Originally published on chisomojukwu.wordpress.com
RE: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS
I love your first name. It is very beautiful and unique and I think you are very beautiful too. Maybe I will name my daughter after you someday, if I have a daughter or any child for that matter. Why ‘if’? Well because the world is bad and full of surprises; it is not the same world I was raised in, so I am scared of bringing an innocent child into this world. But worse, I am scared I will never get married (please don’t tell my mother), not because I am ugly or un-homely or un-womanly.
I guess it is just because I am me.
See, I am a feminist. Probably not as hot-blooded as you are, but one nonetheless. I am that person who believes in smoothing out the odds between the so-called genders. In this case, not by fighting for equal rights with placards – I am not so politically inclined – but by acknowledging that something is just not right somewhere and deciding to fix it starting with myself and my relationships.
As a child, I unconsciously imbibed feminist traits from God-knows-where. I found myself saying things like, “I don’t want a man to control me.” And I fought boys a lot, not physically, most times because I am quite a girl, but I never let a boy walk all over me for no reason. My best cartoon TV program was and still is Mulan. I attended a Girls Only secondary school and that must have just fuelled my passion more. Presently as a student in the university, I still do not like guys disrespecting me or disregarding my opinion simply because I’m a female. But because guys are ‘chyking’ me now, I am supposed to reflect the image of girlfriend or ‘wife material’ they expect me to be. So I have to cook every day and feed some guys too so that the testimony of my culinary artistry is spread abroad. The penalty for defaulting is an alarming reduction in my yards of wife material. Also I must stop paying a part of the bill when I go on dates, because it emasculates the guys. If I persist, I have been warned, it will only make them less gentlemanly towards me. Lastly, I must put a stop to both loving and declaring my love for you, Chimamanda, because if I continue to be so daring, I will never get married.
Chii’m (biko allow me to Igbolize your name), does it matter that I spend my meager student allowance buying megabytes to download your YouTube videos? Or is it wrong that I have re-read all your books but one more than five times? How does appreciating a married woman make me less of a woman?
I think what hurts most is that my friends do not understand. They tell me that women have a ‘cooking gene’ simply because we are nurturers (a fact implied from the fact that we breastfeed). Well, I don’t know how true that is, but I doubt I have it – the gene – because cooking is not my hobby.
Please before all my prospective suitors will run away, let me be clear: I can cook, I can even enjoy doing it in comfortable environments, but cooking is NOT my hobby and I definitely do NOT have a cooking gene.
Even though many people disagree and say that your idealisms of feminism are unrealistic in Nigeria, and that you’re alienated from African culture because you live abroad, I disagree. I believe you are smart and always make a lot of sense. So, nne, biko answer, is it true all those things they say about me?
On a serious note, Amanda, I relate with your talks especially, your TedX talk, We Should All Be Feminists. And I wish more people, male and female alike, will watch, hear or in the very least, read it. It pricked my heart to realize how much we have accepted and unconsciously imbibed certain traits and are teaching it to the next generation.
As an aside, thank God for the invention of mirrors and front camera phones; if I need validation, I simply take a selfie to remind myself of how beautiful I am or better still, I read Songs of Solomon in the Bible and pray. Simply put, I do not understand why I need a man in my life to validate my living or my existence. It hurts me to see many women seeking validation from men or rotating their lives around a man, sometimes a hopeless one.
The stereotype that a woman must always be under a man is another amazing one; as an undergraduate hustling for a better future, I often meet the occasional human being with Grade Point Average multiplied by two equaling one or zero, that calls himself a man, telling me that “after all, it’s a man’s world, you will still end up in a man’s house and along with all your struggle, certificates and titles, you will belong to him” or “whether or not you are a Barrister or Doctor, as far as your husband is only Mr, all you’ll ever be is a Mrs”. And this height of stupidity is in a university community!
I once told a male friend my life plans; they looked something like graduate, law school, youth service, masters, travel, work, PhD etc. And after I chirpily listed all I was excited to stay alive for, all he asked was, “What about marriage, where does it come in?” To which I replied, “Well, anywhere. It’s really not a prerequisite to my fulfillment in life.”
Now, Chimamanda, this does not mean that I do not want to get married. It simply means that I do not want to live my life waiting for the right man to find me. I plan to build myself into the right woman for any man willing and daring enough to support me and my feminine ideals, and well, if this does not work out, then so be it. I will die knowing I lived a life fulfilling to myself and God.
Finally on the marriage issue, people tell me, “Keep doing Chimamanda, she’s married and abroad making her money, while you are here, unmarried.” Chii’m, please should I stop ‘doing’ you just so I can get married? I don’t want to spend the rest of my teenage life and early twenties aspiring for marriage by practicing compromise in relationships where I will be treated as a lesser mortal; by having “ambition but not too much” so that I do not intimidate the man who will be gracious enough to marry a lawyer like me.
All of this is just very confusing to me, and bothersome. I need a reply from you ASAP so that I do not become totally unmarriageable, especially before I start pursuing my Masters and PhD. I still have a million questions to ask, but I will wait till I meet you in person.
Please greet Uncle Ivara for me and take care of yourself.
PS: I agree with your two definitions of a feminist. But here is mine: “Feminist: a man or woman who says, Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better.”
PPS: Please don’t tell my mum.
PPPS: I also love make-up and girly dresses and African culture. Does this make me less eligible in the race for feminism? Will I be respected in all my femininity and lipstick or do I have to wear ugly pant suits without bras? Just joking, I know your reply here.
PPPPS: Really, don’t tell my mum.
Written by Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa