It’s now just little over a century when women were struggling for recognition in a society dominated by male-centred ideologies, beliefs and practices.
Although much has been achieved, I still think that the women and the feminist movement have lost the plot. Such that the agenda for women emancipation is a replica of male-centred thinking, leaving women to constantly trail behind. It’s my firm believe that what hinders the empowerment of women, lies in the wrong conceptual frameworks.
In as much as there are many women (and men) who are staunch advocates of feminism, it’s an advocacy that suffers of intense ideological poverty.
This isn’t a criticism against women empowerment but that there’s need to conceptualise material that should give birth to truly unique women-empowerment.
At present the feminist movement (not indiscriminately) hasn’t made a clear distinction between the very structures that oppressed women and the kinds of changes it seeks to achieve.
In fact, the said changes are those that seek to assimilate women into the very structures that were used to disempower and oppress women.
Besides the aspect of conceptual poverty, is a deep lack of vision. Which is a failure to conceptualise society beyond the structures which we created to empower men. I’m particularly referring to how feminism has been transported without a clear contextual sifting, especially for the African context. Such that the African version of feminism suffers from conceptual struggles that are structured around Western problems.
I hear African feminist speak and one wonders whether they’re aware of the degree of the foreignness of the ideas that they’re advocating for.
The truth of the matter stands, that if we’re serious with the plight of women, then we need to think seriously.
We need to think in such a way as to device structures that are unique in addressing women issues. The current ideas that are purporting as pro-women in many ways are simply remoulded versions or empowering a male-oriented agenda.
Once women have been enabled to slot into these structures, they become assimilated and become nothing more than arm-chaired advocates.
Oppression of all sort, even women oppression, creates psychic paralysis which causes damages to one’s self-image. For centuries, male dominance in society did exactly that. So, don’t we think that for society to change, we’ll be required to engage different thinking patterns and structures? We all agree that that’s what needs to happen, but perhaps too lazy to sit an invent something unique for our own context.
This failure to adjust the conceptual structures is like the problem of many African states, after independence. We gained our freedom, but we failed to free ourselves conceptually from the very ideologies that were used to oppress us. As a result, African countries adopted government systems, policies, constitutions etc. and simply became rephrased them as ours.
At a conceptual level, such documents aren’t ours, they contain no spirit of culture, revolution and self-determination. Such that even after independence, we’re but people who adapted our lives and ways of thinking, in line with how the very oppressors wanted us to be.
Thus, if we fail to deconstruct the conceptual enslavement that thinks within frameworks that were created for male-empowerment, women-empowerment, will simply be a male-replica. We’ve to come up with real aspects of empowerment and not slot women into structures where they are reduced to nothing more than mathematical entities.
It’s not women-empowerment to simply have a 50% female representation in parliament, numbers don’t indicate progress. This simply leads to assimilating women into political power structures, which don’t necessarily intend to do something radical about women-empowerment. Such assimilation into social, political and thinking frameworks that have been used to favour men, will only serve to prevent women from flourishing.
In the absence of a conceptual framework that is truly women-centred, whatever empowerment we speak of is a disempowerment of women. Such only creates hypothetical progress of women, reducing them to mere material forms and statistics but without tangible long-term changes.
What we need to see is true meaning of women-empowerment, that doesn’t measure itself by the standard and achievements of male-centred structures. If women-empowerment advocates trail in the conceptual foot tracks of those who created the structures that oppress women, such only provide fuel to continue the oppression and disempowerment of women. Women-empowerment isn’t a search of favour from male-centred systems, this is an issue of justice, righting the wrongs of history. But righting such a long-standing injustice, cannot be done by using the same conceptual frameworks.
We need a new and radical approach towards women-empowerment. One that sees this is an issue of justice and seeks to rewrite the narrative of women’s role and place in the scheme of human existence.
This will not happen based on borrowed ideologies and practices.
It will not happen by trailing in the neat tracks set by the very structures of oppression. This must begin as at having the mental raw material that thinks outside the limiting structures. We need thinking that would re-imagine society with women as part and parcel of it and not with women as afterthoughts that need to be catered for.
Disclaimer: These are my own opinions and do not represent the views of my employer or its associate.