Feminist this, feminist that, femi -knee-st this, Femi-Nazi this, Tw-eminist that! Thats how a typical day starts and ends on my social media timeline. All sides, all genders and all creeds. The fight has become polarizing to the point that one cannot imagine it once was a joke because they will be called gender-shaming, misogynistic or patriarchal or worse. And the fights are happening even amongst the women too.

I have often wondered how the old feminists did it? How did they get through it? Or did they never get through? How can we fight for something for so long and have made such little gains on it? Therefore, I surmise that at the heart of this movement is a key piece that keeps acting as a saboteur to this whole mission.

Male patriarchy (which among hard core feminists is the heart of all darkness and dwelling place of Zerubbabel himself) has been described as men keeping women suppressed through cultural customs and norms to deliberately create inequality and oppression. In more cultural settings you see mention of breast ironing, female genital mutilation and labia elongation. These crude customs of yester-year have been parked at the doorstep of all men to bear full responsibility for. But, one quickly learns that men alone – even if they wanted to whole heartedly – cannot repeal these customs.

For example, breast ironing was started to flatten breasts of girls entering puberty so they wouldn’t be preyed upon by older men – by their mothers. This was so they could still be virgins when they were married off in a society that valued virginity but that would not punish men for defiling small girls and would rather punish them that speak truth to power.

In the case of labia elongation, the working theory it is that the practice is meant to make women “sweeter” for men because the labia gives extra sensation during sex. Cases where husbands return brides so their mothers so show them the “the bush” are not unheard of. “The bush” is the euphemistic term for girls entering puberty when they begin the labia elongation practice. This practice is enforced strongly by maternal aunties and mothers in order not to bring shame upon the family once marriage time comes.

The more gruesome FGM varies across different tribes but basically involves the carving out of part of or all of a girl’s labia and clitoris. This was ostensibly to prevent girls (who undergo this process on the cusp of puberty) from being errant wives. Its brutally enforced by societal structures and a ruthless shaming system

When I was in the Sebei region on the last #KoiKoiEast trip a few weeks ago, we sat around a fire and a man told us of a culture that praises courage and bravery. He said if your mother ever flinched at her circumcision (which they are working with government to eliminate for girls now by the way) everyone who disagrees with you would always refer to you as the “The one whose mother ran away” and these tags are hard to escape. Like millstones around one’s neck beckoning shame and derision from society. They stay. They hurt. They cut deep.

In all these cases, mothers, aunties and female figures in society play a central role in enforcement and adherence to these norms.

And that is where I get confused.

If we are fighting the men in our generation, are we not self-sabotaging? If a young man within your generation (those of you date cross generationally can stop skip ahead) says to you “I think my wife should wash my boxers” and you stand up bash him or a young woman your age says “I want a man to marry me, provide for me and in return I will raise his children and build our home” and they get railroaded out of town. You aren’t solving the problem. That’s their paradigm. That’s the construct in which they see their world.

But who framed that world? Who told them that these things were acceptable? That women should give up careers and sit at home and that they can’t be everything they ever should? It’s not the boy child who grew up alongside them chasing butterflies and eating mangoes.

And that’s why we must have the courage…

The courage to confront our parents about the things they haven’t done right by us in terms of educating us (not school fees, fool!). The absence of fear when taking down with belief systems, constructs, practices that contradict what we know to be logical truths must be palpable.

And that is both for everyone

Why?

Because only by facing our parents (the entire generation) who are bastions of sanctity and are revered can we truly begin to make a difference. We can’t be in a society where you were born in a polygamous family, you have never discussed that with your parents but you are out here calling all men trash. Or you are the child of a concubine, but you go around spreading misogynistic vitriol. You are only playing yourself child.

That’s why it takes courage…

It going to take courage for us to tell our parents that we are gay. That our friends are gay. That we work with gay people. That we share food with them. That we know them. That some of them struggle with it. That we work for them. That they have funny jokes. That they are people. Someone’s son and daughter. That others will never overcome their fear. And that others will never come out because they don’t have the courage.

It’s going to take courage to tell parents that forcing their children to live at home until they get married means they won’t understand the responsibility of living on their own, making decisions, independence, planning, adulthood, looking after their partners. It produces poor husbands and wives. Young people are facing these things in their marriages and their relationships. We need to talk about it.

It’s going to take courage for us to ask our parents who work in government to stop blaming everyone else and ask them what they did to stop the country from going to shit. What did they ever do to keep things on course? To reason with them when they say “we did it for you” and not be relenting in our quest to understand what our own role will be for our children.

It’s going to take courage to have conversations about having sex for favours. For jobs. For cars. For houses. For food. For gadgets. With men and with women. When our mothers did this for security, society respected them as kept women – church or no church; ring or no ring. But the men are different now and everyone fights for theirs. The conversations on men sleeping with women for money, access, property and rent? And men sleeping with other men to take care of their wives? How much courage will that take?

