First of all, let me wish you a happy and fruitful month of March. As a feminist, I tend to observe it as a woman and as an activist, and this year I will be sharing this with you in this column. I hope we can learn together, discuss grave and light matters and have fun.
Let us get some definitions out of the way so that we don’t get bogged down by unnecessary misunderstandings and sneaky patriarchal twisting of feminist concepts, actions and values.
Feminism is not easily defined nor understood: you have to study it at least a little bit to have an informed opinion.
It is complex, multilayered, and contradictory at times and certainly challenging to the patriarchal hegemony we all live in and that feminism is trying to overthrow.
Feminism is arguably an “imported Western concept,” but I find that position insulting to all our foremothers, ill-informed and part of patriarchy’s propaganda.
Feminism is an ideology, and I have a friend to thank for this realisation and consequently this article because he asked me: Is feminism an ideology?
Yes. Yes, it most defined as: Ideology (Noun): A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy. For example: ‘‘The ideology of republicanism’’ (Source: Wikipedia, 2020).
Feminism stands in opposition to paternalism/patriarchy which are ideologies that privilege the male gender over all others, elders over youth and children, the capital in opposition and exploitation of nguvu-kazi or work.
Feminists believe that paternalism and patriarchy are detrimental to human (and planetary) survival and thriving. Our enemy ideologies are oppressive, rapacious and violent to all people, including those who “benefit” from them.
The broadest definition I can come up with for feminism is that it is a set of ideals which aim to fight the patriarchy so that all people (and our planet) can live at a basic level of human (and planetary) decency, safety and respect for their rights.
As you can imagine, this means that there are many strains of feminist beliefs.
I fall on the “soft” side of feminism. I am comfortable, perhaps even too comfortable, with men. I don’t believe that feminism is in any way in opposition to masculinity and am actively in touch with my inner man.
I believe that since we all suffer under patriarchy, it is only natural to ally with men who are feminists, or feminism-friendly. I study men and masculinities both formally and informally to understand how patriarchy affects them and how feminism can help them break the shackles of gendered oppression. Let me end here for now and continue our conversation next week.
Have a happy Women’s Day on March 8, please attend an event if you can. I believe in you!
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]