When people ask me what I do, and I respond that I’m a blogger, and that I blog about topics that primarily concern African women, quite often they proceed to either tell me about an humanitarian or developmental cause they are involved with or have read about. Sometimes they ask me how my blog reaches women in African villages.
They’re not ‘wrong’ to ask these questions and I do address women’s lives in rural Africa at times. However, these reactions imply that too often, the term “African woman” conjures a poor woman in rural Africa that automatically needs helping. The pitiable African woman. The one that mainstream media doesn’t tire of depicting. The one who indeed exists – although she has more agency often than allowed in depictions of her – who furthermore is a sister to other African women,and not this “Other” that we ‘inauthentic’ African women are saving.
When such questions are posed, I find myself needing to be quite careful in explaining that women in rural Africa are not necessarily my target audience. This is foolish. It should not be offensive for me to say this! No one imagines that a European feminist blog must reach just one type of European woman. Most people who read this blog are based in urban cities, both in the west and the continent. Also, I myself being a Nigerian-Finnish, African-European, woman with strong ties to both continents, share stories and opinions that are based on my experiences. Therefore, people who read the blogs are likely to have cultural experiences that resonate to some extent with mine.
It seems obvious that an African woman is equally the farmer who lives in a village in Ghana or one who has a high-flying office job in Kinshasa. She is the Togolese woman in a refugee camp in Israel. Or the Ethiopian woman in a luxury home in London’s Chelsea. She is the Namibian/German woman on social welfare in Berlin. She is – from a pan-African cross-continental stance which this blog has – the Dominican woman, the Brazilian woman, the African descendant in any part of the world who vests a part of her identity in the African continent.
I’m tired of people immediately assuming that to blog about African women is to blog about charity work. I’m tired of this idea that African women can only be objects of pity. I’m tired of the notion that African women can or should only interact on select topics. African women bloggers should and do write about social media, sex, literature, art, pop culture, love, philosophy, fashion, food, hiphop and more. I’m sick and tired of the single narrative of African womanhood having such impenetrable power.
What do you say? Have you had similar or dissimilar experiences?
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Hi! I’m Minna Salami. I’m a writer, blogger, columnist, lecturer and speaker and the founder of the feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, which connects feminism to contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective. I’ve been listed alongside Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie as one of “twelve women changing the world” by ELLE and my work has been used as a resource and case study at universities around the world. Like what you just read? Sign up above to receive new posts directly in your inbox.