African Womanhood

BAMAKO — I am an avid reader and generally a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian storyteller who has written a number of interesting fiction novels about her Igbo culture and her experiences living abroad. It seems though that when people become celebrity figures for one reason or another, in her case for a couple of fiction novels, sometimes they have a tendency to extend beyond their areas of expertise to speak on other topics–a move that often backfires in that it exposes their ignorance in the novice area.

In one grandiloquent talk and later in a bumptious essay, Chimamanda Adichie branches out on a limb to talk about feminism, a western sociological terminology, on which she aims to put an “African” spin. I find this attempt disconnected, reaching, and truly disingenuous to African culture and tradition. Why? Because although Africa shares in the problems of the world, the sociological divide in the West, along gender faults, is nowhere present in the intellectual and philosophical foundations of African culture, religion and society.

“Feminism” is a western idea and a western terminology. It has no kin in Africa. Much like cooking French Fries in Africa and calling it an African French Fries. No, it is just French Fries cooked in Africa. French Fries are not in any way part of African cuisine. In the same way that feminism is not part of African culture.

So what if there is no such thing as African feminism. And that western feminism doesn’t make sense for Africa? Adichie decides to make up her version of the word for herself. She calls herself a happy African feminist, who does not hate men, who wears lip gloss, and who wears high heels for her own pleasure. She defines her own individual place, as do people who do not want to be held to any standards of accountability for one’s community. Or better put by Adichie herself, “Nobody will come to use culture to tell me that I should do what I don’t want to do.”

According to Adichie, a feminist is a man or a woman who says, “Yes, there’s problem with gender, as there is today, and we must fix it. We must do better.” If she is speaking for western societies, I would wholeheartedly agree with her. But of African societies, I see no such problem with gender.

In any case, what has wearing lip gloss and high heels for one’s own pleasure got to do with Adichie’s gender apocalypse? Is this where her pertinacious platter about gender problems in Africa originate?

Much of what Adichie rambles about are personal memories of her life that are neither forms of oppression nor any real grievances that would warrant for the launching of some man vs. woman movement, a predator vs. prey movement, but rather statements that one might use for an icebreaker or small talk.

She questions why African culture, for example, puts pressure upon women to marry by a certain age but not men. No matter how inaccurate and unsubstantiated her claims are, still it doesn’t take a genius to understand that women have child bearing limitations with age, while men do not. Obviously it becomes thoroughly understandable that a community based culture like African culture, has thoughtful rubrics that guide inhabitants. Perhaps these heuristics should be written more profusely for those who cannot read between the lines.

So, Adichie whines against her hallucination, “You can have ambition but not too much. You can aim to be successful but not too much.” But she forgets that there have been many successful women in Africa before her. She reduces Africa’s 12,000 year history into an intransigent small talk. In English. She is oblivious of Africa’s historical ladies – Nefertari, Neithhotep, Hypatia, Dahia al-Kahina, Nzingha, Makare Hatsheput, Makeda, Tiye and this list can continue ad infinitum – more than any other culture can boast of, some of whom are unbeknownst to the West. Adichie must not know people like Yaa Asantewaa or today’s Angelique Kidjo or the thousands of market women who have ambition and are also quite successful.

It appears she still can’t get over the incident when she was nine and a teacher gave a boy the position of classroom monitor, to hold a cane and patrol the class, even though she claims she was in line for the position. As an adult, she talks about how she feels judged when she enters a bar, a club, or a hotel alone and feels snubbed by waiters and valet in Lagos who greet the man she is with, ignore her, and assume her money is given to her by some man and not earned by her work.

At this stage in her life, she feels worthy of a certain attention, when men do not give her the attention that she pleases, she feels upset, and concludes from these narrow experiences that men are deemed more important than women in African society. For the most part, her version of gender equality is largely this barrage of personal slights, none of which have any mark of a real societal problem, nor do they have any semblance of an imposing male oppression of women in Africa.

Of course her only example of a systematic oppression of women is from the West, the only place where the term “feminism” makes any sense. She mentions how the US underpays women compared to men. But even in this analysis Adichie clearly falls short of the mark.

In the US, feminism – white women’s feminism in actuality – is often slated to be about gender equality for all, but in fact it only fosters racial oppression. Western feminism at its awakening core – doesn’t take things from white men – only gives things, like equal pay, to white women and deprives African American communities, men and women, of the same equality. Adichie is proud to note the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which Barack Obama signed, that gives white women more pay, but Adiche would be remiss to find many Black women paid in equal measure for the same work as white women.

Even Black men in the U.S. do not get paid equal to the high pay white women receive, or are they hired at the same rates as white women are employed. Where is Ms. Adichie’s outspoken voice calling for equal pay for Black women who are paid less than white women? Many Africans, like Adichie, are quick to align themselves with privileged white women than avail themselves to the fact that white women’s privilege and white women’s feminism only oppresses Africans in western countries.

While Adichie was struggling to find work early in her career in America, how many white women faced that difficulty?

Perhaps most troubling, Adichie complains that gender expectations in Africa stifle the humanity of boys, disallowing them from fear, vulnerability, and weakness. She thinks it is deplorable that they have to be “hard men,” in Nigeria speak. She wants nothing more than for men to no longer have the pressure to prove their masculinity.

I must ask Ms. Adichie (who though she is married prefers Ms., not Mrs., and her own name and not her husband’s name): who should kill the lizard or the snake that enters the compound? Who should fight Boko Haram which is terrorizing entire villages and kidnapping school girls? Who should build the bridge across the river? Young women? Or soft men?

Will Ms. Adichie and her band of “African feminists” go and fight the terrorists or will she suddenly pray for the “hard men” to dispel the evil and raw violence, the threat that other living beings thrust upon her very existence? Though it might come as a surprise to the modern enlightened woman who prefers school books to a needle and thread, the “hard men” brand of masculinity is employed by every civilization for the very protection of that civilization. Fail to produce hard men and the society will inevitably be conquered by societies where manhood is also valued along with womanhood.

Perhaps what Adichie conflates is womanhood and feminism. The former is deeply within the African embrace, the latter is a foreign ideological machination that has been ambidextrously formulated to weaken Africa’s two hands: womanhood and manhood. When Adichie suggests that Lagos and Africa deprive women of their “full humanity,” she is characteristically and categorically wrong in the face of mitigating evidence.

We must learn to unlearn such detrimental western philosophies. African women are nowhere in Africa oppressed, chained and forced to labor for the capitalistic upkeep of African governments. African women do not need to be pitted against African men to incite some gender civil war that only benefits the west whose motive is staunchly equipped with sociopolitical tools to divide and conquer Africa.

