By: Sylvia Chemweno ~Copy Editor~
I am not an expert on feminism. I am still a student, and you can disagree or challenge my ideas. Feminism is a word that is not liked by many people, and I think many of those who don’t like feminism don’t really know its goal and purpose. People are either are comfortable with misogyny or there is simply a lot of misunderstanding among people who call themselves feminists. This misunderstanding is common and I was almost affected by it but fortunately I could learn more about it through discussions with friends.
Through interactions with many people, for and against feminism, I discovered that feminism is often related to White feminism, which led to the rise of the word “womanist” which I would equate to Black feminism. Alice Walker introduced the term womanist because she felt feminism didn’t cover the issues affecting Black women. I didn’t know what a womanist was until last year during the International Women’s Dinner when I was asked if I would call myself a feminist or a womanist. After the explanation, I felt it was right for me to call myself a womanist. I mean I am a Black woman, so why not?
It was easy until I became more conscious of my identity. I am not only Black. I also have other identities that define me: I am African, specifically Kenyan. These identities have as much influence as my race. Like Alice Walker, I also felt being a womanist didn’t cover some issues affecting the Kenyan Women.
For example, while I was growing up racial identifiers were not a big part of my culture, and now I am trying to incorporate them into my identity with all the issues that come with it. While at the same time still addressing the issues I grew up with as a woman. There is African feminism, but it didn’t seem enough. I had already interacted with so many people around the world, all with different cultures, that I couldn’t really refer myself to one.
I was confused for a while, and I needed to come up with a solution that works with our diversity and global citizenship. I relate feminism with being a surgeon. Whenever I would say I want to be a surgeon, the question that always follows is “What kind of a surgeon do you want to be?” This question doesn’t devalue any surgeon (unless that was the intention) but it recognizes that there are different kinds. They are all important in different ways and they have the same goal: to make the patient feel better.
Feminism’s goal is to treat every individual right and not to discriminate anyone based on gender and it also advocates on female liberation in patriarchal systems. I believe it is OK to have White feminism, if its purpose doesn’t in any case underrate other races, but we also need Black feminism, African feminism, Asian feminism and other kinds if their goals are to empower and fight for the rights of people who are treated unfairly because of their gender.
All these kinds of feminism are necessary because of globalization, diversity and cultural interactions. Feminists in different places address different issues that may or may not intersect with each other, and if not, that is OK and should be respected and supported. For instance, in the United States the pay wage discrepancy is a big issue while feminists in Kenya advocate against child marriage. These two issues are important and fundamental. I can’t say you must know all these issues to be a feminist, though it could be great if you do. At least do not shut out other feminists because what they stand for doesn’t resonate with you or your political, religious, social and cultural views. The word “feminism” may have started in one region, but I believe there have been feminists before then and globalization happens in movements.