Let me start by saying that my definition of a feminist is anyone who is fighting for or believes in equality between genders and recognizes the difference in the current status of White women in relation to other women (Black women specifically but minority women in general). To me, Black women receiving all of their basic human rights would also secure those rights for many others. As Malcolm X pointed out, the most disrespected and unprotected person in America was (and still is) the Black woman.
During the language and literature portion of our class, our professor (who was a Black woman) led a discussion about feminism that strayed away from holding society accountable. The first part of this discussion happened around the street children situation in Ghana (a lot of kids have been abandoned and are on the streets). Our professor said that the street children were to be blamed on irresponsible parents. I agree that the parents do play a part in creating this issue, but another contributing factor is the lack of sexual education around contraceptives (both prior to and after intercourse). If the cause is irresponsible parents, then the government should step in to educate individuals on how to either be responsible parents or avoid unintentional parenthood. This education should move away from abstinence-based sex ed and into a more comprehensive version. While I understand that this might conflict with some religious beliefs it is better to cover the information necessary to avoid unwanted pregnancies and prevent the contraction of infections and diseases than to teach abstinence and just hope everyone abstains.
In a 2015 study done in Ghana, the Guttmacher Institute found that 96% of the teachers in their sample taught abstinence and while 97% also covered contraceptives only 44% demonstrated how they worked and other 25% told their students that contraceptives were not effective.
The part of this conversation that seemed to clash with my belief on feminism, was how we hovered around the idea that the mother was more responsible for the child than the father was. Part of this was because the mother was the one carrying the child and is also the one capable of feeding the child, but unless one parent was sick or dying both parents are equally responsible for the child. However, I think that the situation becomes less of a “which parent is more responsible” issue when there are so many children on the street because at that point it seems like a problem for the government to correct (inadequate services to care for the children that get left behind by parents is still necessary because irresponsible parents are not the only reasons for this problem existing). This was something our professor did not spend too much time on because her stance was that the women should just stop messing with irresponsible men (which also places the blame back on the woman).
The other part of the conversation was around the general idea of the role of women in establishing equality between genders. First, we covered an example, which was about a woman who thought it was strange that a wife would say thank you to her husband for changing their child’s diaper. The professor approached this example through the lens of the traditional roles of women (which includes tending to the children, cooking, and cleaning). For me, this was the equivalent of saying a father is babysitting when he is watching his own kids. I have a difficult time grasping the idea of thanking a man for doing things he should be doing anyway. I appreciated it when she later said that both parents should be thanking each other (because only saying thank you to the male would imply that he is doing something out of the norm that has to be recognized as opposed to just showing appreciation especially in the context of the book we were reading). Later she mentioned that women would not achieve much in terms of getting gender equality because they tear each other down. The example she provided was that a woman would not want to work with another woman if she knew that woman was sleeping with her husband. This is probably true; however, this negates the fact that the husband played a role in the affair. The other woman was not the one who owed the wife the loyalty, so she should not be blamed more than the husband.
Overall it’s different to think about feminism in the Ghanaian context because I have to recognize that some parts of their culture are rooted around the traditional roles for men and women.
Also shout out to this poster for serving as a reminder of why engaging with controversial topics is important. This class discussion definitely showed me that I need to learn how to be more open to hearing opinions that conflict with my own.
Guttmacher. (2017, May 30). Sexuality Education in Ghana: New Evidence from Three Regions. Retrieved from https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/sexuality-education-ghana