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“The Umbrella Is Wide Enough To Accommodate All Our Views” – Nigerian Women Speak on Feminism and Feminine Choice

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by Abigail Anaba

In recent years, the debate surrounding women’s movements have gained new momentum. With women’s marches; a proliferation of rape accusations and the #metoo movement pitted against published research claims that women are generally not happier with their quality of life today than they were four decades ago and Jordan Peterson’s teachings, there is growing confusion over the expediency of feminism. Huffington Post cites a report by Wharton Professors Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers saying “since 1972, women’s overall level of happiness has dropped, both relative to where they were forty years ago, and relative to men.” (https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/289511)

In 2011, Suzanne Venker and Phylis Schafly co-authored the book, “The Flipside of Feminism, what conservative women know – and men can’t say.” In this book, the authors claim that the entire feminist movement is a conspiracy to create a problem that did not really exist and then create more problems in an attempt to solve them. For a good majority of today’s woman, that line of reasoning appears criminally absurd. There have been big issues like the gender pay gap and sexism which has dominated feminine discuss. Without a structured effort which is pro-woman empowerment, how will these issues be addressed?

Reading through “The Flipside of Feminism”, the authors make a case for equality of opportunity without subscribing to what they describe as “the feminist dogma”. According to them, this dogma is firmly rooted in communist ideologies and its attack on the family unit. They call attention to how feminists have pushed for women to abandon their roles in the family unit as wives and primary care givers to their children. They also tell of how subscribers to the Betty Friedan and Here Simone De Beauvoir strain of feminism not only turn up their noses at women who choose to stay with traditional institutions but also refuse to rate women who achieve success despite “conservative” leanings. Feminist thinker Beauvoir is quoted by Daily Wire as once saying of stay-at-home moms: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” (https://www.dailywire.com/news/25208/top-10-raging-feminist-fails-2017-paul-bois#)

Following these reports some women are beginning to rethink their take on feminism as a whole and radical feminism in particular. Their reasons are many and varied. But one reason that keeps surfacing is that angry women have hijacked a good cause and made it into something disagreeable. A Twitter user (@Healthertainer) put it this way in a tweet which has gone viral, “It is sad how many women are practising MISANDRY in the name of FEMINISM. We are supposed to be advocating for equity/equality not ingrained prejudice against men!” This twitter user is not alone.

NewsWireNGR therefore, spoke with persons who identify as feminists and sought their views on feminism and feminine choice. Adefunke, 24, who works as an Account Manager and identifies as a feminist says radical feminists are “pretty extreme…They position feminism as a hate movement.” Azeenarh Mohammed, 32, lawyer and digital security trainer, who identifies as Queer and Radical Feminist clarifies, “I see many chauvinistic folks try to equate radical feminism with lesbian, no make-up wearing, men hating who want world domination. And this scares everyone. In fact, even [the words] together seems threatening.”

Unlike Venker and Schafly however, many women still believe that feminism is not just needed but necessary. However, what they mean is the feminism that meets with their own personal definitions. “To me, a feminist is one who believes that people should be allowed the same opportunities regardless of the gender they identify as,” says Azeenarh. She is however quick to add that in 2018 “the feminist agenda” goes beyond treating men and women as equal.” According to her women need more than equality “because women need a longer ladder just to reach where men are economically, socially, and politically.”

For Award-Winning Author Sally Kenneth Dadzie, “Feminism…simply means having a society where women are treated equally to men, where women are given the same opportunities men have, and are not deprived of those opportunities on the basis of their gender.” She adds, “Feminism is not about hating men. A lot of us believe that we need men in our fight against patriarchy because it hurts men as well. We believe in equality of the sexes, so if a woman claims that by virtue of her gender, she is greater or better than a man and deserves more, then that is not feminism. She’s dragging the cause backwards.”

Adefunke on the other hand feels certain people may not qualify as feminists. “I don’t think someone can just wake up one day and claim they can relate to the unfairness women deal with. And a woman who chooses to be a man, I think there are traces of love for patriarchy in the factors that influence the choice.” Concerning men being feminists, she says “Perhaps for political correctness, it’s safer for a man to consider himself “pro-feminism” [or pro-feminist] instead.”

The conflicting ideal that feminists hold is another reason why some women find it troubling. For instance, should feminists be pro-life or pro-choice. “I believe being pro-life still has a place in feminism. As long as the pro-life choice is yours and you are not forcing it upon another woman who is pro-choice,” says Azeenarh. Uduak, an undergraduate of Babcock University holds a different view. “I believe different people view feminism differently. Not every single feminist is going to agree on every single topic. … I don’t think I’d ever abort a child but then I’m not in the shoes of those who do. Some of them may have been raped to get that child. But I’m not sure you can recognize as fully pro-life and fully feminist. It’s a one leg in one leg out situation.”

On the issue of feminism and marriage, the path to the light is also unclear. Uduak’s view is that when two people get married two becomes one, so you have to consider your partner when making certain decisions [affecting] your body. For instance, you most definitely shouldn’t get an abortion without discussing with your husband. Adefunke agrees. She says a single woman can decide to take out her womb or tie her tube or get an abortion because she’s not in any way committed to anyone. But a married woman cannot do that without speaking to her partner because her decisions affect him. That will apply to men too. On her own part Azeenarh believes a woman has the first, last, and final 100% say on what happens with her body. She can decide to get pregnant early, late, not at all, terminate a pregnancy, transition to another body.

This in a way draws attention to the vexing issue of choice. What if a woman decides to submit to her husband’s authority? “I think where it becomes difficult is when can we tell if it’s the person’s choice to defer, or when is it the weight of expectation that makes them defer to another’s authority. There is still no metric for that and I doubt if we will ever get it,” Azeenarh opines.

Yet, Adefunke believes that feminists only identify with “progressive choices”. But as can be seen, one woman’s progressive choice may not be tolerated by another. Speaking on being pro-choice, a respondent who chose to remain anonymous says she is unable to see how she can be pro-life and not advocate that government must not use her tax money to pay for other people’s abortions. By certain definitions of feminism this effectively makes her anti-feminist even though she believes in equality of opportunity.

Zenker and Schafly provide a solution to women who think this way. They say a woman can be strong, independent and successful and not be a feminist. In their words, “we don’t need feminism at all”. This is a choice many feminists are not ready to accede. In her 2013 Ted Talk, foremost Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, “We should all be feminists.” Azeenarh puts it this way, “Folks need to stop shying away from the label cos they already believe in it, and they need to take the word back.” But this view is not held by all. Dadzie believes that feminism is about choice and if a woman decides not to be identified as one, she has a right to. In her words, “A woman should choose what she desires to be. If she has no desire to be a feminist, it’s okay.”

Despite the controversies surrounding the word and the ideologies connected to it, there is a strong need for men and women to stand up for the fundamental human rights of equality and freedom. No person deserves to be ill-treated on the basis of class, gender or status. Especially in Africa where the legal system is replete with archaic and dinosauric policies put in place by men who feel they know what women want – you can read of some of these policies in this article here(

“No Woman Shall Be Employed in Underground Work in Any Mines” and Four Other Times the Nigerian Legislative System Disappoints Women

) – advocacy work to ensure that policies and cultures are dropped should be strongly encouraged . Women and men should come together and work together as equals to figure a way out of the issues that bedevil society. Matters like the rape culture and gender stereotypes should be openly and honestly discussed with each side listening and learning from the other. Azeenarh puts it this way, “The umbrella is wide enough to accommodate all our views, and we need to keep talking to each other, learning, unlearning, relearning, debating, and sharing ideas.”

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