Conversations On Feminism As An Upshoot Of Cultural Trends
Feminism, like a lot of concepts, has gained widespread acceptance with time. There was a time the mere mention of the word would trigger feral reactions. Today, more women are proud to be referred to as feminists, a term whose origin is credited to the Utopian socialist, Charles Fourier. It hasn’t always been this way though.
The women at the forefront of the first wave of feminist movements spoke up about their rights and sought to be more than second-class citizens. They wanted to vote, own property, get an education and a lot more. These pioneers, known as suffragettes, were seen as terrorists hell-bent on throwing the world into chaos. However, when women were given the right to vote in 1920, there was a sense of solidarity accompanied by a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence too.
With books like Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ which breaks down the systemic sexism that taught women about their “place in the home” to more recent ones like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ which talks about the need for feminism, discussions on the importance of this movement are exploding globally. The internet is the new city hall, village square, whatever you want to call it, where these conversations are taking place. More men are understanding why women need to be regarded as equals and more women are unlearning the limiting mindsets they’ve been conditioned into over centuries.
The advent of the 21st century has also brought with it some opposition. This is especially because the second generation questioned widely-held assumptions about sex and gender roles. Various reductive takes on violence against women, marriage, divorce, reproductive rights, education and sexual harassment have followed feminism into this era.
Before now, sexual harassment was swept under the carpet. Women suffered silently, with some of them worrying whether outrightly rejecting the men who propositioned them would warrant them losing their jobs and whether they had in a way invited these unwanted advances at themselves. Furthermore, more issues like abortion, domestic violence and pregnancy are also being discussed. More people are coming to terms with the fact that not talking about these things doesn’t make them less real. They are actual problems that have been trivialised and ignored over the years and must be addressed.
With more movements on the forefront, more women are eager and willing to speak up about the issues society expects them to be ashamed of. Nigeria is not left out of conversations like this with debates and action following this. July 2018 saw the birth of The Consent Workshop, an online movement that creates safe spaces for survivors and educates people to deconstruct the myths around rape culture. According to its founder, Uche Umolu, this movement started with women and men who had suffered sexual violence opening up about their experiences. A few months later, women in Lagos marched to end the normalised sexual harassment they are often subjected to in the popular Yaba market, notorious for this heinous behaviour. Later that year, the march extended to other parts of the country.
Earlier this year, a group of young women called The Feminist Coalition joined millions of other Nigerian youths across the country to call for police reform. These women handled support for the protests nationwide and went as far as helping out with legal and medical aids amidst other crucial expenses.
The feminist movement is not restricted to Southern and Western Nigeria alone, women in northern Nigeria also started the #ArewaMeToo movement against the abuse, harassment and assault of women. This single hashtag provided a platform for many to talk about the parts of their lives that they had never spoken about before. Harrowing experiences of young girls and boys sexually abused and molested were recounted and this almost seemed like a part of many childhoods swept under the rug.
It is safe to say that women have come a long way from back in the 80s. Today’s woman is more confident and empowered. She can seek help if she’s abused by her partner, she doesn’t have to put up with unwelcome advances at work. She feels empowered to name and shame her oppressor. It may not be at the point where it is expected to be, but it is surely at a good place.