MANY of those close to me accuse me of being a feminist but that’s an assumption that depends on one’s definition of the term. Personally, I have struggled with finding where I fit in in this sphere, so I chose to do away with the concept and focus more on the cause which is of greater importance than definitions and personal interpretations. For those who bother to ask, I tell them that I am what I call “an accidental feminist”. This is simply because my interest in issues of gender marginalisation and equality was an unconscious development. As a young girl, I had my fair chance to become what I wanted to be.
I grew up without the consciousness of any deprivation that bothers on the structure of my genitals. This is not the experience of many girls in Nigeria, even Africa. Being a year younger than my elder brother, we pretty much had almost equal treatment at home, and if there was any form of marginalisation, I was either at the advantaged end or practically wasn’t paying any attention. Here in Africa, domestic chores are a big deal and when it comes to domestic relevance, the girl child is put to more work. That’s not my story. My brother and I had our fair share of chores. In fact, now that I think of it, I think he did more. Also, the fact that our mum’s a superwoman who’s too functional around the house made me unaware of any pressure to perform. By the time I was nine years old, I left for a boarding secondary school so I wasn’t really aware of the situation at home any more. Boarding school was quite different. It was a same-sex school so I had NO cause to be marginalised or limited because of my gender. Every limitation I experienced was a reflection of the limitations hidden in the content of my character, skills, talents and abilities.
So, when I didn’t make it to the list of school prefects, or ever become a class captain, or function on the sports team or ever really applied myself to extracurricular activities, it wasn’t because I was a girl. Academically, I played it safe in between and the only time I was applauded for leading my class it was in food and nutrition. Yet, every other person who made it to the top in any subject was a girl, just like me. There was no gender preference, there couldn’t have been. University was a bit different; I had to deal with boys. Yet, I cannot really say that I was ever marginalised because I didn’t even allow anyone to make the attempt. I had no interest in anything else in school apart from my academics and church. Yes, I graduated with the second best grade in my class and even that had nothing to do with me being a girl because the student who led the class with two points ahead of me was in fact a girl. The boys? They didn’t even make it to the first five. Now, you must be wondering where I caught the cold of gender-based inequality, well, the virus has always been around. Honestly, the classroom can be a fair place if you are lucky enough to get in.
The home can also be a fair place if your parents have some measure of understanding. But, the world we live in is NOT a fair place and we humans made it so, not God. I have observed through my journey that when it comes to leadership, the man in crowd is always found most suitable. People generally have a default belief that men are natural leaders. Some even think that leadership skills and abilities are genetically formed and gender-assigned. Overtime, it had become a norm that if ever a woman was considered to lead, she’s to serve in a supporting role to the man whose birthright is the helm. So, she’ll either be a vice or a secretary or some form of assistant. This trend encourages the notion that the woman can only help, she can’t be in charge. Therefore, by default, key leadership roles have over the years been reserved for men whether they have the skill and resource to pull it off or they don’t. Sometimes I think it’s psychological. I think it is sad that at this stage of our evolution, our society still thinks that if a man is in power he automatically commands more authority. It’s pathetic that some still believe that the depth of your voice, height, sex is what will deliver the required results and get the job done. Well, we’ve tried that theory for centuries, has it worked? Then, we have the religious folk who believe that God didn’t intend leadership for women. It makes me wonder if they’ve ever read or heard of Deborah. What then makes a human fit for leadership? Is it their ability to lead based on possessed skills, exposure, resources and experiences or, well, gender?
I say it again, the world is NOT a fair place and we humans made it so, not God. And if we are ever going to make it fair, which is not even a debatable choice, we have to undo the trend we have created and encouraged for centuries. I personally know that there is more to every woman than shoes, weaves, milk and chores. I have seen, followed, and read about women who have broken down boundaries of limitations internationally and in their communities. And with Hillary Clinton now standing for election in America, everyone, male or female, can one day hope to be truly free. More on this later, but before that let me illustrate my point a bit. Economics has never been my forte neither has math but some elementary lessons have never left me. One of them is the lesson on the barter system of trade where one good can be used as equivalent exchange for another good. Now, these two goods may be different in size, shape, function, weight, model, yet by some measurement scale they are equivalent to each other and fit for fair exchange. In other words, though they are different, they are equal.
Deborah Adeojo, is a broadcaster and writer of the blog #Shewrites. She sent in this piece from Ibadan to celebrate the International Womens’s Day