Dinner with 7 African feminists and why


Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

Thursday 03/02/11: Experienced lack of stimulation of the mind resulting in a low level of feeling towards activity = leth·ar·gy

I’ve been feeling sluggish this week, and particularly yesterday. I tackled work assignments in the morning, went to an interesting seminar about the sexually laden rituals of iron smelters in precolonial Congo in the afternoon, and in the evening I attended a boring seminar about something I can’t remember now. I went out for a drink, but after one G&T I decided to go home and do what I’d been wanting to do all day – sleep.

Like Aretha said, what a difference a day makes. Today’s been quite the reverse. Last night I started reading (finally) Buchi Emecheta’s book ‘The Joys of Motherhood’ and her writing was just the inspiration I needed. It triggered a realisation that I’ve been feeling a bit restless, like I should be working on something that I’m not because I’ve not yet defined what that something is. Basically I was feeling sluggish because I needed inspiration.

This got me thinking that one way to prevent lethargy is to be reminded of people that inspire us, role models if you like, although I’m not entirely sure about that term. And so I wondered – how do we know whom we can use as resources of inspiration? I concluded that one good way is to think of people we would love to have dinner with, apart from friends and family.

My imaginary dinner, and I’m limiting myself to seven as is my habit, consists of seven African feminists. There are many men and non-feminist women and white feminists like Gloria Steinem and African-American feminists like bell hooks or Latin American feminists like Isabel Allende and so many more that I’d love to invite, but tonight I am having dinner with these women and here’s why.

1. Nawal El-Saadawi – The Egyptian novelist, essayist and physician, whose works have have the central theme of women’s oppression and desire for self-expression has written books that have been banned in Egypt and some other Arab countries. It’s no surprise that she might rub people the wrong way: claims such as ‘all women are prostitutes in one way or another’ because patriarchy forces women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife, are not likely to be popular. El-Saadawi writes in her book ‘Woman at Point Zero’:

“They said, “You are a savage and dangerous woman.”
I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.”

Well, I’d love to hear more about what she sees as the truth.

2. Waangari Maathai – The first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize would of course make an honourable guest at my dinner. A spokesperson for ecofeminism, she was also the first East African woman to hold a doctorate, but what she refers to as ‘the tragedy of her life’ was the sexism she encountered at university in Kenya which meant she was unable to continue her academic work.

Her ex-husband is to have said that he wanted a divorce because she was “too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control”.

3. Ama Ata Aidoo – The Ghanaian novelist was once asked in an interview how she deals with people saying that she learnt to be a feminist abroad-out of Africa and how she learnt to give voice to the silenced African woman. Aidoo replied, “…if the women in my stories are articulate, it is because that is the only type of women I grew up among. And I learnt those first feminist lessons in Africa from African women.”

Discussing the misconception that most female African writers that write about women’s issues are not feminist, Aidoo rejects those suggestions in her case, saying: “how much more loudly should I declare my feminism?”

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Without this champion of primarily, the written word, but also of feminist and pan-African activism, my African feminist themed dinner party would be missing a key ingredient. In On being an African feminist I mentioned that the Nigerian writer has referred to herself as a feminist who likes to wear lipgloss. I kind of like that because even though it’s absolutely fine to not wear lipgloss, or make up, feminism is at a stage where we should accept that women can be simultaneously girly and feminist. I’m not saying that Adichie is girly, I can’t confirm that until after dinner…

5. Bisi Adeleye – Fayemi – Nigerian/Ghanaian feminist activist Adeleye can claim the impressive titles of social entrepreneur, organisational development practitioner, fundraiser, trainer, writer and last and perhaps most significantly, the Executive Director and co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), an Africa-wide grantmaking foundation for African women’s organisations. She has said:

I am a feminist because I am angry. I am angry because despite what most constitutions, laws, policies andscriptures say, women are still treated as second-class beings. The lives of women and girls do not seem to mean as much as the lives of men and boys.

And also:

I am a feminist because I have hope. I have hope in the love, brilliance and creativity of my sister feminists, who rise and rise again.

6. Shailja Patel – On her blog, the Kenyan writer and poet quotes another huge inspiration of mine, Arundhati Roy, immediately making her my 6th dinner guest.

‘A feminist is a woman who negotiates herself into a position where she has choices,’ Arundhati Roy says and Patel embraces that as her favourite definition of feminism.

