#TellAFeministThankYou

My dad passed away when I was 7.

He used to tell me I’d be Miss Uganda and the President of Uganda at the same time because I was left handed and as good looking as he was (its ok, roll your eyes all you want). Of course he had no idea how that opened a door for me to dream of all the endless possibilities that could be my future, he probably just wanted me to smile and feel special. I have over time wanted to be an astronaut, a pathologist, a choreographer, a pilot, a journalist and now finally studying to be a lawyer. I can’t wait to know what I’ll want to be at 35.

Nothing for me is reserved for men.

I remember how after he passed away, my mum took on the burden of raising me alone. We still went to our paternal village for the holidays. And while there, mother still only went to the kitchen hut as and when she wanted to (children dint enjoy the same luxury of course). She also continued to sit at the men’s drinking circle dishing out her opinion- a big deal back then.

My mum has been studying all my life: I know she started out with a diploma. She had just began her undergraduate course when my dad died and has since gone through most of the other works and  now has the proud burden of the ACCA certified accountants annual fee. For her, a girl MUST have an education. She says men never respect uneducated girls.

I remember in primary school, telling my mum how I was being bullied and teased by some boys and all she told me was to go and beat those boys up then ran to a teacher if I wanted them to stop messing with me. No sympathy. No pity. No consolation or hug. And for good measure, she pointed out how she had to walk kilometres to her primary school, barefoot, carrying Bab on her back. (I dint take her advice, but my sister Bella did for the both of us. Looking back, they stayed away after that)

A girl crying, for my mother, has always been a big sign of weakness, and it always earned you a frown and a lecture about learning to be stronger. If she caught you in the wrong and was caning you for it, crying only made her cane you more.

The first time, I experienced a flat tyre was with my mum. She was driving us back to Kampala from Tororo when it happened and all four passengers were women. I got out looking for a man that I could stop to help. She got out and gave me an oral crash course on changing tyres. I changed that tyre and have changed every other flat tyre I’ve got since. I also change my own bulbs and manual search for my TV stations. Until recently, I was still the first person my mum called when something wasn’t working J

 

My mum would never consider herself or my dad for that matter, a feminist, most of you wouldn’t either. I’ve also just always considered her a really strong and independent woman, and my dad the tallest strongest man ever, until today.

Every time the words feminist and feminism come up, immediately to most people-especially men, pictures of loud women screaming for their rights, lonely divorced women, overly outspoken and uptight women in trousers and women beating up their husbands for coming home late, come to mind. In Uganda, its images of scary successful women with dreadlocks and big cars kicking men’s egos like balls, single miserable middle aged women that refused to marry in their ‘prime’ and now can’t find a man, and against culture single mothers that MUST be struggling to make ends meet.

It seems every young girl or woman aspiring to be called a feminist should work towards falling within one of the categories.

courtesy of google

Why the story of feminism must be told in a hard, discouraging and downright patriarchal way is something I think needs to change. What a sad picture of feminism we’ve painted.

My parents were the beginning of the definition of what it means to me to be an emancipated woman. Equality can be earned in many different ways-they taught me to think beyond my gender box, they planted the seeds of feminism in me. I love my father for thinking I could be president, a dream of me a skinny 6year old girl doing a man’s job.  More than anything else, my mother has taught me never to be afraid to do the things men do, it’s not rocket science. She’s such a feminist. I’d put her right up there on my feminist chart smiling next to Sylvia Tamale and my best friend Godiva.

And I know there are women like her out there, changing lives, unconsciously making other women stronger through their actions, through their unknowingly emancipating demur. There are men out there, who do not hit women, who respect women’s opinions, who encourage women to be more; who through the respect and love they show to the women around them unconsciously make them set their own bar that other men must meet because they have seen a possibility through him.

Tell me reader, don’t you know a feminist?

I think it’s about time we thank the silent feminists in our lives.

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8 responses to “#TellAFeministThankYou

  1. I loved reading every single bit of this.
    And I can identify with so much in your article.
    I too have had my challenges as a female in a male dominated field (medicine) but I believe that women rule the world, it just seems that the men do.

    • Thank you. Its interesting how so many women in so many fields experience the same patriarchy. I think we each by trying to fight against the status quo in turn inspire other women to do the same. Goodluck my feminist:)

      • Thanks.
        The fight continues. Its a fight we have to win every single day. From dealing with mean boys in mixed schools through high school. With dealing the ego of male nurses who feel threatened by a female doctor, to patients who always call u nurse even when you do the operations etc.
        And sometimes us as women, we are our own worst enemies!

        Good luck too!
        The fight continues.

      • Ps; Ur mum reminds me so much of mine.

        Recently I was talking to the head of the M&E section of an NGO I work for.
        He said he was going to stop recruiting female employees because just as one finished maternity leave, the next was preparing to leave etc.
        Secondly, sometimes work ended in the night and many of the women were married with homes to fend for.
        He was advising that women should pursue less demanding fields like teaching.
        His speech made me angry!
        And he just highlighted so many of the struggles women go through daily.

  2. You’re growing into a fine young woman Ms Rizzy. Elegant post, and yeah- you really are your mother’s daughter.! I disagree though that she’s a feminst. I think she’s just a person fighting her dignity as human being to determine what she can or can’t do, and won;t let anyone step on her head.

    I wish this is the attidue we all should have towards any sort of power-relations that denigrate any individual’s value as a human being; woman, man, child, etc…all this nitpicking over names(categories) diverts our attention away from the bigger question: how can oppression, of any form, be stopped.

    • Thank you for the compliments Amooti. 🙂
      But we are going to have to agree to disagree on whether my mother is a feminist or not. I think feminism is the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes and a feminist merely pushes for this ideology. Now, based on that definition, it can be done in so many ways, my mother’s beliefs revolve around women not allowing themselves to be weaker than men. Is she a traditional definition of a feminist? maybe not. Has she made me and all the women around her, through her words and actions, want to be more? definitely and that for me should be what its all about.

      I agree with you on power relation dynamics though. We all need to end the inequality.

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