In fact, African cultures are everywhere unique in their matrilineal heritage and Queen Mothers. In African philosophy, the very tenets of Ma’at emphasize this particular balance of life and spirt, of man and woman, for eternal harmony. Even the conceptions of God in Africa embrace both female and male identities. Any issues in Africa are African issues – not gendered issues. The family as the basic unit of African culture underscores this sacred foundation, and from there the extended family, the local community, and the nation derives her strength.

If, hypothetically, there is a gripe between an African female writer and a man of her choosing, or that she feels the men in her life mistreat her, then that is a problem – not a gender issue! Why should the excesses of our community be interpreted from a western ideological dictionary? Feminism? There are plenty of vocabulary in the rich Igbo tongue, as there are many ideas in Igbo culture, to describe one’s feelings on the African continent and to address issues in society. There is no need for a foreign feminist ideology.

 

Students of western education speak for Africa?

The appetite for certain individuals, who have no traditional African upbringing – no acculturation in African religion and philosophy – but who feel they are entitled to speak for all of Africa, because they have obtained a western diploma, must also be examined in the rightful perspective. To this point, Adichie is not alone.

Leaving the top-ranked University of Nigeria and the lesser known Drexel University in the United States to finally complete her bachelor’s degree at some Eastern Connecticut State University, Adichie is certainly not the ideal of African intellectualism.

Besides, there is no reason why such students from the west should descend on our villages to tell us what to think about the Africa we never left. There is no reason to take political and social advice from graduates of unknown schools in the U.S. especially when people in the U.S. most certainly do not take their political and social advice from such people. U.S. presidents, top professors, and government advisers do not come from Drexel or Eastern Connecticut State University.

Why do we need to listen or take seriously what Chimamanda Adichie has to say about African culture?

Like any child of colonial privilege, the daughter of colonial university professionals, Adichie wants to say whatever she wants to whomever she wants about whomever she wants. And that is her right. Africa accords her this much and more. But as a custodian of African tradition and religion, I cannot emphasize enough that Africa doesn’t need an opinionated Adichie in discussions about the future of an authentic African culture.

No matter this reality, Adichie has taken it upon herself to be the unsolicited spokesperson for Nigeria and for Africa. On the coat tails of western money, she has taken her liberties to speak to the western world and to some in Africa as well, about Africans.

Unwittingly, she is bait, spreading an ideological message that the western elite hope would emasculate African men to make it easy to dominate African women first and ultimately enslave African manhood. The men of the western world who will unleash their unsuppressed manhood on vulnerable African men are not taught to become “liberated” by this directed feminism.

It is saddening to hear Adichie say that her great grandmother would have identified with feminist ideology. Her attempt to impose a foreign culture on her grandmother’s heritage is downright blasphemous. How unruly it is for a child to imagine her ancestors’ stories from the perspectives of foreigners?

Sure, Africa can evolve and assert new definitions of manhood and womanhood in her own timing, of femininity and masculinity at her own whim, but the evolution must be organic. They must come from African literature, scholarship and culture, not from some western feminist propaganda. But of course the unspoken goal of western dilettantes of African culture is to pretend that Africa never developed the literature and the extensive debate needed to enlighten our deliberations on modern issues.

Since Ms. Adichie must be an avid reader, she surely must know that Africa established the most extensive libraries in antiquity – in Ancient Africa’s Alexandria and in Mali’s Timbuktu. The libraries in Timbuktu alone housed more than ten centuries of scholarship. Adichie must surely be aware of this extensive scholarship on infinite topics ranging from the study of civilizations to the science of erectile dysfunction.

What Adichie should eschew is the history of long-time African despisers like Napoleon Bonaparte and more recently French-led rebels who led book burning militias across West Africa to destroy sacred libraries and revered historical texts to further their myths about the primacy of knowledge from the west.

Adichie needs a grounding in African ways of thought in order to save herself from a debilitating western propaganda.

This so-called African feminism is an unreality, a fiction that is the product of western educated Africans trying their best to be relevant on a continent about which they know relatively little. Instead of admitting this and settling down to learn and relearn, western educated Africans return to the continent on a mission to carve a culture that makes them the focus, when what they need to do is embrace the ways of thought that have kept Africa’s heart beating for the past 12,000 years.

While I most certainly will read Chimamanda Adichie’s next fiction book and likely praise it widely, I will not be taking any of her advice about issues on manhood and womanhood in African culture. And I suggest we all do the same, unless of course we would like our societies, cultures and traditions formed thousands of years ago to suddenly mirror the thinking of dwarfs.

A tree with no roots can surely end up in any soil. So long as that tree doesn’t intend to uproot all of the trees with roots and tell them why their soil should be replaced.

Adichie can say what she wants. It is her right. It is her privilege. But she shouldn’t (re)-brand African culture for what it is not. The soil here is just fine.

73 COMMENTS

  1. Adiche is a beautiful woman who loves to express her feelings passionately and I love her, doesnt mean you should swallow everything she says.

  2. I have to say that Amara and Adichie are on opposite sides of the river on this issue. But it is true that western values on feminism are fast influencing traditional african cultural values on womanhood. The sheer numbers of Ghanaians for example who are educated abroad each year makes this all the more an important issue. It seems that the lack of a writing culture in Africa is speeding up the demise of traditional african thought and ways of expression. For example, if there were 1000s of articles immediately after Adichie’s lecture in London for whites about Africa, we could have attained a much broader African perspective on this issue. Now it seems that not a lot of folks with a deep understanding of African culture write or can write to make their views known to the world, like Amara. This must change if we expect to have a Ghanaian identity of our own.

  3. Amara Jali is an authority on this fermenting issue of feminism/feminist movements and femininity in Africa. It seems that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) has been taken to task here on some very strong but interesting issues after her convictions about a strand of African Feminism became school readings in Sweden.
    Anyhow, the discursive spaces of feminism in Africa have been growing in number and in strength these past few years. This is an enjoyable piece no matter your views!

  4. I have to say that Dade Afre Akufu is dead right. Our lack of a writting culture is a problem – hell, a huge problem. Oral culture cannot sustain us. Until we can create the safe spaces to debate in writing the issues that affect us, especially the foreign ideologies that become pervasive in our collective African discursive spaces, we cannot have an equally powerful representative voice or opinion in any matter.

    It is true that the west has tried everything to destroy ancient manuscripts on wide ranging topics but nothing stops us now from producing a vast body of knowledge that can outlast the next several millennia about say, feminism. Our lack of producing authentic African discourses about and around such issues creates the vacuum that continues to haunt our existence.

    So, as far as feminism is concerned, I can pretend I know something. The word is as alien to me as the idea. But I think Amara has done quite an interesting job here to place the issue in the context we need to appropriately discuss it without reservation.

