At one point last year, I felt in serious doubt of my feminism.
Maybe it was because I hated that the #MeToo movement seemed to mean nothing in South Africa, a country where rape is a serious epidemic. My brother also asked me what feminism meant. He told me that he believes men and women should be equal but does not identify as feminist. What he said at that particular moment had me wondering. Now I am wondering again, what does feminism mean to me?
I knew I was a feminist ever since I was a child, I just didn’t know the word or definition. I would take on any boy who treated me inadequately. Most of them would usually call me stuck up.
Just like my brother, I did not know what value the word feminism carries. The first time I heard it was in the song ***Flawless by Beyonce. I immediately thought, “Oh, I’m a feminist.”
In high school, my newly obtained feminist title inspired me to do speeches for assessment marks on the topic. After the second speech I made on gender issues, my Afrikaans teacher said she hoped that one day I was going to do something about it. Her words stuck with me.
The 2018 death of the mother of our nation, Winnie Mandela, revived my feminism. She kept the ideas of her husband alive while he and many other anti-Apartheid leaders were imprisoned and exiled. While our country was transitioning to democracy, she was painted as the unfaithful wife of Nelson Mandela, and as a murderer. White oppressors, along with black patriarchy, tried their best to keep her down. Her legacy is now told by us, the people.
I think we need history lessons on feminism. There are still too many untold stories, especially those of women of colour.
Violence against women and children is terrifyingly high in South Africa.
Since I was 13, I have always wondered, “Is it safe for me to walk around the corner alone?” I also wonder about the prospects of me being physically assaulted or abused by a partner. I’m not a woman who conforms to patriarchal standards. It is therefore not an impossible prospect in this country that I might be assaulted.
Police and government must do more to address the horrors women and girls in South Africa face on a daily basis.
To me, feminism means not allowing a man to have any kind of power over you. I still consider myself an unlearned feminist. I’ve learned about feminists like Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and Kimberlé Crenshaw and I’m making it a priority to read more. I just wish I knew about more African feminist idols.
I also still consider myself an impractical feminist. At the moment I talk, write, post and like about it. Is it enough in this digital age? Is there more I could do?