My Africa, My Feminism

I’ve read, “We Should All Be Feminists” multiple times. Every time I have read it I am reminded of my African identity. My Ethiopian roots. Africans are not feminists. Africans can’t be feminists. I never considered myself a feminist because it was always a radical statement. My mom is reserved, polite and quiet. She does not speak unless spoken to and tries to be positive about any given situation. I am the complete opposite of her. I took on the traits of my father. I am passionate, fierce and realistic. I do not wait to be spoken too. Because of this, my mother and I clash. She was raised in Ethiopia where feminism is not in our language. There is no Amharic, (the national Ethiopian language) word for feminism. When I am resistant my mom considers it an “American” thing. When I am disrespectful, loud, outspoken, or active it is considered an “American” thing. What my parents, (mostly my mother) fail to realize is I am a feminist and because I am a feminist I recognize that my voice deserves to be heard. Adiche talks about the struggles of calling herself a Feminist amongst her African friends, colleagues and family members. Her words resonate with me because I too struggle to keep my mouth shut at family functions or share my opinions amongst friends from my native country.

They see this as a sign of disrespect.

They see this as an act of rebellion.

They see this as a sign of misplaced passion.

Adiche writes, “I often make the mistake of thinking that something that is obvious to me is just as obvious to everyone else.” This is exactly how I feel around my family and friends. This systemic oppression against women of color IS OBVIOUS…at least it should be right? My mother has lived in this country for about 20 years. She is still quietly opinionated. My father is not quiet about his opinions. He is not quiet about his anger.

I’ve always felt sad because it was my father who told me to never be afraid to speak up or defend myself. To always read and go for what I want. To never rely on a man to do what I can do for myself. I wanted to hear this from my mother. I wanted to hear her say its OKAY to speak up. Its OKAY to be passionate and fierce. You are a woman. Love yourself. I wanted to hear that from my mother. I want to hear that from my mother.

I felt Adiche’s words. I felt her pain and her laughter. I am proud to be of African descent but I am proud to be a feminist too. Where is the problem in that?


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