Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: Feminism, Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't mention Cape Town again, but I need to for this blogpost. You see, while there I came to realize that Open Forum 2012 was a heavily feminist conference. This meant an extremely high concentration of high-achieving women, and perhaps even a higher concentration of females than males.

So I came home pumped full of the vim and vigor of all that feminine power, convinced that the future of Africa would have a female face. It was a glorious week of delusion, work was going great and no incidents occurred to burst that bubble. Then the feeling faded and I was back in Dar again. And it hit me that in fact, no. Things are indeed great on a certain level, and I do believe that women are riding the wave of Africa's "emergence" on the world charts. However, this only applies to a minority of us, and only in some spheres of our lives, and only some of the time. The rest of the time we're right there with the rest of humanity, taking bull poop from the patriarchy and just dealing with it.

And then Anne-Marie Slaughter decides to tell us that in America, women can't have it all after all. And that feminism better own up to this, stop misguiding younger women, roll up its sleeves and get back on the job of fixing whatever still needs fixing. A gender equitable society, like a perfect democracy, is still more of an ideal than a reality in our times. Anyways, the article got me thinking along feminist lines, specifically wondering about what the fundamental challenges are for female leadership in Tanzania:

"I think that there are two main culprits, and they are related. The first is our culture of anti-intellectualism, and the second is simply the insidious practice of deference. About the anti-intellectualism: yes, we suffer this problem. We do. But it is particularly offensive in our society to be a thinking woman. Because this then raises the second problem: deference. By our rules, women are expected to defer to men. That's the bare bones of it, and it is far more problematic than the anti-intellectualism. All this expected deference is killing careers."

For the most part I try to stay relatively friendly when in feminist mode, but it doesn't always work. Although I may be writing about general challenges and more abstract ideas, at the end of the day it is deeply personal, as gender politics must be for any woman who just can't bring herself to obediently "stay in her place."

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