African Feminism is different

Sefi Atta Everything good will come book review, african feminism

“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.

 

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Ordinary Days: Doctor Visits and doing better

I’m refreshed, now, with a few resolutions I plan to work very hard to keep.

My diet.

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.

vegan chickpeas curry dinner AND vegan breakfast pomegranate smoothie

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.

raising african kids in america

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Vegas? Check!

welcometovegas1

I got to Vegas on Thursday. I stepped off the airplane and spotted slot machines in the terminal as I made my way to the ladies room. “This will be interesting,” I thought.

Hotel lobbies on the strip are fluid and open to the public. It’s were their attractions, restaurants, bars, and casinos are. Every casino looked identical; except for the carpets and maybe how luxurious they make their lobbies seem with the chandeliers and the lighting; each casino was packed tight with electronic machines and black jack tables hosted by low wage workers in trussed up uniforms who seemed tired of their jobs…and drunk people.

drinks at the encore hotel in vegas

welcome to vegas

I didn’t gamble during this trip; I had no desire to. The food however was amazing; vegan eats in Vegas were delicious! From the Eiffel Tower restaurant, to Botero, to other lesser known food joints, I had a blast eating vegan in Las Vegas.

Vegan in Vegas; botero restaurant

For the first few days, we stayed at the Luxor. The hotel is in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid, though it was an interesting theme for a hotel, it was in sore need of some updates. The room was old and stuffy with low popcorn ceilings. The lobby smelled of Egyptian musk mixed in with heavy cigarette smoke. (smoking is allowed in all lobbies because of the casinos, I guess). After Janet’s conference on Saturday, we checked out of there and checked into the swanky Cosmopolitan.

Cosmopolitan of las vegas

The cosmopolitan is a GORGEOUS hotel! We had a balcony suite on the 46th floor with a view of the mountains. Unlike the Luxor, Cosmo inspired me to put my freakum’ dress on and step out into the night. Hotels matter sometimes. Nice accommodations can set the tone for a vacation; like the backdrop in a beautiful picture.

african vegan in vegas

The freakum dress came out on Saturday night after our day out in the Mojave desert. We rented a car and escaped the resort district otherwise known as “the strip,” and did all the things we wanted to do; went all the places taxi drivers on the strip weren’t willing to go.

Cabs charge every third of a mile! It was especially annoying shelling out $10 to go 2 blocks in Vegas. So on Saturday, after learning it would cost anywhere from $35-40 to go 5 miles outside of the tourist trap–without any guarantee that I could hail a cab back–I went to Avis, and rented a basic car for a day. For $75 we got a Kia Sol. The best money I ever spent; buying freedom.

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It was like we had just busted out of jail, the way we mapped out and planned to visit as much as we could in one day. First we had breakfast at Sunrise Coffee. They had the best Chai tea ever, complete with milk alternatives like soy, almond, and rice milk! Most places never have rice milk so if you’re vegan with a soy or nut allergy, you’re stuck flying a kite with a hole in it–helpless.

We indulged in yummy organic, vegan breakfast sandwiches and treats for much less than it cost to eat breakfast on the strip. Then we made the 30 min trip to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert.

vegan in vegas

Red rocks was beautiful!!! It was like visiting a miniature Grand Canyon if you will. The most beautiful, humbling places I’ve ever been. We soaked up the sun, hiked, and meditated among the rattle snakes and cacti. Yes, rattle snakes! But those fearsome creatures couldn’t dampen the reverence and joy I felt being in that place with God and nature. Pictures or words can’t describe the magnificence of the mountains, the rocks, the desolate and beautiful quiet, the warmth of the sun, the echo of my footsteps, the sparse beauty of the vegetation and landscape, so I won’t attempt.

meditating in the desert

red rock canyon nevada african vegan

african travel blog

african travel blog

I had the most fun in Vegas off the strip; when we escaped the resort district with it’s massive hotels, superficial excitement, and redundant casinos. It just seemed like artificial fun. Like everyone there was in search of some epic ‘Vegas’ experience; drink til’ you pass out and call it ‘fun’ type of experience. That’s not my style.

We left red rocks and headed for downtown; the arts district and antiques alley.

Antiques alley was a gem! A whole street made up of little antique and vintage clothing stores. I was intrigued. And I blew my budget in the first three stores; I didn’t make it to the other 28. The lovely owner of Glam Factory Vintage, where I bought some fabulous vintage pieces recommended Casa Don Juan, an authentic Mexican restaurant, around the block. I ordered the veggie burrito. It blew my mind.

vegan in vegas casa don juan restaurant

Mind blown, we auto-piloted our way back to the Cosmo on the strip.  We promised not to succumb to sleep, but rather hit the streets and indulge in the vegas hype. Our sexy dresses matched our sexy faces and we stepped out. We had dinner, had drinks at a swanky bar, almost went to a club, caught a cab to another hotel to meet a friend at another club instead, dumbstruck at the guest line that wrapped around the building three times, we caught a cab back to the hotel and slept off the drinks. Woke up bright, early, and happy the next morning and had breakfast poolside. My kind of vacation.

vegan breakfast at the cosmopolitan Las vegas reading pool side at cosmopolitan las vegas

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