In my rest between readings, I recall someone recommended that I read Chimamanda Ngozi’s books. I searched to see if anything would interest me; it caught my attention an essay she wrote in 2012 call We Should All Be Feminists. What caught me wasn’t that the book talks about feminism (I have a neutral opinion in this regard) but using the modal SHOULD. It blew a fuse in me whenever I read that word. It’s not that I don’t use it, I do. And I hate the fact that I do use it sometimes.
When you are proposing particular issue, especially social issues, one should not (here I am using it) be using obligation formats because it makes the acceptance compelled rather than optional. That’s why we don’t have to use words like should. (i.e. We shouldn’t all be feminists, not that we shouldn’t be “feminists” but that we shouldn’t be obliged to be feminists, we are not forced to be so). Even in many cases, the things that we propose as “should be doing” are true or right yet it does not give us the right to oblige others with it. I hope I clearly expressed my fury.
The lovely “happy African feminist who does not hate men” takes us to the beautiful Lagos and share with us some of its anecdotes, were all of them formed the idea of feminism and what it’s really about. This time I don’t feel like critiquing anything rather than sharing my own experience regarding to this topic. I’m a woman too, even though I have a neutral opinion towards feminism but I have never denied it. Nevertheless, I face and still facing the same dilemmas most of the days.
Middle East culture, Jordanian in specific does not substantially differ from Nigerian culture. We are known for being masculine society and still fetching the ideas of: the man has to pay for the bill, shouldn’t express his feelings properly or show his feminine side, usually he’s the breadwinner. Moreover, girls at some point are expected to get marry and have children and if she passed a certain age without being married, people start to look at her pathetically, and call her maiden. However, the pressure of being called “Maiden” is fatigued and most men do not throw a damn to that because instead of calling men maidens as well, society calls them bachelor, single or unmarried and it’s usually taken as a positive and proudest term.
Unlike Nigerian society; Jordanian are close in a way, to adopt the concepts of equality between men and women. Nowadays, women are CEOs, ministerin, members in quota, breadwinners etc. They are expected to run their life side by side with men, are not marginalized anymore (professionally talking).
I will always be thankful to my father for so many things, especially for imposing my being on others; whenever we were together and someone greets him, he waits for him to greet me too and if he doesn’t he introduce me so he’s obliged to greet me. He never misses a chance to talk about me to his friends and to let me mingle with them. Moreover, Arabs take pride of their nicknames (Father of so and so) this “so and so” usually his son, whether he was the oldest, midmost or eldest one. But the point is, you gain your nickname instantly when your “first child” is born (whether it was a boy or a girl) but because we are “masculine society” we don’t like to be nicknamed after a girl, so whether we had a boy or not our nickname will be linked with a boy’s name no matter what. But my dad strongly refused to be nicknamed after one of his sons, although I was the only daughter and has three sons, but because I was the eldest, he named me after the city he loves the most, and nicknamed himself after me. Beside being a human rights activist, he was largely interested in the rights of women, he was feminist himself.
“If you are a man and you walk into a restaurant and the waiter greets just you, does it occur to you to ask the waiter, “Why have you not greeted her?” Men need to speak out in all of these ostensibly small situations.”
Something we have to understand very well; culture doesn’t make people, people make culture. We have raised ourselves to see the man dominant because he seemed more macho and has that strong manly voice so we tailed ourselves to him. Now we are paying the price under the word feminism.
“If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal.”
My problem with feminists, not that they support women rights in specific, but how they support these rights; they want equality, but the real demand should be justice. When demanding for equality they want us to be equal in status and rights to men but they forgot that part of equality is being equal in opportunities (i.e. if men works at coal mines women should have the same opportunity REGARDLESS to their biological structure, which they do not bear this kind of hardship, with some exceptions of course). Justice on the other hand, holds all the meanings of equality as well as following the principle of “Every session has a different discussion”; if women are working at coal mines they either work as managers or work as laborers with LESS WORKING HOURS to fit their biological structure. Some people would think: why women brought up the word feminist at this aggressive way? And why instead of calling for women rights, they call for human rights? Here, Chimamanda responds by saying:
“That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.”
** On the sideline: Chimamanda you are a beautiful soul.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie