.In dire need of scapegoats

By Bisi Fayemi

Shalaye Olympics’ is a slang I picked up from young people, something used to describe a lengthy process of explaining things – ‘Shalaye’ in Yoruba means ‘to explain’. I suppose ‘Shalaye Olympics’ can be interpreted to mean doing 100, 200, 400 meters relay, hurdles and long-jump, throwing in some wrestling, boxing and swimming, all in a bid to explain something.

I think if you find yourself having to do ‘Shalaye Olympics’ on anything, you need to have the mental and physical fortitude to see it through. I have been minding my own business, yet many people have been asking me to explain ‘Feminism’. When I say that I have written and spoken about the subject so many times, and I continue to do so online and offline, I am told that people still do not get it.

One of my friends has described the recent public debates around feminism in Nigeria as a ‘National Embarrassment’. Being familiar with feminist debates and struggles in other African countries, I am inclined to agree.

I am not in the mood to embark on another ‘Shalaye Olympics’ about Feminism because as I have stated above, I have done it many times before. I have lost count of the number of essays on feminist theory and practice in my books.However, for the benefit of those who still think there is value in engaging in games that come with no medals, here goes:

•For every woman who finds herself with an education today, thank the Feminist movement

•For every woman who finds herself able to work outside the home and earn a decent salary, thank Feminism

•For every woman who has the right to vote and to be voted for, thank Feminism

•For every great woman we celebrate at home and abroad for breaking ceilings of all kinds, thank Feminism

•For every woman you find in a boardroom, her competence got her there, but Feminist struggles levelled the field

• For every woman who is allowed to have a voice in places where women have been forbidden from speaking, including the pulpit, thank Feminism

•For every woman who has spoken up and survived sexual and gender-based violence, thank Feminism

•For every woman who believes she deserves dignity and respect, in public and in private, thank Feminism

•For every woman who fights for the survival of her community, for peace, health and security, thank Feminism

•For every woman who appreciates men of virtue, men of value, men of honour, men of respect, men without a sense of entitlement, thank Feminism

•For every girl we find in school instead of the bedroom of an ancestor, thank Feminism

•For every girl whose dreams come true and are not cut short by predators who come in all shapes and forms, thank Feminism

•For every man who sees his daughter shine and win prizes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, thank Feminism

• For every proud man who sees his wife achieve something significant, thank Feminism

• For every man who wants a better world for his daughter than his mother had, thank Feminism

•For every person who falls in love and decides to share a life with someone grounded in love, mutual respect, shared responsibilitiesand values, thank Feminism

You might not believe that Feminism deserves all this credit, believe me, it does. If people cannot thank Feminists or the Feminist movement for all these achievements, the least you can do is be silent and seek more information. To whom it may concern, please stop pathologizing Feminists.

Feminists are not to blame for poverty, insecurity, kidnappings, unemployment, corruption, sexual violence, religious intolerance and xenophobia, all symptoms of fundamental inequities and systemic dysfunction.

For those who understand Feminism to mean being rude, uncouth, exhibitionist behaviour, hating men and so on, I am sorry I cannot help them. I do not understand that definition of Feminism, I am familiar with it but it is not a game I understand.

My own definition of feminism is one that challenges patriarchal power and values that deprive women and girls of their personhood.

The kind that creates opportunities and a voice for everyone.The kind that gives women control over their minds and bodies. The kind that brings real change in the lives of women and girls, not fodder for sterile debates and fuel for misogynists.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in the local origins of Feminism, please note the

following:

•The female ancestor we had, who refused early marriage for her daughters was called a witch.

•The female ancestor we had who knew about healing, medicines and nature was called a witch

•The female ancestor we had who was rich, owned land and property, was called a witch

•The female ancestor who engaged in long-distance trade throughout the West African coast was also called a witch

•The ‘cantankerous’ female ancestor we had, who no longer had to conform with patriarchal norms and expectations due to her age, was called a witch

•The female ancestor who refused to be inherited by her late husband’s brother was called a witch

•The female ancestor we had who challenged the greedy King and refused to give him her slaves for his war effort was called a witch

We have always been Feminists, even if we were not always called that. We have always been here.Western influences did not introduce Feminism to us, it just gave us tools for more analysis. Wishing us out of existence will not make it happen. Feminists are not Nigeria’s problem. We are part of the solution. That is enough ‘Shalaye’ for now, till the next time.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at [email protected]

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