We have Ikhide Ikheloa to thank for introducing us to Christiana Mbakwe, who he very aptly referred to as “Achebe’s Obierika in pumps.”
A few weeks ago, she shared a series of tweets, in which she raised tough questions about feminism through the lens of a personal history that begins with her grand-mother.
These 34 tweets amount to a searing look at the complications and multi-dimensionality of feminist discourse.
We hope you find it illuminating.
1. My late grandmother’s Igbo name was “Egobeke” It means “white man’s money,” A name given in the hope European wealth would follow a child.
2. Typically the name is shortened to “Ego”, which translates to “money” The funny thing is, my late grandma really liked money
3. On a serious note, the residues of colonialism aren’t hard to find. It can even be found in the names we call each other.
4. When I was about 12 or so, my grandma took me aside and told me to marry a rich man rather a Christian one. Mind you, I was 12.
5. She told me it was easier to make a rich man into a Christian, than help a Christian man become rich.
6. My grandma (and great-aunt) literally begged me not marry for love. Said all their friends who married for love got neither love or money.
7. My grandma told one of my aunt’s she didn’t care what race I married as long as they paid my bride price and gave her pounds or dollars.
8. My grandma actually found it strange that women in the west left their men for having affairs. Said if Diana stayed there’d be no Camilla.
9. She was like “so you leave a man for cheating? And the mistress replaces you? God forbid bad thing,” Guys I’m 12 when she’s telling me this.
10. She was from another time so I didn’t push back. Plus she was entertaining and slapped a man in the village who was rude to her.
11. One of my earliest memories of my grandma is her retelling how she slapped a man in the face. She did it in the village square. On purpose.
12. Women like my grandma showed me feminism is complicated and often subversive. It’s rarely tidy or appropriate.
13. My grandma had 11 kids, buried 3 & sent 8 of them to university. Prided herself on having 8 graduates. You really couldn’t tell her anything.
14. As I say, I encountered feminism through the women around me before I read it in a book. When I read about it I was like “oh this isn’t new”
15. Feminism was the Yoruba grandmothers who’d live in England for years and look after their grandchildren, so their daughters could work.
16. You’d see them in Brixton market. Wearing a jumper with a wrapa, their grandchildren on their back. Their daughters and sons at work.
17. When I read “feminist literature” I was like “oh these are African women. You guys just codified it,”
18. Which is often the case. “Western ideas” have existed in Africa for centuries. Westerners codified it; others passed it down orally.
19. What’s interesting is that many African women (including Afropolitans) reject the feminist label. In fact, many frown on feminism.
20. But every time I have a one-on-one with an elderly African woman she’s invoking Audre Lorde. Or perhaps Audre Lorde was invoking her.
21. And the ones who regularly beg me to get married, when I ask them why it’s never because of men. It’s because they want me to have kids.
22. They believe children rather than men are the ultimate source of companionship and security. It’s such an interesting point of view.
23. The “radical feminists” I encountered first were elderly African women who paid lip service to patriarchy but were plotting on the low.
24. That’s why I think self-identifying as a feminist isn’t that important. What’s paramount is living in a way that uplifts women.
25. Because the women I know who embody feminism the most, don’t even call themselves feminist.
26. And corporate feminism only seems to help the women trying to sell a book/website, rather than women in general.
27. And if we get personal, my feminism is far from neat. In many ways I have a western veneer with an African core. Take that how you will.
28. And I think the sooner “mainstream” feminism allows for messiness and contradictions the more freedom we’ll all have.
29. Some women want to be homemakers, love the idea of mutual submission and prefer traditional hierarchies – we mustn’t condemn them.
30. There are certain views I have I don’t share #onhere because I know I’ll be attacked. But privately I divulge them, because there’s safety.
31. I find joy and honor in serving the people in my life. Call that domesticated and submissive if you want – makes me happy.
32. The older I’ve gotten, the more I love bringing water to wash the elders hands after they’ve eaten. Some would label that “oppression.”
33. I think there needs to be a careful sieving process while we attempt to “progress” All traditions aren’t bad; all change isn’t good.
34. The older I get the more I see value in the “parochial” & “backward” mentalities of our elders. They have wisdom, don’t discard everything.
Post image via flygirlblog.com