I want to take some time to talk about feminism. This is a subject I rarely talk about because I am still learning and reading so much. The show off in me usually prefers to speak from a point of knowledge.
So, I hesitate to call myself a feminist, not because of the negative connotation that has come to be associated with the word, but because I do not want to claim to be an expert in a field I am still learning about myself.
Growing up I always felt different. I complained when my mum sent me to the kitchen to cook and left my older brother in the TV room watching his wrestling matches. I went on strike when my mother told me to clean my room and that of my brothers.
This sense of not belonging only got worse as I got older. At 10, I hated being assigned household chores while my brother did nothing, at 12 I questioned so many things that seemed normal in society. I could not understand why my mother had to stay at home and take care of us when she had her career and her education.
I did not align with the fact that my mother had to wake up every morning at 5am to get us ready for school while my father slept in bed. I got irritated every time my dad got back home from work at 11pm and the girls had to get out of bed, heat up his water, transfer food from a hot pot into a plate and carry it to him like a baby.
I was an avid reader growing up; the tales that involve me getting in trouble for reading at the inappropriate time are multiple and could fill an entire book, so I will not dwell on that today. My favorite book to read was always the encyclopedia, yes that’s how old I am.
Growing up I always felt different. I complained when my mum sent me to the kitchen to cook and left my older brother in the TV room watching his wrestling matches
My love for reading unfortunately gave me a “negative” side effect. It made me extremely observant. It comes as no shock then that I started observing the world around me keenly. I never really knew my grandparents. My grandfather died around the time my mum was in labor with me and my grandmother followed 8 years later.
I observed my mum’s side of the family and liked what I saw. There were no gender roles, everyone male or female shared household chores equally, my grandmother personally pulled my aunt out of an abusive marriage and banned her child from ever going back. My mother’s sisters were bread winners in their respective homes, I liked what I observed at my really young age. I still didn’t understand what it was back then, but I liked it.
At 18, I knew I was career driven and I felt terrible. I wanted to have a husband and children and be content with that, but I also wanted to explore economics and geography and dreamed of the Central bank, World Bank, IMF.
At 21, the desire to pursue my career was even stronger. In my first job out of campus, I would start my day at 7am and still be at it at 10pm and I loved it! I loved how much I was learning, the thrill of soaking in something I had no clue about the previous day. Then I moved to Uganda.
In my bubble, I had temporarily been shielded from the reality of life. The reality that expects a woman to settle soon after campus. All my friends told me that yearning to be a mother will hit me eventually. I prayed for it to hit me, and for God to stop making me so different. I hated myself.
I went online to look for what was wrong with me, but what I saw online annoyed me. I saw men constantly shaming women for daring to be themselves and I hated it. I saw men reminding women everyday they are inferior and properties of men. I hated it.
I was also in a relationship. Looking back now, I realize that relationship was doomed from the start. I was unknowingly, a feminist. He was the typical patriarchal man. We fought more and more each day. I also discovered feminism around this time.
For the first time in my life, I discovered a community that made me feel normal. A community that didn’t judge me for questioning my Catholic religion when they said same sex love is a sin punishable by the fires of hell, divorce is unquestionable and suffering in a marriage was glorified. Really!
I found a community that didn’t look at me sideways when I found nothing wrong with sex work, when I asked why a woman’s body count is of such high importance. I found a society that made me feel normal for expecting all genders to be held accountable to the same standards.
I finally found myself and some semblance of peace in this community and while there is still a lot for me to learn, I will say this. I found this community online. To everyone who yells feminists online just yell and scream and have no effect, I challenge them to look at me.
I am proudly and unashamedly happy to be different and I am changing the status quo one step at a time. I am learning what I will not and will not accept and mostly I am voicing myself, my opinions and my differences! I refuse to bow down to societies expectations.
I am ungovernable. I am on my way to being a fully-fledged Feminist!
Also read: Is Feminism Sexist?
Author: Michelle Mboha
Michelle is an economist, early stage business adviser and a human rights advocate. She is also a guest writer for Newslibre.