Editor’s Note (On identifying as feminists)
Identifying as a feminist in such a misogynistic and patriarchal environment like ours isn’t an easy feat. Regardless of this, there are people who have embraced and owned the word. People who are striving daily to end the violent marginalization of women. Below is what few of them think about identifying as a feminist with different takes on it.
My dear friend, Temidire Adelakun should have been a part but she couldn’t due to an unforeseen event. Her message is “feminism is liberation”. As you read, I want you to sink in what every one of them has to say about their identities as feminists. And learn a thing and more in the process. Please, make use of the comments section to tell us your take if you also identify as one. Stay safe and don’t forget to wash your hands. Always remember you matter. Thank you.
Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob. On Identifying
It’s becoming so controversial now to call yourself a feminist thanks to the ridiculous misconceptions our patriarchal society has attached to feminism. But alas I don’t even mind being called “bitter and angry” anymore. Because there is nothing wrong with being bitter and angry when it’s about the trampling of my rights because of my gender. It’s funny how our society is obsessed with “nice feminism” which I always call censored feminism.
Feminism cannot be made likable and convenient in the face of oppression for there is nothing pleasant about that face. To ask that we should tone down our frustration against the violent marginalization of women and Queer, Poor, Trans, Disabled, etc. It is just the same as reducing, concealing and make minimal the grim severity of oppression. When I realized that my basic rights as a human being aren’t something that should be negotiated with curtsies, my idea of freedom has been revolutionary.
“Feminism can not be made likable, and convenient in the face of oppression for there is nothing pleasant about that face”.
Feminism has been such a beautiful gift in my life.
It gave me the air to question and the independence to never stay silent. Growing up in a misogynistic and highly patriarchal environment, I always struggled with living up to social norms. Gender roles and expectations of becoming a wife, good woman and desirable. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But the years of suppressing and conditioning women that our aspirations should be limited to nothing beyond them need to end. The years of policing and restricting women’s sexuality, education, bodily autonomy, individuality, social, political and economic visibility (sadly the list goes on) need to end.
As a BLACK QUEER AFRICAN WOMAN with an intersectional lens to my feminism. I will forever fight to dismantle the pillars and institutions that harm me. On the basis of my race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and even social class. Feminism has given me the ability to see that anything that threatens my existence and humanity needs to be burnt down to pieces.
Just like any other ideology or movement with a large number of proponents, there are many differing ideas about what it means to identify as and be a feminist. For those who might not be familiar with the term or those whose understanding of the term may need refreshing, feminism is the belief that women inherently possess the same worth and value as men because they are human. On this basis, feminism demands for the recognition of, and respect for the autonomy and individuality of women. It supports that women should be given equal and fair treatment in all aspects of society, access to equal opportunities with men, and freedom from gender roles and other forms of patriarchal control and oppression.
When it comes to the topic of identifying as a feminist
My opinion may seem a bit contentious. I do not believe men can legitimately self-identify as feminists and I do not think the issue of what they (including myself) label themselves as should be what they preoccupy themselves with if they really care about the plight and concerns of women.
From my perspective (and the perspective of quite a few women in the feminist community), there is a potentially high risk of “letting the wolves into the chicken coop”, if men, the primary oppressors of women, are freely allowed to identify themselves as advocates and champions of women’s liberation. Allowing men this privilege can lead to counterproductive situations where men are given the power to sabotage the progression of feminism and the feminist movement by infiltrating feminist spaces with biases they are yet to unlearn and do away with. Calling them pro-feminist principles, philosophies or evaluations simply because they identify as one.
Against that backdrop
I believe that (one of) the best things men can do for feminism and the feminist movement is not to fixate on whether he can or cannot wear a feminist badge, scoring virtue points and superficially signaling to the world how much he respects women because he has a sister, for example. But to genuinely listen, be receptive, and to learn and unlearn new perspectives on women and preexisting biases against women respectively.
He should do his own part by applying his new-found knowledge and perspective, not by telling women how to be feminists or acting as the arbiter of whether the feminism they practice is real or fake. But by holding his fellow men accountable when he sees them exhibit sexist and misogynistic behavior towards women. He should hold himself up to that same standard and continue trying to examine himself for biases that he may not yet be aware of. In the end, if you are indeed a feminist and/or a feminist ally at your core, you won’t need to bother identifying as one. It’s something feminists (women) will recognize within you by the things you say and the attitude you have towards them and their cause.
“I believe that (one of) the best things a man can do for feminism and the feminist movement is not to fixate on whether he can or cannot wear the feminist badge”.
As a feminist
The major reason I identify as one is that I feel when you put a name to something, it gives life to that concept. If we didn’t have names, though it is true that we are humans, our identities would not be solidified. It would be difficult to differentiate each other. I call myself a feminist also because I believe that having a word allows us to organize. Naming patterns are of great interest to me as an African Feminist. Especially because it is wrongly said that we do not have words for the feminist in our local languages.
“I call myself a feminist because I believe that words allow us to organize. Naming patterns are of great interest to me as an African feminist. Especially because it is wrongly said that we do not have words for the feminist in our local languages.”
I am an Igbo woman.
In Igbo, we have terms like “Ijele Nwaanyi” and “Naked Wire”. They are used to describe women who display overtly feminist qualities. Igbo is also a very feminist language unlike English that has only one word for feminists. Igbo has a range of words that bless women who refuse to be let down. I personally have been called “Agaracha” which is a synonym for a very fierce woman. Again, I don’t think the word feminist is a word I should be ashamed of. My foremothers have been doing this work of pushing back against injustices. So calling myself a feminist is a way of honoring that legacy.
Identifying as a feminist
This means I no longer have to live base on what people, society, expects of me. But what I want for myself and believe is right for me. If I make mistakes, I know it’s because I made them and not because someone made me make them. It’s no longer having to agree reluctantly, uneasily when I hear people preaching about what women SHOULD do just because we are female and made to believe that God told us to.
Identifying as a feminist means I no longer have to pretend to smile when I am upset. And taking obvious insults from elders who believe that no matter what you say to us women, we should remain robotic, never talking back or showing anger and distress. We just smile, keep smiling, even when it hurts the most. It’s not judging my fellow women for their life choices when they obviously are grown adults who are capable of making their own decisions.
“Identifying as a feminist means I no longer have to live base on what people, society, expects of me. But what I want for myself and believe is right for me. If I make mistakes, I know it’s because I made them and not because someone made me make them”.
Identifying as a feminist is realizing
That I am a whole human being, nothing was taken or removed. Knowing that being a complete, individual person means I don’t require another human being to make me whole. And that loving and embracing another human being does not make me weak. It shows I am strong enough to love and worthy to be loved in return. It’s knowing that my overall happiness depends solely on one person, myself and not someone else. I make myself happy.
Identifying is knowing that being feminist does not mean that I aspire to be a man, because who would want that? But rather means that I have seized back the mantle of my femininity. I embraced myself wholly as the brilliant, feminine woman I am and succeeding in every sphere I find myself in. It’s walking confidently with my head held high because I am assured of my place in society. Not because I have children or have the designation, Mrs, but because I am a human being.