The Face Of African Feminism

The word Feminism is often met with frowns and grumbles, mainly by the male population. Feminism and its many theories and facets have been grossly misconstrued by many – even women. It is by no means an attempt to engage men in battle and equate women to men.

In the day to day phraseology, many people harbour the notion that feminism solely has to do with hate for men. There are different kinds of feminism. Envying the power of the masculine phallic symbol and fighting to stand on an equal footing with men is termed Radical feminism. Other theories like Liberal feminism seeks equality in all forms with men – in the social, economic, political arena. Individualist feminism aims to tell the government to retract from engaging in matters which involve the female and her choice in things concerning her body.

Feminism engages the important role of awakening the female power she has been thought to suppress during the years, to hone her competencies and reminding the woman that she can be better than what she has been reduced to and thought to be in the past.

Feminism should seek to remind a woman that she can rise from her current position to something more elevated. More importantly, feminism should strive to achieve a non-gendered category of power, the enactment of competency above gender and sex. In this regard, African feminism should be driven towards Cultural based feminism – it should seek to revalidate the undervalued attributes of a woman. It should help preserve the sanctity of the African female and encourage society to engage in activities that kick against the denigration of the female image being used as a symbol of sexual entertainment.

There are varied feminism theories – to define it in a generic term without a clear and concise view is another ploy to derail the understanding of the real face of necessary feminism. The type of feminism that should be encouraged is Development Feminism. Judith Lorber, in the Variety of Feminisms and their Contribution to Gender Equality, defines Development feminism as “addressing the economic exploitation of women in post-colonial countries on the way to industrialisation.”

She goes ahead to say that, “Women workers in developing countries in Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa are paid less than men workers, whether they work in factories or do piece work at home. To survive in rural communities, women grow food, keep house, and earn money any way they can to supplement what their migrating husbands send them.”

That being said, Africa and Cameroon, in particular, has done a great job in the field of empowering the woman identity, giving her opportunities in every domain. All that is left is to deconstruct dangerous ideologies like, “A woman can never surpass me” or “A woman can never be president when I am alive.”

A woman is a part of society – she should have her strength and competencies exploited to better the community in which we all live in. Selfishly denying her the chance to prove herself, is a crime whose punishment will be the stagnation of our society. In the Pan-Africanist thought process, there is a call for diversity of gender roles for the future of the African continent.

Like Thomas Sankara said in Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle,

“Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of women’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt…

…a woman’s consciousness of herself is not only a product of her sexuality. It reflects her position as determined by the economic structure of society, which in turn expresses the level reached by humankind in technological development and the relations between classes.

Collectively, we can empower women – once they cease to be viewed as merely sexual beings, once we look beyond their biological functions and become conscious of their weight as an active social force.