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30 Aug Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Lord, Make Me a Feminist

What must I do to become a feminist after the manner of Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan, the hard core campaigners of the first and second waves of feminism who fought tradition and legions of misogynists, who fought for equality of the sexes, woman suffrage, equal pay, and reproductive rights, and not the new millennium ones who have regressed to lipsticks and high heels, habits the hardworking early feminists had conquered?

I know the rules and have kept them all. I do my best to look unattractive. I have plaited my artsy dreadlocks. My brows are in full bloom and are plucked only on special occasions, on the insistence of friends. But that is nothing to mourn over; they grow back fast, fuller than they were. I choose cowry chokers over the comely gold chain. It takes some effort to maintain the chaos.

Colours are bright and light is good, I know, but I am to be seen only in dark, loose-fitting, African-themed garments that deliberately mock the fashion model. My clothes come in three colours: grey, brown, and black. Some argue black is technically not a colour. Two colours then.

Really, I am the most underrated aspiring feminist of the age, the unacknowledged campaigner for the emancipation of women, the private defender of women rights. I am an advocate for the abolition of gender-biased language, words, phrases that cast men as the archetype of the human race. For all the years of marginalisation, I recommend that men should be made to earn a Spinster’s degree, and ‘woman the desk’ till we all agree on gender-neutral alternatives.

I challenge sexist comments. I catch them and throw them back at the speaker.I am incensed especially by sexual, sexist, comments.

Once, a man asked “if on a first date a girl sleeps with a guy, what would you call her?”

“Loose,” someone answered.

“What would you call the guy?” he asked.

“Loser,” I answered.

No one got the point, perhaps it was pointless, but at least I make a show of putting the joke on them. I put myself in these situations to be purposely accused of feminism but events rarely go as planned, most times it is a question. ‘Are you a feminist?’ And one is too polite to accept. Gloria Steinem is a feminist, as is Alice Walker.

In my younger, more zealous days I had contemplated vegetarianism but further research revealed it was outside the guideline. The prospect of turning down an offer of kilishi with ‘No, I am a vegetarian.’ Better, ‘I am vegan.’ How utterly elegant it would sound to be introduced as a vegan and a feminist.

Though my contribution to the debate on the Senate child marriage brouhaha was kept indoors, when a friend posted a link to the Stella Damasus rage video on Facebook, I liked it, and whenever it propped up on my timeline, I liked it again, never watching it once.

I have broken a few rules. I was a backslider. Sometimes I am weak and I fall into the temptation, for I am only woman, susceptible to trends. For a period I bought and fixed hair extensions. I was caught in the Brazilian Hair wave, but the rebellious years are behind. I am repented again. My dreads are growing wild and untidy, and this time it feels permanent.

Even more confessions. I have been less vocal about 35 percent affirmative action for women, having earlier been a staunch advocate of meritocracy. Besides these, there are no other impediments why my prayer should not be granted. It is a rather urgent request because it would soon be unfashionable to identify as a feminist. Susan Sarandon, once a renowned feminist, has publicly dissociated herself from the term. More stars are following, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry for instance. Sadly, the word is coming to an end.

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