In 1851 Sojourner Truth said, "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right-side-up again!" Feminine strength is rooted in the exact femininity some of us have tried to escape in the effort to attain success for ourselves and our communities.
I hiked up to the top of Table Mountain with friends who I met literally two minutes before we began to climb. It was glorious. I was with a group of vibrant young beautiful African women, telling stories from their homes in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria.
All of the ladies were graduates studying their Master's degrees in one thing or another, mostly on prestigious scholarships. I myself, having just entered a new industry in a new province, was travelling around while keeping one ear attentively listening out for stories around Africa's development.
On our way up the mountain, we sang songs, cheered each other on, discussed men and honesty, family, success and its cost. On our way down the mountain we were louder, funnier, faster, more patient with one another; we analysed our surroundings and conversed with those around us.
Despite the challenges facing us as young black women across the continent, we are the most resilient of Africa's population. We are often called the most vulnerable, but "resilient" is a stronger, more accurate word. In addition, we are often raising our siblings and taking our own peers under our wings.
Poet Nayyirah Waheed writes, "You could be a water and soft river your way to freedom..." I believe this describes the works and interests of young African women across the continent and the diaspora, who have continued to work towards brighter futures through empowering their families despite opposition to their ideas. Sending the little they have home.
The family is where we learn loyalty, cooperation, productivity, communication and many other highly critical aspects which help us to mould our identity.
We want feminism, but we want healed families more. You hear it in our conversations about feminism, and you see it in the things we fight for. Young women want communities they know their children will be protected and empowered in. Young women were not a part of Fees Must Fall simply because fees had to fall, but because the generations they will birth deserve access to education.
In the exploration of African thought, philosophy, methodology, ideology etc., it is important that we raise the real issues facing our society. For the purpose of self-discovery, we are to prioritise defining ourselves and what it means to be an African, and what Africa needs to do next in order to compete and thrive globally.
We often discuss feminism as if its application only has implications for how women are treated by men and "the system". We also consider feminism outside of femininity, as if gender lines are okay to blur – they aren't.
The feminism I talk about is one that recognises the importance of the African family; the family comes second to other structures. The family is where we learn the loyalty, cooperation, productivity, communication and many other highly critical social aspects that help us to mould our identity.
A majority of Africans born in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties grew up in the midst of challenges created by the breakdown and restructuring of the African family. Black Consciousness urges us to look again at family values, because the battle is won where the soldier trains, eats and sleeps.
We want feminism, but we want healing families more.