How Do I Tell Wande that She too can be Feminist?
Being a law student is exhausting for me. Every second counts but sometimes I just want to chill, breathe a little. I stayed with my sister a while in a compound filled with medical students who, like me, do not want to be bothered by the fine tasks of cleaning and stuff. So these girls come around quite often. Wash clothes (not very well), fetch water, as being in Ilorin we don’t have water, run this and that errands. And they’re terribly respectful.
Wande is 17 or 21 or 23 or 19, I can’t tell, but she calls me ‘ma’. Tiny me! I don’t know why I haven’t told her to stop yet. Probably because she bangs the door at 7am loudly, ‘please give me fetcher’. Did I mention that they are not particularly attuned to the intricacies of polite behaviour? Etiquette and all that?
I’ve never thought myself privileged; I’m not even privileged. I’m almost always broke, right now I am broke. Sometimes I only give her stuff to do because it’s better than just dashing her some small money I may have. But I thought just yesterday, this girl may think me privileged. And for that, I may be comparatively privileged. After all, I can hardly speak Yoruba, I sit facing my laptop almost always, I have this bunny rabbit on my bed, I go to school, I can afford to pay her. She acts with such deference towards me (and the other residents) that it’s almost scary.
It’s just that I keep wondering: Why this deference? Is she like this with everyone else? With guys? Does she cower at the sound of the powerful, deep male voice of whomever? Does she know she has full-blown rights? Does she know the fullness of her power as a being, as a woman? How can I tell her these things? Who am I to?
My final year project was on Nigerian Feminism, yay! I learnt so much in the process of doing it. I put the result of my research into writing and contributed immensely to the field of knowledge. Lol. Whose field of knowledge? Certainly not Wande’s.
In recent times the conversation on feminism has been growing tremendously. Enter ‘feminist’ via google search. Visit twitter. Read Chimamanda. John Legend? He’s also said everyone should be feminist. I won’t forget Queen Beyoncé or Emma Watson or MsAfropolitan or Tobi or Osagie or @theblackhermit. Everywhere there is something being said or written about feminism/stiwanism/womanism/femalism/motherism. Everywhere but in Wande’s world.
The social and intellectual divide is so wide and deep it seems nearly impossible to cross. Micere Mugo, way back in 1985, termed a similar situation the ‘book apartheid’: ‘our underprivileged sisters out there have been unaccommodated by the world of books and written ideas.’ She raised a challenge that I’ve decided to take up. I don’t want to just ‘do theory’ in my project and nothing else.
Female disempowerment in Africa is worse than anywhere else. I want to be accountable to the Wandes, too.
So I’m taking steps on here. I’d like to tell Wande she can be feminist too.
And guess what? So can you.