The moment feminism became sententious – the moment when some women came, hand in hip and declared, directly or indirectly, that their feminism was superior to other women’s feminism – I knew it was a house divided against itself, unable to stand and make headway.
It began in 2014 in a Wonderland Magazine interview where Emma Watson, a bona fide feminist said she “felt conflicted” at Beyonce’s declaration of feminism after the release of the singer’s 2013 self-titled album. Watson thought that Beyonce’s feminism came from a male voyeuristic experience.
Recently, Watson came under fire too for appearing in a Vanity Fair magazine shoot where she revealed a sizable part of her décolletage and she is not only having her own feminism impugned, she is being dragged into remembrance at her comments regarding The Queen Bee’s feminism three years ago.
Kim Kardashian had also come under fire when she was in a mad streak of breaking the internet with nudies and former child actress Chole Moretz took it upon herself to school Kim by telling to inspire young people beyond posting pictures of her body. Not too long ago, Chole posted a revealing picture of herself on her Instagram page, taken by her boyfriend and who would ever forget her Nylon magazine cover?
So the string of hypocrisy goes on and on and feminism becomes a ground for not minding your own business.
I first came across feminism in Mariama Ba’s “So Long A Letter” and it resonated with me instantly. I could identify with issues like polygamy and its torturous effect on a woman’s psyche, the way a woman’s feats and lifelong achievement are only measured by the number of children she has and her ability to maintain the home front, and the importance of the education of the girl child. Then outside Ba’s literature, matters such as Female Genital Mutilation, Child Marriage, battery, equal opportunities for women would always spark a deep conversation in my heart. And I knew earlier on in my literary career, that I owed it to myself to speak up and apply action concerning these issues.
But when feminism became a motley of tenets, from the serious to the mundane, I felt the movement was taking on more than it bargained for. Not all decisions are political. From how you decide to wear your hair and makeup to how well and ready you are to whip up something in the kitchen and whether you want masochism in bed or whether you want to be spooned. Some things are mere daily resolutions that do not necessarily require to be looked at through the lens of feminism. A movement that ought to inspire freedom now appears repressive to women. I find it needless to question every footstep I take and wonder if I just walked like a feminist.
Moreover these tenets that one tends to apply to one’s daily life were coined by another who was not raised the way you were, who does not share your values and your convictions. Let us say for instance you love to cook. Your soul stirs at the sight of a boiling broth. Your muse conjures like the genie of the lamp when you hear the clatter of pots and pans. You find baking cakes therapeutic; it is the only thing that calms you when you are angry. Then all of a sudden you stumble upon the tenets of a feminist who is naturally indifferent to cooking and believes as a feminist you belong to the study table than to the chopping board and now you begin to feel “conflicted” about the love of your life—cooking.
This is where living your own truth comes in. This is where you need to sit yourself down and write out your own convictions. When someone starts to act weird, our people would say, something is playing music for him in his head; music that only him can hear. When someone doles out tenets and feminism becomes a movement with many revised standard versions, dear sister, step aside and write your own tenets and live it proudly and in the confines of your life. Do not impose it on anyone because I do not know what orchestra plays in your own head. Believe in your own nous and agency: in your freedom and capacity to act in a restrained world. I do not know your struggles. And if your convictions feel too over-burdened with the label of feminism, feel free to ditch it. One can believe in all noble courses for women, one can fight against anything that reduces women to subhumans without the need to laden oneself with a title. For your own story and version of events are valid whether anyone agrees or not.