    What is the difference between feminism and womanhood except, one is an ideology and the other is the definite acceptance of the nature of our existence. As an ideology however, we must begin to understand the goals and the implications. Obviously we can only do that in our own interests if we truly understand African culture and African philosophy. These will help us fully examine western ideologies, say, in more constructive ways, in order to assert our collective future in more pragmatic terms.

  5. This article is quite disappointingly very unhelpful in understanding why feminism is un-African. Adichie talks about feminism and the need to allow African women and girls the same opportunities that African men and boys are allowed. The need to respect African women as equal partners of society and not merely as appendages of men. (To say that ‘African women are nowhere in Africa oppressed’ is plain deceitful and evidences how out of touch the writer is with the lived realities of many women and girls across the continent – all in the name of defending so-called ‘African culture’).

    I would think a reasonable response to Adichie would be to tell us exactly what is wrong with equality and why equality is such an un-African thing. Instead, this article just descended into discussing which background the proponent of the idea comes from and not the quality of the idea. It is even more absurd that the writer in the most condescending of ways would think that the quality of a person’s intellect depends on the popularity of the university they attended. This is indeed a very absurd assertion, cannot be substantiated. It is even more absurd for the writer to assume that so called ‘western education’ is thought in universities abroad. A quick examination of the curricula curricula of universities around the continent reveal that indeed universities in Africa do not teach anything significantly different from the so-called western education.

    And of course the writer falls into the same trap that she accuses Adichie of and just became another unsolicited ‘custodian of African religion and culture’: speaking in the same manner about what Africa needs or needs not to remain authentic. If you’re going to criticize someone, just at least make sure you don’t end up doing the very thing you’re criticizing them of doing.

    To conclude, I should say that this whole discourse that an ideology is useful or otherwise based on its origin is not useful. You cannot discount the quality of an ideology simply on the basis of where it originated from. We live in a globalized world where cross-cultural pollination is a rather exciting reality. We progress by learning from each other. Lets discuss issues based on their quality and how they help in us build a better human race and not discount genuine issues merely based on the cultural or geographical origin of the ideology.

    • The first and most critical error in your response is to equate “feminism” with “equality” when you say: “I would think a reasonable response to Adichie would be to tell us exactly what is wrong with equality and why equality is such an un-African thing.” This writing is not about equality, and never have I said that equality is un-African. Adichie also is not talking about equality. She is talking about feminism, presumably about men’s oppression of women. I asked, and you have not answered: Where are men in Africa oppressing women in Africa? What systemic barriers are people alluding to when they say that African women and girls do not have the similar “lived realities” or the same opportunities as African boys and men? Are there any statistics that prove this? So far there has been a lot of talk but no issue to talk about. You say there is a “need to respect African women as equal partners of society and not merely as appendage of men.” Are African women disrespected? Are they treated as appendages of men? I very much doubt that the majority of African women identify with these statements or feel this way. What evidence shows this? Otherwise, it is a lot of talk and no real issue on the table.

      With regard to intellectual authority, I do not refer to the “popularity of the university” but to its academic rigor. I do not infer that she cannot be an intellectual if she tried nor do I imply that she cannot be an intellectual without the western education or with it. But school hopping is a clear example of a person chasing degrees. Obviously, this outlook matters much to her!

      It is true, as you say, that many “universities in Africa do not teach anything significantly different from the so-called western education,” which is why this education in Africa is known as colonial education and the knowledge that comes from it, colonial knowledge. Other writers have challenged Africans to imagine an African education. Think: what would education have looked like before colonialism and before the colonial system was brought to African shores? Think: does the current African education (colonial education) serve the continent adequately or would a non-colonial education, encompassing Africa’s unique characteristics–farming, economy, culture, music, dance, traditions, family system, history–serve our citizens better.

      I am not, as you suggest, falling into the same trap as Adichie in speaking for Africa. I do not go around speaking and disseminating western ideologies to the world without response. I share my understanding of traditional African cultures with you and others in a forum where we can have a conversation. I feel that Adichie spends more time telling people her westernized version of Africa than she spends conversing with people who are non-westernized and who do not have the same opinions as hers. All our voices are needed in this conversation. We do not need one voice to overshadow many. Trust that if this speech did not serve the interest of the west, entire western countries would not subscribe to its message.

      Despite your excitement for a global cross-cultural pollination where we all learn from each other, that actually doesn’t exist. What does exist in a globalized world is a unidirectional cultural imperialism where the west attempts (and often succeeds in) influencing not only Ghana and Africa but all other nations of people who do not write enough and are susceptible to accepting any ideologies they put forth because they unwittingly think they are “quality” and “help us build a better human race.” While you might like to “not discount genuine issues merely based on the cultural or geographical origin of the ideology,” I assure you that your western friends commonly do not treat you in the same way. I can assure you that no African ideas or ideologies are being discussed in the dominant narratives of western schools, not even African American ideas are considered here, no matter what you perceive to be their value. The same can be said across other countries from Russia to Norway to Iran to China. Where have you heard of any nation praising African countries for their great ideologies? This doesn’t happen. No countries with any brains go around accepting the ideas of others unless these ideas support their own interests.

      • Dear Amara Jali,

        I am shaking my head in dismay as i read your article and not only on the contents of your writing but personal bashing of someone’s work with your views of “AFRICAN CULTURE”. EXTREME DON’T YOU THINK – I have one question for you: PLEASE DEFINE FEMINISM FOR ME!
        your writing is flawed – inaccurate and myopic as someone clearly stated. I don’t know if you have any idea about the subject of being a woman on the continent you live on. you might be one of the lucky ones but i would employ you to dig your head out of the sand box and see what the real world is — that is what it means to have an XX chromosome on the African continent and not just the african continent, around the globe if you care to know – a choice you did not make. I would like you to seek insight on the topic of women and equality – not just in your house but your community and your country – because your generalization of this matter is quiet absurd.
        You are chastising someone else for making generalizations, i can say that she is rather informed than you are DEFINITELY NOT on the subject at hand – no offense my dear – YOU HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN IN AFRICA. Did you take time to verify your claims or you set on to attack the author based on the ignorance that seems to permeate our “CULTURE” which seems to linger on through generations creating this a society of inequality, thanks to our so called values. I don’t know about you but i can tell you – you need to be educated on the matter at hand because all i see in print here – is your emotional lash out at someone who is unafraid to tell it as it is, or did her article touch a nerve, because you came out with guns blazing – but you my friend are ill- informed so please go do your homework before you embark on trashing someones writing. Get the facts, face reality.

        here’s a definition of feminism – i hope it helps clarify things for you

        “The belief that women are and should be treated as potential intellectual equals and social equals to men. These people can be either male or female human beings, although the ideology is commonly (and perhaps falsely) associated mainly with women.

        The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.

