“I cursed our economy that didn’t give me freedom to sustain myself.”–Everything Good Will Come
I’ve often wondered if my grandmother, who discarded ill-fitting husbands, like another would discard ill-fitting bras, would be given the title feminist, or accepted into the realm of feminism as we know it. I’ve often wondered how feminism is expressed in Africa compared to feminism in the West. How do women without the tools, labels or language of feminism describe their daily existence? Do they recognize their oppression, or reject it, or chalk it up to, “the way things are”?
When I lived in Ghana I was too young to identify or recognize feminism in myself or others. I do remember, however, someone asking me if I was a “Legon girl”. A “Legon girl” could be described as a college-educated woman, or, a pretty young thing attending the University of Ghana, Legon, who wears makeup, high heels and revealing clothes to shake down sugar daddies (older men with money) for tuition money, clothes and expensive trips. The label is so engrained in society that if you just happen to be a pretty young thing, focused on getting an education, you’d have to fight off the misconception.
Recently, I had to fight off this misconception even though I never attended Legon. A friend and I were discussing the plight of women in Ghana and she brought up Legon girls, “if they’d just stop selling themselves to these stupid sugar daddies, maybe women would be in a better place today,” she said. I ignored her generalization of Legon girls and asked her how many prospects bright young women have in Ghana today? Women, as I’ve seen, are put into pickles by unscrupulous men (and desperate women), just to get secretary jobs. There aren’t enough jobs in West African economies to support everyone, men and women. So of course you do what you have to do to land a job remotely worthy of your degree. That’s just my thinking…Legon girls play the hand they’ve been dealt. Until African economies can fully support its women, we can do little to combat other areas of oppression.
In the West it’s different. While women typically don’t have to pay to play, we do have other systems to outwit. I’ve been in the West long enough to know what feminism looks like: defiance, questioning, proving to oneself and others that you can do it just like or better than the boys, a rejection of “feminine” weakness or all things feminine: cooking, cleaning, child rearing, makeup…girlieness if you will…and if a feminists did choose to engage in marriage or motherhood, expectations are set for her mate to contribute no less than 50%.
My grandmother advised her granddaughters -upon marriage- not to expect anymore than 30% from our husbands. It’s the key to peace and happiness at home she explains. I reckon this is what she took away from her 85 years on earth. The sixties brought feminism into focus in the West. I could probably ask my grandmother what that time was like in West Africa, although I can guarantee my grandmother wasn’t burning her bras.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie rallies against African womens’ tendencies to align their existence and survival with marriage and motherhood. Sefi Atta’s novel did the same. Sefi Atta’s novel, Everthing good will come, vividly describes and contrasts the suffocation of one accomplished, western-educated, married woman in Nigeria to her best friend, Sheri, who was a feminist, nonetheless, but in an unassuming, unlabeled, turn-lemons-into-lemonade kind of way—my grandmother’s kind of feminism—dare I say African feminism?
“It’s easier to walk around a rock than to break it down and still get where you are going.”–Sheri, Everything Good will Come
In my opinion, while expressed differently, our responses stem from the same struggle. It’s hard to tell which kind of feminism works best in moving women forward. From Betty Friedman’s “Thing that has no name”, to women like Sheri, in Sefi Atta’s novel, I do know that culture and environment dictates how feminism will look. Women are together in this global struggle for equal freedoms in courts of justice, courts of culture, and courts of public opinion.
I’m refreshed, now, with a few resolutions I plan to work very hard to keep.
It’s been very lax over the last year and I’ve resolved to fix it. I think this time I will achieve my goal. I’m very proud of myself for eating extremely well when I went away this past weekend. No dairy laden cupcakes…I didn’t succumb to the conveniences of my non-vegan world.
The catalyst to this turning point has been my eczema. It’s flaring up pretty badly and I just want it to GO AWAY!
I also remember how good I felt; I was full of energy and not lethargic and slow, and irritable…and I wasn’t in this content state of guilt. Guilty of not living my truth in knowing my body feels best on a plant-based diet. I’m making this announcement and documenting my journey back to health here on this blog to help keep me accountable. I’ll post daily eats on my Instagram account and on this blog too. Who knows, maybe I’ll inspire someone to make a change too.
Breakfast: Pomegranate green smoothie // Dinner: Curried chickpea dinner over a bed of sautéed spinach and brown rice
Ollie had her checkups today. At two years old she’s healthy as ever, and I’m grateful for that. Her eye doctor said her eyes are doing well and that the small cataract on her left eye is still benign and doesn’t impair her vision at all. Although she’s still slightly near-sighted in that eye, so we’ll have to strengthen it by putting a patch over her good eye for 2 hours a day for the next couple of months.
Some kids need braces for a few years, others need glasses for a time. It all works out for good in the end. I’m happy and grateful for her health and her life.