Total Yes!
- Suggestion Ten: Be deliberate about appearance
Participate in sports if you want to, wear make up if you want to. Be you and be true. Agreed? Yes.
- Suggestion Eleven: Question culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons for social norms’. The child is the mother’s as much as the father’s, whether the child is “good” or not.
- Suggestion Twelve: It’s okay and necessary to learn about sex. Agreed? Yes. Sex is not an “only in marriage” act. Agreed? Blunt NO. You can already imagine why I would disagree. Yes, let us teach our children about sex and educate them as they grow up, but based on Christian virtues, it is an “only in marriage” act. We all have our beliefs and I choose to stand by mine.
- Suggestion Thirteen: Love is not only to give, but to take. In relationships, love should flow in both ways. Agreed? Yes. Either person can propose? Agreed? I disagree.
This has caused an uproar all over the internet nowadays. I honestly do not agree with the idea of a woman proposing to a man (maybe this should be a blog post all on its own). It’s not a man’s role to provide? I disagree. We can share responsibilities based on how capable both parties are. But based on spiritual truths, a man provides for his own home.
- Suggestion Fourteen: In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints. Women are expected to be “morally” better than men. Women are as human as men are and can be evil too. Do not get it all wrong.
- Suggestion Fifteen: Make difference ordinary. It’s the reality. We will all need to survive in a diverse world. People walk different paths. Respect that. Agreed? YES. Be full of opinions – opinions which come from an informed, humane and broad-minded place. Agreed? Yes.
Be healthy and happy.
Being feminist is never a movement to overpower the opposite sex. Last year, I put up a post that there should be no such thing as gender equality, rather we can have gender equity and gender uniqueness. You can read that post here to know what I am really talking about.
Our women are of as much importance as our men. We are all needed in this world of ours. None of us should be taking a backseat. There is room for all of us to shine.
I would really, really love to read all of your comments! Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
Again, Happy International Women’s Day!
With Overflowing Love,