By Wr. Muggy Warima
Sometimes back last year I was seated in a room waiting for a very serious meeting to start and there was a conversation going on. I cannot remember exactly what it was about but as one of the ladies was making her point, she retorted “You know I am a not a feminist but……” Honestly speaking, I did not hear anything she said after that. It is not that I want everyone to become a feminist but the tone she used felt like a gunshot to my knees. She spoke as if feminists were the enemies of human existence and should be stopped quickly before they cause irreversible damage to mankind. The second scenario was a very recent one. One of my friend tagged me in some Facebook post of some lady who was asking feminists to get their houses in order. I read through that post and it had some rationality in it. However, my comment was simple and concise; “I will not dignify this post by offering an explanation”
Yes, I am a feminist, an unapologetic one for that matter. It is my job to explain to you what my cause is all about and why I am championing it. But let me state here clearly without fear of contradiction that if you put forward an argument from a point of arrogance, I will either ignore you or tear you apart with your little knowledge. Note I said, arrogance and not ignorance. There are people who genuinely do not understand why others advocate for women. It is my pleasure to walk you through this cause step by step. Then there is this category of know-it-alls who advance some pedestrian argument such as “why do you do ABCD but when XYZ happens you do not address it?” I say this with authority because there are people who have appointed themselves to be God’s assistants in defining right and wrong. They only appear when things go wrong and are very quick to point them out. Unless you have been woken up in the middle of night because a girl is almost dying from a failed abortion or your life has been threatened because of defending a victim of gender based violence who has refused to be paid off to keep quiet or has seen a girl whose face has been destroyed by her boyfriend because she had not cooked for him by the time he was getting home then you have no right to tell a feminist what she can or cannot do. It is so easy to point fingers when you are looking outside from a closed comfortable room. When you do something and make sacrifices of equal magnitude as that of a feminist then you will be in a position to point fingers.
Anyway so the feminist movement has three waves but the most notable one is the second wave which started out between the late 50s and early 60’s spearheaded by the likes of Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem. Their goal was the full inclusion of women into the American mainstream society as equal partners with men. From this episode, other waves of feminism evolved and took very dynamic but interesting twists. So in essence, feminism is an ideological discipline that seeks to achieve political, social, economic, personal and social rights of women One may ask; why now and it seems as if women have an equal if not better platform with men? The answer is just as feminism has evolved so have the forms of gender discrimination not to mention that some of the ancient forms still prevail. Feminism as any other discipline is very wide and no single feminist can address the entire discipline on her own. Some of the categories include health, education, race, leadership, representation in government, work and economic growth amongst many others. That is why you will find one feminist focusing on the rights of women of colour while another is advocating the education interests of women. However, we support each other because we have a singular objective which is to improve the state of the female person around the world.
For those who think that a bunch of women woke up one day and felt like revolting against men, you are very mistaken. Feminism is not a cause against men. However, up until the mid-20th century, men were the sole law makers and law enforcers of most communities around the world and it is some of these laws that they came up with that harmed women. Therefore, to most traditional men, scraping of these detrimental rules felt like a direct attack to their authority and that is why feminism was perceived as a cause against men. The good thing is that some of these actions championed by early feminists have proven to be very beneficial which came as an utter surprise to some of these traditional men. Another interesting fact to note is that feminism is not only championed by women, great men of our time have left remarkable impact on this cause. Retired President Barrack Obama is one of these amazing men. His most notable achievement was the Obama Care which supported the access of affordable sexual and reproductive health care for women. In addition to that, the way he treated the First Lady, their daughters and other women in the government was really admirable. He encouraged and supported them to exploit their full potential without feeling threatened by their success. He was also the first sitting President to endorse the first female Presidential candidate in the United States. So that is a good real life example to borrow from.
Personally I focus on the issues of health, more specifically the sexual and reproductive health and the thorny issue of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). These are some of the very prevalent areas of discrimination against women in our country as well as some of the hardest to deal with. The legal framework is also quite ambiguous in dealing with some of these issues so there are times it is really hard to take action. On that note, I give a special shout out to one amazing woman who is doing her best to sensitize the public on how to handle cases of SGBV. That is Dr. Kizzie Shako, the police surgeon. Read more about her and her work on her blog ‘Vunja Kimya’
Promoting gender equity is listed as goal no 5 in the sustainable development goals (SDGs). SDGs were arrived at by the United Nations so any country that wants to achieve the Development Agenda 2030, must embrace feminism. It is no longer a choice but a requirement for all UN member states. Of course, there will be wannabe feminists who will want to reap from this noble cause, but that is so in every other venture so it is not the discipline that is rotten, just some few rogue people. Plus, we as feminists will fail every so often because we do not have all the answers but that only makes us human. Choose to practise positive feminism today, it is an ingredient for development.
PS: In case you need to know more about feminism, there is a lot of literature I can recommend, I will mention just but a few.
- The Feminine Mystique-Betty Freidan
- The Second Sex- Simone de Beauvoir
- The Beauty Myth-Naomi Wolf
- The Female Eunuch- Germaine Greer
- Lean In-Sheryl Sandberg
Talk to Muggy Warima through: firstname.lastname@example.org