By Afia Kwakyewaa Owusu-Nyantakyi
2017 was an interesting year, given events that happened as well as the conversations that spurred from those events. From dinner tables to online spaces, there were several social issues that erupted and women were right in the thick of it, globally and locally.
In my own backyard, Ghana, I want to just say how impressed I have been with the vocality and unabated stance taken by women advocates this year. Collectively and Individually, feminism and its constructs were actively discussed and broken down. If that’s not how change starts, then I know nothing (John Snow). Body shaming, sex shaming, gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, oh yes, our voices rang loud and clear.
I mean, take Rashida Black Beauty for example. When this young was thrown into the online space, because of an old nude video she made, the moral harbingers were ready to tear her to shreds. Of course, being a GHANAIAN woman, she dared not have her own agency or sexual journey, without people having an opinion about it. Without any understanding of her background, people were ready to school us on the moral integrity. a sixteen-year-old lacked. Condemned, I remember, was the word.
But boy, was I proud of our feminists. We were relentless in our defense. In other words, you better stay woke if you are going to discuss sexuality without owning your hypocritical and warped view of sex and morality.
My biggest takeaway from that saga, as I explore my own feminism, is the importance of a united call for equality for women, that cuts across class and orientation.
I recognize that women revolutionaries can at time misrepresent or marginalize others when they do not fully experience the life of someone living the oppression of misogyny. Because, at the end, we must all admit, being dependent, confused, lost and insecure is part of what makes us human. In other words, I can openly say I haven’t always stood up for myself. I haven’t always supported other women. I haven’t always told off people who think I am incapable, because I am a woman or expect me to live within the confines of what a woman is.
Why? Because I am human. I have been nurtured to hold prejudices and entertained what is ‘acceptable’ of a woman. I don’t always know better. Feminism is hard because you learn and you school others. Believing and speaking of equality can be hard when we haven’t fully grasped the scope of what we deserve. You can only learn from others and your own experiences.
Being a feminist means I always struggle with my mode of delivery during any type of engagement. It is an exhausting job, sometimes, a thankless one. People simply are not willing to let up; by this I mean, many people (men AND women) aren’t willing to accept that patriarchy is the bane of our society. Men are too comfortable enjoying the privileges afforded to them by virtue of their sex and women are far too settled in receiving the crumbs of those privileges, even when it is at their expense. So when I realize I am dealing with a member of one of these two groups, you have to ask, will this be the type of conversation leaving me tired or inspired? Does this person believe in education and engagement or he/she is just here to piss me off with patriarchy cliches?
I remember speaking to Kinna Likimani, a reader and a Ghanaian feminist, on The Grey Podcast. She told me that over the years, she had decided long ago, not to teach or engage others on the matter. She said people will believe what they will, thus it must not cost her the energy to explain her “freedom” to you. In a lot of ways, I tend to agree, sometimes it’s really a waste of time. You can only actively work on yourself as a woman and prove daily, why you deserve to be here. On other days, I think of younger women who so desperately seek validation and are yet to understand they have just as much right to personal, physical, sexual, economic and emotional freedom as their male counterparts. Then I tell myself “one more time”.
I tend to ponder a lot about identity, power, feminism and whether they are inextricably linked or not. Can I be me and not the other sometimes. Can I want to be taken care of sometimes and be my own person sometimes? Must I pay for one at the price of the other? Women must every day chose either to assert her space and secure her voice every day. It is not a choice we make freely. Should I speak up when I harassed or catcalled on the street? Should I defend myself by speaking up when it may cost me something I desperately need? And when I do not, can I bear the betrayal of my inactions? It is a burden we must bear every day, knowing that women must sacrifice a bit of themselves for some peace of mind.
I remember one time, I pitched to a friend about asking his wife to do an interview with me on the Grey Podcast. Mind you, the only reason I asked him was that, I did not know her personally and I was hoping for an introduction. His response was, “I hope this won’t be one of that feminist nonsense”. Suddenly, after a very self-conscious laugh, I said “Oh no, this will not be that kind of interview.” Although I was telling the truth, why didn’t I tell him what I truly thought. What I should have said is, how sorry I feel for his wife, who doesn’t have his support to be the very best she can be. It gnawed at me many times that week. My inner pettiness wanted to pick up the phone and give him a good comeback. But then, it’s not about being indignant about what people do not understand. It is also not ignoring the white-hot rage I feel at patriarchy enablers who refuse the contribution they have made to suppress women. It’s knowing when to protect your energy from foolishness. I know now what it means to be deliberate about my beliefs and the peace it gives not to sell yourself short. It is a practice-till-you-get-it-right type of thing.
Being a feminist, it’s easy to get caught up in the sensationalism of it all. I realize it is necessary to pause and choose your battles. Amber Rose decided to show her bush to protest body shaming. Another Instagrammer decided to show her blood-soaked pad to protest… I am still not exactly sure for what: menstruation discrimination? •Shrugs•
I find it exhausting to still need to discuss what roles women and men must play domestically. I mean, in 2018, if we cannot understand, working women will NOT always perform these archaic roles assigned to us, I have nothing left to say. Anyway, I fully understand now that as women we all have our set of challenges. My feminism and its talking points may not be the same as yours. We will not always agree on perspectives, that’s all good. Yes, I do believe while we may share some similarities, the black woman’s feminism will be different from white women feminism. And amongst black women, our challenges are more divisive based on the parameters of class and nationality. That’s all good too.
What people do not know about Feminism is that it is a journey of true self-love for all that makes us women. It is a reflection of self-acceptance. It’s like looking in a full body mirror, taking in all the scars, stretch marks, wrinkles and saying, fuck you for thinking I do not deserve to be here. Feminism is a love story that teaches fairness, the beauty of vulnerability, the beauty of independence, and the freedom of choice. It is a power play that continues to test what the world could be like if patriarchy let down its reins.
Sometimes, I truly wish all women could live in an utopian heaven that allowed us to thrive in all our beautiful complexities, where we aren’t judged for our mistakes, where our pleasure can remain uninhibited, where we can assert ourselves without a struggle. But alas, we live here, with these male buggers. So, I find that even in my desire to be free of social expectations placed on me, I must still manage it until others can be brought up to speed. Because we truly can be magical when we finally understand each other