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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Monday, 20 December 2010

Why It Sucks To Be A Young Educated African Woman Today And So On...

I know, such a depressing title seeing as 'tis the season to be jolly".  I promise this is the last serious post and from now (as in the African now now, meaning in a minute or an hour or a day he he he) till New Year it will all be "fa la la la laaaaa la laaaa la laaaa" ;}.  COMBINE sent this link to Chimamanda Adichie's essay in the Financial Times about the plight of the young, educated African woman on the continent that stirred up a serious debate, and I could not not post about it.

The depressing thing about the article is that it had many truths in it that I could related to.  People have commented on the car I drive at home and I have had to bite my tongue and play coy and 'womanly'.  I share her frustrations with the world that I live in.  But I don't just feel that way at home, I feel that way whereever I go.  Even in the West (albeit in different ways sometimes) I feel that my educatedness and self-sufficency and my womaness are at loggerheads.  And my Africaness adds further complexity and confusion to this already seemingly paradoxical combination of attributes.  I am also a bit upset by how stereotypically she framed and narrated her plight.  As LOLZ pointed out this was not an article to be published in the Financial Times. And I agree.  It seemed like a blog post to me.  It did not read like an opinion piece, it was too loaded with the vitriol of, for lack of a better phrase, a mad black woman.  Which I think detracts from what she was trying to get across.  Even though the article ends positively, with hope that things will change as they always do and have as progress has already shown, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.  I am disappointed that Chimamanda was not able to add anything more useful to the conversation. Her acclaim gives her the power to be able to initiate change.  She could have used this opporunity to do so much more with her words :(. Why couldn't she give recent examples of things changing like how men helped elect Africa's first female president? And why is it that getting what we want means no compromise on our side?  Compromise is required on both sides to get to where we want to go...

Women's issues seem to be the topic du jour, not surprising after the 16 days of Activism to End Violence Against Women bookended by International Day to End Violence Against Women on the 25th of November and Human Rights Day on the 10th of December.  However I feel like the media really latched on to this yearly occurence in 2010. I read this disturbing piece on the BBC Africa written unfortunately what seems to be a disgruntled African man in the Expert Views section which greatly perturbed me as if he is an expert on women's issues we are all screwed. Even though I too expressed my concern about all these days and my question about condensing them into a week has been answered by the already extant 16 days, I think this diatribe went one step further and missed the point of these days entirely. Farai Sevenzo seems a smart enough guy and his interests on the continent are very exciting, which makes it all the more upsetting that he used his voice to write such a terrible piece.  Even worse than Chimamanda, who has somewhat stagnated the conversation on the particular plight of a certain kind of African woman, Farai has just set the whole conversation  on women (in general) back! In order for women's rights to be achieved, men have to be a part of the solution! If they do not understand that despite women earning and achieving more the world is still being ran by men then all these efforts will eventually be in vain.  I watched these two TED talks about how women are outperforming men and how men need to be part of the conversation for equality to really exist that offered some clarity to the issues I have raised from the two articles.


Why is it that women think they have to take over and be men to have won the gender wars?  I don't think Roisin's glee in women making men feel like poop is productive because it just makes the scales imbalanced on the other side. Her vindictiveness is no better than Chimanda's vitriol. There has to be a way for men and women to share power and not for it to have to be a tug-of-war with one side with more clout than the other.  Porter's talk made me so sad that the worst thing that a boy could think of being is a girl and how that is used to really play on little boys minds. This links to Roisin's talk as it explains why guys are feeling so emasculated by the rise of women as they are told that women are weak and can't bring home the bacon but we are proving to be strong and very productive.  This incongruity in messages must be incredibly confusing.  Which could explain why Farai doesn't see the need for all these International Days when in fact this is exactly why we need such days.  We need these days for both men AND women.  To help men and women work out the shifts going on in society and to help with understanding.  Because men are not taught to articulate their emotions and thoughts with words, and many lash out and gender violence is evidence of that.  Men will always be physically stronger than women, and showing that power to a woman is unfortunately still a preferred stereotypical way of exerting  manhood to stroke fragile egos. 

I am also very annoyed about the stereotype Roisin uses about girls being good and listening to the teacher and that's why they do well in school.  I barely sat still in class and was always told off for fidgeting and talking and not paying attention and I managed to become highly educated and the proud recipient of 3 degrees (which I am still wondering how I managed to achieve them but I'll take all the certification bestowed on me gladly he he he). I have felt very unwomaly for a good portion of my life due to this and I know other friends who feel this way due to their unwomanly behaviour in the same and other situations.  It is not good to essentialise.  Yes, there are gender differences but  not all of us fall perfectly into the normal boy and girl templates.  We are all on a spectrum and must be given allowances at times to be ourselves in order to fulfill our potential. We all have skills that are required and we need to find ways to tap into both male AND female potential.  It's not about women now suddenly being better than men.  It has always been and always should be about using the requisite skills at the right time for the appropriate situation. Noone is obsolete, everyone is relevant on some level at any given time.

Now that I have expressed myself, I take my leave to enjoy the holiday season :}!


  1. Bummer, I've signed up for the FT but always have problems logging in. If you can copy and paste chimamanda's article into an email to me would be much appreciated.
    This post made me think of very many things, Farai's article was shocking, makes one feel hopeless. Porter's speech, I've watched four times this week, and it gives me hope.

    "There has to be a way for men and women to share power and not for it to have to be a tug-of-war with one side with more clout than the other"
    What's maddening is that women are trying to get their fair share, not more, but equal is often perceived as trying to get more. it's a conversation killer to mention some of the inequalities very much present still.
    there are wonderful men like porter out there that see that 'women's liberation is tied with men's liberation' but a vast majority defend male hegemony because directly or indirectly it benefits them. And that's a disservice to humanity.

    okay, gonna try be jolly too now ;o)

    Merry Christmas dear!

  2. Hope you had a great holiday season! Indeed our fates are inextricably tied and the sooner we realise that we are interdependent the better and that progress comes from both sides working together. Let's hope 2011 bears fruit in that regard :)