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» Against the racks on racks on racks….Feminism

October 15, 2018

Against the racks on racks on racks….Feminism

It is September 2014 and I am currently 26 years old, female, (South) African.
I was raised in a single parent household. I have been involved in two fatal car accidents in my life, I have been involved in an almost freak drowning incident, I have been a victim in a house robbery, I have been robbed at knifepoint, and still…I rise. On the contrary- I am a graduate of three prestigious tertiary institutions; I have generous and loving family and friends, the important little men in my life, my nephews bring me soo much joy.

And so, having watched the Emma Watson’s speech on Feminism that is making the rounds on the internet; I watched and listened I experienced a spectrum of thoughts and emotions. I mainly agree with the essence of her speech, which is that we need men to join in on leading the fight against the different types of abuses and injustices that are committed to the female specie. We need our brothers, our fathers, our lovers, and our grandfathers to immensely be involved in efforts to protect women in society. However I strongly felt that the speech, the UNWomen Ambassador (Emma Watson) delivered, should have been delivered by a woman of colour. This is why I say so:

1) When reading UN reports, it is reported and evidenced that the most underprivileged women are women of colour
2) The poorest gender are females and tend to be females from developing contexts
3) Women with the least access to ICTs tend to be women from the African continent
4) Women with the least access to education tend to be African women
5) Poverty & Maternal healthcare problems are said to be mainly experienced by women in developing countries

Now- as a young, African, feminist, I personally would have preferred that the “UN Women Ambassador” be a) Lupita Nyongo or b) Malala Yousafzai because they would represent the geographical contexts of ‘non-privilege’, or suffering, the contexts in which they come from. Even though Lupita or Malala may not personally wear all the badges of female issues represented in their home continents and countries, by virtue of coming from where they come from, they are ambassadors in their own rights of their contexts.

As a young, African feminist I firmly believe that we cannot have Oprah and Beyonce be the ‘only’ two global faces, representing African women on a world wide, global reach platform. In (South) Africa- I grew up knowing who Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Celine Dion and Hilary Clinton are…you name it. And that is okay; however, is it not time that young feminists in the West also grow up knowing who Lupita Nyongo is, Malala, Amina Mama and include disabled feminists in platforms of global representation as well. I believe it is platforms like the one Emma was given that are needed to represent women that are mostly marginalised and are referred to as being ‘voiceless’ in society. I believe that if organisations like the UN speak of ‘inclusive development’ then it starts with whom they select to be the poster child and be the voice for global issues. How much longer does the world have to perceive that African woman as the one with her breast out, feeding a destitute African child in a refugee camp in a poverty advert?

Please do not get me wrong; the idea of representation, which I am raising in this piece, does not erode away at the importance and relevance of feminism. Feminism is an important, historical movement which today more so than ever still has a huge role to play. Well known American feminist blogger Mia McKenzie critiques Emma’s speech and also provides insight and highlights some of the main reasons why feminist movements are still pertinent in present day society.
Article here.

Coming from a deeply complicated (South) Africa, being a child of an Africa that has been called the ‘dark continent’ and has been seen as a ‘beggar’ to powerful nations for ions, coming from a single-parent household where many believe the children are destined to fail, I am one hopeful child.

I genuinely believe our generation can and is doing better when it comes to making human rights issues a priority. I believe our generation is brewing tiny, miniscule pockets of excellence that need to unite forces as we re-define and re-state our claim in the world as young Africans. We will attain globally recognised education, we will seek guidance from those who have walked the path before us, we will pass the lessons on to those that come after us who are willing to be a part of the positive, safe and loving (South) Africa we want to live in. Rise above your adversities, climb out of the ditches that your path may lead you to, believe that your are worthy of greatness, of success and your own definition of wealth, rise above the racks on racks on racks of the odds stacked against you.


Best Wishes,

  • Thanks Lindi, very thought provoking piece. The BDG blog also has an interesting critique, I especially agreed with the point around Emma not acknowledging what benefit men gain by not supporting feminism.

    I guess I also feel that feminism (as with most socio-politcal movements) is very multifaceted and what it means to different people is personal. An individual can never be all encompassing enough- not even Nelson Mandela was, but did that make him a bad embassador for South Africa and the Anti-apartheid movement? Also, although there is a prestige and responsibility of being the UN Embassador, I feel feminists (especially of colour) should not be limited to the UN as a space for influencing decisions and making a tangilbe difference, especially considering the geo-politics of international organisations.

    • Thanks Magcino. For those who don’t know ‘BGD’ is a blog called ‘Black Girl Dangerous’- very informative, check it out when you can.

      Whilst an individual ‘can never be all encompassing’ I do believe that it is time to diversify representation at the UN ambassador (poster child) level. As Cass raised the question ‘why always Hollywood stars?’

      Here’s an extreme example of why I think representation matters: Think about it an am imagery level-for how long will westerners who have never come to Africa think ‘black women=save the child advert’ ‘white women= informed feminists, helping those other women’

      I agree that women should not be limited to the UN as a forum for being heard/making a difference. However- policy set at UN level sets the precedent for many nations and smaller development agencies. And so- representation of women of colour & disabled women at the UN platform level is critical.

  • Beautifully written. You raise some great points and I do hope UN ambassadors diversify soon! I think its pretty random that Emma Watson was named the UN womens Ambassador. Why always hollywood celebs?