In an earnest attempt to get to know my students; I asked one of them how their weekend was. This student is a shy individual who would avoid an instructor at all costs and speak only when spoken to. Knowing this, I went ahead to probe and get him talking about how his weekend went.
Fort nite is an online survival game whose essential goal is entertainment derived from the satisfaction of self defense delivered by guns. This student I was speaking with had had a relaxing fun filled weekend and it was grace a cette jeu ( because of this game ). This game whose sole purpose revolved around shooting for self defense and ultimately fun derived from killing opposing forces. I walked away feeling unsettled. What subliminal messages were these games pushing?
The conversation blog which I follow ardently published a post based on the logic behind fear. In this post, the main idea presented revolved around the illogical nature of fear. It maintained that fear, specifically xenophobic and fear of the other, rested not on the logic of otherness equaling humanity but rather an us against them mentality which encouraged an attack on different groups if the one group wanted to survive. I see the same idea in this game.
A quick online search showed that variations of the Fortnite game features zombies who must get shot at if the player wants to stay alive. Many games that even I have played innocently feature this idea of self defense against the being that is new, foreign, terrifying and out to get regular people or take what they have. Zombies are feared and need to be quelled before they multiply. Read related post also featured on the conversation blog. Around the world, and especially in South Africa, immigrants who even have the same skin tone have been targeted because of their otherness; with the idea being that though African, they aren’t technically South African. They are different, Nigerian for example, and dangerous. Just like in South Africa, zombies are everywhere in their indecent numbers and must be stopped. America’s zombies are as usual its foreign immigrants whose skin tones are different, – little heed paid to other immigrants who have the same skin tone as the man. This society is a place where entertainment in the form of online games, marketed and meant for younger members of society equals shooting at other BEINGS WHO ARE DIFFERENT in order to survive. This is the society where a lone armed shooter walks into a grocery store just because he knows that that part of town will certainly have DIFFERENT people aka zombies. In this space, I continually remain eager to understand what entertainment there is, for example in a game that rests on shooting others.
Mental health pulls the trigger not the gun. Where does this statement fit where young people are getting unconsciously wired to derive fun from shooting at the other with aims no matter how benign.
Out of a plethora of shows available on creative platforms, I choose Black shows because I seek to clearly understand the many complex issues plaguing the Black community and especially the Black woman.
I came upon this show on Instagram. It was advertised as a coming soon on HBO and looked like it held so much value because of a HILARIOUS preview and later scenes that serve/d as fluid vehicles to push social commentary about women’s lives in post modern society. In summary, I would say the show is an honest parody of societal issues with a limelight on feminine life. The topics projected in the show span impossible beauty standards, a comparison of marriage and it’s gradually changing or totally changed standards and expectations from our parents’ generation as compared to the millennial generation and a lot more!
This post will explore the Bad Bitch Support group scene from one of the episodes and hopefully spark your interest in jumping on this show as a way to understand, reinforce or refute certain ideas you may already have.
The Bad Bitch Support Scene –
Impossible Beauty Standards Enforced by Who?
Words at Play – Bad Bitch, Basic Bitch, Okay Bitch, Pressure, Men, Lace front, Waist Trainer , Fucksicodone ( Spelt as heard on show ).
This scene is set in what seems to be a lab. The women are seated in a group and are observed through a glass window by two scientists. The scientists have a representative ( Angela Basset) who chairs the group. The Bad Bitches are in deep conversation about their lives and some of them speak of the pressures and stresses of maintaining a life that is eternally linked to heels and make up. Some of the members of the group seem perfectly fine with their state and are horrified at the thought of ever allowing their partner ( Men in this case ) see them without make up. They all agree to some extent about the need to remain in their current state all except one of them who is distraught and ready to give up. The rest of the ladies and the scientists are shocked at her questions and non conformity. The scientists resolve to increase the dosage of Fucksicodone ( a coined term from the word ‘Fuck’ and the suffix of a family of drugs that are meant to numb pain and in this case common sense or a desire to rebel against imposed beauty standards.)
From The Top
Third/Forth wave feminism circles around agency and choice. Particularly for Black women who have witnessed struggles shaped in the form of sexism and racism, the state of being a Bad Bitch has become a doubled layered protective tool that could help navigate the aforementioned terrains. A Bad Bitch is defined as a woman who embraces her body while simultaneously using it as a commodity (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017).
