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Imposing your Personal Beliefs on Others is Not Feminism

The issue of feminism has been trending on social media for the past few months in Ghana and I feel great about it. It means we have broken down the barriers and we can now discuss women’s rights openly. It is amazing to see young men contributing to the discourse. I am learning and laughing a lot from the controversy and debates surrounding feminism.

However, some people are beginning to promote their personal beliefs and practices instead of focusing on the real issues affecting us as a society. Yes you are a feminist and you want to speak for the voiceless but it doesn’t mean you have to shove your beliefs down people’s throats. This is why feminism was unpopular in several communities some years ago.

It is the goal of every feminist to advocate for women’s rights to achieve equal treatment between men and women bearing in mind individual strengths and weaknesses. Advocacy becomes problematic when people begin to impose their thoughts or ideas on people. In fact it becomes dangerous because you are supposed to represent the voiceless by reechoing what they feel not what you feel on their behalf! Even if you have experienced what they feel before, it is not up to you to impose what worked for you on them.

Someone may be a feminist and decide to marry and have children, cook for her husband, wash his clothes with her hands or washing machine, be submissive or rebellious. Another may not want to marry and give birth etc. You washing a man’s clothes, cooking for him don’t make you less a woman neither does it make you less a feminist. They are personal goals and highly influenced by personal beliefs, religious beliefs and personal experiences!

Being a feminist doesn't make you a superwoman who has so much energy to fight or compete with men! Being a feminist is about making an impact in your own little way to empower women and girls in the society, the kind of empowerment which can bring about sustainable growth and development in society not the kind that breeds hostility especially towards men! It is about saying no to practices or norms that are harmful to women and girls. Let's always consider the approach that works best in our context although there isn’t a single approach in solving problems. Before feminism became popular, we had cultural practices or values that are still useful to us today. There are people including women who still believe in practices that are harmful to women and girls. Have you witnessed an FGM ceremony before? Who are the perpetrators?

There is still a lot of work to be done to promote women and girls' rights and let's all get to work. There are girls and women being raped because they are ‘fragile’, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages are still glaring us in the face in some parts of Ghana and Africa at large, discrimination at work places, poverty, maternal mortality etc. These are just a few of the real issues we need to tackle in our advocacy as Ghanaian and African Feminists. True feminism is having an empowered society of both women and men.

Let’s not oversimplify empowerment to mean women and men being able to cheat on each other freely! That will not solve the numerous problems we need to tackle as Ghanaian feminists.

When the last girl is saved from being mutilated and the last man stands up for the vulnerable women in his society and the poor woman who has been locked up in that isolated witches’ camp is set free then you and I can change the focus of advocating for women’s right to frivolous issues like cheating in personal relationships which has little (if any) impact on development.

Feminism is about impacting lives through our actions and words!

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