Thursday, 11 July 2013

OPEYEMI FASHETAN - The Need and Case for Feminism

This is What a Feminist Looks Like
 Feminism seeks to achieve equal social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.Simple, but that sums up an entire world of rhetoric as seen in the modern world. The misconceptions and ignorance of that word and how it works deserves several conferences, research teams, white papers and interviews; and it still will not be enough.

I have come to understand that the word ‘Feminism’ is associated with a lot of misgivings. Some men take to their heels at the sound of the word. Some people say feminists are anti-men in all respects. My friend, Niyi Abiri, thinks feminists are afraid of being female. Another friend, ayoSholola, thinks I shouldn't be associated with such word. I understand all the emotions, feelings, and thoughts on feminism, but I am unapologetically a feminist.

Over the years, there have been issues that affect women, men and the society in general. I have heard people label them women issues, when it comes to rape, family planning, maternal mortality, sexual harassment, fistula, FGM – Female Genital Mutilation, equality, and oppression. But the truth is this: it is everyone’s business. No society would thrive in the midst of women oppression. We have basically tried to justify some of these things by entwining culture and religion. Culture should not be a source of sadness or used as a tool to justify unfair treatment of anyone. So also is religion.

I need feminism because many girls are raped, even young children, daily in Nigeria and around the world without getting the necessary redress. And with the way people dismissively castigate victims with words such as: “why did she dress that way?”; "why was she walking in secluded corners?”; “why did she visit him?”we shame victims of rape into silence. We treat them like they invited people to violate their bodies and we stay trying to define what rape is and is not. In the end, justice is not given in majority of those cases.

I need feminism because up till today, somewhere and somehow, a qualified woman is being denied promotion in the work place or some key positions because she will eventually give birth requiring the employer to grant her maternal leave to cater for her kid(s). The disparity in pay is another area to look at. If I work as well as you do, I should earn as good as you earn. I don’t have to choose between a safe pregnancy and a job. Every woman has the right to become herself and do whatever she needs to do that gives her a purpose in life.

Feminism for me is the concept of a woman having total and complete rights over her body, decisions and actions. The reproductive right of women cannot be overemphasized. When to give birth, and how is becoming more pertinent to women issues around the world. You cannot totally separate the lack of reproductive rights of women from the high maternal mortality we are recording.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, her well being, and her dignity.” Some women have died in the course of pregnancy due to the illegality of abortion, but of course, abortion is a part of reproductive healthcare. And everyone needs access to it, as long as it is safe to do so. The right to decide when and how I reproduce should be my business. Of late, we have become too interested in the fetus than the woman carrying the fetus.

I need feminism because our society is gradually making marital rape and domestic violence look cool. You hear words like but “he’s your husband, your head, you don’t have to complain.” So women keep quiet in the midst of so much sorrow because their Mum has said “don’t shame our family”, “you can’t leave your husband even if he beats you” or “You have to endure”. Some of these battered women stay put in an abusive/violent relationship for the sake of their children or for the want of staying married. There’s the special thing attached to being a Mrs. Somebody, even if the Mr Somebody practices for Olympic boxing with your face. So many women stay in abusive relationships/marriages because of financial incapability. Where do they start from? The lack of a sustainable income is central to those decisions. They have had to live, maybe, as a full time housewife and do not have a kobo to fall on when things go awry.

We need to wrestle control back!

Feminism for me is not begging for political participation and some trashy 35% affirmative action for women. Begging for political participation only makes me less than you. If I desire to have it, let me have it. This is not about just having women hold key positions at the helm of affairs, because they are women and you want to do them a favour. Don’t offer me an appointment because I am female or for my beautiful face. Let me have it because I am qualified. The discrimination of the male folks in allocating political appointments and in voting for candidates needs to stop. Men started voting in Nigeria in 1922 while women started voting in all parts of the country in 1979, despite this, nothing has changed really. Political development requires the participation of both men and women. The Nigerian constitution provides for the right to participate in public life –  for everyone!

Feminism for me is every man and woman achieving their dreams with nothing holding them back. In such situation, the society will progress.

I read some quotes about the need to put girls in driving seat, if you want to drive progress in the world. This is a no-no for me. Nobody is just going to put you in the front seat. You have to work it out, you have to earn it, you have to sustain it and you have to justify it.

A reason to advocate for feminism, for me, is the many girls who are forced into marriage with men old enough to be their grandfathers. Girls! Not brides. They stand a risk of fistula, low or non existent education, sexually transmitted infections and so on. We have tried for so long to tie the many evils the girl child is made to live with, with culture and religion. But of course, our male children don’t take wives at that age. The girl has to stay back and watch her brother go to school because spending on her education is a waste of time and resources. We need to stop treating each other like enemies.

Sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions and work place is gradually becoming an accepted norm. Lecturers demanding sex from students in exchange for good grades seem to be a cultural adaptation in our schools. Most of these girls can hardly talk about these issues, let alone getting justice because fellow lecturers will join in, in frustrating them, including the female lectures.

Feminism for me is: raising, keeping, teaching, supporting other girls and women all over the world to achieve their dreams. The joy of watching them succeed against all odds cannot be quantified. A great mentor/mentee relationship works wonders. We need relationships, involving friends across the borders. Successful mothers helping younger girls reason, and helping them with useful tips that will stand them in good stead for a lifetime.

Feminism for me is self determination, speaking up against every form of evil, achieving my dreams, just as it is okay for men to work their socks off and succeed, I also want to do the same. The benefit cannot be overemphasized.

And, No! I don’t hate Men; I am a feminist, I speak for the female folks and I enjoy being a woman, an awesome one at that.

I am @Flofash on twitter



  1. Oh well... Very well said! But...

    1. But what,Suraj?? I am listening. :)

  2. Opeyemi, thank you for voicing our pains in such a strong manner. I relate with you and declare here that by the standard of your writing and the rights they push for, that I'm proudly a FEMINIST!

  3. Well, apart from this being a good writeup, its also educating. Just that I think more should be done to enlighten the ignorant women out there who believe feminism is meant to be a competitive social status! True feminism should be born out of sympathy for the women folk & how they're being mistreated in our society NOT some circumstances-induced feminism such that we have in Nigeria! The perspective of most women is that feminism teaches aggresiveness against the men folk! So most of them pick up the feminism status as a weapon to fight their disappointments! Feminism is a sort of advocacy/activism for equal rights for the female folk! It shouldn't be a chance to get equal with the wrongs that you've encountered from men in an aggressive manner! Rather it should be an opportunity to push for equal chances in the society! Feminism goes beyond your marriage & family.. Its a societal status! I can go on & on but I think I should rather type down my thoughts on this as a rejoinder.. Maybe!

  4. I wish majority of people believe this and I mean ladies. To most its all about Girl"s Power. Well how do a feminist balance her home and the feminism? Thanks

    1. What exactly do you mean by girl power? Why is it okay for only men to be powerful? Feminism goes way beyond family and marriage. There's no balancing of role any where. There's feminism and there's family .

  5. Yes, feminism is a great view, it has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It has helped open the doors for women in our workplace, communities and so on.

    But this view has gone wild and it’s affecting some homes. In the view of feminism some marriages are been affected, wife competing with her husband in the hope of taking home the same pay check or even higher, there is nothing wrong with that but wife’s are neglecting their main duties, as help mate in their family/homes (there is house and there is home##)
    In the view of feminism woman, some woman now feels that because they are in control of their body that gives them the right for abortion. Abortion is very popular; it’s the new thing in town which is not cool. Feminism does a lot of good things at the same time the view of woman’s power is getting absolutely ludicrous. i also enjoy being a woman, a brilliant one at that.