What is Feminism and who is a feminist? 

What is Feminism and who is a feminist? 

In this article, Faustina Anyanwu, Founder of Divas of Colour, delves into the complexities of feminism, leveraging data and compelling arguments to demonstrate the ongoing importance and impact of feminist movements.

Are you a feminist? 

Before you answer that, let’s get the facts first!

Faustina Anyanwu: Seasoned entrepreneur, business coach and social commentator

I am a proud card-carrying Feminist! I have been since the age of 5. As a first daughter, I became what I call an assistant mother. Due to family circumstances, I had to grow up much faster than my mates. And in those tender years, I could not help but notice the many different ways the boys were treated differently in the family. The expectations were different, the accountability was different too. I began to question why? And became fiercely resistant to any rules or norms that went against what I personally thought to be right for me. Call me a typical stubborn child! 

Faustina Anyanwu

And as we grow into womanhood, you can’t fail to see, feel, and experience the ugly impact of toxic patriarchy.

Sometimes ago I asked my husband, are you a feminist and he said, “Yes, but…”

Needless to say, I stopped him in his tracks. Why is there any but, to that answer? 

This ignited a long debate in the family with our girls fiercely on my side debating and putting their points across. I’m sure my husband was exhausted at the end of it all. 

Now, here’s the thing, in practice, my husband is a fierce supporter of gender equality, and is confident in himself such that he doesn’t think my success undermines his manhood. My husband is also vocal about women’s right to a dignified life and the opportunity to actualise their full potential. Yet, when asked to profess this support, he adds, but… 

And this is the case with so many, including women! So many have internalised these abnormalities such that whenever the unequal treatment of women is brought up, you are seen as radical or stubborn. 

But, Why is that? 

If you’re asked if you’re a Christian, a British, a Muslim, a Jew, or whatever attribute to define your beliefs, or identity do you go ahead to add, but… to your answer? 

It was this conversation that inspired me to make this topic a key presentation today! 

What is Feminism

Feminism encompasses various ideologies and movements that aim to define and establish political, economic, personal, and social equality between the genders. It holds the position that societies throughout history have privileged the male point of view and that women have been systematically disadvantaged.

However, I find the definition by the International Women’s Development Agency as clear, straight to the point, and unambiguously put, representing my view of feminism and from what standpoint I operate as a feminist. 

“Quite simply, feminism is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities. It’s about respecting diverse women’s experiences, identities, knowledge, and strengths, and striving to empower all women to realise their full rights and potential. It’s about levelling the playing field between genders, and ensuring that diverse women and girls have the same opportunities in life available to boys and men.”

In essence, the key value proposition of feminism lies in creating a world where everyone, regardless of gender, has the chance to thrive and contribute to a more just and equitable society. It’s about unlocking the full potential of both women and men, ultimately leading to a better future for all.

Unfortunately, most people misrepresent feminism with misandry which is – the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against men or boys. So, anyone practicing this must not be mistaken for a feminist but a misandrist.

Different types of feminism:

  • Over time, various strands of feminism continue to spring up. Depending on the issues at hand at the time or place, each with its own specific focus and approach to achieving equality. Some major branches include:
    • Liberal feminism: Focusing on legal and political equality.
    • Radical feminism: Emphasising the systemic nature of women’s oppression and seeking to dismantle the patriarchy.
    • Intersectional feminism: Recognises the interconnectedness of various forms of oppression, including sexism, racism, and classism.

Let’s Look at the benefits of feminism

Individual Empowerment:

Equality of rights and opportunities: Feminism strives to create a world where women have the same rights and opportunities as men, allowing them to reach their full potential in all spheres of life. This includes legal and political rights like voting and holding office, as well as equal access to education, employment, and economic resources.

Increased personal freedom and autonomy: By challenging harmful stereotypes and dismantling patriarchal structures, feminism empowers women to make independent choices about their lives, without societal constraints based solely on their gender.

Enhanced self-esteem and confidence: Recognising women’s inherent value and dismantling power imbalances that lead to discrimination can contribute to increased self-esteem and confidence, enabling women to believe in themselves and their abilities to achieve their goals.

Societal Benefits of Feminism:

Greater diversity and inclusion: By promoting equality between genders, feminism fosters a more diverse and inclusive society, where everyone’s voice is heard, and their talents and contributions are valued. This leads to a richer and more vibrant society with a wider range of perspectives.

Reduced social costs associated with gender inequality: Gender inequality can have significant economic and social costs, such as lost productivity, healthcare disparities, and social unrest. By addressing these inequalities, feminism contributes to a more stable and prosperous society.

