Most of the Nigerians reading this would be already be aware of the video below. For those who do not understand, here is the president of Nigeria, making a ‘joke’ in reply to a comment made by his wife.
“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room”
Of course, since the comment was made on Friday, it has dragged a much needed controversy with it. Inasmuch as I have completely tried not to join the bandwagon of folks stating the obvious – that his comment was highly derogatory and careless; a few other happenings have somewhat nudged me a little to the edge.
Just this morning, as the topic came up, myself and a few colleagues argued about the matters leading to the said statement. First, there was the view that such ‘pun’ should not have been said in an international space. Even so, not while standing next to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel – who just happened to be female.
Next, there was the perspective that social media might have dragged it on a little too much. Of course, all the ladies still condemned the statement regardless. However, to my dismay, a male colleague asked what was wrong with him making that statement. What was wrong in the president of a country saying a woman belonged in his kitchen, living room, and the other room?!
So maybe I tried not to overthink it the first time, but having a ‘guy’ ask me what was bad in a man saying a woman, or his wife if you may, was a cook, a cleaner, and a sex object (my interpretation) might not have settled well with me. I have tried not to call myself a feminist, so I would rather see this commonsensically and not give it the joy of being a feminism issue. If there are really men who think that way, I can only wish your wives well. Regardless, your opinions still count. Let me know if you fall under that category and why.
Moving on. I wrote an article on “Rethinking feminism in Africa” a few months back. It was in an attempt to peek into feminism struggles in Africa and the much needed work that still needed to be done. Check it out below.
Feminism and all forms of activism geared towards women’s rights have been channeled from sexual harassment, sexual violence, and the patriarchal system we were born into; to wars against leadership gender gaps and office politics. African women now actively fight to occupy roles that are usually suited for men and challenge institutions that discriminate feminine participation.
That a considerably high number of African women now have the freedom to speak up and contest just as men would, goes to show how much we have evolved in the fight for equality as Africans. However, while it seems that most of the evils surrounding feminism in Africa have been warded off, and the worst has passed; there is ardent need for us as a people, to strategically reposition ourselves and have a second look at feminism in Africa.
Previous centuries brought forth some of the earliest African feminists, such as- Adelaide Casey-Hayford of Sierra Leone, Charlotte Maxeke of South Africa and Huda Sharaawi of Egypt. Others like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Lilian Ngoyi were also resilient in lending their voices against women’s religious, cultural and political oppression as well as manipulation.
The thing is these women had garnered the wit to fight against the usual backlash because they undoubtedly believed in the possibility of the actualization of equality or at least a considerable level of respect for the feminine gender. Some of whom drew inspiration from the few powerful women who were rulers and authorities such as – Queen Amina of Zazzau, Nehanda of Zimbabwe and Nzinga of what is now Mozambique.
We can rightly say that their travails were not in vain, as African women have started enjoying some leeway in holding public posts and voicing their opinions without prosecution. However, before we dust our feet from the past and move further by creating more female leaders than male or total world domination, it is essential that we do not leave anyone behind.
While 56-year old Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has gone ahead to beat all odds and become the president of Mauritius, we still have the case of the 13-year old Malawian forced into marriage with an alcoholic. It appears that we are progressing, yet neglecting a very important sect – those in dire need of help. Pathetic sagas relating to breast ironing, female circumcision, wife beating, trafficking, forced prostitution and the many related ills; seem unending in some not-so-developed parts of the continent.
The victims of these are usually more often than not, traumatized or in extreme cases, killed. We can sit and blame the peculiar traditions and cultures that antagonize these; or we can suit up, retrace our steps, and broadly tackle these issues.
National constitutions, United Nations, World Health Organization and a number of agencies; have put mechanisms in place and commendably strived to protect and help in this battle. However, we (particularly African Women), need to lay aside some of our possibly idealistic feminine ambitions and pause for a minute to save a life.
As we commend and celebrate the works of Leymah Gbowee, Minna Salammi, Yaba Badoe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the other modern day African Feminists, let us strive to include our names and make feminism an All-African issue.