I just read yet another piece celebrating the quiet feminist. The privately strong woman who fixes her light bulbs, changes her car tires and achieves her own but doesn’t disturb the peace with all that agitation about women’s rights, equality and all that other brass stuff. Lately, I have read so much about this kind of feminist that I was beginning to feel a little ashamed of my own taste in feminists. I have always favoured the loud, disruptive Tamales and Kimbugwes over my next door privately independent woman. Then, on a facebook thread debating the current marriage and divorce bill, a woman arrogantly proclaimed, “I am not a feminist and I will never be.” That statement just made me snap. Really?! How far are we going to rescind before we are back to square zero thanking our husbands for loving us enough to beat us?
So this hear, is to say, I am done and tired of apologetic feminism. This is to sing a loud bellowing ‘ole ‘ole to that loud, disruptive feminist who earned my equality and other freedoms. This is to send a resounding slap across the face of that quietly independent woman. Get off your ass and help a girl become what someone else earned for you.
Yes, there are strong and wonderfully independent women in the world whose children should sing their praises. I like to think I am one of them. But does being an independent woman necessarily earn one the right to be decorated feminist? I think not. Unless we are willing to equate a repaired shoe to the cobbler who mended it, that quietly independent woman is a product of feminism but not a feminist herself. Unless of course she does something that actually reduces the disadvantage at which women in her society stand.
You see, we trivialize feminism when we interpret it as being merely about our individual lifestyles and self-esteem. “Oh, see I am a feminist. I fix my own light bulbs. I can change a tire.” If that was what feminism was about, we would have shored ages ago considering how easy it is to change a bulb. But it isn’t about you and yourself esteem. Instead, feminism is up again some major obstacles that litter our systems and laws. Things that actually kill women. Forget about dirtying your designer blouse as you change tires. These are things that we cannot put to an end simply by having a high self-esteem. Consider that upto 100 women in this country are murdered by their spouses each year. Now, how does the slactivism of plugging your own plumbing change that?
The thing that most saddens me when I read about this sweet humble feminist is that invariably she is compared to the disruptive system warrior. Apparently she deserves as much praise as Sylivia Tamale or Miria Matembe. Are you kidding me? To change the reality of women she will never even meet, Tamale puts in all the law and research hours it requires. Matembe takes all the public ridicule to her femininity that it takes. FIDA lawyers publically shed tears over the delay a domestic relations bill they probably don’t need themselves. In so doing, they change national policy and perspective and thereby shift the meter for women’s wellbeing. Do you really think that is the equivalent of your mother raising you? Well my dear, unless your mama’s quite strength has the charisma and circumstance of Mahatma Gandhi’s it is unlikely to change much for anyone except you. Meanwhile, another 40,000 women will die this year procuring an unsafe abortion because a government dominated by men and privileged women continues to de-prioritise contraceptive care.
So fix all the light bulbs you want but in my book, you are not a feminist until you are doing something to better the lives of women beyond you.