Stronger families and communities: When women are empowered and have equal opportunities, families and communities benefit from their unique perspectives and contributions. This leads to stronger social bonds and a more supportive environment for everyone.

Historical feminist achievements.

  • Historical impact of feminism cannot be over-flung. At every point in history, women have always pushed back when their rights are threatened. Feminist movements have achieved significant progress in advancing women’s rights globally, including:
    • The right to vote
    • Increased access to education and employment
    • Greater legal protections against gender-based violence
    • Broader awareness of gender issues

In Africa, Nigeria as a case study,

  • The 1929 “Aba Women’s Riot” was a significant act of resistance against British colonial rule. Igbo market women, who played a crucial economic role as primary providers for their families, protested against unfair taxation. This action can be seen as an early example of women fighting for their rights and economic agency.
  • In 1947, the anti-colonial resistance led to the formation of the National Women’s Union (NWU), the first national women’s organisation.
  • In 1948, nearly two decades after the Aba Women’s Riots, women in Abeokuta, led by the formidable Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, launched another powerful protest against unfair taxation by the British colonial government. This time, the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) mobilised under Ransome-Kuti’s leadership, demonstrating the ongoing resistance of Nigerian women to economic injustice.
  • These protests later became an integral part of the independence movement. In the 1950s, Nigerian women played a significant role in the country’s fight for independence. While history often focuses on the male leaders, women also actively campaigned for their own rights and for Nigerian self-determination.
  • Decades of tireless feminist activism led to the banning of female genital mutilation in Nigeria, a harmful practice finally outlawed in 2015.
  • The fight for women’s suffrage was a long one. From 1923 to 1951, Nigerian women were denied the right to vote or hold office. Only through persistent feminist efforts did women gain what could be seen as near-equal political participation.
  • Educational and professional opportunities for women were once severely limited. Thanks to feminist movements, girls now have the right to pursue higher education and build fulfilling careers. These are just a few examples of the profound impact feminism has had on dismantling discriminatory practices and creating a more equitable society for all Nigerians.

Do you know what feminist movements have achieved for women and girls in your country? Let us know in the comment section.

Why is Feminism Still Relevant? 

The question is, if all of these have been achieved why again do we still need feminism?

Let’s look at data according to WHO (2021) – 

  • Today, globally, violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young.
  • 1 in 3 women, (around 736 million), are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner 
  • This number has remained largely unchanged over the past decade.
  • This violence starts very early with 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.
  • “Violence against women remains endemic in every country and culture.
  • 81% of women as against 43% of men have faced sexual harassment in their lives – According to Stop Street Harrssement 2018

Again using Nigeria as a case study, in today’s Nigeria,

Nigerian women face a constant struggle for equality. From workplace sexism to child marriage, societal expectations limit their potential.

  • Sexual objectification: A woman’s success is often attributed to attractiveness, not skill.
  • Early marriage: Young girls are pressured into marriage, hindering their education and future.
  • Gender roles: Boys are groomed for leadership while girls are expected to be submissive.
  • Workplace challenges: Women fight to be valued and face constant harassment.
  • Societal pressure: Women who defy expectations are ostracised.
  • Unequal opportunities: Housing and other resources are denied to unmarried women.

These “little things” add up to a system that disadvantages women. Despite these barriers, many Nigerian women are pushing back, demanding a more equitable future.

Despite strides towards equality, women globally, continue to face challenges across multiple areas:

  • The Gender Pay Gap: The gender pay gap refers to the difference in average earnings between men and women for the same work.
  • Leadership Underrepresentation: Few women hold top positions in business and politics.
  • Gender-Based Violence: Women experience violence from intimate partners and strangers.
  • Internalised Misogyny: Societal messages of female inferiority can lead to: Low self-esteem and confidence. Difficulty expressing needs and emotions. Difficulty asserting themselves. Maternal guilt and anxiety. Strained relationships. Internalised misogyny can limit a woman’s ability to thrive. Women are not only fighting external inequalities but also battling internalised messages. By acknowledging these challenges and utilising available resources, they can pave the way for a brighter future. Feminists continue to raise awareness: Recognising internalised misogyny as the first step to dismantling gender inequality.

“Internalised misogyny does not refer outright to a belief in the inferiority of women. It refers to the byproducts of this societal view that cause women to shame, doubt, and undervalue themselves and others of their gender.”

Suzannah Weiss

Overcoming Internalised Misogyny requires effort:

  • Support: Therapy, groups, and feminist resources can help women challenge these messages.
  • Building Self-Worth: By deconstructing negativity, women can build confidence and live authentically.

Feminists simply seek equality, a world where both genders are valued and respected as halves of a whole.

So, I ask again, are you a feminist?