In the scene above, the implied truths portrayed are that these women must be confident, tall and unflinching because as one of the characters say; ‘they didn’t choose this life, this life chose them‘. This statement though is indicative of a certain kind of lack of a choice, of a lot that has been cast on them through the workings of the male gaze, objectification of the Black female body and capitalism, link to the second factor. The location of the scene, – a lab, – is a weighty portrayal of the fact that indeed, there is a working behind the scene when it comes to beauty standards. Through the scene we further understand how a woman can be objectified with no gain and with shame only and unnecessary vulnerability as side effects. For this reason and in tandem with the specific definition of a Bad Bitch as offered by (Lavoulle and Ellison, 2017), Bad Bitchery can enamor and position women to gain over the forces that suppress them. One of the characters explains that she goes great lengths to fix her make up an hour before her man is up. It is unclear if this work (of rising early to make up), is meant to elicit some form of gain from the man; – however, if it is, then the choice of the character to use the tool of make up ( which equally functions as a tool of objectification ) to her personal gain guarantees some kind of a win for her.
The final scene where the scientists question why the outlier lady does not want to play into the idea of what a woman should be ( made up, waist trainer clad and in heels ) sums up the play of capitalism and the male gaze in objectifying women. However these females have a choice in how they can turn the powers to their advantage via Bad Bitchery.
The Burial of Kojo debuted on Netflix in April and combines magical realism and realistic depictions of Ghanaian society to tell the story of a girl that journeys between two spaces to save her father from giving up the ghost.
The narrative voice in the movie which narrates from opening to end of the movie belongs to the protagonist; – (Ama Abebrese) who is reading the story of her childhood which she has set in a book to an audience. While this story is moving, surreal and well told, it succeeds in triggering our emotions mainly because it resides on filial rivalry, struggle and finally revenge that ends fatally. However, the film maker, Blitz Bazawule, accomplishes the telling of this unique story with stark juxtapositions that show Ghana today –
Ghana ( Africa ) is in Bed with China
In Uganda, elementary school kids of Ugandan origin are learning Chinese. For better or for worse, the Chinese are now a strong part of their community and learning Chinese in the words of one of the students will open many doors. In Nigeria Chinese firms own exclusive rights to mine gold in Zamfara, ironically, Nigeria’s poorest state. In Ghana, the situation is no different. The New York Times reported in 2013 that a Chinese illegal miner was shot by Ghanaian police which led to heightened tensions. Chinese use/used locals as fronts to engage in mining that they are/were otherwise not allowed to do. Ghanaian miners that work with Chinese companies reported many problems including a deep disregard for labor laws and the environment as well as the use of violence. Today, in 2019, the same situation remains and nothing has changed. The movie beautifully delivers this societal plague which interestingly acts as the bridge between the dramatic plot and the realistic matter of Ghana’s economy and its murky part linked to the Chinese. The fact that the co protagonist dies in a trench dug up on a mine site speaks volumes. This death re illuminates the danger that miners face / have faced over time and in different spaces. The trench is undoubtedly a symbol of exploitation, danger, injustices and above all, inequalities in Ghana today when it comes to foreign presence, investment and local gain. For this reason, The Burial of Kojo also fits well into art that calls for change in society.
Though the movie touches on other issues such as the great exit from small towns to the capital mostly for better opportunities and better amenities, the scenic shots from Nzulezo, Ghana’s south western village that sits on stilts (and mirrors a similar settlement in neighboring Benin . ) are wonderful additions that probably add onto the surrealism of the plot. While living in the water village, the girl ( Esi ) has many recurring dreams that show a black crow that she later comes to fully understand and tackle. Speaking of the Black crow, the pink hues that appear in those scenes that otherwise should look morbid and dark, make the scarier scenes easier to watch.
The movie however feeds into the cliché of certain stock colors representing good and bad. Why does the White dove not represent evil and why can the Black crow for once not represent good? Regardless, a particularly unconventional aspect of the film is that it is totally in two major Ghanaian languages; Fante and Twi, and subtitled in English.