        Feminism also, by its nature, embraces the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty within reason–including equal civil rights–and that discrimination should not be made based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.

        Feminists–and all persons interested in civil equality and intellectuality–are dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.
        Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.
        #gender #sex #sexuality #equal #sexism #discrimination #respect #chivalry #intellectual” -The Thinker – Writer.

        I hope the above piece helps shed some light on the matter for you. As you wrongly stated that Ngozi should not teach – I am afraid that you rather should not teach and yes – your article above is your opinion and thus, we should not pay heed to you. And its ok to disagree with someone but damn – i know she did hit a nerve – my dear, you need to wake from your disillusioned state of mind and see what has been in front of u all your life: reading this piece reminds of me of the how these values and norms keep on surviving after all this time – change is hard but guess what, its for the greater good and thats what we work and fight for- I believe thAT your understanding of feminism is quiet flawed in so many ways. I find your spinoff quiet entertaining and very immature – There are much pressing issues at stake when we stand for equality -Ms Ngozi writing throws a curve ball at the accepted norm so you fret and start barking unsubstantiated arguments and throwing big words around, SMH – hallucinations? please give me a break. One last question – which are you , XX or XY? because that would tell a lot about why your response to Ms Ngozi is so emotionally driven, blinded and flawed. Your poor handling on the subject is quiet appalling – I am truly in awe of your ignorance – though your writing suggest that you have been schooled but it is true – being exposed to academia does not make you educated!!!

        Thank you @Issatu Jeng @Kofi Opare Hagan @Michael Gyan Nyarko- for standing up

      • I think Amara, you’re suffering from intellectual bigotry. You’re so full of yourself that you try to disguise your logical fallacies in demands for statistics, surely oblivious of your environment. For example, your stand that women in Africa are not oppressed…you must be so blind that you cannot see the social, political and economic wars women fight across Africa to achieve equality and equity…am very disappointed in you.

        • This entire article is a mess and the writer is clearly trying too hard come across as an intellectual. I can’t even take this seriously because of all the pretentiousness seeping through it and neither should you. Just ignore her while our African feminism lives on to afford her/him (because feminism is equality for everyone) the freedoms of life.

      • Thank you for your article and opinion Mama Jali. I would just like to address your query regarding statistics and non-abstract issues that affect women in many African nations.

        Below are two links that I found extremely helpful in solidifying my abstract notions of crimes against women in the African continent (and this is in no way an issue that is unique or particular to African countries, it is indeed a global issue). In my native Tanzania, more than 50% of married women surveyed report being beaten by their domestic partners and physically and sexually abused. Young women in my country are forced to marry and have children at a young age leading to both physical and mental problems such as Obstetric Fistula and chronic depression. These are but some of the problems faced by women in our countries and that we as a collective society need to acknowledge and address.

        Yours in the quest for justice and equality,
        Salmaan

        http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/special-edition-women-2012/taking-violence-against-women-africa

        https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwjimInir87PAhXG5SYKHSN8DDEQFggtMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unwomen.org%2F~%2Fmedia%2Fheadquarters%2Fattachments%2Fsections%2Flibrary%2Fpublications%2F2013%2F7%2Fall_factsheets_web%2520pdf.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFZZ6bKb_cKuhPmYxinAAmMcuk_Dw&sig2=cjjMxfPsBULZsZ6hDu5EOg&cad=rja

  6. This is very un-progressive Michael …I believe #Feminism is the radical notion that men and women are equal and should be accorded equal treatment and opportunities. Isn’t that human rights?… Are Africans not human?…. It breaks my heart to see such baseless rhetoric

    • Feminism, in my view, is a response to structural inequalities against women that are sustained by a patriarchal superstructure. So inequalities per say against women does not justify feminism as a response. As some have rightfully argued in this comment thread, there are structural hindrances against men in our societies with respect to opportunities in the labor market, for instance. Must we come up with “Masculinism”? Fact is, Feminism as a ideological construct has some legitimacy, even in African societies, I would argue. But some of its tools and approaches, in my view, are self-defeating. For example, framing the debate as if its a “war of the sexes” and promoting “sexual liberation” as a means of stating the “independence” of women, for me are effective ways to correct the excesses of Patriarchy. Feminism must be embraced as a crucial part of the inclusion agenda, but not in its current form where means are disconnected from ends.

  7. The problem here is the particular brand of feminism that Adichie is promoting, something that has driven me away from her literature. There is a large difference between genuine human equality and the CIA/ western-political-machine driven gender-based conflict (Which should correctly be called Steinemism, i could go back further but we’d have to read) that is being used to induce demographic crises in countries Europe/America has got in it’s 50 to 100 year plans both resource and habitat wise. I have been hearing a lot of stories lately of white ‘feminists’ going into villages in certain countries and taking the to be ‘edumacated’ while purposely leaving the men without an up to date education period. They may be rumors, but i wouldn’t put it above a group of people who have already depopulated our countries on a massive scale in the past.These individuals are so obsessed with their own college-induced version of reality that they fail to see the larger scheme at hand.

    I agree with Dade Afre Akufu, the problem is you can only have a strong literary culture if you see a REASON to do it, it is Something we traditional Africans on the whole have not had since the times of Kemet and Kenest. LONG TERM THINKING. If we had this even 300 years ago we would not be in the position we are in today as a peoples. Cheik Anta Diop intended for Hieroglyphs to be the Pan African written language, how many black people even know what Heiratic is?

  8. This oral culture is really hurting Africans because when there is a debate like this, the opponents fail to mention concrete evidence that supports Africa is in need of a feminism. People just like to talk but so far no one has mentioned any issues. I think we should all be one rather than say African women need something that men aren’t giving them. I personally think African men are very supportive of African women.

  9. I am happy to take the author on a tour through the Northern Region of Ghana. I am happy to show her the statistics on unpaid labour in Ghana. I am happy to show her the research on access to land and other resources in respect of women. I am happy to show her figures for attrition rates of females against males in terms of access to education. I mean the inequalities are well documented and public . I wonder why there is a pretense that it doesn’t exist.

    The fact that the author isn’t aware of the facts establishing women inequality in many societies in Africa, particularly patrilineal societies, doesn’t mean inequalities do not exist.

    • But aren’t these issues on inequality? Something every nation has a fair share? What has this got to do with feminism as an ideology? Or do you really understand what feminism is as it is defined by the various schools of thought? What Amara is trying to accomplish here is perhaps bring attention to inequality and not feminism! Do northern women suffer more than some men in some Kenyan ethnic groups who must muster a herd of cattle for dowry? Do such generalizations of northern women in pain equally mirror the suffering of men elsewhere? You cannot begin to couch inequality in gender terms. It conflates the issues. And Amara has not said there was no inequality. Far from it. But inequality everywhere must be addressed as is. There are no hegemonic ideologies that can boil all inequality in such male/female or black/white terms!

