I have long wondered if I would be this ‘strong and very opinionated’ woman had I stayed and schooled in Nigeria. You see for me feminism was a Western concept started by the Suffragettes who I studied about as part of my history lessons of a British education system so you’ll have to forgive my misguided beliefs as I only found out about the likes of Queen Sheba, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and many others just over a decade ago.
So when I was asked to contribute to 9jafeminista it got me thinking about the things that have shaped me into this modern day British-Nigerian unapologetic feminist that I am.
Firstly I’ll need to pay homage to my mother – despite becoming a widow at a young age of 33 with 4 young children all under five and me her youngest at just six months, growing up I always heard my mum say she never remarried because she didn’t want her children to suffer in the home of a new husband. The significance of this never really resonated with me until my late teens/early twenties when I started to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of marriage in the African context. And for this and many more reasons I am eternally grateful for her as showed me first-hand what it means to have feminist values and how to be strong and resilient.
My feminism was shaped by the books I read by authors such as Maya Angelou, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie, Zora Neale Hurston, and countless others. Books in which strong Black women were a common feature even with their flawed but unapologetic ways.
It is shaped by the song ‘Superwoman’ in which Karyn White lambasts her husband when he starts to take her for granted by crooning
‘ I’m not your superwoman
I’m not the kind of girl
That you can let down
And think that everything is okay
Boy I am only human
This girl needs more than occasional hugs
As a token of love from you to me…’
My feminism is shaped by the friendships I have cultivated with other strong, confident and amazing women I have met across three continents.
It is shaped by the men who allowed me to be both strong and feminine in equal measures.
Lately my feminism has been redefined and further shaped by the many modern day African women feminists I have encountered both in the Diaspora but also on the home continent. Women like the Ogwuegbu sisters who are fearless not just because of their numbers but mainly because of their unapologetic feminist stance. Women like Wana Udobang, Saratu Abiola, Olabukunola Williams, Chika Unigwe, Funmi Iyanda, Abena Gyekye and so many others have shown me that feminism is not a Western construct thus reassuring me I would still be the same unapologetic feminist I am today had I been born and raised in Ojuelegba and not Camden Town.
My feminism is who I am not what I seek to be.