The use of dream sequences ( Kojo’s recurring dream and Esi’s dream ) as a technique not only facilitates story telling but also speaks of the Ghanaian socio consciousnesses that attaches so much importance to dreams. Esi finally discovers through a dream, the cause of her father’s near fatal situation in the trench and goes into another dream to try to rescue her father. The dreams in addition to the moments where the characters undergo deep streams of consciousness feature special types of lights that signal to viewers the difference between regular scenes and scenes that are supposed to be mental projections of the characters.
Any literary fanatic knows that the technique of recurrent motifs in a work of art be it literary or visual is a way of sending home an idea.
Motif – In a literary work, a motif can be seen as an image, sound, action, or other figure that has a symbolic significance, and contributes toward the development of a theme. … In a literary piece, a motif is a recurrent image, idea, or symbol that develops or explains a theme, while a theme is a central idea or message.
The Image of the Bunny
The movie opens with a shot that enlargens as viewers are brought from the image of the pink eye of a bunny to a larger frame containing a good number of bunnies all stuck apathetically behind the iron mesh of individual cages they are kept in.
Question – So how does a bunny connect with the idea of inequality?
Answer – All the bunnies are white, and stuck either inside the cages they are assigned or freely wandering in the rabbit hole in which the minions ( whose doppelgangers are up above on the earth are located ). The color white is a symbol of innocence, and purity. The bunnies are victims of their situation, are powerless and incapable of doing anything except wander. The use of an even color for all the bunnies symbolises the sameness of all the bunnies, their sameness does not only stop at their color, their sameness is seen in their collective lot; they are all trapped in the rabbit hole or the cages. At some point, we are unable to quite distinguish between the bunnies and the doppelgangers that remain in the underworld with the bunnies, who represents who? do the bunnies represent the puppetted humans or do the puppetted humans become an extension of the bunnies?
A bunny is an animal that can connotatively be linked with docility, apathy and indifference. Ever seen a bunny eating mindlessly? They eat as though they do not even care about the food itself; I’m yet to encounter a bunny that has been aggressive or that has tried to exit its circumstances or act in any kind of proactive way. In the same vein, a rabbit hole denotatively defines as a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself. ( credit Google ) The puppetted humans are trapped in an underground area with the rabbits; this underground area which is nestled beneath a lone house on a beach is a place of chaos, brainless and idiotic repetition and confusion. The tethered remain down the rabbit hole and for the rest of their lives, are subjected to only doing exactly what their copies do on earth. The camera shows us many a person that simply repeats exactly what their earthly copy does without a will to stop or break out of it. The people trapped in here seem to be a part of an entire calculated system that is designed to keep them there; the cages of the bunnies are a larger symbol of the prison of a carbon copy life these people are subjected to. The bunnies in their own terms also hop around the area without any particular direction or purpose in mind. This repetitive system and bubble that these beings are trapped in mirror a system that is designed to keep people below and hopeless. The people like these bunnies being the puppets they are will forever be unable to leave the shackles of their situation ( cages/rabbit hole). Which is why when they get the chance to leave their circumstances, they come out with a lot of little bit of contempt to trade places with their alter egos who by living their lives have subjected these minions to suffering.
A Reversal that is Born out of Contempt
To start quite tragically, the people on earth who by living their daily lives deprive the tethered of will and choice do not even know of the existence of their suffering doppelgangers. The tethered – The very name of the alter egos indicate a deprivation of will. To be tethered translates into being tied or bound to a thing or person out of compulsion. Adelaide’s tethered often describes herself as the shadow of Adelaide. How then can a person separate themselves from their shadow? It is the impossibility of this separation that irks the tethered and makes them exact revenge on the earthlings because as we see, the very existence of the earthlings guarantees an endless suffering for the tethered. In Red’s ( Adelaide’s alter ego’s) narration of her life, we see a binary that is deeply soiled with inequality. While Adelaide enjoys a warm bed and gifts and love, Red barely lives, enduring what she is dealt which is the exact opposite of what Adelaide enjoys. The first thing that gives a brash indication of the stark message Peele wishes to send across comes through when Adelaide asks Red who the tethered are; to this question, Red answers, ‘We are Americans’. This answer begs many questions, if they are Americans, and humans at the core of everything, why do they get a different treatment from the other Americans who live freely? Let’s not forget that the protagonist as well as their friends are middle to upper middle class families who can afford a vacation, a vacation home, a yacht and other luxuries. Gabe is college educated from his overly apparent alumnus Howard sweater and his taste for the finer things in life which pushes him onto an unhealthy need to rub shoulders with his wealthy White friend whose wife is as vain as a peacock. These are a cohort of people whose concerns exceed the mundane and painful lot of living as a puppet ( which is the fate of the Reds so to speak).
