The Parable of the Flower in the Sun

The was once a flower, beautiful as can be. With petals big and soft and a rainbow of hues such as none had ever seen, it grew in the wild where all could see and admire its beauty. It took nutrients and water from the soil and enjoyed what sun it could get, each season  blooming and growing, shedding its petals to produce even more beautiful ones.

One day, the sun noticed this flower and marveled at its glory.

“I’ll go shine on it some more,” it said. “Surely, it could use some more of my nourishing light and warmth.”

And so the sun came and shone its light on this flower.

And the flower bloomed and grew, each season shedding its petals to produce even more beautiful ones. It loved the light, basked in the warmth and blinded all that came by with its magnificence.

Sunshine-Flower-High-Quality-Wallpaper

But then the sun grew smug.

“Look how much that flower wants my light. See how it blooms in my warmth! See how it opens its petals to my probing rays! See how thirsty it is for my focus…”

And so the sun, varied its focus. Some days shining bright on the flower, some days leaving it in the shade, some days never rising at all.

And still the flower grew, and bloomed and shed its petals just to produce even more beautiful ones.

Because that is what flowers do.

Letter to Chimamanda

Dear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Aunty, I think I write on behalf of African women feminists everywhere when I say please, use your connections to have your husband be the first human being successfully cloned. This is an odd request I know but I have my reasons so let me explain.

You are a woman well on her way towards full self actualization. You speak your mind and you do so bravely, without much care to naysayers. You excel at your chosen career and do so with grace and power, neither overbearing nor full of that fake meekness that successful African women are expected to have. You take definite positions of controversial issues and your desire to preserve the dignity of all humans and not just some, comes through when you discuss your reasons for choosing the not so popular side.

You are a visionary. You see a better future for us Africans and you apply yourself to making this vision a reality, giving your time and resources. You are also honest about your shortcomings. Willing to lay them out so those of us who aspire to the path of empowerment have no illusions on the price we’ll have to pay.

You are formidable and intimidating and most African men will not survive the force of your personality.

And somehow, he does.

He is not bothered as far as we know by your prowess. He is content, it seems, to leave you to be the best you can be. The fact that you can be who you are and he still seems comfortable being married to you is a testament to the caliber of man he is and that caliber amongst our African brethren is rare indeed.

Some of us African women wish dearly to marry and build secure families with spouses who respect the road we’ve walked to become who we are. The paucity of that caliber of spouse leaves us frustrated.

The possibility of having him cloned gives us hope. We have dreams, that one day the fertile hills and grasslands, coasts and forests of the continent, will ring the happy sound of couples and families full of love and joy and mutual respect.

You are our brave sister, forging ahead on this path carrying the pennant of the kind of feminism that heals the wounds that patriarchy and tradition have left on our continent, so I hope you will see this request for what it is: a desperate cry for help.

Sincerely,

Find Palava Woman

Making it Happen or Taking It Too Far ?

I wasn’t going to write a blog post for Women’s Day. There is enough out there to read, see, listen to et cetera, I honestly was going to limit my contribution today to posting funny or thought-provoking memes on my Facebook page. But a conversation I have had with three different friends this week , got me thinking about something you definitely will eventually hear both men and women (especially if they are Cameroonian/African) say, if you ever were to participate in a conversation about gender roles, women’s empowerment and feminism.

“Some women take this [feminism] thing too far”

side eye

First, let me come right out and say it is all I can do not to scream when I hear these words uttered. Even worse, when they come out of the mouth of a woman. I literally want to jump up and down in frustration and don’t even dare come at me with that everyone has a right to their opinion nonsense, because in this case this opinion is organic, grass-fed, free range bullshit.

I’ll tell you why.

Often the people who say these words and their supporters, cite as the reason for their statement on the matter the “extreme feminists” – those women who for whatever reason have decided their feminism will not include men, or who have drawn some line that they will not cross. Granted there are extremists in the Feminist Movement, as there are in all other movements, but if you observe closely, however, the circumstances under which the  “taking it too far” accusation gets thrown out, especially among Cameroonian women, tend not to involve these so-called extreme, bra burning, man hating feminists. They more often than  not involve a situation where someone is demanding more from feminism, or trying to take women’s empowerment in a direction that the women saying those words are not comfortable with. In other words, someone is trying to extend feminism and empowerment beyond their comfortable little circle or idea of what feminism is or should be. What this translates to is that pretty much everything outside of education to a certain degree and employment, is “taking it too far.”  Even more so when you consider the extent to which patriarchy and its cronies – tradition and religion – are ingrained in the everyday experience of most Cameroonians.

And for that, one is taking it too far. Not making it happen. Taking it too far. Make it happen is only a catchy phrase deployed to imbue Women’s Day with the sleek coating of vision and accomplishment. In everyday life, with everyday matters, if one tried to push boundaries and run with the idea of the woman, whatever her age, tribe, culture, location or religion, as a fully empowered, realized and actualized human being, if one tried to break those barriers that hold women back from being all they can be (and note that not all barriers are the same),  that is taking it too far. The simple fact that the issue under consideration is not something the person saying “that is taking it too far”  has to deal with personally, or something that they have considered before, makes it a no go area for them.

