CHYNNA

There is a danger in the way feminism works.

I should elaborate.

There is a danger in the way white feminism works.

Everywhere we look there is something in the media. Reminding us of its unwillingness to take up how race, class and gender impact womanhood.

Take a look at the recent Pepsi advert in which Kendall Jenner leaves her modelling gig and joins a protest. She hands over a can of Pepsi to a white male officer who in turn receives it, turns to his colleague and smiles.

I can’t believe Kendall Jenner single-handedly stopped police brutality with a can of Pepsi. We should have been doing this from the start, guys!

Not only has Pepsi trivialised the Black Lives Matter movement, but they have given a white face to these protests and placed people of colour as side characters. Pepsi managed to further the erasure people of colour already experience in their daily lives. It’s like they’re saying, “All you need is a White Saviour™.”

We have to be mindful that feminism is not a one-type-fits-all, as much as the media would love for it to be.

For example, a white woman will not have the same experience as a black woman. However, trying to place everyone’s experience in a one-size-fits-all feminist view is erasing the experience of black women and other women of colour.

As Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote, “Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated. […] Similarly, feminism must include an analysis of race if it hopes to express the aspirations of non-white women.” 

Look at it this way: white women need to fight for women of colour and men need to fight for women so that we can fight against the different types of oppression equally.

“My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” – Flavia Dzodan

P.S. DO NOT trust companies’ “progressive” ads. They don’t care about you. They only care about sales.

MUTAY

I may sound like a whiney bitch but I am merely here to state facts. As a woman, I am at the bottom of the shit pile. As a black woman, I’m probably below the bottom of the shit pile, like 2 or 3 metres below. Just for being black I am deemed as unattractive, unintelligent and just not womanly enough but that’s not the main issue here.

My feminism is not everyone’s feminism – white feminism doesn’t always include me. It skips past the issues that might be very important to me.

Let’s take it back to the women’s march that happened on a pretty much global scale. I was happy that it took place and I am so happy that women were able to take a stand for what they believe in etc etc etc. BUT I was also very weary and all too aware of how much was being ignored. Where were all these women during the black lives matter protest? Where were all these women when we asked them so stand with us in solidarity for other causes? Where was the police protection when we needed it? Why are we seen as a threat if we do not fit into this perfect ideal?

I have also found that certain demographics have feminism that is very sexually focused. Yes, I get it, pussy power yadda yadda yadda. But coloured women are still fighting for basic human rights. The people who are more likely to be at a disadvantage because of the way life is set up are women of colour (I hate that phrase but needs must); your pussy power isn’t really helping a woman who has been forced to flee her country because of lack of basic human rights. Maybe we should start with that first?

Can we also discuss why women aren’t seen as equal? Let’s just throw that one out there. Hypothetically if 100 white women were to be kidnapped (God forbid), what do you think would happen? Global uproar, media outlets on overdrive, money pumped into the police force and the army would be called. Because how can such a monstrosity happen?

Now, this actually happens every day but replace ‘100 white women’ with black women in DC, black women and girls in Nigeria, black women in Lewisham (a borough in London, with an alarmingly high rate of missing black girls). Where is the uproar? Where is the money? Why are we invisible?

I often wonder where the change starts. Then I realised the change cannot start with the oppressed because their voice is already stifled. White women, be accountable for your privilege. You have a lot of it, so let’s talk. We can all be great together! Stop overlooking your amazing counterparts, but stop and listen.

P.S. I’m still mad that a high number of WW voted for Trump, ya’ll really had one job but really what’s my business?

MORE

Read our last post on casual misogyny here. Start the series here.

MUTAY

Recently I came across casual misogyny in reference to my dressing style. I like to dress for comfort, so my wardrobe is full of non-form fitting clothes and baggy trousers. This sparked a conversation in the office about dressing more “lady-like”. I had one question for them ‘Why the hell are you projecting your idea of what ladies should be wearing on to me?’ Surely the autonomy lies on myself to garnish my body with the ill-fitting material that I so choose.

I wish it was easier to be able to call men and women out on casual stereotyping but sometimes it’s hard because you feel like a nitpicking arsehole. Please don’t let this stop you, if something that someone has said makes you feel a certain type of why then it most definitely should be addressed. (It doesn’t always have to be there and then).

Sometimes casual misogyny can be used as a test, ‘Oh, a woman should cook and cater to her husband’ – if you attack that idea, especially speaking from the perspective of a first generation Nigerian Brit then you are setting yourself up to fail. The test being – What will your worth be in marriage? Imagine that, such a seemingly passive comment actually holds a lot of weight on how you are perceived and how well you fit into certain ideals.

Women should be great cooks, friendly, build you up, have all the babies, have long ravishing hair. All of the things. In Dear Ijeawele, Chimamanda briefly mentions this topic and her advice is

Do not ever tell her (Ijeawele’s daughter) that she should or should not do something just because she is a girl’.

Casual misogyny is dangerous as it is so embedded in our culture and society that sometimes you question yourself to see if you’re wrong.

CHYNNA

Why is it that we live in a world where casual misogyny is the norm?

Where it is okay for men to make derogatory comments about women and everyone nods and smiles like this is okay?

Where women walk down the street and are told, “You should smile more, love.” and then get abuse when they refute these comments?

I work in a call centre, and at least 7/10 of the male customers I get call me “sweetheart” or “darling” purely based on the fact that I am a woman. What is that? Recently I was told, “I hope you’re not taking my money to buy yourself a pair of shoes, haw haw haw.” Haw haw haw, go die. (I literally did the most sarcastic laugh I could muster and the man went silent. Too right.)

