I gave a talk at a forum organized recently to address women’s rights issues in Nigeria. After my presentation, a woman walked up to me to thank me for my presentation which she said she enjoyed, and then said, ‘Listening to you, one would think that you are a Feminist’. I stared at her in confusion. I managed to muster a response after a few seconds, ‘I am a Feminist’ I told her. Now it was her turn to look confused. At that point, I pulled away from her to attend to someone else, grateful that I was spared the need to do a Feminism 101.

Soon after that incident, I was at a seminar for professional women. All the participants present were women across generations, many of whom had done a fine job of carving a niche for themselves in the brutal worlds of business and politics. The Compere for the day was providing some context for the event, and then she said, ‘We are not talking about Feminism, we are talking about women’s rights’. I almost fell off my chair. I looked around to see if there were any kindred spirits around. I found one, a sister I have worked with in the feminist movement for years. We shared a look and a slight smile. Feminism 101 required again.

I fully understand why most people are afraid, mystified, misinformed or uninformed about the word Feminism. I am not going to turn this into an academic essay about the global history of Feminism, the various ‘schools’ and ‘waves’,  and its place in the firmament of social change ideologies. Remember, it is Feminism 101. What I am going to do is name a couple of myths that people have bandied about over the years about Feminism and Feminists.

  1. Feminists hate men

    No, they do not. Feminism is a global struggle against all forms of patriarchal oppression. Anyone who believes this is a Feminist. Patriarchy derives its power from the control of all economic, political, social, cultural and religious systems. These systems and structures are controlled by men with some women drafted in to ensure that the systems are sustainable. Feminists hate these systems, not individual men. There are men who also do not agree that women should be oppressed and they too join hands with women in solidarity.

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