Dear Mr Immanuel,
Thank you foryour letter, which I and many feminists of African descent read with horror. Horror that you have so misunderstood our struggles, our aims and our passions.
Firstly, feminism is not categorised according to race. In defining us as African feminists, you give voice to White Supremacist Feminism. Feminism is the same, the world over. What we fight for is equal rights for both sexes; to see an end to traditional gender roles which constitutes the bedrock of inequality.
Secondly, there are many categories of feminism: Marxist Feminism, Conservatist Feminism, Radical Feminism, Liberal Feminism, and so forth. Each category has its own beliefs. As such, not all feminists believe that political equality is the answer to gender equality. Some believe that the eradication of gender roles is the answer to equal rights.
Thirdly, feminism is not relegated to womenfolk. Men, too, are pro-feminism. There are many men who believe in and fight towards putting an end to gender inequality. Nigerias Elnathan John (2013 Caine Prize Nominee), a writer and a lawyer, and Michael Flood, Australian sociologist and advocate for mens liberation (from gender roles) are good examples.
Dear Immanuel, you fail to understand (or ignore) the power of patriarchy. When the Christian and Muslim patriarchs dominated society in Gods name, they sowed the seed of the womens inferiority in the world. Women were forbidden to speak in gatherings of men, because their role was to be submissive. St Paul urged Christian wives to obey their husbands because he is the head. Ephesians 5:22-23.
You say we sit behind, twiddling our thumbs while you are robbed blind and made to pay exorbitant bride prices for our hands in marriage, then clamour for house chores to be shared. House chores should, indeed, be shared. Marriage is a partnership, not an employment.And, by that statement,you infer that house chores are reserved for women, and in true patriarchal form, you assigned gender roles. The very scourge we, with the UNs support, want the world to be rid off; in order to eradicate poverty, attain true democracy and sustain healthy development.
Again, in blaming us for allowing the bride price custom, you forget that the struggle for equal rights in Africa is a relatively young concept. Still, notwithstanding feminisms youth, we have achieved a lot. Women are no longer waved aside as silly creatures, incapable of intellectual thought. Besides, many Igbo women, who identify with feminism, have cried foul at the practice; women (and prize-winning writers) such as Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo and Buchi Emecheta. But, our men (in true patriarchal form) refuse the abolition of this age old custom; a custom born of greed and avarice; a custom which benefits them. Yet, you heap the blame at our door? Friend, you do us a disservice.
You mention the wife who bit off her husbands ear, and say we didnt denounce her act of barbarism, but clapped and whooped. Are we savages to rejoice over such a wicked act? Of course, she was violently abusive. Spousal abuse in whatever form is unacceptable. Yes, husbands too suffer spousal abuse. Not to be crass, but did the ear-biting wife say it was in her struggle for equality (as a feminist) that she bit off her husbands ear? Or did you drag feminism into a criminal justice domain for us to show our un-bias?
US Writer and Feminist Bell Hooks once said: To me, a woman cant be a feminist because she is a woman. She is a feminist because she begins to divest herself of sexist ways of thinking and revolutionises her consciousness.
However, friend, we do not need to give account of our beliefs. We do not need permission to fight for our rights. We are asserting it in every way we know how.
And one day, we shall be rid of gender inequality. Not because, the patriarchs okay it, but because their kitchens have been divested of its cooks, and their gilded cages freed of its princesses.
Published on the Nigerian Telegraph on the 29th of September, 2013.