Some days you wonder how far you could push your belief in the equality of man and woman if you still lived in Kaduna. Growing up, everyone around you, especially the older women, preached submission and obedience to young women. And you often thought, thank goodness I am not a woman.
Years have passed and forged in your mind resistance to the contemporary incarnations of patriarchy even when you benefit from it- the world doesn’t tell you how long or short your dress needs to be, whether your hair needs to be covered or not, what time of day you should not move about, places where you should or shouldn’t go, or constantly want to know if you are a virgin or have defiled yourself. You have become keenly aware of this male privilege, especially in Abuja where women can get kidnapped for walking around at night by city officials pretending to fight prostitution.
It has all turned you into some sort of activist. You see in all things the slightest tilting toward patriarchy and you speak up against it even when the men and women in the room, comfortable in patriarchy, think you are crazy. It does not shock you when women do it, because you know that patriarchy can also be beneficial to women. Once a woman has sacrificed the limelight and overt control over herself and her world, she is sometimes rewarded with not having to do certain things for herself, like pay for dinners, or even take care of her household. You have never thought that it was as simple as women are equal to men. It is clear to you how complex patriarchy is and how it is that many female beneficiaries of this skewed system may be addicted to it.
Once you called yourself a feminist, certain of the validity of your claim and cause. You believed that in every struggle or cause, persons not directly affected by the wrongs were needed as champions for that cause, whether it is gay rights or feminism. So you smiled when someone referred to you as a male champion and said that feminism needs more male champions. You even got invited to a feminist meeting once.
Slowly however, the word feminist began to secret a sourness in your mouth. In your head you used to think feminism and gay rights were the same. But then you began to wonder about the term male champion in feminism. You began to see the contradiction: an ideology that challenges unfair male domination should not NEED male champions. And you thought to yourself: How presumptuous of me to think of myself as a male feminist champion!
You no longer call yourself a feminist, no longer use the word male champion when speaking of feminism. What you fight for is equal space and rights for women- an equal voice. And because you do believe that women are as capable as men, you are content in the belief that they are capable of speaking and fighting for themselves. You are happy to be an ally, to stand behind them.
Somebody asks you, are you a feminist? You say, I merely believe in what is right, namely, that women are equal to men. That’s it.