Anyone who identifies as a feminist knows that, deciding to do so is never easy. More so, when you’re a third world/African feminist. It’s not just a decision to identify as something or to have a political stance; it’s the decision to be willing to stand alone for the sake of what you believe in, with the knowledge that you will face opposition. You’re literally deciding to go against everything your society considers to be normal all in an effort to stand up for what you believe in. To say that maybe, just maybe- women, men and everyone in-between should be considered equal beings with equal rights and opportunities. To be considered equally valuable. Choosing to do so can be a very lonely journey. It takes tremendous inner strength to forfeit attraction and social acceptance for the sake of your vision. Similar to identifying to a religion, being devout, including being an African feminist is so much harder. To many, I’m a walking oxymoron. Personally I had a lot of support on my journey to become a born again Christian, but becoming a feminist was a whole different ball game.
When I was younger, I always sought social approval. I found validation in having 1000+ Facebook friends. I never spoke too loud or too much for fear of losing friends. I forced myself to like what seemed “cool” to everyone around me. I tried not to be too nerdy or odd. I always made sure my cupboard was stocked with Dark ‘n Lovely relaxer, so I didn’t offend people with my kinky coily ‘fro. I wore make up before I wanted to. I went from fad diet to fad diet so I wouldn’t be the fat friend. No certain position. No certain opinions or identity. I adjusted my preferences to match my peers. I wanted to fit in. I eventually mastered the art of doing so having created the Namatama who was socially acceptable and the Namatama who was unapologetically herself. It was like two people existing within me; who I was and who people wanted me to be. One thing anyone who’s gone through the same thing knows is that those two beings eventually clash or overlap causing deep inner conflict.
With time I began to grow and form my own opinions, I no longer felt like conforming. I was tired. I was enduring a lot of inner conflict. This was around the time I became a feminist, even though it took a while for me to identify as one. I was still caught in trying to be socially acceptable. While I held many feminist beliefs; a lot of my friends, family and people I associated with held contrary views. And so I refrained from having an opinion. I watered down my views to be less offensive and not step on anyone’s toes. But deep down I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential, and needed to use the views I was beginning to hold so strongly, along with my voice and my ability to express myself as a writer to make a difference. There was just too much going on around me, to keep quiet and forfeit the chance to make a difference in the fight for equality and rights in Zambia just so that I would continue to’ fit in’. And so my journey to spiritual solitude began.
I never really knew that there was a term to describe my journey to discover who I was and establish my beliefs. I only found out a few years later, that it’s called “spiritual solitude”. A term I first heard from artist/musician Destiny Frasqueri (popularly known as Princess Nokia), who is famously known for incorporating brujx and conjure culture into the mainstream music scene. Her music is something so unique it’s definitely worth the listen. In an interview, she described to a tee what it feels like to be at odds with the world around us. To exist in margins due to being or thinking different in a unique manner. Existing but never truly fitting in and coming to peace with the fact that it’s okay to be who you truly are. Even if it means you have to force yourself to be alone. To force yourself into solitude. What matters is that you stay true to who you are and what you believe. Living in your truth to fulfill your purpose.
Evolving into the person you’re meant to be.
“Solitude, spiritual solitude, is a huge component in self evolution, and when you wanna evolve or you are evolving, regardless if you want to or not; like someone like myself who’s developing clairvoyant abilities by the age of 20, because that’s my genetic disposition as a Caribbean person. Just comes to you – it comes to you and you have to accept it. You can denounce it if you want, it’s gonna be a hard life after that though; you gonna be at odds with yourself,” says Princess Nokia.
Similarly, by my 20th birthday, I knew that “spiritual solitude”, was my only option. I had to be true to who I was and what I believed in. I could no longer turn the other way at the sight of discrimination, patriarchy and sexism. I could no longer associate myself with people who normalized these notions. I forced myself into solitude, and grew to be content with myself. During this time I began to care less about others opinions, formed my own and stuck to them. And so I morphed into an African feminist blogger.
When you embark upon self-evolution, self-awareness is an inevitable consequence. Self-evolution not only made me a better person but a better feminist too!
It became less and less important whether I was afraid because I was beginning to use the inner strength I was developing in the service of my vision, which was to raise awareness about the importance of the feminist movement from a Zambian/African point of view.
This was a key component to living up to my full potential as an African feminist. Feminism as African women requires us to be resilient. To not buckle under the pressure, in order to be considered socially acceptable. This means self-awareness is a must. We have to know who we truly are, because we’ll always be questioned. We have to know what we stand for or we’ll fall for anything.
All I can say is, standing up for what you believe in is never easy. Nor is taking the risk of being true to who you are without knowing how you’ll be received It was never meant to be. If it was, everyone would do it!
In order for me to write on this blog, I had to overcome a lot. Just mustering up the courage to publically display controversial views was huge but so worth it! Every time I look at my stats and views show my content being read from nearly every continent in the world, makes it worth it! I’m giving perspective effectively on feminist issues from an African point of view in hopes that together as feminists world over, we can make a difference. That one day equality will be achieved. That inclusivity and tolerance will become a norm. That in a world that values patriarchy; women, men, people of all religions, all races, the LGBTQIA community, all people- will be seen as equal. Many people will disagree. Yes I may lose any choice of popularity – I already have. But anything worth having is worth fighting for, and my goodness just the sweet sweet thought of one day being considered an equal being, is worth fighting for!