On Being An African Feminist

We are very excited to introduce you to Minna aka Ms. Afropolitan, our newest London-based Parlourista who will be sharing her global perspective with us. Be sure to check out her site, MsAfropolitan today!

With artists like Beyoncé and Jessica Alba recently claiming to be feminists, it might be the case that we will soon see an F-word revival—which would be awesome.

Yet feminism is not simply about being an independent or successful woman. It is about recognizing and taking a critical engagement with structures that may oppress women, such as the institution of marriage, elements of religious doctrine or music videos. But more than anything, feminism is a lifestyle. As recorded in the 2006 charter of African Feminists:

“… we define ourselves as feminists because we celebrate our feminist identities … Our feminist identity is not qualified with ‘Ifs’, ‘Buts’, or ‘Howevers.’ We are feminists. Full stop.”

Or as novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who calls herself a feminist who likes lip gloss, said:

“… being a feminist is about more than outrage; it is about being a woman who likes and stands up for other women.”

As for me, I’ve been a feminist since my early 20s. Since then my worldview, relationships and life choices have all been shaped by the conviction that gender structures should not limit personal and professional growth. I believe that every woman should have that right.

Being a feminist has been a challenge on many levels, and it still is—even in romantic relationships. From when a man offers to put on your coat to the stage where you’re delegating house chores, it can be difficult to defy social patterns that place a woman as subordinate to a man (by the way, I don’t necessarily mind a guy helping with outerwear as I discussed in more detail over at men’s mag Webster Style). Despite the challenges, which include not only dealing with the opposite sex, but also with labels, stereotypes and career choices … feminism has been one of the best things that ever happened to me. It has freed me from a life where gender roles rather than my heart’s passions define me.

Unfortunately many people disregard feminism without really understanding the idea. In England, for example, women earn 28% less than men for the same jobs and in Nigeria women earn 51% less than their male counterparts. Literacy rates for women in Africa are substantially lower than those of men. African women suffer from poverty, HIV, violence, neglected health care in notably greater numbers than African men. In the Western world, the female body is objectified to a point where a recent study showed that eight out of ten women are unhappy with their bodies. Feminism is about opposing these very violations of women’s rights.

Read the rest at MsAfropolitan.

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