7. Jessica Horn – A poet with ‘roots in Uganda’s Mountains of the Moon and the shadows of New York’s Yankee stadium’, Horn has commited her creative and professional life to exploring women’s experience and advocating for respect of women’s rights. As soon as I read the below quote, I knew that Jessica and I would have a lot to talk about during dinner.

I was raised by a woman that I have come to recognise as a revolutionary mother, who used the act of mothering as a process of education and affirmation for the minds and sensibilities of her children. From this upbringing I learned that the real catalyst for liberation is neither force nor discourse, but the revolutionary power of love.

Would you join our table and would you have anything in particular you would ask these women?

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  • http://www.afrobysoul.blogspot.com Afrobysoul

    I just luuuurve your posts! You r so open, personnaly insightful and analatycal on random general issues at the same time, I can only admire it! Here I said it, its official lol…so courageous!

    Here are two awesome women from my country you may want to find out more about, the mechanism of media is a bit of a filter, only a few reach global consciousness ie: high profile, therefore we miss out on the real role and understand the massive influence and contribution of real everyday women in the world….

    Also, it was great to see some1 I personally know on your 7list: Jessica Horn….braap braaaap! lol

    So let me share with you and your followers some data about two rising female awesomeness personnified I look up too.

    Luoise Mushikiwabo: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/louise-mushikiwabo

    Cecile Kayirebwa: http://cecile-kayirebwa.com/

    I hope you ll be inspired,
    Keep keeping on,

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you for the posts luurve:) And right on with the links. It seems I need to throw another dinner party hehe, maybe will have a mixed theme now with men also, especially if they bring Jessica 😉


  • http://www.ibeela.com beeladonna

    O! I love! I love!!

    FEMINISM <- hmm I am all for female empowerment I always have been and always will be, but I have never referred to or thought myself to be a feminist … one reason being I still dont fully understand what it (feminism) means. I am aware but I still know I don't fully understand it.
    I have been wanting to explore what feminism means and what it is to be a feminist ( I am yet to do just that).

    Right now I am not sure what it fully means to me to be honest, regardless of all the explanation and examples. The first thing that comes to my mind is "she man woman hater club" LOL but OF COURSE it isn't that and I am more concerned with the shackles women put on themselves and how to break free from all that and taking their lives into their hands and to expel the traditional tunnel beliefs other women have ingrained in our minds 😐 !!!

    I guess I would ask Ama Ata Aidoo what I am. lol

    I personally will dodge this dinner gathering OR i'll attend and be dazzled eyes wide open and ears tingling while I take what you all have to say and not say a word for fear of saying something stupid :-s!

    I would love to hear more about Waangari Maathai especially on how she felt and how she coped with what her ex husband had to say about her. Who he thought she was when they got together and if or how she changed as time went on, and what exactly he couldn't handle and what he would have preferred her to be and why he was so threatened by her and what she thinks females in her shoes or are likely to be to do or react and if she would advice them to tone down all that they are to maintain peace. 😀

    I will think about this more!

    Great! Now I feel every one of you is staring at me … I will cover my face now and sink under the table.


    • MsAfropolitan

      Sistergirl, thanks for the comment, as usual it made me smile and even chuckle particularly your Q to Ama Ata Aidoo. You would be a great guest, I prefer honesty over pretentiousness any day and nobody is an expert on everything.

      To say somehting briefly about the hating men thing, feminism is not about bashing men but rather about learning to live with men as equals not superiors. Of course there are many men (and women) that prefer if men are superior to women and we do get angry at that not just for the sake of it but because we believe it causes many social, political and economical problems. I think that many women (and men) become feminists when they get to a point when they look around them and think things aren’t looking quite right, and feminism is one way of saying that I don’t like the status quo.

      • http://www.ibeela.com beeladonna

        😀 lol YAY!!!

        Perfectly explained! I am actually understanding it now much much better!!!
        I cant wait to fully explore it all and now including equality and achievable and biologically possible that is. AWESOME!! Thank you for the explanation really!!!
        Food for thought!!

  • http://teachermrw.com teachermrw

    Wonderful post, and such wonderfully inspirational women. Wouldn’t it be great if al of these women could be assembled together, in real-life, on say, a Book TV presentation?