Also interesting is the fact that the movie commences with the obvious message of a humanitarian organization ( Hands across America ) that is known for its 1986 protest of a people connected hand in hand in a solidarity statement to end poverty, homelessness and hunger. In the US movie, it is no longer regular people that hold hands, it is the Reds that hold hands perhaps to protest inequality. After all, what is the aim of standing in solidarity and unison with connected hands if not to support each other? The imagery of this human connectedness is cast in such dramatic irony when we realize that Peele’s characters are everything but connected. Like in modern society, they remain apart and far from connected while one group suffers and another ‘lives’
Follow theAffickyPodcast for an extensive conversation on what the movie meant for us 🙂
Khal Drogo is such a baddie! Khal Drogo remains my personal go-to name for Jason Momoa just because I really can not shake off the impression he made on me in the Game of Thrones. His first shirtless entrance onto the set in Aquaman where he gives his back to the camera and then turns dramatically in a perfect male model pose only to kick the asses of the villains on the submarine is more than enough to leave a double dose of awe.
The cinematography of Aquaman together with all the dramatic elements that combine to make this great movie will leave viewers with that intense satisfaction of having seen unknotted ties resolve. However, just like most superhero movies, the ending where the assassin (whose dad was murdered) demonstrates a relentless need to continue pursuing Aquaman leaves the possibility of a sequel. Aquaman’s brother the ( Oceanmaster ) is also alive which equally leaves a huge possibility of a sequel.
More importantly, this post aims to comment on the many parts of the movie that are hugely reminiscent of the Black Panther movie.
Consanguineous Struggle, a legitimate premise or a basic appeal of human emotion?
The resurfacing of an illegitimate relation who threatens the so-called legitimate son and heir to the throne is no new development on our screens; Lion King follows this pattern, Tchalla’s kingship is threatened by Killmonger who surfaces out of nowhere. Unlike Killmonger, Aquaman does not exactly want the throne because he does not even believe himself a king yet the conflict of interests and the potential demise of the kingdom based off of two different approaches to saving the seas from earth’s pollution force Aquaman to man up and take his rightful place as king of the Ocean. Another scene that makes the Aquaman movie hugely evocative of the Black Panther movie is that the protagonist and villain battle it out in or around water. Tchalla and Killmonger’s fight like Aquaman and Oceanmaster’s fights are in or around water. In both movies, the fights leave viewers at the edges of their seats as audiences struggle with which side to be on while remaining transfixed because of the implications of the fight. Because how do deal with the pain of seeing two brothers or closely related kin fight?
Love as a Tool to Reveal the Other Side of the Protagonist
Aquaman’s built, tattooed and cut body together with his eyebrow slit and piercing gaze make him look everything but weak. The use of the word weak here is in no way implicit of love equalling weakness, yet love often brings with it a level of vulnerability and uncertainty that is not the least synonymous to the superheroes often depicted with it. This lumberjack character comes with a blend of sexy and sultry that keeps eyes glued on the protagonist throughout the movie. Aquaman rocks blond highlights in his hair which seem to blend in perfectly with his bronze skin and eyes. This sharp copper tone together with shoulder length tousled hair makes him visually pleasing whether in underwater scenes or on land. Like Tchalla, the strong and constantly valiant personality is often overtaken by emotion. Aquaman allows himself to show viewers that he is unsure of his capacity as a king regardless of his unshakable nature. He also has moments where he is completely open and unrestrained in his display of interest and attention received from Mera. To see heroes bare their human sides once in a while is realistic and refreshing. Equally interesting is the way Aquaman and Tchalla decide to give their vanquished opponents the chance to live, though these proud opponents ironically demand to be served their death. While Killmonger decides to join his ancestors fearlessly through death, the queen of Atlantis comes through as a deus ex machina for her Ocean Master son who is on the verge of death. Even the queen’s look and the look of the Black Panther queen are similar, whitish-blond lace frontals seem to be the queenish go to look these days.