It’s going to take courage to bring up and challenge the tribalism, myopia and archaic attitudes parents get stuck in. Things like “we don’t marry those people” or “You would rather not marry” or “If you marry her I will not attend” must stop being heard as threats to people trying to form unions that are propagating the future. They must be taken down with boldness and furor.

It’s going to take courage to tell our parents that getting married and all the previously accepted forms of social validations will not be our portion. That some women do not want a husband or kids or to settle down. That some want to adopt children instead of having their own. That some men will just not be husbands. Those conversations take courage because they require us facing constructs we have known for a long time. But we must find it.

It is my hope that our generation finds the courage to face our parents and confront their demons because only then can we face our peers in honesty and good spirit. Only then can we stand and share with each other the sweat and tears it will take to rebuild this country after these old people are done phucking it up.

Or we could just give up and emigrate to another country and let it be someone else’ problem? The Chinese are coming here, expatriates come here and never want to leave, multinationals are coming over, oil companies are setting up. They already messed up their homes. If we leave, there’ll be no one to fight for this ugly red-dust pearl of Africa.

So, we stand and fight. As a generation. Men. Women. Gay. Straight. Religious. Atheist. African. Mixed. Light skin. Dark skin. Thicke. Small. Chubby.

Together.

But first, how to find that courage… to

 

11 thoughts on “Feminism, the enemy within and the courage of a generation

  1. The conversation about feminism is one that is very deep – we could have it over several flasks of tea/ coffee and we would never exhaust it. Feminism as a theory is highly contested from within and outside. One of the underlying differences between feminists is the issue of class – to that, you can add race and so on. For instance, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey could identify as feminists – this means that they could fundamentally subscribe to this ideology but due to their racial history, they are not equal. Now, imagine comparing a young Ugandan feminist to Oprah – the issue of class would come up. So, the so-called “enemy within” will always remain. Feminism becomes even more complicated when you discuss issues of norms. Take for instance a young Sebei girl – born and raised in Kampala having to learn that she has to face the blade ‘because that is the norm’ and yet her good friend Namusisi will not face the same fate simply because her norms/ culture is different. This lack of universality in our view of norms is what makes us unique and yet it could pause some serious questions for generations to come. Questions that will probably never be asked or even answered.

    So, are we talking about norms or patriarchy? Beyonce would claim or try to make the case that Women/ girls run the world, yet many of us know (or at least can imagine) how ‘patriarchal’ our society is. Now, this does not make it my fault or your fault [as men/ boys] that society is organised the way it is. Actually, it is the fault of the very founders of this system. But, it is our fault that we maintain it. And this is a point that you touch up on in your conclusion – that our generation finds the courage to challenge, to question and to change the order of things.

    Feminism as a theory maybe contested and perhaps appear confused but for what it’s worth, it has open the eyes of those who want to see and stirred debate for us to judge – Is our society built on a patriarchal foundation or not?

    Whether we agree or not, one thing remains clear, power is what drives society. You either have power or you don’t. But in the present day, it is increasingly evident that if we are born with any power its significance maybe very little if we do not continuously claim it or demand our entitlements. And that my friend takes courage (as you write). Even the Nyanzis of the present day might confess that.

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  2. We find courage by first accepting ourselves. We do that by taking time off from everything that influences our being, our views and characters, and search for understanding and knowledge of who we are. Then we learn ourselves, commune and have fun with ourselves, love and fight ourselves; weakness, shame and everything that hold us back from being courageous, then we preach ourselves.

    Without that understanding and knowledge we are continuously going to play this blame game and pass it onto our children and their children. And the cycle will continue…

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  3. Reblogged this on NangosyahTomWellard and commented:
    Nice read, this happens everyday my mind was particularly drawn to this

    “It’s going to take courage to bring up and challenge the tribalism, myopia and archaic attitudes parents get stuck in. Things like “we don’t marry those people” or “You would rather not marry” or “If you marry her I will not attend” must stop being heard as threats to people trying to form unions that are propagating the future. They must be taken down with boldness and furor.”

    I have heard a few ladies from the West say these things, “My parents can’t let me marry from outside my tribe.” like seriously why ? Hope for Change in the Future.

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  4. Personally I feel feminism has just become an excuse to divide us as humanity. Instead of fighting for equality for all, in terms of social, economic and political opportunity, and for cultures that don’t enforce gender stereo types that harm our progress as humanity, we instead get rail roaded by this enormous distraction that has become an ‘us vs them’ blame game. Yet the truth is if women are oppressed on a given society, its always been because they too have actively participated in entrenching it. Meaning all humanity are too blame and both sides must work together to change it all. May God grant us courage to fight together to repair the ills in our societies to make it better for all. Especially the courage to challennge our fore father’s traditions and bekiefs , strictly keeping what will benefit us all going forward.

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  5. We Gender Empowered Males (GEMs) agree that we need courage and more.
    As Feminists we advocate for equity not equality for it has been deemed that men and women will never be equal

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