I was told once by a male relative that a woman’s hair is what makes her a woman. Not her intellect, no. Her HAIR. Sometimes I’m just watching the news and male relatives will make passing remarks about how a female newsreader has “put on weight, hasn’t she?” or “Oh, her hair could be a bit better, couldn’t it?” and it gets me mad. As if these things actually matter?

Casual misogyny is part of a culture of violence. Simply reducing violence to physical only lets men continue doing what they’re doing with no consequences to their actions. We need to start calling out the male co-worker who chooses you specifically to go get coffee, the men in the nightclub who think they’re entitled to dance sleazily behind you in the nightclub, the ones who use terms such as slag, slut, bitch, whore so casually, so flippantly.

But the way in which we raise our boys into men is not helping. If we continuously say, “Well, boys will be boys” this allows for boys to grow up thinking it is okay doing what they’re doing. “Boys will be boys” will eventually turn into “Men will be men” and anything they do will just be dismissed because it is simply expected of them.

A boy pulls a girl’s pigtails and the little girl is told, “Ooooh, it’s because he likes you, sweetie.” NO. NO. sTOP THIS RIGHT NOW. We should be teaching boys that it is okay to say they like someone, and showing your emotions does not make you any less of man and you do not need to use physical violence to portray this.

I was watching Just Kidding News the other day, and they covered a story about a woman who awarded a guy because he was the first man she encountered who had given up his seat for her on the subway because she was pregnant. Why do we live in a culture where this is rewarded? It should just be common courtesy that you give up your seat for a pregnant woman.

We should look to our boys and how we raise them. We should look to erase this construct of toxic masculinity that has developed. Answer me this: have you ever heard, “Well, girls will be girls”? Yeah, didn’t think so.

“He throws like a girl.” He must do it fucking amazing, then.

I posted last week about International Women’s Day and how there are some people who will take every opportunity to tear down a day that celebrates women from all walks of life. I included a quote from Maya Angelou, “I’m a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” But what makes me a phenomenal woman?

If I boil it down simply, the supportive women in my life. My mother has always been a leading figure in my life, alongside my grandmother. My best friend, Mutay. My friends who I have known since secondary school.

Behind every successful woman is herself – and an army of supportive ladies. Without these important people in my life, I wouldn’t be who I am today. But it has taken a long time for me to see myself as a phenomenal woman. It has taken a long time for me to see myself as strong. Independent. Fine as f*ck. Feminist.

I haven’t always been a feminist. Growing up, it wasn’t a word I had really encountered before. But as I grew up, I started to notice the inequality that we face. The issues that are merely brushed to the side just because we are women. How we are expected to accept what society expects us to be. Still, feminist was not a word in my vocabulary.

However, I’m becoming more informed. I have to be. I want to be. One of the people opening my eyes is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Thanks to Mutay, who introduced me to her books, she has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Not new, actually, it has always been there. A different perspective to how I viewed the world before. Feminist is not a bad word; it does not mean we hate men, we are not extremists. We just want equal rights for everybody. At the end of the day, underneath it all, we are the same. So, why are women not treated with the same respect as men? The world baffles me and will continue to do so.

As part of Southbank’s Women of the World festival, Mutay and I got to see Chimamanda last Saturday and it was amazing. In fact, more than words can imagine. There were a lot of topics that she covered throughout the conversation that made me think twice and really go over why is it I think that way in the first place.

Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World festival is a global network of festivals which provides a platform for interrogating this question. […] WOW – Women of the World festival celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential.

I wish had attended more events at the festival, but by going to this talk it has opened up this conversation about what feminism means to me and what I can do to speak out and raise awareness. We’re really looking forward approaching this topic, and sharing our views!

Feminism like many -ism’s is very subjective. To me, feminism is the opportunity to have a choice. I have the privilege of being around a strong feminist from birth, my mother. My mother taught me my core values, especially as she did it all on her own. She taught me to own my shit and I definitely ‘don’t need no man’ (I am not saying men are redundant but the way patriarchy is set up you would think we would die without men…).

I must start by saying I am not a white woman. So, as you can expect, I have found that not all material on feminism is relatable to me. This was the case before I found Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2009. I was quite late off the mark but I thank the universe for my zest for reading and my continuous hunger for more knowledge. Chimamanda shaped me in a way that has only become apparent to me when I looked back. The first author that I had read who spoke about my ancestral land, Nigeria, in a positive light. The first author who taught me the realities of colonialism. The first author who taught me that there were other Nigerians, beyond my own circle (family and friends), who saw themselves as equals and not just submissive beings who are to cook, clean and cater to men.

This wasn’t the first time I had seen Chimamanda speak at the Southbank Centre, but this was probably more special to me. The first time I saw her, it was more of a fangirl moment. This time it was more personal. I’ve had time to adjust and align my thoughts, I’ve had a look back at my experiences and picked out the points where I realised that issues such as casual misogyny and being seen as less of an individual (because I am black AND a woman) have truly impacted my life. I have also started reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – everyone should read this book, both men and women! The issues she spoke upon resonated with me deeply.

Chimamanda has just published a book which is a response to her friend who asked for advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. ‘Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ will set the premise for a new series on this blog which explores feminism and what feminism means to us. Women’s History Month finishes at the end of March but for us, it’s for life.

We hope you engage with us throughout this series, and we would love to hear your stories!