Other Interesting Parts of the Aquaman Movie
Why is the Half Bred Colored?
The half-bred grows from a brown baby to a Brown man who is considered bastard and unworthy by his underwater family. His mom who is fully Caucasian defies the norm and lays with an ordinary brown man. His brother who is Caucasian fits what is expected of a legitimate heir and a full son of the underwater world. The bastard son, on the other hand, feels culpable for the mother’s excommunication and feels a sense of defeat already since he is often reminded of his hand in the mother’s death. To the dwellers of Atlantis, this half-bred son of the queen may be the legitimate heir to the throne by virtue of being first born yet the mere fact that he is not fully Atlantean ( if that’s a word ) makes him questionable.
Is the making of this other coincidental or intentional?
The Aquaman Movie and the Athenian/Futuristic Divide
Atlantis and its scepter bearing lords together with its lifelike statues and busts of past lords combine an Athenian feel that takes us back to ancient Rome. The round underwater courtyard that some of the scenes capture and the fighting ring remind of the large roman amphitheaters that hosted athletics, gladiator combats, and circuses. At the same time, parts of the movie feature ultra-modern technology, robotics and futuristic scenes that are sometimes good to look at and sometimes flat out mechanical and a bit much. Some of the underwater agents sent out by the ocean master to arrest or cause havoc on land reminded me vaguely of newer makes of the power rangers. I hated them to be honest.
Parallel Struggles and Techniques that made the Movie so Badass
Anyone who watched the movie carefully would have noticed that Aquaman’s eyes are a larger reflection of his intuitive power and charm. His eyes not only illuminate underwater to guide his path, his eyes seem to be the pathway into this strong yet peaceful character. The final scenes where his eyes almost reflect and actually match the golden hue of the scepter and his costume actually remind us of the fact that he is truly king. His former scruffy, laid-back local town dwelling self in average clothes do not do enough justice to the glow in his eyes and his soul. The glory and grandeur of kingship suit him better than his former ordinary self. Aquaman is truly made for the throne and that is exactly what those glowy set of eyes and mysterious air is made for. Kingship brings out his full character and the Khal Drogo we sort of want back on our screens.
The cinematographic technique of making Mera and Aquaman face their own unique pursuants in the hills of Italy helps audiences realize the unique power that the duo has and the even greater force they will be once their love joins forces.
The exaggeration presents itself when the fight is taken into the living space of an extraordinarily calm senior who watches two metahumans fight as if fighters at each others’ throats breaking through her roof on a sunny afternoon is an entirely normal occurrence. Needless to say, I hate how superheroes fight with a plain disregard for the destruction they leave in their wake.
Women Women Women!
What would Aquaman do without the women in his life egging him on to, first of all, believe in himself and act in the interest of his people?…. Women play key roles in this movie and their direct influence and help cannot be underestimated in this movie or in the Black Panther movie where women warriors, intimate lady friends, and mothers join hands to nurture, protect and enamor the men protagonists.
The scene where Aquaman and Mera go through dangerous lengths just to journey through a middle passage to rescue Queen Atlanna feels similar to the scene from the Ant man movie where the characters went through great lengths only to retrieve the mother. Mother is supreme! Chinua Achebe did not lie!
Aquaman releases all the knots from a pent-up climax. The movie is satisfying and I would watch the sequel any day any time. The final scene with the reconnection of the father and the mother wraps up the movie with a perfectly satisfying resolution. On a more thematic level, the love of Aquaman’s parents surviving despite all odds renews hope for the general belief in enduring love and also a more reverberating statement that interracial dating can survive despite all the odds in a racially and stereotypically charged environment which is the US.
When Taiye Selasie‘s Ted heralding the need to ask questions about where one is a local and not necessarily where one is from played over and over on my phone, one thing stuck with me; the fact that certain places scream positive connotations while other places project only negatives. Duh! We all know this, don’t we? Scarier still, is the effortless prejudice, deep seated and often indelible impressions that remain in our minds due to the aforementioned connotations. These specific thought processes have become as natural and as normalized as a white cloud in a blue sky. The fact that France for example, represents opulence and sophistication while an African country or the whole of Africa represents depravity is accepted with no challenge. The fact is, Africa represents depravity. The other fact is that, outside the continent’s poverty, it is also celebrated for its topography, its foliage, its resources, its animals, aka the wonders of Africa, which by the way are disporportionately emphasized over conversations surrounding the continent’s diverse peoples, its languages, its cultures and traditions, its amazing rich history, its food, its music and indeed all the positives of Africa’s humanity.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a colonial story set in Congo, portrays one of the many examples of why Westerners or non-Africans have a geographical rather than an anthropological interest in Africa. Marlow, the story’s protagonist is British and has a palpable obsession with the Congo river. He describes the Congo river as a sinuous snake that he could simply not take his mind off of.