    • Inequality when it relates to gender represents a tilt in the balance of access to productive resources, power and such in favor of one gender against the other. The purpose of feminism is to address such inequalities. To assert that feminisim is unafrica is to assert either that there is no inequality in the first place or there is no effort (or need of effort) to address such inequalities. Both assertions are wrong.

    • So would you say some parts of Africa also must have malism to address the several issues that men suffer in society – dowry, caretaker, military, etc.?

    • I believe in the equality of the sexes. I do not know where you get the idea to the contrary. But what has that got to do with the ideology of feminism. And no, feminism is more than just equality of the sexes. Have your read bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins?

  10. Narmer Amenuti What is feminism as an ideology? Is the fundamental value of feminism not the equality of the sexes?

    • Or so, women must face battle in equal measure as men? Or when the armies have no wars to fight, when its just a paycheck, then its ok for women?

      Plus, are you saying it’s okay for men to pay dowry? And not vice versa?

      • Just a quick side note: women have fought in many militaries/wars- even within Africa. Look at Eritrea’s independence struggle /TPLF within ethiopia. Even prior to that there was empress taitu who fought at the battle of adwa…. And I agree with Michael, a man paying a dowry is rly nothing when compared to the gender-based inequalities that we as women face throughout our lives.

  11. You seriously think the payment of dowry is anywhere equivalent to the systemic inequality that women face? I don’t know what ‘caretaker’ means but women surely serve in the military as well. If anything women were not able to serve in the military not because the didn’t want to but because they were not allowed to.

    • Or so, women must face battle in equal measure as men? Or when the armies have no wars to fight, when its just a paycheck, then its ok for women?

      Plus, are you saying it’s okay for men to pay dowry? And not vice versa?

    • Narmer Amenuti Does a female born in an average African society have the same life opportunities as a male born in that same society? The answer is no. And there are many many studies to confirm that.

    • My friends, let us first get something out of the way. I know in several places in Africa, women are mistreated. This is not good. We must fix it.

      But feminism is more! It essentially means that roles in society, for both men and women, should be interchangeable. Some western feminists have advocated that men should be surgically made to carry babies as well. Have you heard about this?

      Much of this feminism fuels ideologies beyond your imagination. Such as Monsanto’s GMO seeds causing drops in testosterone levels in (Monsanto was penalized in Canada recently for this).

    • I am not making a sweeping statement. Like I told you there are studies confirming the fact that on an average females in Africa have less access to productive resources than males, have less access to health, education and social services than males. There are studies confirming that.

    • Have women in the military ever said that they do not want to go into combat? I haven’t read anywhere. Joining the military is generally a voluntary act. Women have been preventing from combat (until quite recently in the US), they didn’t tell the military they do not want to go into combat. And the writer herself makes reference to warrior queens like Yaa Asantewaa. Clearly, the issue lingers not on inability but the denial of the opportunity by those in charge, who are men.
      I don’t think anyone should pay dowry, marriage should be the commitment of two people to live their lives together. Dowry may have served a particular social purpose at the time it was instituted, I fail to find its purpose now

    • Narmer Amenuti that is like equating ISIS to Islam. You cannot use the most radical feminist view as the basis of your assessment of what feminism means. Feminism is essentially about equality of the sexes.

    • That is a silly analogy. However, isn’t that the discussion in Europe – is ISIS an Islamic Sect, is it an Islamic Organization? The answer is yes! Yes! But ISIS and Islam are still not equal. That is true! In the same way that Radical Feminism is not Mainstream Feminism. So, we must not talk about it? It is an essential part of feminist ideology! ISIS? Isn’t that why the French and the Americans are building military basis in any Islamic nation in Africa, or any nation with a significant number of Moslems?

    • I prefer not to use insults but lets get this straight, no one is saying you shouldn’t talk about radical feminism. What we are saying is you can’t use radical feminism as the measure of what mainstream feminism stands for; the same way you can use ISIS as a measure of what Islam stands for; or Hitler’s Germany as a measure of what Christianity stand for. The KKK is made of christian white men, does that mean that all white christians are racist?

    • When we start wading into analogies it deviates from the import of any debate greatly. These analogies are not anywhere equivalent. Do I want to compare people who kill people to feminists? No! No way! Such equivalencies are invalid and only ampliative at best!

    • You brought up the deviations because you want to use the most radical view of feminism as your measure of what feminism means. All I did was to give you other examples of how you cannot use the most radical view of a particular social group or ideology as a measure of what it stands for. So at least we agree that the most extreme view is not the measure of what the movement stands for. We can now make some progress

    • Your progress that all disadvantage that is associated with women must be couched in feminism is wrong. In the same way that not all suffering that men suffer in society is a result of malism!

  12. Kofi and Michael, you do realize that to say that Africa needs feminism is to say that African men are a problem and that African men are oppressing women? Are you a problem, Kofi and Michael? Are you oppressing your African women? Do you believe that other men like yourself are doing so? That would be a bold statement to make about African men. Things could always be better, but I don’t not believe there is a gender war. If anything, it is something that the west has created and we are too ignorant to divorce ourselves from.

  13. I think you’re losing the substance of the argument here. No one said that all disadvantage of women should be couched in feminism. That is itself does not take away the importance of the feminist discourse to the extent it is unAfrican. If feminism is ultimately about equality, how unAfrican is equality. that is what I was expecting the writer to tell me and not whether the concept originated from somewhere else. So maybe you can help me with some answers – is feminism unAfrican because it is a ‘foreign’ ideology or because African women do not deserve equality?

  14. My friend, all I have said is that feminism is not about equality. It’s a dogma about interchanging roles of men and women! If it was about equality it would be called equality, and not feminism.

  15. Thanks for tagging me Michael! I would have liked to write an article to respond to the author paragraph by paragraph because I have so much to say (which I might post in subsequent comments here). Is Amara a man or a woman?

    • Right. I’m happy for her & her privileged life that she doesn’t need feminism. Me, I’m very happy for the feminist movement in my country because now, if my husband dies, I, and not his family will inherit. What’s more FGM has been criminalized as has trokosi as has widowhood rites. So she can return back to her perfect African culture. Some of us believe that no culture is perfect and we are more than happy for people who will fight for women to have equal rights.

    • What has FGM got to do with feminism? And Trokosi? Again, you are generalizing African cultures. No one is saying FGM is not bad. Or that Trokosi must end. But what relevance has any of these two in Ga culture? One type of evil somewhere does not make evil everywhere!

  16. For now I would say that this article is extremely myopic, having totally gone off the tangent. It surprises me to see that we even have people thinking like that. I also feel that the criticism towards Adichie was more personal rather than factual. more details coming up later.