    BTW: Aretha did not sing those words you quoted. Dinah Washington did. Here is some background re: the song: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_a_Diff'rence_a_Day_Made

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the correction. Did Aretha also sing it? Would be amazing to see such an assembling

  • http://teachermrw.com teachermrw
  • http://teachermrw.com teachermrw

    Sorry to keep posting. Not sure why the entire link won’t paste. Anyway, just copy and paste the link to learn more about the song. :)

  • http://www.sheroxlox.tumblr.com sheroxlox

    I personally know a few of the ladies on this list and can say they are all half-women-half-amazing! I think a dinner party would be so awesome but I think I would be too busy learning and feeling inspired I would forget to eat! But no seriously…what would you make? I think perhaps a london-feminist-creatives-dinner party sometime soon?? I would love to be there!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hey! Absolutely! Hmm, I’d (attempt to) make a meal from each of the represented countries :)
      Have you heard of blackfeminists UK? we are meeting monday evening, not a dinner party but will certainly be a creative discussion. check it out, http://blackfeminists.blogspot.com/p/meetings.html

      • http://www.sheroxlox.tumblr.com sheroxlox

        *Aww* Thanks for the invite would love to come! See you there :-)

  • http://www.ashy2classy.net Diggame

    I’m steady learning more and more about feminism and how even myself as a man can be a feminist. I know there are some things I still have work on and swirl around but i really liked this list of African woman femininists

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    WONDERFUL piece.
    Thank you so much for introducing me to writers I SHOULD KNOW…
    (now i have 2 more tons of reading to do, which is a good thing!)

  • http://www.mwanabaafrika.blogspot.com/ MBA

    There are some names I did not know and I love the diversity. You list shows how we are come in all ages, colours, backgrounds and fields and also how Africa’s history is not only shaped by factors from within but also its interaction with the world over the centuries :)

  • MCG

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. These are phenomenal women. Everyday, you open my eyes to heroes and inspirations. It has definitely been a pleasure finding and discovering everything on your blog.
    I do wish that more Liberian women would be featured. I read so many African/Women blogs, but rarely see Liberia represented. Please include us as often too, as we also have made a lot of contributions to Africa and as Africans in the diaspora.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you for your kind and generous comment, it means a lot to me.
      And I’ll certainly bear in mind to learn and share about more Liberian women (and men), and all the countless other African countries that I so far haven’t touched on.
      In fact I’ve been wanting to do a post on one of our African and global heroines, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, so keep a look out.

  • http://www.chictherapyonline.blogspot.com ChicTherapy

    People like this are my heroines…Going against all odds and breaking societal barriers!

  • http://www.awdf.org Nana Darkoa

    Thank you for sharing this link on the AWDF facebook page. 6 of the 7 women you have mentioned made our ‘Inspirational African Feminist’ list so that’s totally great! I might just include the 7th because I am aware of her and her work. She just for some reason did not immediately come to mind. Thanks for this post. I shall be bookmarking your site

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Nana, what an honour to read your comment here. Thank you. I’m chuffed that 6 out of 7 made it and would love to share the list on my blog when it’s in place :)

  • http://www.awdf.org Nana Darkoa

    Hi Ms Afropolitan, the pleasure is all mine. I’m looking to post AWDF’s list on International Women’s Day and will send to you as well. Keep up the good work!

  • African Mami

    Dr.Wangari Maathai is my heroine! This woman showed me since I was a little girl what it meant to be a woman in Africa, and what we must continue to fight for. I absolutely RESPECT her hustle and wish her all the best in life!!!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the comment, what a great icon to be inspired by already as a child in a world where children too often are influenced only by hollywood-type celebs. Like!

  • http://daisynandecheokoti.blogspot.com Daisy

    I love this post totally.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you!

  • OrangeMoon

    Just discovered your blog and love it. Am an African feminist and delighted to find other likeminded souls. OM

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you! Glad you found it

  • http://www.pumlagqola.wordpress.com Pumla Gqola

    Minna, this is a fantastic table you have here. I would love to come too, or to eavesdrop any day. Thanks for this post, especially today, when I am battling to find the energy to finish a loooong writing task. In your words, and this post, I am re-energised.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Pumla, your company is cherished. How I hope we can make something like this a reality someday. I too have been lacking energy this week so thanks for visiting and your comment, the very thought of an African feminist dinner has reinvigorated me.

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  • http://bit.ly/1aiNnGo Roseanne

    There’s definately a great deal to find out about this issue.
    I love all of the points you made.

  • Irene Amadi

    “I’ve been feeling a bit restless, like I should be working on something that I’m not because I’ve not yet defined what that something is.” – I’ve been feeling this way since I graduated nine months ago! But your posts inspire me to write. :-)

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