My baptism into feminism was through Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 Ted Talk, Why we have too few women leaders
. I listened to this talk in 2012 in form 1 and it is the first time, the word feminism made sense. Before then (and really I was a kid), feminism always had a negative connotation. It still carried the implied meaning it has today -feminists are angry women. And of course, I did not want to grow up as an angry woman. I had experienced first-hand the negative correlation between success and likability for women. In my class in primary school, I noticed too early that boys were not interested in crushing on me. I was too focused, too aggressive, too smart…I was not going to add an angry woman to that equation.
But listening, to Sheryl made me realize that I actually lived in a privileged world where I could choose whether to subscribe or to unsubscribe to feminism. It is the world you and I live in where our sisters, mothers, best friends, daughters, and aunts are employed, in university, making business moves. So we consciously do not think of the inequality gap that still exists between men and women. When women talk about feminism, we think they are angry, we think they have not been loved before, we think that they are complaining-we think they are asking for special treatment. But the other truth, that we fail to see, is that we still live in a highly skewed world that leans towards men. Where girls still have to drop out of school because of early pregnancies, where girls still lack access to sanitary towels, where women are still paid less for the same jobs they do as men, and where the work done at home by women is not considered as work.
Sheryl pointed out in 2010 that out of the 190 heads of states in the world, only 9 are women, and ten years later, we have only moved that number to 20. The percentage of women in top management in corporations across the world still remains below 30% and that of women elected to parliament positions is well below 20%. Whenever I talk about feminism to people, I am often asked, what about men? To which I say two things; the first is that championing for women and advocating for their rights has never meant we oppress or neglect men-it is not a piece of the pie that will end when another party gets it. The second is that refusing to accept the need for feminism is refusing to recognize the privilege that patriarchy affords men. Both men and women should live in an equitable world and that should count for something.
I have long wished to talk about feminism; and I suppose the delay has been in the process of becoming a woman myself. Of learning and unlearning. Of spending days reading and listening to other feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi, Elizabeth Gilbert, Martha Karua, Dr. Njoki Ngumi, Scheaffer Okore and wondering if I could match up to that strength and courage. Of admiring other feminists who are my age- Malala Yousazfai and Vee Khativu and wondering, how did they get it so fast, so early. But also of feeling that when I fail, I am failing other women. But really, I am learning that refusing to talk about women is also refusing to acknowledge the privilege that I have. That I have a voice, an audience (albeit small), and a button passed on by exemplary women who have fought for me to be where I am today. So I am here to talk a little bit about women.
I want to talk about women and finding love, women in education, women in politics, women and reproductive justice, why feminism matters, and why policies such as affirmative action is still important. I will keep you updated on how this goes and I hope you too can start talking about women.
Have a great week ahead!