  17. Good reply for reading to guide the new African woman trekking on western feminism and seeking to carve it to become African traditions.

  18. The concept of feminism is un-African. Not only is that so, however, this concept also goes against the African idea of family where the Man is the head of the family in a community working side by side with the Woman.

  19. Susan Shabangu recently declared that men are supposed to be “protectors of society”, and that women need to “get their confidence back”. Feminism, so un-african, right Minister?

  20. do you remember the other day exchanges on feminism, and my suggestion that budding Africa thinkers must abandon the West radicalized feminism to settle for an anti male chauvinism campaign, that fit-in into African norm? It was a reaction to a scathing criticism of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, on his alleged gender inequality posture!

    I did not know I was thinking in the same line with foremost African feminists who have propounded various theoretical frameworks to portray an Africa-contextualized feminism, as an alternative to the male-bashing Western type.

  21. “When feminist theory made it to Africa, it ran into troubled waters very quickly with African men and women alike. At the initial phase, Africa had the misfortune of encountering only the most radical strands of Western feminism. This feminism oozed smoke and fire from the centre of its head like one of Fagunwa’s ghomids. It was a very fearful feminism indeed. It tore at everything in Africa and lumped everything together: marriage and motherhood were just as bad as female genital surgery.
    No African cultural and traditional institution passed muster. This rampaging radical Western feminism looked at the African woman, shook its head in pity, and declared her the most abject, the most oppressed human being it had ever encountered. It then declared that the White Western feminist saviour had landed to rescue African women from their barbaric pagan men and patriarchal institutions. Naturally, this White feminist saviour assumed that the way she experienced gender in her culture was universal.

    African men panicked and began to blackmail African women who, it must be said, were sympathetic to feminisms. It became dangerous to be labelled a feminist. The tag came to carry all sorts of pejorative meanings.” – Pius Adesanmi

    We definitely need to watch what whites bring to Africa again in the name of saving our women. We need are own models of equality. Right now, the lack of writing on the subject has severely damaged true African thoughts. Amara Jali is brave to write this piece. Kudos! You have begun an important conversation.

  22. Well….True feminist understand not only the unfairness a patriarchal society has on women but also the effects it has on men….but the movement seems more one sided for male bashing….seems the movement is promoting sexual promiscuousness in women, seems the movement tells women they should be able to dress and do and say whatever and still be treated like a lady…..and I don’t agree

  23. Because of the systematically induced weakness of the black man in America. Yes there are strong females in Africa even today, for instance Liberia elected a female President before the so called Liberal United States. But I think Black men have a hard time identifying with the patriarchal structure because of the things we have experienced in America, so when we hear an attack against Male patriarchy put in terms similar to white feminists we don’t see it as our own particular reality. Cause Miss Jane was getting plenty of black men whipped and killed, no matter how powers she says she was

    • I don’t think some black men have a hard time identifying with the patriarchal structure, since they try to marginalize black women.

    • I wasn’t saying there was no sexism, but Black men can’t per se identify with the male systems of power in America in particular. We got strong women like Harriet Tubman in our history. She was doing what some brothers couldn’t. But at the same time, some sisters could get jobs we couldn’t either, the way the system was set up.

    • Well yes because that’s intersectionality. Black men can’t identify with white men because you can’t identify with someone you aren’t. But what does that have to do with me as a woman wanting equal rights and opportunities for myself?

  24. I’m not saying u can’t, lol. What I’m saying is if u come at Black men with the approach that Black Men have gotten all the privilege in America, u aren’t going to reach black men with that message as a feminist. Especially with the numbers saying Black women are doing better in most indicators than Black men at this time. Whatever it is, neither side can reach the other if the conversation devolves into finger pointing. Each side has to express its hurt, etc.

  25. No feminism creates division in the African household. Black men and women are no longer united in the mass struggle to fight against the elimination of our culture. Feminism is good only if both black men and women are empowered by it.

  26. Feminism, in my view, is a response to structural inequalities against women that are sustained by a patriarchal superstructure. So inequalities per say against women does not justify feminism as a response. As some have rightfully argued in this comment thread, there are structural hindrances against men in our societies with respect to opportunities in the labor market, for instance. Must we come up with “Masculinism”? Fact is, Feminism as a ideological construct has some legitimacy, even in African societies, I would argue. But some of its tools and approaches, in my view, are self-defeating. For example, framing the debate as if it is a “war of the sexes” and promoting “sexual liberation” as a means of stating the “independence” of women, for me are NOT effective ways to correct the INJUSTICES of Patriarchy. Feminism must be embraced as a crucial part of the inclusion agenda, but not in its current form where means are disconnected from ends.

    • You speak like you should be teaching a lot of the folks on this thread. The thing that Africans seem to forget whenever whites/westerners approach them with new paradigms of thought is that these people are not trying to help you. What the hell do you think this is?

      Africa must come to face the fact quite calmly that westerners/whites do not care about us, and are planning neither for our survival, nor for our definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern womanhood and manhood. “The great mass of westerners are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise!”

  27. I will hark back into heritage in order to propoerly identify ourseves as africans in he context f our civilization.
    The venerable scholar, Cheick Anta Diop put it in his 2-cradle theory, compared the 2 civilizations Kemetic (African) and Greek (European) as I transcribed below:

    1. Abundance of vital resources against bareness of resources.
    2. Sedentary-agricultural vs nomadic-hunting and piracy (of everything, including knowledge)
    3. Gentle, idealistic, peaceful nature with a spirit of justice compared to ferocious, warlike nature with spirit of survival.
    4. Matriarchal family vis-à-vis patriarchal family.
    5. Emancipation of women in domestic life versus debasement or enslavement of women.
    6. Territorial state against city state (fort)
    7. Xenophilia compared to xenophobia.
    8. Cosmopolitanism vis-à-vis parochialism.
    9. Social collectivism against individualism.
    10. Material solidarity – alleviating moral or material misery vs moral solitude.
    11. Idea of peace, justice, goodness and optimism vis-à-vis disgust for existence, pessimism.
    12. Literature emphasizes novel tales, fables and comedy versus literature that favors tragedy.

    Many people do go out into the west and acquire all sorts of prescriptions for Africa and Africans. I think they are mesmerized by standards of life whose achievement is based on plunder, slavery, colonialism and mass murder.

    It is also well to remember that every Greek intellectual, from Thales, Archimedes, Pythagoras, Arsitoltle, Euclid, Socrates and other less notable ones, were all educated in Kemet (Ancient) Egypt, whose inhabistants would pass for Shonas, Yorubas, Luos, Hausa and other regular Africans today.

