Twitter is one of the leading frontiers of virtual interaction. It is a space where brevity in speech has been achieved at a level WAEC Summary questions could never imagine. With 140 characters, people are able to communicate efficiently, share news stories and make fun of people a tad too much. Trolling, as it is called, is the height of cyber bullying and is more predominant on Twitter. With the aid of the Trending feature, people are easily able to find preys to pounce upon and unleash jibes behind their keyboards they otherwise will not have been able to utter in real life. Over the weekend, one of such Twitter incidents occurred.
Dabbling in the subtleties of the matter makes my blog sound like a gossip blog. The long and short of it all was, a guy made fun of a self-identified feminist who had taken part in some picture contest and was not shortlisted. Nothing was the same on Twitter for the next 24 hours.
The tweets which followed that spat portrayed a number of things, the most poignant of which is the existence of a chronic case of sexism in the country. Women continue to be valued by the standards of beauty set forth by society. In a patriarchal setting like ours, society largely equals men. What men deem as beautiful is what usually flies as beautiful. So the tweets mocking this lady in question was mainly because she apparently did not measure up to that standard of beauty society has set forth. What this standard is baffles me, even for a picture contest which tried to celebrate black bodies which had not yielded to white superiority.
Maybe the mocking was payback for previous actions of this lady. Apparently she is the type of feminist who goes on a man hating hunt with every tweet. Might be true, might not be true. But this post is bigger than one twitter fight. This post is an attempt to appreciate what feminism means, especially in the Ghanaian context. In writing this, I had to ask a couple of ladies in my debate society who associate with feminism, what it means to them. Apparently, this is something very important because a movement which seeks to empower women should have women speaking about it and giving definition to it. This should not be done by men who have been beneficiaries of the existing patriarchal structures.
Basically, feminism is about empowering the woman to the status and privilege a man enjoys. This does not mean making her become like a man but ensuring that the structures existing in society does not make her feel any lesser to a man. It is not misandry as some self-professed feminists have manifested it or men have characterized it. It is this basic idea that a woman should be allowed to self-actualize to the extent possible for a man in every society.
This is as simple as I can explain it. Maybe a feminist blogger can explain it deeper but essentially this is what most feminists agree with. However, the realities on the ground go beyond that. There actually exists misandrists. Feminists who literally hate men. They see the existence of men as an anathema to them and class every bigot and sexist in the same class with all other men. What these feminazis as they are called forget is, to break the structures which stymie the progress of women, you need to work hand in hand with right thinking men. You achieve next to nothing if your biggest obsession is painting all men with the same brush as rapists and unrepentant sexists.
It is important to reiterate that feminazis are on the fringes of the feminist movement. The larger part do not want to displace men from the top. They want a fair shot at getting to the top. Years of relegating women to the backgrounds legitimizes any demand for affirmative action, a provision to prioritize admission of females into educational and other social institutions. These crop of feminists do not subscribe to a standardized form of feminism. To them a woman can be anything she wants and not subscribe to some predetermined standard for women. The importance of this is, they challenge patriarchy on one front and feminazis on the other. Feminazis who think a woman should not become a housewife at the expense of her career and men who deny women the right to education or a career.
But these are not the only people who believe in equality. The concept that women should be treated fairly pre-dates the modern feminist movement. Countless people throughout the course of history have advocated for the very things feminists are asking for today. So not everyone who wants women to receive equal pay for equal work, get access to education even through affirmative action, and be empowered to take leadership positions subscribes to the tag of FEMINIST.
Tags come with baggage and not everyone wants to encumber the whole package. Some people just want to advocate for an end to Female Genital Mutilation and Trokosi, ease access to education and healthcare for women, fight for the respect of women in work spaces and support women gunning for political leadership. They do not want to extend the fight to asking for both sexes being represented on a soccer team or supporting the “free the nipple movement”. Does that invalidate their intentions and guiding philosophies? Does their refusal to engage in male baiting make them less “woke”?
Admittedly, this writing is woefully inadequate in addressing the various issues which arises from feminism. Writing from my armchair, elevated on a dais of male privilege obstructs my view on the issue. Maybe it is the responsibility of feminists in Ghana to elucidate what feminism means to them. Watching SNL monologues and reading the Huffington Post will not be sufficient, for western feminism cannot be the same as African/Ghanaian feminism. The overarching principles might be universal but the nuances are most certainly different.
What is for sure is, feminism is not misandry. As a feminist friend once wrote, “it is not about making women strong. Women are already strong. It is about making women aware of their strengths.”