Considering the role of women is vast and the challenges we face across the globe are still plenty, we're celebrating Women's History Month by focusing on issues that intersect gender, race and culture. Even though women from vastly different cultures still experience a lack of freedom, oppression and even violence, there are many women who flourish professionally in their communities, raise healthy, productive families and continue to push the next generation along with their creativity, nurturing and wisdom.
How we as women respond to different inequities and injustices we experience largely depends upon our cultural values, the social dynamics of our communities and the differing values we were raised with. We as a global community, must understand the impacts of culture on women's roles and identities in order to respond adequately and help women in need. Even though women globally share collective challenges like discrimination and oppression, in order to advance the status of women, we must focus on solving specific issues they face in their communities. Only after we truly understand the cultural nuances, will we be able to combat gender inequities and violence, and value women for their contribution to life and society.
African Feminism Principles
Feminism principles in the African culture are focused mainly on two distinct issues:
Racism, sexism, and classism are not distinguishable or separable. To fix one, they all must be addressed simultaneously.
African women have different needs and different perspectives than those of western culture.
The reality is that while women all over the globe suffer from some variation of inequality, the conditions are different among cultures and that matters to how you approach resolving it.
Western Feminism Vs. African Feminism
Feminism is defined as equality between genders, but what that equality stands for often differs among women from various cultures. African women face different challenges than women in the western world, which must be addressed within their respective cultures. Western feminism, from a global perspective, has both positively and negatively impacted feminism in other cultures as it is centered around a white privileged experience.
Western culture has shown women in the east that they can stand up for themselves and have a voice in their cultures. It offers many examples of women speaking out against sexual violence and other issues that have long plagued women in eastern society.
But African feminism has a different set of values than western culture does. Whereas women in the west are focused on issues like equal pay, women in the east are focused on topics such as child marriage or religious and cultural oppression. While the aim of equality is the same, the issues are vastly different.
Gender Roles Are Influenced by Culture
The male and female roles we take on at a very young age are what we learn is 'normal' and appropriate by watching and listening to others around us. The idea that girls are supposed to play with dolls, while boys play war or superhero, especially in western cultures still exists though it is slowly changing. The question becomes is it a natural tendency for young children to be gravitate towards these gender roles or is it solely society shaping them? The debate roars on however there is no denying that these traditional roles have played out for generations as women have taken on the role of homemaker throughout history, while men typically are the breadwinners in the family.
As women became more involved in the workplace this concept has shifted and of late, in many western societies, balancing a family with two working parents is often the norm. Unfortunately, women still typically take on the role of housewife and mother while working 40 or more hours each week. Meanwhile, men’s roles haven’t necessarily changed to reflect the new dynamic.
While western feminism and eastern feminism are different, women of all societies are primarily the nurturing caregivers and home managers while the men work outside the home. An egalitarian society, should promote ideals that make the family unit work better. Some women may wish to stay home and raise a family, others may wish to have a career as well as a family. Equality is the option to choose what works for you, and that works when you have a partner who is in agreement with a more fair distribution of home life activities so that everyone in the unit thrives. We need to show today’s children that equality can take many forms, all of which should include both men and women contributing to raising children, household duties and their economic well being.
Motherhood in Feminism
There has been a long and tumultuous relationship between feminism and motherhood. But there is no denying that women have an essential role to play in child-rearing, and if feminism is ever going to achieve it's equality aims, it cannot leave out the values and goals of the majority population they are supposed to represent - women who are also mothers. Culture impacts women's role as mother significantly, so the main issue here is how do we make it safe for women to be mothers and be career-women, to include men in child rearing more and make it a fairer distribution of labour and value?
As Tegwyn Hughes said in ArtSci ’20, “Being a woman might come with the unfortunate downside of gender-based discrimination, made worse by intersections like race, class, and sexuality, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Why you may ask? Because women are strong, independent and beautiful creatures, and our role as mothers makes that more apparent than ever.
Women from diverse cultures revel in their role as mothers, because they understand how important of a role it is to bring up a new generation of future leaders that will inevitably help us evolve as human beings. If we all, genders and cultures, stand together on this point of raising bright, empathetic and confident children, we can lift our communities up and address patriarchal, racist, and superiority structures that prevent women's equality and well being.
Join us for our Women's month special Tough Convos on March 23rd to learn more about gender and racial equality by dissecting the Black hair experience.