When I finally embraced feminism, I was one happy woman. I’d had ups and downs with feminism for about 10 years of my life, dropping it and picking it again every so often in my 20’s. I was conflicted between fully embracing women’s liberation, while battling with the need to conform to what was required of me as woman, based on social and religious teachings.
After a four year feminism-drop, I decided to explore and open my mind up to feminism once again. This time I wanted to understand feminism, and at the same time be as critical of feminism as much as possible. After immersing myself in feminism for a while, I emerged as a true believer in the power of feminism to change the world, and make it better for women.
I found feminism to be personally liberating, taking off so many of requirements that society had placed on me, by virtue of being a woman. As I began to drop the gender related societal pressures, I wanted to share this new-found liberation with the world, and with the women around me.
So I started, with some of the people closest to me; enthusiastically sharing my new-found philosophy; sharing articles, videos and initiating conversations on feminism.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that my new ideas were not as welcome as I expected, in a world that has for a long time embraced patriarchy and sexist ideas of the position of women and men in society.
Contrary to the enthusiastic reception I expected, I was disparaged, and dismissed with Biblical quotations and remarks on feminism being an un-African concept. On one occasion, I was informed that I was the only one that needed feminism, and many African women were happy to be dominated, particularly in marriage, as long as their husbands met their obligations as providers and leaders.
I was accused of demanding women to compete with men, whereas God wanted women and men to complement each other. As a result, I was promised a position in hell, if I continued to question and mislead other women to disobey the word of God, which required them to submit.
Completely frustrated at the turn of events, I decided to start blogging. My blog was my way of talking to myself and imagining that the world was listening. I had no real expectations; but to get an outlet for all the conversations and questions I was having in my head, but lacking people to discuss with. My blog was the outlet of a feminist, outraged by injustice against women, and consumed with fantasies of a new world for women.
A few months since I started blogging, I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised. I have developed friendships with feminists from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Canada and Nigeria, some of whom I have met physically, others online. I have met some of these wonderful women over mojitos, over tea, and the occasional dinner, and we have had some of the most stimulating conversations imaginable.
I have also discovered other smart, funny, and bold feminist writers from across Africa, writing all sorts of interesting stuff on being women, on feminism, sex and sexuality, patriarchy and sexism, and politics among other topics.
When we found each other online with some of the feminists, we formed the Facebook group, Feminists in Africa; a platform that has allowed us to have deep, intellectual and mind blowing conversations. The platform has allowed us to find solace and support in each other, providing cyber-encouragement and creating a community of feminists in Africa. I have learned so much from this forum, it feels like I just went through a course on feminism.
When I think about this short and exciting journey as a feminist blogger, I am completely awed at the power of social media. I get overwhelmed and excited when I think of what and how much could be done through social media. At the same time, I realise the limitations of social media in achieving social change.
While social media is key to organizing, it also has potential to exclude the same people we intend to include, particularly in contexts where access to internet is limited, and many women do not even have the skills to have discussions on Facebook, Twitter or discover some great feminist blogs.
Conscious of both the successes and challenges of social media in creating social change, techo-sociologist, Zeynep Tufekci in her Ted Talk argues that although digital technologies have made it easier for modern day social movements to organize, they are not registering highly successful results, in terms of overall social change. She opines that some of the benefits of doing things the hard way are being overlooked.
Zeynep tells the story of how the ruling Turkish political party, has succeeded in combining both online and offline organizing. Curious to find out what the key to their success was, she interviewed and official of the party who told her that “the key is he never took sugar with his tea.” He explains that, in addition to organizing online, his party met people in their homes, in meetings and other offline forums on a daily basis.
While meeting people in their physical spaces, he was often offered tea, and realised that if he was going to take sugar with all the tea that came with visits, it would pose a risk to his health and weight. He therefore had to stop taking sugar, as turning down the offers for tea would be perceived as rude. Zeynep concludes by saying, “to succeed in the long term, sometimes you need your tea without sugar, along with your Twitter [social media].”
The same applies to cyber-feminists. We are part of a radical movement, with power to transform the lives of women in this continent, but to succeed in that, we must move beyond the cyber space, and gradually get into the more lengthy, hard and demanding work.
It is great, but not enough that we write all these wonderful blogs, and create all these online spaces for us to discuss feminism and support each other. To succeed in the long term, we need to meet women in their physical spaces, and sometimes take tea without sugar, along with our cyber-feminism.