    Therefore, we should be doing our own thing, uniting Africa continental and diaspora, simultaneously recovering our misplaced agency for our destiny which does not require anyone’s validation, except ours.
    And this can help us weigh things from a historical perspective.

    Those who think otherwise will catch up with us on the way.

    Let’s go!!

    http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_ah/agencyandafrica.htm

  28. Amara Jali, are you from a griot famili from Senegal or Gambia? You’d know of the gender inequality there and how hard life is for women there. If you have lived there, you’d know that what Chimamanda’s saying is actual truth in most, if not all, modern African cultures, which have been influenced by Western ideas, either through education or the media. Africans nowadays aspire to ‘modern’ and ‘developed’ standards of living as well as similar opportunities to people elsewhere in developed countries. This has given rise to movements in and out of Africa to promote and defend women’s rights and gender issues. I think that Chimamanda’s description of feminism is anyone who acknowledges and is committed to the cause of rights for women; which includes the right to chose when and who to marry as well as what to wear. I feel a lot of anger or resentment on your part toward the Nigerian writer and that you are trying to defend a view of Africa where ancient and tribal values and ideas have to be viewed as respecting everyone’s rights, which they don’t. Most are essentially patriarchal and male centred. So I disagree with your argument.

  29. I’m a Black Brazilian man and I’m very proud of my African ancestors for their struggle and for the sacrifice they had to go through in the New World.

    One thing that drew my attention when I spent some time in Nigeria was the lack (or a very short number) of single mothers. Most Black women from countries Brazil, the USA and Colombia have been very friendly to feminism and, in my opinion, the worst consequence of it is single parenting. Those women don’t know what accountability is and put the blame of their poor decision-making on others. If feminism finds its way to brainwash African kids, the result will be millions of single mothers and psychological demasculinization of men. Do you Africans want that to your societies?

    You Africans must try hard to follow your tradition and be very careful with Westernization. If feminism is a disgrace to Blacks here in the Americas, you can be sure it has the potential to be even more harmful there in Africa.

    Amara Jali, I loved your text and I truly expect you can visit my country some day in order to help Black Brazilians (mainly Black women) be knowledgeable about African culture and tradition.

    Peace from East São Paulo, Brazil

  30. Having read your article, Amara, it seems that the concept of ‘feminism’ is as acutely necessary as every in African culture. You clearly demonstrate the latent gender preconceptions (“do you want soft men to battle Boko Haram?”) that have been an issue for many centuries, and that have kept many African countries from developing. Having women empowerment that allows the self-regulation and reduction of birth rates, more economical and political participation, and, most importantly, the opportunity to (re)define their own gender is the way to ensure a prosperous society. And, keep in mind that your anti-feminist and gender-divisive views leave hardly any allowance for LGBT rights. You have to realise that ‘feminism’ is a very heterogeneous movement, and I do neither agree with militant feminism nor with your caricature of this movement, both of which are on the opposite sides of the spectrum and only create unproductive polar opposites. Adichie’s feminism is more ambiguous than that, and that is a good thing, something that conservatives (like you) will never get. And, just because feminism may be seen to be a Western concept, I don’t see the problem to adopt it if it works, and if it can indeed improve the status quo. Drawing ethnocentric boundaries is a dangerous thing to do in this day and age.

  31. Amara, seriously!?

    I must first applaud your mastery of Chimamanda’s philosophy. Which is a good thing. You need to understand what you criticize, not engage in cerebral hygiene criticism. And I further agree with you that Chimamanda may be wrong in some of her assumptions on Africa, like you have aforementioned. But did you also look at the strengths in her arguments? We have so many concepts which aren’t African originally but cannot be assumed to be excluding Africa in analysis. The concept ‘feminism’ could not have existed among Africans parallel to the debates on the same in the West a few centuries before the 19th and 20th. But that doesn’t imply that Africans lacked a word for it or capacity to think of it. We had equivalents of the same, if not in concepts/words then in spirit, back in Africa too. If you read the story of Akoko Obanda, the daughter of Chief Odero Gogni of Yimbo in Margaret Ogola’s ‘The River and the Source’ you notice her grappling with the spirit of feminism in a largely patriarchal setting, and obviously, with so many odds against her efforts. This was an illiterate (in Western education sense) woman who noticed and became conscious of the ills of patriarchy to her gender (female) and thus staunchly stood up to change things. So Amara, spare us your ignorance or blatant omission of issues in African settings which fertilized (and still do) feminist initiatives through women like Akoko. If you have read widely, then you need to do so wildly too.

    I find it a big mistake on your part, and partly a violation of social and scholarship ethos, to have challenged Adichie on grounds that you seem to have even a lesser grasp on. There is really no knew knowledge you are adding to scholarship here, characteristic of many literary critics, while at least Adichie attempted to. You are the typical scholar (not necessarily African) whose only scholarship is through negative reference to the scholarship of others, in this case quite personal too. I challenge you to write creative works of your own and challenge Chimamanda’s theses therein without the urge for such blatant, deleterious name calling as you have demonstrated. Don’t be like ‘professors’ Chris Wanjala and Henry Indangasi of Kenya, who because of privileged access to acres of space in the Kenyan periodicals, can hurl a barrage of shallow, personal, uncalled for criticism on the works and persons of successful creative writers like Achebe and Ngungi, yet their own creative writing records are quite gloomy, and now because of age, bleak! I am in no way lending credit to substandard creative writing and shielding the same from criticism; but I am highly opposed to literary critics whose sole aim appears to be the assassination of other’s career reputations.

    On ‘western educated’ Africans lecturing Africa on its affairs, that’s quite shallow of you. To be educated in the West does not not rob one of his/her identity as an African. Does Western education necessarily or otherwise stop us from being Africanists or African writers? If you are shallow, you will shout a big-YES! Chimamanda may have enjoyed privilege upbringing, but does privilege, of whatever kind, always make one soft, pampered and shallow? Many times but not always. And Adichie is not one such pampered African writer or philosopher. She seems to have a very firm grasp of issues in her native tribe and country in Nigeria, which even some who stare at such issues daily make no observations on. To look is not to observe, and you must not be on the moon to observe it.

    Your attacks on Chimamanda regarding her ‘small’ US university status is quite personal, not at all scholarly. In fact, I think you are just bitter with it. You make me realize that there are other identities that perhaps Amina Mama, et al, haven’t thought of in their debates on African scholarship-the identities of locally and foreign educated scholars. Off course Western education to non-Westerners has political-cultural dimensions, but I think its a personal choice whether one decides to over-peer on Africa or otherwise. No one in the West teaches you to shun your motherland Africa, its a personal choice of disability in critical thinking. So stop alluding to Adichie’s educational background with the hope that it backs your claims on her philosophy. It doesn’t, and rather exposes you as a very mean, personal character! Surely, African scholarship can’t be about combative positions like yours (or mine), we can express divergence more intelligently!

