I have always considered myself a feminist, and sometimes voicing it out loud gets me stares that are somehow supposed to make me feel inadequate, especially in my country, Nigeria. This is however not only unique to Nigeria but to many other African countries and even the world.
For some reason, folks have never cared to understand what the term feminism truly is and they often brush it aside as a term used for frustrated women who don’t love their men or unmarried spinsters that don’t have a man (please keep in mind that the only constant here is ‘MAN’). They refuse to understand (men and women alike), that a feminist can indeed be content and happy and just focused on making the world a better place for every one.
Feminism is not a selfish movement by women for women but an active reorientation of the public to stop raising girls and boys on different standards.
Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.
Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”
It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.
I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits
that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.
Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but
inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.
– Lily Myers
A friend of mine, for the sake of this illustration, Chineye, a young wife, barely 24 realized that she was never in love with the husband she married when was 20. Confiding in me, Chineye relayed her tales of family pressure to marry a much older, richer man to take care of her needs and the needs of her family members (which is a common norm practiced in this part of the world).
Her husband Uchenna works in a big oil company and is educated to the point of having an Msc. Chineye on the other hand, is also educated with a Bsc. to her name. Chineye has never worked a day in her life and is constantly reminded that she is nothing but a child-bearer and care-giver by her husband, while he, goes around philandering with other women.
Chineye wants out! She believes she can get out of the marriage now that they have no children but she has refused to take any steps towards this action because of the Nigerian society’s perception of a ‘divorced woman’. Chineye knows what she wants but is stuck at the same spot because ‘it is never appropriate for a woman to do such a thing’.
What is Feminism?
According to the Oxford dictionary, Feminism is defined as the advocacy for women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes.
Here is a video from renowned Nigerian author and feminist, Chimamanda Adichie that fully explains the concept of feminism according to her views.
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