Although feminism and I are now going steady, I’m still discovering new things about it all the time, and am continually reconstituting my ideas on the subject.

Beth Hamilton-Cardus

Of late, whenever my friends discuss girls, women issues and concerns, they ask for my opinion. I am asked on occasions to write and speak about women, about my views as a young woman.

Why?

I am a self-confessed and proud Feminist.

However, this was not the case two years ago. In fact, while I had interacted with the term feminism, I barely understood it and my definition, then, was “I don’t think people should say bad things about women.”

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Well, I bet there are more like me, perhaps, you probably think like I did. I have grown up without any obvious feminist figurehead. Or if there was one, I did not know it. We did not know what this word was, although we associated it with and to women. And, the few times I have seen women champion their rights, they were labeled: bitter divorcees. Or those women who don’t like to cook or even worse, referred to as Lesbians.

It wasn’t until I started interacting with YWLI that I realized I was a feminist.  I found out that the feelings of injustice and inequality on women were shared by many. This was my chance to be empowered and pass it on to others. I knew I was part of a bigger team, one which was actively making a difference, and I loved that sense of belonging. I was home.

I also wanted to be a feminist because over time I felt inadequate due to society’s treatment and expectations of my gender.

Feminism is simply a doctrine that advocates equal rights for women. It comes in three strands: (i) Conservative Feminism that men and women have complimentary roles.  (ii) Liberal Feminism calls for equality for all and (iii) Radical Feminism sees the oppression of women as fundamental and the most basic form of oppression which stems from male dominance.

In Africa, it is evident in the struggle by women against patriarchal control. Gwendolyn Mikell in her book African Feminism notes that “African feminists are not, by and large, concerned [only] with issues such as female control over reproduction or variation and choice [neither] within human sexuality, nor with debates about essentialism, the female body, or the discourse of patriarchy. The feminism that is slowly emerging in Africa is distinctly heterosexual… and concerned with ‘bread, butter, and power’ issues”.

Thus we see women organizations and even individual women who have exemplified what it is to be feminist, whether knowing or otherwise. And have had an impact beyond their countries borders. Ladies like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kathambi Kinoti, Malala Yousafzai, Nicole Chesoni, Aminata Touré, Joyce Banda, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among many others, fit this bill. Then, there is Taylor Swift who when asked whether she considers herself a feminist she said, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” She was describing equality, and interestingly, equality is what feminism is all about.

In my growth in feminism, I realized that this is not a women-only subscription. I have interacted with men like Kwamchetsi Makokha, a communication consultant who is a proud feminist.

Feminism is a way of life, a lifestyle, a culture. It is not about sacrificing feminine qualities. Ladies like Sheryl Sandberg, ventured into technology and business – fields considered masculine – and soared to its helm to being the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. She is one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. She encouraged women to “sit at the table, seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.”

Feminism isn’t a member’s only club; neither do you get a badge or a trophy for having the right opinions. For me, feminism is about knocking down the ‘gender’ box we’re placed in by society or even ourselves.

Now, I have reinforced my initial definition of feminism. I have added that: if you acknowledge that women are harassed, disadvantaged and victimized because of their gender, and you have a firm commitment to end it, to uphold gender equality and the desire to work toward such equality: You are a Feminist.

First Published at http://www.ywli.org

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