Feminism has always been a very controversial topic. Many people offer diverse opinions on what it should be and what it is not. The rise of social media has also brought several more views and opinions about this discourse. Recently, I was on twitter and I realized ‘feminism’ was trending. The entire trend was triggered by a question Nigerian author and feminism advocate, Chimamanda Adichie, asked Hillary Clinton about why she chose to describe herself first as ‘wife’ (on her twitter bio) despite her many achievements. Chimamanda stated she was a bit upset by that fact especially since Hillary’s husband did not describe himself as ‘husband’. That caused a major outcry and a barrage of criticisms by Nigerians. They came out in numbers criticizing Chimamanda for her question and wondering why Hillary’s choice should be questioned. I read a lot of differing opinions about this seemingly harmless question and wondered why it evoked such strong emotions from several Nigerians. One main theme from the varying discussions was about choice and how feminism is about freedom of choice so the choice of a woman to describe herself primarily as a wife should not be questioned.
I have reflected a lot on my thoughts on this matter and I felt I should share my piece. Truly, feminism is a movement with choice as one of its central themes but that does not mean a woman’s choice should not be questioned. We live in a world where patriarchy is innate. Consciously or unconsciously, as much as we might argue otherwise, it has been deeply conditioned into our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, emotions and choices. It determines what we view as right or wrong and as such, we have to be really careful with the acceptance of a person’s ‘choice’. A person’s choice might not really be ‘their choice’ but a result of social conditioning. Take for example, a woman that chooses to stay in an abusive marriage because she needs to keep her home. That’s a choice but is it necessarily a good choice? Should we not question that choice because it is ‘her choice’ and feminism is based on freedom of choice? Definitely not!
In a saner society, the woman might not have made that choice but she probably did because leaving the home is a sign of failure on her part and does not fit the patriarchal society’s definition of a ‘successful woman’. Choices must be questioned. It is how we put ourselves in check. When next you feel irritated when a man cries, or call a woman ‘ambitious’, ask yourself, why did I think that way? Because unconsciously, we are all programmed to be sexist.
I tell my friends, feminism is a conscious decision I make. And I still don’t have it right. Many of us don’t. I find myself falling into so many traps of bias and I consciously have to check myself and correct my thoughts and actions. We have to constantly question people’s behavior and decisions that seem superficially harmless, we have to have NGOs and organisations that cater to the welfare of women, we have to have quota systems for female representation in workplaces and organisations, we have to fight for equal pay, we have to do extra to get women on the same pedestal as men. We must continually do all these until we reach the point of true equality, until patriarchy becomes obsolete and meaningless. Only then will there be true freedom of choice.