How to use isms to be more open-minded

It is by acts and not by ideas that people live. Anatole France



Coming from an unapologetic feminist it may seem contradictory to say that I am weary of labels.

I think that labels are somewhat like tampons; they exist not because they are necessary but because they are useful. It helps to know certain things about people. I like the insight that Barack Obama is a liberal, that Alicia Keys is an anarchist, that Bill Gates is an atheist, that Cuba Gooding Jr. is a nudist. But this does not take away from their nuances, Obama also is a published poet, and so is Alicia. Etcetera.

You know when you feel like you are surrounded by negativity? And you try to eliminate it by cutting people you deem negative out of your life? And that doesn’t help? That’s because negativity is a mental state. So by all means, spend microscopic time with people that rub you the wrong way, but don’t imagine that this will take away negative energy. That’s work you’ve got to do yourself.

It’s a similar thing with ideology. Our disapproval, or approval for that matter, of certain people due to their ideological belief is the danger, not the doctrine itself. The problem is not thinking differently but thinking rigidly. Do you know what I mean? For example, I’m getting an MA in gender studies so I meet and study the work of many feminists. But sometimes I sit there thinking I’d rather have a conversation with a wall than with a intransigent feminist. Then sometimes, much more often, I come across feminists who are remarkable philosophers but who are largely ignored due to their feminist moniker. Women like Bisi Adeleke-Fayemi, a Nigerian feminist, who has produced in my opinion some of the most interesting work on Nigerian society but who is only recognized in limited circles. Although I found out today through my twitter friend Nana @nas009, who writes this great blog adventures from the bedrooms of African women, that Adeleke-Fayemi has been selected as one of Africa’s 100 most influential people in a resourceful list by the New African Magazine. Or women like Condoleeca Rice, whose ideological views I by large find distressing, but who in other ways intrigues me. Admittedly, she is interesting also because Madeleine Albright likes her and they hang out a lot.

Isms are tools to help understand ourselves as well as other people. So looking again at feminism, for me it has been a means to internalizing a sense of power. I can’t imagine not having discovered feminism. It has helped me in so many ways; to aspire to live without restriction, to express my sexuality the way that I want to and not the pseudo girl-power way videos like this imply, to explore my creativity and much more. Feminism helped me understand that only I can define my femininity.

But despite its gifts to me, it is a box that I exist around and not in. And because I know that about myself I know that other people don’t necessarily exist in their boxes either.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: EliseMeder

2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Anna Renee

    You really are a wise young woman. How we need more just like you!!! Thank God you blog!

    • MsAfropolitan

      I didn’t get a chance to tell you on the day, but your comment warmed my heart! Thank you, sis. I appreciate you

  • Olivier

    Hi , If it’s about the baalance between a passion driven – work life and private life my opinion & own experience is according to your point. very important to stay around and not in. ssimply because creativity it’s a dynamic proccess often driven by new experiences. bein open is a cool way.

    if it’ss about the image/perception of the others (…) what a big agenda… (…) even if we don’t need and want it we’ll always be ” tagged” for the right or note.
    according to this fact it’s may be important to manage that by the only good way : being close to his own values 24/7.

    Thinking outside the box, is for me the greatest way, to have an really impact in every side of my life : -)

  • teachermrw

    To me, our isms define us, but, there are so many sub-levels and interpretations of meaning of a given ism, depending on to whom one speaks, they are more varied and multi-dimensional than they may seem on the surface. So, the person him/herself gives life to the ism, and not the other way around.

    A provocative post. :)

  • MBA

    Well said! I absolutely agree that you should surround yourself with people who have a myriad of views not just with ones that agree with you 100% or worse sycophants! I think that people who have extreme views are useful when an ideology needs to be rammed home. I think it is best to lean to one side or the other but have beliefs that are in line with the other side. That way you can converse with all people, even those on the extreme and learn from all walks of life and experiences. I thnk the only people I don’t understand are the one perpetually in the middle. Not having an opinion is not useful to anyone!

  • Diggame

    You gotta be my favorite black/African feminist blogger!! Always educated me on a perspective I hadn’t thought of

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks bro, that’s such a warming thing to read. Onelove

  • Silje

    Very well written. The word feminism has unfortunately an air of negativity attached to it, therefore whilst writing about feminism I changed it to Girlism, maybe people my age will have a different response. I’ll have to wait and see.

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