Feminism in Zimbabwe: Our culture must be for all of us.

Feminism, is about believing in gender equality, that is not antagonistic to our culture, our culture is what we make of it, says Kudzai Muhlanga.

If you say you are a feminist they look at you, all funny, as though you’ve suddenly grown a second head or as though you’ve just professed you are from Mars. The look is followed by a condescending “hooo inga,” or the sage advice to “stop spewing such nonsense or you’ll never get married, it simply isn’t in our ways. It’s a western thing, leave it.”

When will it be okay?

When will it be okay to call out the chauvinistic ways of our society. When will it be okay to encourage girls to be comfortable with their sensuality in the same way we tell our boys to be “boys”. We praise our girls for ‘preserving their virtue,’ and fist bump our boys for playing the field. 

When will it be okay to be intelligent, and ambitious as a woman?”

The ideal woman should be educated, just not too educated lest she threatens a man’s ego. Have ambition just not too much ambition so as to stay homely and submissive. So this is what we mould our girls to be. Be it in rural or suburban Zimbabwe subservience is a quality to be admired in a woman. When will it be okay for women to choose their own path. When will it be okay for women to be leaders?

We build cages called masculinity for our boys too. Pressure them to perform, to provide and to never show weakness. When will it be okay for boys and men to cry? Isn’t crying, showing vulnerability, a human thing not a female thing. The ideal man must be “tough,” must lead and be the provider. So we put pressure on our boys. When will it be okay for men not to have all the answers? 

When will it be okay for boys and men to cry?”

When will it be okay to say loudly and proudly that you are a feminist and not be seen as a delusional radical who takes no pride in her culture?

Culture is not an excuse for complacency. 

Culture is used to silence our girls, they grow up believing that they are inherently guilty. We stifle their growth and potential. They grow up with a narrow view of the world where marriage is the crowning achievement. From the toys we buy them to the colors we dress them in, we have already told them their place in the world.

Let’s teach our children better. Let’s address these double standards. Feminism; being gender inclusive, should be encouraged. Championing equality between sexes shouldn’t be something that is frowned upon, neither should it be seen as antagonistic to our culture, for culture is what we make of it. 

Culture is what we make of it.”

There is legislation in Africa that is being put in place to promote equality of the sexes. Indeed there are African organisations such as the Women Of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and African feminist publications by authors such as Tsitsi Dangarembwa. Yet it isn’t enough, most women and girls today remain ignorant of their rights and still do not get the same opportunities and same level of respect as their male counterparts. Double standards remain firmly rooted in our society, even though they harm us all. Yet I am hopeful that together we can choose our own African feminist culture, and build a country where women and men can both flourish. 


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Feminism in Zimbabwe: Our culture must be for all of us.

by Kudzai Muhlanga Reading time: 2 min