In Africa, feminism is a dream beyond reaching due to the oppressive nature of society, writes Kiyara Matambanadzo, 16, a Correspondent from Harare in Zimbabwe. She argues the sobering view that to be a girl in Africa is hard, to be a teenaged girl is harder, but to be a vocal feminist teenaged girl is the hardest task of all to achieve in the current world.
Feminism has always been a topic of heated discussions but it seems that as more time passes the word feminism becomes more obscured. The discussion surrounding what feminism is has become a gaping pit ready to swallow those who dare to defend the cause.
The reason that feminism has come under such fire is that a shocking number of men and women, boys and girls around the world are being taught to see feminism as a way for women to rage and dominate the male race. To many, feminism is only an excuse for women to attack and accuse without repercussions, instead of it being a noble movement to put forth the image of gender equality.
The cause of this grave misconception is the failure to educate young men and women on the notion of feminism and thus to understand what gender equality is truly set out to achieve. Gender equality is a failing concept only because many do not know or are unclear about the actual concept.
However reluctant we may be to admit it, we live in a patriarchal society where in the case that your biological make up does not allow, you can barely get a foot in the door. Young men and women are being taught that a man must be the sole or major bread-winner and that a female’s talents are best utilised in the kitchen. Teaching young boys that their chores do not include washing plates or wiping counter tops, but that they are best suited to be the money makers, doctors and engineers has a detrimental impact on the type of men they will become and the ideals of gender equality that they will hold.
How shocking it must then be to one day enter the world and find women engineering cars and building industry. Then, it must seem like an attack on their pride and an affront to the so-called laws of their patriarchal world. The natural course of action as dictated by human instinct when encountering an unknown force would then be to fight it off with everything they know and oppress its validity thoroughly.
Therefore, I believe that educating our men to the fact that feminism is not a code word for ‘attack’ but is a catapult for equality is surely the first step to halting any thoughts of failing or stagnation in their tracks.
Many across the globe believe that feminism=feminine=female, which is a record I must set straight immediately. The better word equation to utilise if we must is feminism=gender equality. One must equal the other.
Feminism does not equate every female that ever lived. Just as feminism is not merely a reservation for women, it is also not a ‘women against the world’ organisation. Just as it is dangerous that not all women support the cause, it is just so that if men be given leave from supporting it the whole concept of equality is at great risk. The movement is simply a world against discrimination. If we know that feminism equates gender equality, then is it not so that the world fight for its genders to be equal, and if not for the sake of human rights, perhaps for the efficiency of the world?
The biggest and most disheartening fact of the world is that many people, male and female, either live in blissful ignorance that the world is equal or they go to great lengths to deny the fact that society is blatantly unequal. The task of making the world equal will definitely be a tough and gruelling journey, therefore we must not waste time. However the battle has been derailed due to the fact that the feminist movement has to exert most of its energies to convince the world that there is a need for it. Gender equality is also a failing concept because many do not know that there is any lack of it in the world.
After hundreds of years of male-dominated society it has been ingrained in the global community that men are somehow superior mentally, physically and emotionally, simply because they are of the male species, a hardly justifiable explanation yet sadly, this is the general consensus. While men are put on a pedestal, women are grossly sexualised in the media, equal pay is a never ending war, girls are denied the right to be educated equally and the military’s blatant nonchalance toward sexual harassment in its ranks. These are only a few of the struggles under the shiny cover of an age-old practice.
To live in oppression because you are of one gender and not the other is heart-breaking, but to live in oppression without even knowing it is even more heart-wrenching.
In the last 150 years great strides have been made in the way of gender equality, and although we the women of today are immensely grateful we must not follow in those footsteps but continue on the path that was begun by those before us.
About me: I am a teenaged Zimbabwean citizen. In an environment where people only put stock in doctors and lawyers as successful and influential members of society, I aspire to be an impacting member of Africa and the world by addressing the harsh truths of society today. My ambition as of now is to be able to break out of the stigmatic bond of being an African girl child and allow others to do the same.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/
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