    The writer specializes in African Politics at the University of Oxford

    • Seth Ouma kindly please stop using literary texts as pieces of anthropological evidence. That is not just extremely lazy, it is also extremely faulty. Go dig history the hard way. Another thing, I do not think that the writer of this article has to be a creative fiction writer in order to challenge Adichie’s thoughts. Kindly note that she mentions the idea of ‘small university’ to express how an African who studies in a nondescript university in the West is highly likely to feel that one’s opinions are more validated than even those who go to top-notch universities in Africa.

    • Seth, I am compelled to reply to your thought. You are very wrong when you choose Margaret Ogolla’s “The River and The Source” to justify Adichie’s fault lines in her feminism plot. Can’t you think beyond this common African narrative of stopping at the ancestors and spirits when it comes to critical thinking? And, please, you don’t have to be a creative writer for you to make a critic. Adichie’s’ feminism is barren and less of intellectual sophistication that can contextualize our African sociocultural conditions. Inequality does not all the time require feminism, as you would want us to believe.

  32. I read this long article in the hopes of gleaning, some well researched bits, or an objective critique of of Chima’s angle -for it is an angle. Many of us don’t gather that – there many angles, interest in feminism as there are many angles and interests in “Christianity”. Eg. The latter have Baptists, Presbyterians, SDA’s, Pentecostals, Jehovahs Witnesses, Catholics etc -who all drive for a belief in Christ but from different angles and interests. In the same way there many that all believe in rights (human rights) for women whether they are from the west, developed world, East africa, Asian etc.. all concerned with uplifting the woman’s plight. Non is more special than the other.

    For Amara, a self-imposed expert on things African, cultural or gender to not understand this basic fact -the width and breadth of what we’ve come to know as women’s lib/rights/ feminism and how it has engendered itself all over the world..even in the dark continent was the first hint, that this article was a loud sounding nothing.

    The second, attempting to establish herself as a griot with the heavenly authority to speak for the experience of 52+ African realities…something that the very person she has vilified always frames -that she is speaking for/from her OWN experience. Amara just lost here. With all her titles and accolades -this ended up being a long winded bashing of an author who happens to be a feminist her own angle her own way.

    My disappointment in getting through this consulted self-aggrandizing article without getting a shred or insight as to why there is no such thing as “African Feminism” no Books quoted eg from Miriam Ba, Ali Mazrui, Okot B’tek, Wangari Maathai, Mandikizile Mandela, Waris Di or any African woman’s or anthropologists perception to buffer her point -all the more revealed an inarticulate attempt at denying a continental reality by attacking a messenger.

    Amara Jali, I wish u empowerment, open-mindedness, I wish u off the burden of that unarticulated haughtiness and I wish u wings of knowledge and research in your quest to speak a continent of women, or atleast to deny their reality.

    This is my wish as a Kenyan woman -whos maternal great grand mother and mother and sisters (late 18th Century) before were hella feminist! (google “Wangu Makeri” to see more from Kenya) who’se parentage is from two other african countries, and who works with 5 other sub-saharan countries on food security and women. I humbly submit with my experience there, and their experience that they’ve shared -your views -attempting to speak for African women, their experience, backgrounds and culture are 180degrees contrary with the experiences of a lot of women in these 8 countries. So just try articulate for yourself/ your own experiences next time.
    Asante, na ubarikiwe!

  33. Could someone please tell me the name of the artist of the painting heading this article? It is a beautiful icon for women’s empowerment. Many thanks.

  34. Most interesting and constructive comment so far. This is the 3rd time am reading this article and the comments. But this just hits the nail on the head. African women finds joy in motherhood, the western world see it has subjugation by the our male folk. They call our home training or disciplining our children child abuse. Our form of worship to them is babrbaric. Who has given them the final say to define our lives for us. This is not to say that all African acts acceptable neither does it mean that all their way of thinking right and should be applicable to all living forms. We as Africans need to sit, think deep and then document what feminism means to us. We necessarily don’t have to conform our their solutions to our problems. Let he who wears the shoe say where it pinches. Thanks

  35. I’m so glad to see people have spoken up about the faults in this article. First off how can someone who claims to understand Africa make such sweeping generalisations about its many different cultures? There are definitely commonalities and occasions when we can talk about African culture and African society but many of the times you’ve done in this article are not the case. For example matrilineal heritage is NOT African, it is a common feature in many African cultures but not all; I am Igbo and we are patrilineal.

    Also the concept that feminisim is unAfrican because the movement has no history there is intellectual dishonest and inaccurate. By that reasoning we should abandon all things that are not rooted in our heritage, including the English, French, Portuguese and Arabic languages. But of course people will not advocate this because they have no problem with these. It’s only for matters like feminism that they don’t like that suddenly they are all about being purely African. If you think the cultures present in Africa just before colonialists came are exactly the same as they were 100 years before then you are naive. People claim to celebrate the many empires and dynasties that swept across the continent but fail to acknowledge that with these our cultures evolved as our situations changed. Our situation is not the same as it was before. Patriarchy affects African women now and therefore we need a mechanism to fight it. Just like before we did not have to think about our blackness but this changed when white supremacy settled itself globally. Africans living in the west that have to confront their blackness daily cannot just ignore it because it isn’t African. Similarly African women in west, and in African countries, cannot just ignore the issues they face as women simply because it wasn’t always African.

    It is also untrue to suggest that as African women have no history of fighting for their rights as women. There are methods such as naked protests and other forms of resistance that African women have been using to make their voices heard. They may not have called it feminism and they may not have aligned with typical feminist beliefs but they fought as women relative to their situation as African women must continue to do. We need a feminism that applies to our situation. There are African women like Ama Ata Aidoo and Inna Modja that do not hold westernised views of feminism. I have worked in the pan-African sector for years and spoken with African women that lead or participate in women’s groups that do not label themselves feminist and admittedly may say they are different from feminists but they speak plainly about the need to address domestic abuse, sanitary provisions for young girls, supporting African women who now have to look after the bottom end of the agriculture chain since men now either work further up the chain or in different sectors, sexual health and rape victims. There are issues African women face no matter how much you may claim there is no systemic oppression. You are right in that if we used the same indicators of the west on jobs and pay we may not find systemic oppression, however the data on this may not be ready so you cannot prove it doesn’t exist simply because one can’t prove it does and if these are the metrics that you use to justify a need for feminism for African women then perhaps it is you that struggled to step outside a westernised box and acknowledge how African women are contexualising their African problems and responding to them. And event then there are African women living in the west that cannot ignore western problems that affect their lives in some arbitrary bid to appear more African.

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