Woman first, everything else after

April 3, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity and how it shapes the person that I am, What does it mean to be a woman, especially in today’s society and how is it to my disadvantage or advantage. In order for me to move forward, progress in a sense I have to constantly reflect on the person that I am and why I am that way.

 Who are you? Woman?
Being a woman is a huge part of my identity and it intersects with many different parts of it. In Africa, a woman is “The body that gives birth” This mean many things, Firstly it distinguishes the main difference between a Man and a woman. The definition is extremely problematic because it focuses on only the physical, there are many women who cannot give birth or carry babies. The classification of “Woman” or “Man” is the social representation of perceived biological differences…  which we have ascribed sooo much meaning to.
For me woman firstly is how you identify. The woman that I am is beautiful and strong and fighting many battles, everyday. Her living is resistance, her own activism.

You are what you do
Of course to fit into this model of “Woman” there are many things I must do, dress a certain way, speak a certain way and generally self-present in a way that is consistent with the term “woman”. Historically and geographically this has changed a lot, rules still apply. This decision was made for me long before  I was born but challenging these roles has been nothing short of hard. Its really hard to change your way of thinking when you have been so conditioned to behave a certain way. The repercussions disobeying these rules are high… Anything from insults to down right assault are all fair game.
When I first started Identifying as a feminist, I sometimes felt bad about liking Fashion and make-up but as I got deeper into my knowledge It struck me that this is exactly what we are fighting for, the right to be able to like whatever I want. To like fashion and heels and also reading and analyzing… That I can make informed decisions about my life and be independent.

Traditional African Feminist??
Being raised in a Traditional African home I find my identities butting heads. I want those things that I’ve have been taught to want a family, a husband, children. But then I have realized i’m not a western feminist and our fights and struggles are very different its OK for me to want these things… I’m fighting against multiple oppressions, firstly the intersections between patriarchy and poverty and how they affect women of course, but also to preserve those cultural practices and even religion that we hold so dearly while still improving lives of women. Its a difficult struggle. Can’t you see that i’m not fighting for just women, its for all of us, to have a better society… So when you as a man say “I don’t care about feminists can’t you see what you just did… damned generations of your unborn 

My body, your commodity.
As a black woman the hyper sexualized images of ourselves in society is not hidden at all, you don’t even have to step out of your house. I find myself asking over and over, what is this need to be sexy? For who? Whose pleasure, who am I trying to appease? These questions are often left unanswered because on one hand I want to be wanted and on the other I want it to be for the right reasons, not because my body is something to be devoured, used and picked apart. Because when you say your ass isn’t big enough, you aren’t worth it can’t you see what you have reduced me to? a piece of flesh… for your consumption.   I know that there can be a connection between sexuality and female pleasure and that I should be able to look at myself and feel good that I am a whole person, a package, brains, mind, soul, body, beautiful one and the same. and still fucking sexy

I have a passion for teaching the value of the girl, the woman to the girl and the woman. I’ve been on this journey myself for a while and I’m not “there” yet but somehow I know that if I can begin to make someone else see these things… then the earlier the better. Its hard, but so necessary… fight the good fight viva la resistance! Viva la mujer!

Disclaimer :This is not meant to be an essay or some kind of instructional or poetry or whatever, these are thoughts, swirling in my brain begging to be let out… the italics are on purpose not quotes, maybe for texture… of course if you want to add to my ramblings you are welcome 🙂

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