African feminism

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African feminism is a strain of feminism that is innovated by African women and specifically addresses the conditions and needs of continental African women (African women who reside on the continent). African feminism includes Motherism, Femalism, Snail-sense Feminism, Womanism/women palavering, Nego-feminism, Stiwanism, and African Womanism.[1]

The necessity of African feminism emerges from white Western feminism's exclusion of the experiences of the black woman and the continental African woman. White Western feminisms excludes black women because it does not take into account the particular issues black women face at the intersection of both their blackness and their womanhood. White feminism often classifies African women as women of color, which in turns erases and represses the African woman's historical trajectory and specific experience.[1] Africa cannot be divorced from feminist theory or feminist advocacy because the African continent will always remain as the Mother Continent of humanity.[2]

These modes of African feminisms address cultural issues that pertain to the complex experiences faced by all women of all cultures on the African continent. In regards to these feminisms, many originate from West Africa and Nigeria in particular.[1] The variety in feminisms displays the African woman's active engagement with gender relations.[1] In her article, "West African Feminisms and Their Challenges," Naomi Nkealah discusses the various forms of African feminisms. She argues that unlike feminism, womanism pertains to African women of the diaspora and not continental African women.[1] On the contrary, stiwanism places African women at the center of the discourse because stiwanism is deeply rooted in the experiences and realities African women face.[1] Motherism is a maternal form of feminism that gives rural women the task of nurturing society.[1] Femalism allows the woman's body to be placed at the center of feminist conversations.[1] Nego-feminism and snail-sense feminism urge the inclusion of men in discussions and advocacy of feminism. They both argue that the inclusion of men is necessary to the freedom of women.

These modes of feminisms share several commonalities. First, they all challenge the term "feminism," both its Western term and roots because they bring to the forefront the experiences of the African woman.[1] Second, because they are dependent on indigenous blueprints, they take from the histories and cultures of African peoples in order to create the necessary tools needed to embolden women and educate men.[1] Third, they incorporate "gender inclusion, collaboration and accommodation to ensure that both women and men contribute (even if not equally) to improving the material conditions of women."[1]

The Role of Men in African Feminisms[edit]

The goal of feminism is to empower women while ensuring their equality to men. For some people, the term ‘feminism’ may then indicate that the movement is anti-male, anti-culture and anti-religion.[2] This misconception that is important to correct so because feminism is not meant to denigrate men, but rather to attack the system that places the woman at a role that is secondary to the man, simply because of their gender. [2] For purposes of inclusion, some women prefer to engage themselves in gender theory and activism by including men into the discussion.[3] Some believe that policy changes that will address women's needs cannot succeed if men are alienated because men have so much power and control.[3] Because the majority of policy-makers in many African countries are men, inclusivity is important if women are to gain ground in policy changes that impact them.[3] The importance that many woman place on communalism and family results in their desire to work with men to develop an inclusive approach to solving gender issues and in order to eradicate the oppression women face because of their gender, working with men has become a necessity.[3]

Feminism versus Womanism[edit]

Catherine Acholonu notes that "Feminism, has as its ultimate goal the triumphal emancipation of the woman as a unique, distinct individual with a mind uncluttered by patriarchal beliefs and abusive submission to tradition."[2] Though the general notion of feminism aims to provide women with political, social, and economical freedoms, it has been criticized as excluding the narratives and experiences of women of color, especially black women. Because of this exclusion in feminism, womanism has emerged as the African-American variant.[4]  Womanism addresses feminism from (1) an African perspective; (2) an African geopolitical location; (3) and an African ideological viewpoint.[1] Womanism is so important because it places the feminist vision within black women’s experiences with culture, colonialism and many other forms of domination and subjugation that impact African women’s lives.[5] Because of the complex nature and experience of the African identity, which is different from the black woman of the African diaspora, there exists more feminisms within the African context than just womanism alone. This is where Stiwanism because an effective way of understanding African feminisms because it pays special attention to the needs of African women on the continent instead of just black women across the globe.

It is important to note the difference in experiences and realities women in varying African countries face because Africa is not a monolith. These exists difference regionally, ethnically, politically, and religious which all work to impact these women conceptualizing of what feminism and freedom looks like for them.[3] While African women from, for example, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal will have some commonalities, there will be variations in the way they understand gender and gender struggles.[3] There exists great diversity in Africa. Therefore, these varying cultures alter the way these African women experience the world. Thus, one cannot simply merge all woman under an unrealistic expectation of sisterhood, but instead to recognize and respect the differences that exist as a result of these diversities.[3] There is a commonality to the struggles women face across the world since the common factor is male privilege. [3] However, women's needs, reality, oppression and empowerment are best addressed by having an inclusive and accommodating understanding of the generic and more general issues as well as the peculiarities and group attitude to self-definition as women.[3]


African feminist, writer, and scholar Obioma Nnaemeka discusses and defines the term "Nego-feminism" in her article Nego-Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa's Way." She writes, "Nego-feminism is the feminism of negotiation; second, nego-feminism stands for “no ego” feminism and is structured by cultural imperatives and modulated by evershifting local and global exigencies."[6] Most African cultures have a culture of negotiation and compromise when it comes to reaching agreements.[6] In Nego-feminism, negotiations play the role of giving and taking.[6] For African feminism, in order to win challenges, feminists must negotiate and sometimes compromise enough in order to gain freedoms. Nnaemeka writes that African feminism works by knowing "when, where, and how to detonate and go around patriarchal land mines."[6] This means that nego-feminism knows how to utilize the culture of negotiation in order to deconstruct the patriarchy for the woman's benefit.



Snail-sense Feminism[edit]


Notable African Feminist Critics[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Nkealah, Naomi. "(West) African Feminisms and Their Challenges". Journal of Literary Studies. 32 (2): 61–74. doi:10.1080/02564718.2016.1198156. 
  2. ^ a b c d Nkealah, Naomi (2006). Conceptualizing Feminism(s) in Africa: The Challenges Facing African Women Writers and Critics. English Academy Review. pp. 133–141. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kolawole, Mary Modupe (2011). "Transcending incongruities: rethinking feminism and the dynamics of identity in Africa". Taylor and Francis Online. 
  4. ^ Ebunoluwa, Sotunsa Mobolanle (2009). "The Quest for an African Variant". The Journal of Pan African Studies: 227–234. 
  5. ^ Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo (1985). "The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English". The University of Chicago Press Journals: 63–80. 
  6. ^ a b c d Nnaemeka, Obioma (2004). "Nego-Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa's Way". The University of Chicago Press Journals: 357–385.