I posted last week about International Women’s Day and how there are some people who will take every opportunity to tear down a day that celebrates women from all walks of life. I included a quote from Maya Angelou, “I’m a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” But what makes me a phenomenal woman?
If I boil it down simply, the supportive women in my life. My mother has always been a leading figure in my life, alongside my grandmother. My best friend, Mutay. My friends who I have known since secondary school.
Behind every successful woman is herself – and an army of supportive ladies. Without these important people in my life, I wouldn’t be who I am today. But it has taken a long time for me to see myself as a phenomenal woman. It has taken a long time for me to see myself as strong. Independent. Fine as f*ck. Feminist.
I haven’t always been a feminist. Growing up, it wasn’t a word I had really encountered before. But as I grew up, I started to notice the inequality that we face. The issues that are merely brushed to the side just because we are women. How we are expected to accept what society expects us to be. Still, feminist was not a word in my vocabulary.
However, I’m becoming more informed. I have to be. I want to be. One of the people opening my eyes is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Thanks to Mutay, who introduced me to her books, she has opened my eyes to a whole new world. Not new, actually, it has always been there. A different perspective to how I viewed the world before. Feminist is not a bad word; it does not mean we hate men, we are not extremists. We just want equal rights for everybody. At the end of the day, underneath it all, we are the same. So, why are women not treated with the same respect as men? The world baffles me and will continue to do so.
As part of Southbank’s Women of the World festival, Mutay and I got to see Chimamanda last Saturday and it was amazing. In fact, more than words can imagine. There were a lot of topics that she covered throughout the conversation that made me think twice and really go over why is it I think that way in the first place.
Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World festival is a global network of festivals which provides a platform for interrogating this question. […] WOW – Women of the World festival celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential.
I wish had attended more events at the festival, but by going to this talk it has opened up this conversation about what feminism means to me and what I can do to speak out and raise awareness. We’re really looking forward approaching this topic, and sharing our views!
Feminism like many -ism’s is very subjective. To me, feminism is the opportunity to have a choice. I have the privilege of being around a strong feminist from birth, my mother. My mother taught me my core values, especially as she did it all on her own. She taught me to own my shit and I definitely ‘don’t need no man’ (I am not saying men are redundant but the way patriarchy is set up you would think we would die without men…).
I must start by saying I am not a white woman. So, as you can expect, I have found that not all material on feminism is relatable to me. This was the case before I found Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2009. I was quite late off the mark but I thank the universe for my zest for reading and my continuous hunger for more knowledge. Chimamanda shaped me in a way that has only become apparent to me when I looked back. The first author that I had read who spoke about my ancestral land, Nigeria, in a positive light. The first author who taught me the realities of colonialism. The first author who taught me that there were other Nigerians, beyond my own circle (family and friends), who saw themselves as equals and not just submissive beings who are to cook, clean and cater to men.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen Chimamanda speak at the Southbank Centre, but this was probably more special to me. The first time I saw her, it was more of a fangirl moment. This time it was more personal. I’ve had time to adjust and align my thoughts, I’ve had a look back at my experiences and picked out the points where I realised that issues such as casual misogyny and being seen as less of an individual (because I am black AND a woman) have truly impacted my life. I have also started reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – everyone should read this book, both men and women! The issues she spoke upon resonated with me deeply.
Chimamanda has just published a book which is a response to her friend who asked for advice on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. ‘Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ will set the premise for a new series on this blog which explores feminism and what feminism means to us. Women’s History Month finishes at the end of March but for us, it’s for life.
We hope you engage with us throughout this series, and we would love to hear your stories!