Feminism; Equality or Equity?

I grew up in a world where my mom worked almost 16 hours a day. A world where my dad sometimes made lunch or dinner.My brothers handled the dishes and did the laundry.I was surrounded by career women mostly. I grew up in a world where the 1st – 5th position in class were outranked by girls. I came across cool stories about women like Deborah the first female judge in the Bible and Queen Esther the woman who liberated her people. Others may include the late Mrs Dora Akunyili( Director- General of NAFDAC) and the late Mrs Funmilayo Rasome Kuti who was not just the first woman to ride a car in Nigeria but also was a fierce advocate for women’s rights. She campaigned against price controls placed by the colonial masters designed to drastically limit the incomes of market women. I watched cartoons like Wonder Woman, Princess Diana, Kim possible and even series like Xena; The Warrior Princess

I was intrigued with talk shows like The Oprah Winfrey show , The Wendy Williams show, Chelsea Lately & Ellen Degeneres.

source: sparkpost

So yes! for most of my childhood I was oblivious to the concept of misogyny and patriarchy because to me it didn’t exist in my bubble of a world.

But you see that bubble burst one day when my class teacher picked a boy to be the class captain and a girl his assistant. I couldn’t comprehend it because I didn’t understand why the girl had to assist when clearly she surpassed the latter in everything then he said something that was stuck in my head for years. He said “he has to be the captain because he’s a boy, a boy can’t be the assistant because that’s a girls job.” And with time my world started to unveil and then I saw things a bit differently.

Feminism is a socio-political and economic advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality.

Feminism is a very broad topic. It’s not just about women’s rights, it’s the fight for equity of the modern day woman. It is one of the most important social movements which has brought about the most enduring and progressive transformation of the human society

There has been a lot of controversies as regards the true meaning of feminism and this has perhaps muddled the orientation surrounding its concept.

Today’s feminism may mean different things to different people

source: Princess Orumade, quote- Maya Angelou

For years feminists have not only fought against bigotry and misogyny. They’ve fought and are still fighting against prevalent societal issues like child marriage, rape, abortion,sexual assault, lack of education, equal job opportunities and salaries between both sexes, marginalization of women, social exclusion e.t.c but you see as time progressed, the concepts of feminism has diverged. They often vary in goals, strategies and affiliation. Some of these may include;

Cultural feminism; which simply seeks to understand women’s location in the society by concentrating on the gender differences between men and women. For example in Nigeria. Women are seen as inferior to men. Some cultures believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. When a woman’s husband dies, her head is shaved and she is made miserable for a couple of days in order to prove her love for her husband but when a man loses his wife a simple burial is done. Cultural feminism exists to correct the patriarchal basis of tradition in the society.

Mainstream feminism- This typically has roots in the first-wave feminism and quite liberal in nature . It primarily focused on political and legal reforms (right to vote) but it has often been criticized as “bourgeois feminism” and “non-inclusive” as regards race, class and sexuality. From a different perspective it’s a feminist movement that seeks to alter the structure of society’s s transform it to ensure the equal treatment of women by maintaining their equality through their actions and choices.

Radical feminism- This set of feminists feel that there is a male based authority and power structure that is responsible for the oppression of women inequality amongst sexes and as long as that system is in place, society won’t be able to be reformed in any significant way.

source: Princess Orumade, quote- we should all be feminists by Chimamanda Adichie

I could go on to list other kinds of feminism like cultural feminism, anarcha-feminism, Black feminism and so on but that would be besides the point. Some argue that every feminist has an altered standpoint on the movement due to the varying hurdles women of different backgrounds come across. Although it’s quite apparent that they all share a common notion which is that of “Equality” of both sexes (male & female) the term “Equality” has been criticized and argued in terms of in terms of extent and depth.

I prefer to see Feminism as a bigger picture; the fight for what’s just & fair. To continuously fight for equal rights is a fight for justice and impartiality. Imagine a world where we are all feminists; The rapid reduction in violence, Rape, child marriage, sexual molestation, cultural mutilation. The increase in economic growth and standard of living. To not be feminist is pretending women haven’t been shunned and overlooked for centuries. Like they weren’t the ones who were told that the only place for them was in the kitchen. Why is it that when a rape victim reports a case, one of the first things she’s asked is what she was wearing? Why does the world always use a woman’s body to objectify or victimize her? When a man speaks up for himself, he’s confident but when a woman does it, she’s rude. It’s okay for a man to wear a tank top or go topless if he feels like it. Infact they are praised for it but when a woman tries to express herself however she wants to, she is shunned and ridiculed. It’s a scary world for a girl. Every girl has a familiar story in Lagos, Nigeria as regards crowded markets like Yaba and Eko. The catcalls, sexual Harassment, oral abuse and so on.

source: Princess Orumade, quote- Coco Chanel

One thing I’d like to clarify in this piece is feminism isn’t a war waged against men; it’s a war waged against the system and the orientation built around it. So look at the bigger picture; it’s not about who’s paying the bill, it’s not about who’s cooking or doing the laundry or what not. The more you realize women aren’t insubordinate to men, the clearer you see things. Feminism is a radical notion that women are human beings. It’s about the bigger picture; what’s fair and just for women.

28 thoughts on “Feminism; Equality or Equity?”

  1. You’re so right. Once we cease to see any difference in value based on gender, everything really becomes clearer and there’ll be no need for silly arguments about the rightness or wrongness of feminism. Feminism is so necessary.

  2. Isioma this a lovely piece I didn’t even know you liked writing. This is a developing ‘concept’ in Nigeria (and for the most part Africa). The African woman still has a lot to face as being independent woman is still a strange and abominable thing in Africa. The fight will probably be a long one cause of all the oppression from our fore father’s down till to this day. But we start now with young voices like yours am sure in no time there will be equity across both genders

  3. This is a brilliant piece.Not to sound condescending but i never knew you write, Anyways the African woman (or women in general) have faced gender oppression for a very long time from the time of our fore-fathers down to this very moment. And am sorry to say but the fight for equality and equity might just be a long one especially in Africa where change isn’t necessarily a good thing. but it is good to see young women like not conforming to societal pressure of what their lives should be. i for one believe in the movement and what the movement stood for but not the practicality of it. Anyways would love to meet for better discussion.

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  6. This happens way more often than you think. Not because teachers are inherently unfair creatures (I would know; I’m a teacher), but because students have come to understand “fairness” as simply equal treatment. Others are starting to question this “Sharing is Caring” idea and over-simplistic expectations of fairness.

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