“The snake had charmed me” – Marlow
An Illustration of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
The story essentially holds a plot that features silent Congolese characters. While the pervading atmosphere in the narrative (outside of course its pejorative title) remains solidly tied to darkness, barbarity, and chaos, this story is a representation of the colonial truth that the world is more interested in Africa’s non-human wonders than its human wonders. Animals and landscape are given a larger platform than its peoples. Marlow’s obsession with the river and the amount of time dedicated to the description of it versus the blatant silencing of the African characters in the novel speaks to this fact. Today, that overarching geographical rather than anthropological interest remains.
Spring was still in the air, yet the heat and its staleness made me hasten plans to a water park and resort in northern Ohio. The water park had the tagline; America’s Largest Indoor Water Park. It seemed exciting and very welcoming. The Kalahari water park in Sandusky Ohio bears the name of a desert in Africa that touches three Southern African countries, – Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. I wondered how many of the patrons of the water park knew that. I was not too sure if the water park was supposed to be a representation of the whole of Africa or if the entire park was actually representative of just Kalahari; the Southern African desert . Hopefully, the president, if he were to ever visit, would probably know that this water park shared the same name as a desert in Namibia and not Nambia. I decided to go to the company’s website to try to understand the real intent behind the questions I had. A cursory glance at the basic info about the park showed me these lines;
Kalahari Resort & Conventions are full service vacation destinations including meeting & convention facilities that combine America’s largest indoor Waterparks with the magic of Africa.
The whole of the entire African continent’s magic was small enough to fit into a building full of impressions of the animal kingdom. That was impressive. Wooden giraffes lined the hallway to the elevator, wooden elephant head masks covered lighting, the front desk people were dressed in game reserve guide outfits (tan/khaki shirts and pants), and my favorite, the gorilla and leopard paintings that hung right across from my bed and right on top of my head in our hotel room. The resort’s mantra was Authentically African. The resort was supposed to be the representation of Africa to the average American patron.
The Glorious Image I woke up to
This post was tucked safely in my drafts because honestly, I imagined myself too busy or too full of many reasons why I could put it off until a better day. Sitting chin in hand staring at a million open tabs on my pc was a better deal. One of those open tabs was coincidentally on the New York Times website.
This article looked like a good read so I dug in, however, I’d gone ahead far too quickly. In the introduction was these two lines.
I read the article to the end and decided it was meaningful yet remained undecided over the weight of the double ‘m’ alliteration. I repeated the words ‘mystical mountains’ to myself. Was I being too critical or was there really nothing else that distinguishes Cape Town, its people or culture or anything else short of its ‘mystical mountains’? and later its ‘flimsy democracy’?
I sat through an undergraduate class and listened to their final presentations. They, (mostly Non-Africans ) had been in an overworked three-month long geography of Africa class ( which though hosted by the geography department did not typically treat geography per se, but topical issues such as Slum Tourism, Poverty Porn, Security, History and finally, Health and Development)
I was amazed that out of the wealth of subjects presented, not one of the presentations had an anthropological theme. They were all either about Animals or the topography of the continent.
Here are some of the topics presented –
Deforestation (in Africa)
Participatory Mapping ( Drawing of accurate maps for Africa)
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has advocated for writing in African languages because how relevant is African literature if we write not in our native tongues but in the language of the White man? While I have my own opinion on this line of thought, the other subjects of discussion that come up after the former are conversations surrounding which audience African writers cater to? Is immigrant literature African and how much of Africa is projected in these stories that are told predominantly from the West? Even bigger is how an African writer gets published and who decides what goes into their story so that if publishers wield so much influence and power, then it goes to say that if an African writer publishes in the West, then the Western publisher more or less owns and determines what or how certain parts of the African story gets put across, that is if they do get put across in the very first place. As we all know, the West has written Africa’s story in multiple ways and continues to impose suggest ways they deem fit on Africa. By extension, I remain curious about how influential Africans push certain messages and how such messages, in turn, get interpreted by other African minds.