Woman eh! Right?

Education was once taking it too far for women. I mean what did a women need education for? The kitchen and the bedroom were the only areas she needed to be seen or heard.

Then some people who were not afraid of being the kind of feminists who take it too far, pushed and pushed and women were allowed to learn ABC’s and 123’s. But just enough they could count the number of fish they had drying in the mbanda and write their name if necessary. No need to go overboard. That is taking it too far. Let them get some primary school education and that is fine.

Then some people who were not afraid of being the kind of feminists who take it too far, pushed and pushed and women were allowed to go beyond primary school to secondary and high school. But you know, so they can speak intelligently in public and not embarrass their husbands, maybe write a short letter and calculate change when they sell in the market. Nothing too complicated.University? Professional schools? Why? There are husbands to marry, children to bear, home and hearth to cater too. All that education for what? That is taking it too far….

Then some people who were not afraid of being the kind of feminists who take it too far, pushed and pushed and women were allowed access to universities, professional schools, But you know, let them be teachers and nurses and all those jobs “appropriate for a woman”. Never mind that this insults the men who have these jobs and are excellent at them, or that it cheapens what are very difficult jobs, to insinuate that they are so easy they should be left to the less able women. Advanced degrees? Doctors? Lawyers? Engineers? Those are a man’s job. And so it goes.

Same for women moving from secretaries to positions of leadership.

Same for women being able to own property.

Same for women being able to function as independent entities without the validation of fathers, brothers, husbands  or  male relatives.

Someone had to take it too far. Some one had to push the boundaries of what was known, accepted and comfortable for women. Someone had to disrupt the gender roles we so desperately cling to as if they add anything particularly valuable to our lives. What is even more maddening is the fact that a lot of the people you will see talking  about “taking it too far” are people who today benefit from the efforts of those who  were not afraid to take it as far as it could go at their time. Those women made it happen for themselves and the women to come after them and they made it happen by “taking it too far”.

So the next time you feel inclined to say a woman is taking things too far, stop and think about what it is exactly you are saying. Consider the fact that there are women very different from you, for whom what you consider “taking too far” may be baby steps in the struggle they have to face to achieve self actualization. Think about that and then for goodness sake, make it happen for them.

About Sirri…

So you may be wondering what happened to Sirri…

You know, the girl who was supposed to wow you this past February with her musings on sexual self discovery. The plan was to use poetry to delve  into the very present, yet covered up secret lives of a young Cameroonian girl. This was in yet another attempt to demystify African female sexuality – throw off some of the taboo, let it come out and soak up some of the refreshing warmth and light of the sun and perhaps find new ways to grow and flourish.

I even got of to a banging start here.

I started many poems over the course of the month. In one I had Sirri musing over whether her love interest Fon, had ever experimented with himself , as she had just found out she could do. In another I had them actually having a conversation about it. In another, I had Sirri and a group of friends, hesitantly, laughingly but definitely talking about their respective individual discovery of sex. This one was titled “Have You Done It?” and it was largely based on a similar conversation I had many years ago with some girlfriends of mine. In yet another I had Sirri naked, in front of a mirror looking at her body. Really looking at it. Learning it. Admiring it.

I stand in front of the mirror
Letting my eyes roam
I feel my brow furrow
As the thought hits home

My body is beautiful
Magnificently bountiful
My body is magic
A veritable classic

Can I touch? I wonder
A chuckle follows
Of course, I can
What am I?
Borrowed?

……..

I started many poems. But I never finished any. Why? You may be wondering. Well, I felt discouraged.

What is the point? I kept asking myself.

If I have learned anything  this past year of blogging, it is that the reticence of many (if not most) Cameroonian women in my audience to shake off the overreaching bonds of propriety knows no bounds. These bonds may be the very ropes on which they are being hung – strangled to death. But they remain the limits they believe they need abide by for whatever reason.

So why should I want to push them beyond that point? What gain is there to pushing, if it risked alienating the very people I’m trying to get a breakthrough with? I could lead the horse to the water but if it didn’t want to drink am I to force its head in the water and make it drink?

neigh

I mean, I know there are many out there who appreciate my scribbling. I know many learn from them. I know that one thing or another that I have written or ranted about has made more than a couple of people look at situations in a new light. I could even tell you the people who would like, comment, share or otherwise react to the poetry (you probably know them too) So, I knew it would not all be a waste. The  fact remains, however, that  when it comes to sex, we have a long, long way to go.

Now am I saying that I’m throwing in the towel on this? No. Absolutely not. The stakes are too high. But for the month of February. I did.

I Sweet Browned that whole mess.

sweet brown

Maybe I’ll pick it up again. Heck, I likely will when something happens to rile me up. But for now, accept my apologies if you were waiting for poetry. The ink well dried up.

Photo credit: drawception.com