African feminist smarts (1)

Thinking of what animates me, I turn away from the madness and misogyny, sometimes and listen to what the wise have chosen to say at different times.

Sokari Ekine, activist, super-blogger, essayist:
“As in other regions of extreme poverty and militarisation it is largely women and children who are the most vulnerable due to gender disparities and sexism. They face sexual and domestic violence, assault and they are often the last to gain access to food, water and medical care as the fight for survival reaches critical conditions. Children more so now than ever, are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and who is authorising the many “orphaned” children who are been fast tracked through the adoption process to Canada, France and the US within days. How are we sure they are orphaned and do not have relatives searching for them at this very moment? I don’t believe one single child should leave the island at this moment – the cost of flying them to Canada and France can be used to provide them with the proper care they need in Haiti- it’s like kidnapping. This is why it is so important for foreign aid agencies to work with local groups – to search them out and not assume they dont exist – just takes a little effort.”

Nomboniso Gasa, analyst, essayist, photographer:
“When we ask for greater inclusion, we are told – there are protocols and ways of doing these things. Yes, we know. But why can’t we change not only the shape and size of the table to fit more people and stakeholders in Zimbabwe? Why can’t we in fact dare imagine a different script? The one that will lead firstly to an acknowledgement of how polarised our society is and how, here, today in South Africa, there continue to be xenophobic attacks, that we do not want to even acknowledge? Why can’t we put different indicators on the table and say well, yes, SADC leaders in the next six months, let us see normalisation of life in Zimbabwe and the neighbouring countries. By normalisation of life we mean different things of course. But I am sure we all agree on human dignity. Can we also agree that prevalent usage of rape as weapon of war is not acceptable? Can we agree that women’s bodies are not battlefields? Is it possible to have a time-table for the release of those who have been abducted even as speak of normalisation of trade relations?”

Ashleigh Harris, literature professor, poet, essayist:
“In the last century, patriarchy has adapted to feminist inquiry, but it has, ultimately, survived. What is required is that feminism adapt as feminism, without apologizing for its political impetus, so as to oppose these new and insidious forms of patriarchy.”

Jessica Horn, trainer, poet, essayist:
“Reflecting on the notion of radical democracy, what would a feminist constitution look like? And I would add, how would it enable young women’s participation and voice? How do we use our collective power base to push the feminist agenda forward? For while we do spend a considerable amount of time identifying and assessing our vulnerabilities, we also have a strong power base- the power of our numbers as half the world’s population, our collective intellectual power as feminists, our power as voters, as consumers (all of us are consumers) – and use this as the basis for catalysing change and holding our abusers to account.”

Kagiso Lesego Molope, novelist, essayist:
“I believe that in South Africa as in any other place in the world, an honest discussion about sexual assault, women’s oppression and women’s safety needs to begin with how we raise men. I’d like to move beyond the developed world’s approach of teaching women to empower themselves because – as I once announced to a room full of appalled liberal first world feminists – telling women to end rape is like telling black people to end racism. It seems counter-productive to me. When your child comes home from school after being bullied it’s best to address the bully’s behaviour instead of wondering what your child can do to stop it. There are basic behaviour patterns that need to be completely altered. Much of what we need to do, I think, lies in what boys learn – both from women and men – as they grow up.”

Gail Smith, essayist, photographer, journalist:
“Eve has become a South African icon alongside her employer
Madam. And like Bobo and Hall, I believe that this is a is a process that is politically charged and yet goes largely unchallenged. Instead, the cartoon is sold and syndicated internationallyI.t sells everythingf rom cell phones to advertising space on the SABC, and will apparently be turned into a soap opera soon. One of the most obvious examples of the commodification of poor black womanhood, slips seamlessly into the
silence on black women and their subjectivity in dominantc ulture. I am a black woman and I know how quickly white people who treat me like a stereotype lead me into a sense of humour failure.”

Sylvia Tamale, lawyer, law professor:
“Domesticity as an ideology is historically and culturally constructed and is closely linked to patriarchy, gender/power relations and the artificial private/public distinction. The way patriarchy defines women is such that their full and wholesome existence depends on getting married, producing children and caring for her family. In Africa, it does not matter whether a woman is a successful politician, possesses three Ph.Ds and runs the most successful business in town; if she has never married and/or is childless, she is perceived to be lacking in a fundamental way. Girl children are raised and socialised into this ideology and few ever question or challenge its basic tenets. Single, childless women carry a permanent stigma like a lodestone about their necks. They are viewed by society as halfbaked, even half-human. Thus, the domestic roles of mother, wife and homemaker become the key constructions of women’s identity in Africa.”

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Posted on 9 February 2010, in Women's wit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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