Because I am not angry. I’m okay with serving the man of the house his food. On a tray. Perform a slight curtsy, uttering sweet nothings as I place the tray of food down. I’m okay with him being (labelled) ‘the man of the house’, let him be the head of the family – I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being the homemaker; caring for the kids whilst he’s out tilling the land for his children and his children’s children. I could be terribly simplifying it and reducing the scope of the feminist agenda. But that’s the thing, when responding to the question of whether or not I’m a feminist, I feel the immediate need to rule out ‘anger’ and the positioning of the man in the house, as problematic (for me).
I don’t have a husband yet nor do I have children so I can take it if you will suggest that the ease of which I talk about these things that I am ‘okay’ with, is due to lack of experience and understanding of gender roles and how, if disproportioned, can prove to be an injustice to the woman. I actually agree but in a world of options, it would either be staying to make things better or leaving before I break. Again, I may be making things seem simpler than they actually are. But say then for instance, I’m not particularly aggrieved by what feminists perceive as inequality in the home, do I qualify at all to be one? What should bother me in order to deposit me in the feminist agenda? Is it a combination of societal injustices or can I still march with my fist up in the air if I only identify with say two issues out of the five that may be presented?
A friend of mine, having seen the light of course, boldly testified to being a feminist. “I can’t say I am”, I had said to her on that glorious and sunny day. “It’s okay, it will come to you. I was also like that – I just didn’t get it and couldn’t relate to what they were on about. But it just comes and you will know”, my friend had gently responded. It sounded like something another friend had said to me regarding putting on make-up; that the interest and eagerness to learn how to make my face up would come. I digress, but my point is that a couple of years later, I’m still on the same page. But there’s something that I reckon is important in what she said, that part of ‘relating’. I do have the understanding that feminism confronts discrimination based on gender and it goes without saying that should one experience this level of discrimination and have a tangible encounter of being treated as lesser than, then without a doubt, they’d be able to relate, at least to some level, with the feminist agenda. And perhaps understanding alone is enough for a person to launch them into being an active feminist. I get it. I am not denying that inequality between the genders exists nor am I denying the reality of the issues that the feminist brings up. I just can’t identify with the ‘anger’ part of it, that being the vibe that I often pick up. And of course, I’m not interested in challenging the man’s place in my house (which by the way I have everything to do with) and obviously, he must show up for it because it comes with a lot of responsibilities. And this is a matter of preference – aren’t we all selfish, in one or another?
Google defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Wikipedia: “Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the genders.” We have a bit more meat here. Equality between the genders is advocated for in different spheres of existence; the political, economic, personal and social. I get it. I reckon I want the personal space left to me and my preferences. I also get it more clearly from an excerpt from WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS, a talk delivered by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And it’s in between some of the lines I will share below that I am better able to motivate my stance.
“Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable. Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender, or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable…”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Changing the status quo is not only uncomfortable but demands self to be intentional and carry through with the agenda. And often that calls for work and consistency and as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I’m not just lazy to join in the movement and shake things up to address the problems of gender inequality especially in the ‘personal’ realm? And as I wonder too, I am not particularly moved to nor am I bothered by being okay with being a homemaker and still be flourishing as whatever else I want to be or in whatever else I want to do. Because it’s possible (with help) and that’s what I’m intentional about. At least for now, that’s where I am. So I don’t know about what my friend said alluding to something that will come and make feminism make sense to me… “It will come and you will relate”, she had said. I don’t know, I still reckon I’m just not angry (enough).
“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m nodding my way through this and in total agreement. I’d probably be that person questioning the use of the word ‘feminist’ as opposed to just admitting to being an advocate of human rights, generally. But I understand the need and purpose in being clear to use ‘feminism’ and intentionally highlighting and addressing gender inequality at which women are at the receiving end. This makes so much sense and again, I get it. But for some reason, I am still not at a place in which I can confidently call myself a feminist.
Reading about feminism is informative, one gets it. Reading Chimamanda and listening to her speech is encouraging and good too but there’s a snap and break that happens on the ground when you experience feminists. The air is different, I really struggle with the vibe. I don’t feel welcome and I struggle to relate because of how seemingly hostile and mad she is. The feminist. She’s at war and perhaps yes, she literally is fighting for her recognition and place in society. And this is why I say the reason I am not a feminist is that firstly and foremost, I am not angry. I’m not chanting, ‘Men are trash!’ I’m not up to here! I’m not mad as hell! And I need to be. I need to be fed up by the status quo. Right?
Simply put, for Chimamanda, a feminist for her is, “A man or a woman who says ‘yes’ there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.” This I can sign up for. Online somewhere. I can like this as a status update – it’s inviting and inclusive. I don’t know what happens when we get to the ground. I’m certainly not there.