I saw a hashtag online and it says ‘#freedomtobedifferent’. I really thought about the hashtag because it made an impression on me. The freedom to be different. Freedom itself is the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice and the freedom to be different is just as it is, the freedom to be different. To be a feminist in a patriarchal society like Nigeria and in my immediate environment is to be different. It is to have a different point of view from the rest of the masses and it is such a shame that women’s liberation is not part of the “normal”.
Identifying as and becoming a feminist is one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I don’t regret it. Now, being a feminist is a sexist environment like mine is the discussion we have today.
● Getting tagged as an extreme feminist (extremist)
The first time I was called an extremist was by a friend and I was so confused. All I did and will keep doing was to advocate for women’s liberation. I had to seek the opinion of my best friend, the Merriam Webster dictionary and I learnt extremism means ‘the belief in and support for ideas that are very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable’. So, this means everyone who has tagged me as an extremist thinks or believes feminism is not correct or reasonable. It is funny in the way sad things are funny and the only thing to blame is our sexist society. Sexism, by the way, means prejudice or discrimination based on sex, especially discrimination against women.
Being a feminist in an environment that tagged me as an extremist is one of the ways in which patriarchy rears its head every now and then. So, being a feminist among people who think women’s liberation is not correct and not reasonable is draining. It also serves as a fuel to further ignite my advocacy for my radical feminism. Getting tagged as an extremist is what I pass through as a feminist in a sexist environment.
● There are always those who play the role of devil’s advocate.
I remember telling one of my supposed friends I am a feminist and the response I got was ‘Iddy, don’t worry you won’t be a feminist by the time I’m done arguing with you. You can be an advocate for gender equality but not a feminist because feminists are women who hate men and only wants to be superior to men’. The moment you tell them you are a feminist, they start to offer their alternate views. In the words of Melissa McEwan,
‘There are the occasions that men (intellectual men, clever men, engaged men) insist on playing devil’s advocate. Desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: women’s issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my arguments for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, and want to argue just for fun. And they wonder, these intellectual, clever, and engaged men, why my voice keeps rising and why my face is flushed. And why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corner of my eyes. ‘Why do you have to take this stuff so personally’ asked the intellectual, clever, engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that is so much fun for them is the stuff of my life’.
● At the end of it all…
Feminism is the only tool against patriarchy. And as we know and as we have seen, some groups of people have gotten comfortable with patriarchy because it serves them and they benefit from the system. They are always around with their misogynistic and sexist views. I know of someone who defined feminism as visibility in a partner’s life and not equal rights. How do we stop sexism? How do we stop women’s marginalization? Well, there are some members of the feminism lite association of Nigeria who think the way is for men to respect the fact that women are unequal to men, which means women’s well being should be at the benevolence of men. But we can’t keep appealing to men’s sense of fairness and decency.
We have to deal with the society that enables male violence against women. The society that allows patriarchy to thrive. Being a feminist in a sexist environment gives me the opportunity to preach change. It gives me the opportunity to preach against discrimination of all kinds. The presence and recognition of sexism means giving feminists, like me, the opportunity to shatter it. You know it has to appear for it to disappear.
Thank you for reading through this post. If you have anything to add, please make use of the comments section below. Stay safe and don’t forget to wash your hands. I love you and you matter.