Afrofeminism: understanding the modern African feminist

silhouette of mother kissing her daughter

silhouette of mother kissing her daughter

A few weeks ago on a cool summer’s evening while under the carefully guided hand of a full bodied glass of red wine, a friend turned to me and asked what the modern African feminist looked like, the women he tacked on. This question should have been easy to answer as I thought I understood who she is, but it wasn’t.

Like most things that happens on a summer’s evening where sunset can be dragged on depending on the sun’s sluggishness, the question grew more fierce and terrifying the more I surveyed the dimming skyline. I think I shall address the question as best I can now. It would be easy to say that the modern African woman is all business and dominates the boardroom. It would be easy to say that she has beaten the mythos of the old world and embraced the tigress of the new world. That would be easy.

Truth be told her way is still a murky unknown, barricaded by loopholes in the law and regimes that refuse to step out of the dark ages. She is stifled by religion and bound by the emotional blackmail of her peers and the male figures in her life. When all fails, the default for African women is to go back to the old ways, the way our mothers and their mothers did it — acceptance.

However, there is no denying the onslaught of Afrofeminism, a striking second act in the history of African women and their revolutions. The emergence of the modern African woman is both accidental and purposed, an unorganised movement united by a simple cause — to be all that we can be. This resurgence and affirmation has swept through the continent and everyone is taking notice and making room for the quiet intensities and the exhilarating expression that is the modern African woman.

It’s easy to pin her down to preconceived ideas and the flawless quality of the media headlines and the newsmakers. The truth is that the modern African feminist is deeply flawed, a creature of rash decisions and fiery passion. But can you blame her though? Growing up, African girls are forbidden from dating, yet at the appropriate age they are expected to bring home the perfect husband. An idea that defies logic, leaving young girls to date in secret. The African feminist is built on this defiance, always forging a way when the path is blocked.

For years, women in Africa embodied complacency. They were wives and mothers and growing up young girls bought into this destiny because no one told them they didn’t have to. As the tide now turns and these perceptions in turn unravel to reveal more roles for women in society, the myth of what is woman is growing more complex. Young African girls see this then quickly and easily begin to saunter through their own identities with ease while falling into feminism with glee and careless abandon. Because in the end, for them, it is the norm.

The African woman that we see now is unshackled by the burdens of the women that came before, she understands the sacrifices of those who came before her but refuses to inherent their prisons. She is much darker and unabashed, unapologetic about sexuality and has no time for coyness. For her sex is not a tool to be used in a game of chance or daring, but a factor of life and a source of pleasure.

In the end, what Afrofeminism really is: is an awakening. The African feminist is debunking the mythos that boxes her into one corner of a world that is far to big to only be one thing. She preaches self-love, calculates her career path factoring a husband and children as well as nannies that help out while she is at work. She supports her man and expects him to support her, emotionally and mentally. She actively contributes to household income and sometimes makes more money. She plays a dangerous game of careful and calculated chess, where partnerships and strategic alliances guide her path.

The modern African feminist looks like whoever and whatever she wants to look like, the person who is the most comfortable for her to be. She doesn’t seek self affirmation but endeavours to standout in her own way.

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