Chimamanda Adichie questions on her Twitter about why Hillary Clinton decides to place ‘Wife‘ before her other titles on her Twitter bio. I stare at this screenshot and I edit thought after thought after thought. First of all, why can’t she self-describe as a Wife? Wouldn’t that be her sole prerogative? Second, I want to know more about why Chimamanda is engaging with Hillary. Not that she can’t, but really, what is this about and if it is about what I suspect it is, then how many more African women are waiting or wanting to engage with Chimamanda who haven’t yet had the chance? (Refer to previous thought about who the new African writer’s target audience really is) What I believe though, from listening to Chimamanda speak countlessly is that she is suggesting that Hilary’s self-description as a Wife negates her other accomplishments. That, it is almost as if her other accomplishments come second to she being a Wife so that in a more overt sense, being a Wife is the main calling of a woman. In addition is Bill Clinton self-describing as husband above other things online?
Outside an African writer engaging with a non-African which I am in no way saying is wrong because of course everyone is entitled to their choices, I am more concerned about this concept of feminism and how individuals feel the deep-seated need to impose views on others. I keep maintaining that this concept is not a one size fits all and neither is it a term that Africans should embrace while thinking oh my God, I just discovered something surreal. Good news is that before precolonial times, while Europe’s women were still disenfranchised, African women were leaders in their communities, serving as heads of state, queen mothers, queen sisters, chiefs, female husbands, warriors, and contributing to their economies, through substantial work. Your mom is probably the best example of what feminism means to you. Yet, the West had to once again come tell us that hey, this tag is what you need to make all your outdated attempts official. It sounds almost as if someone would walk to my grandma and tell her ‘hey mama, this Vibranium in my hand is the key that will make you a better woman’.
By all means, Feminism is a great concept, however, let us not be quick to jump on it while implying that before it, we had no understanding of it in our societies. Doing this only reinforces the idea that the West civilized and saved us from our primitive ways and set us straight on the path of life after rescuing us from murky waters. In addition, if a human deems it fit to self-describe as Wife above other achievements, so be it, who said because I am feminist I can’t be a Wife? Or that being a Wife makes me any less a feminist? In any case, Wife, as defined in the African socio-cultural context, can either be a female who is married to the family of her husband, in that sense, she is a Wife,theirWife, and she can be called thus by either male or female member of her husband’s family without it being language that is in anyway derogatory or implicitly suggestive of possession or ownership, it may simply even in most cases be a term or endearment or a demonstration that the family accepts her totally as a member of their family. In the West though, where concepts are generally more legally than socially interpreted, a Wife is simply and more narrowly, the woman a man legally lives with as a lifelong partner. From these two definitions, we see that different spaces have different conceptions of ideas. Western feminists have different motivations that characterize their fight than African feminists. Even in a western society such as America, a white feminists motivations and concerns will hardly be the same as a a black or Hispanic feminist, why then do we simply assume that Western feminism with its highly nuanced points of concern will be the same antidote for African women’s issues?
While progressive movementsare helpful, let us as Africans be critical of how and why we adapt concepts. After we do that, let us subjectively interpret it for ourselves according to our specific contexts. Then after that, let us endeavor not to impose what we believe is right on others.
If the issue is with Hillary placing Wife first, this can be looked at differently. From a position of strength, this fore mention of Wife can be interpreted to mean that as a woman, you can achieve it all without having to deal with the all-or-nothing mentality that society often drums in our heads. Women can be ambitious and career driven and still be Wives or succeed in their romantic ventures if they meet supportive humans (being that heterosexual relationships do not necessarily define our times) who share the same values as they do. Maybe listen to Alicia Keys’ SuperWoman again.
Barack placed dad on his bio above everything else. While his and Michelle’s has been a presidency that has humanized the White House the most largely by its depiction of the intimacy of its family set up, his use of dad, I believe has more to do with the contradiction of the usual perception of Black fathers’ absence in the lives of their children in America. Ultimately, there is always a reason, and our concepts aren’t the primus inter pares of what the world needs to do, a word to the West and influential Africans.