A new semester had just begun and on this very wet first Monday morning of school, I started making my way earlier than normal to beat the odds of being caught up and made late by much rain or cold. I stood in the queue more than thirty minutes waiting to finally catch the bus and the driver happened to be my favorite driver “Opposite.” His name is a result of how he does things. Stop, to him, means accelerate, and vice versa. This applies to everything said to him around the properties and facilities of the University of Liberia.
After getting a seat, a never seen or interacted with before female comrade entered the bus, but all the seats were already occupied and the only way to ride that bus was to form part of “the house’s standing committee,” as we say in our UL terms. A buddy of mine just looked me in the eyes and said, “You are a feminist, what are you waiting for? Give your seat to her.” I didn’t say a word, neither did I pay any serious attention to him, since I knew from whence he came. She then glued her eyes straight on me in anticipation of my seat. I still didn’t say anything nor wake up. She grew impatient and decided to just walk towards me and sit on my lap. Just because I couldn’t bear her weight, I gave her the seat right away. As we disembarked the bus, she befriended me and took my phone digits. Within a week’s time, she called me and introduced, or reintroduced I should say, herself and ever since then, we have been close friends.
A while later, we were having a conservation and she asked, “My friend, you are a gentle and kind hearted soul, but I didn’t see that in you on our first encounter. Why did you refuse to let me take your seat?” She went further to say, “Had I not played such dry-face, you won’t have given me the least attention.” I smiled, looked her in the face, and said, “What if I had just given you the seat that day on the basis of what you believe to be “respect,” do you think we would have had the opportunity to become friends like we are now? Would you have let me shown that, contrary to societal belief, any girl who walks into a boy’s room isn’t obligated to have sex with him? Could you have, without fear of reproach, become best friends with all the awesome and amazing males you have made through our friendship?”
I further explained to her that my friend called me a feminist that day not only to coerce me into giving her my seat, but also because he thinks feminism is just letting women and girls have everything they want, which isn’t my definition of feminism.
In my mind, feminism is giving women equal chances as men to either struggle or work to have what they deserve. It should be your right to attend school, just like it is mine, defying the societal thought that a girl should be kept at home to cater to kids and homes. It is a female’s right, just like it’s mine, to stand in queues to catch buses, but it’s not your right that a boy gives you his slot on the line because of your gender. If a boy needs to push, shove and ramble with his male counterparts just to catch a bus or access any public facility, a girl should not be exempted on the basis of her being a female. If boys can be class or school leaders on the basis of high GPA or with convincing political articulations, a girl should have equal chances to do the same and not be prejudiced against because of the traditional belief that females don’t make great leaders. If a boy can climb a tree without being looked down upon, my definition of feminism says a female should not be told “she’s acting like a man” for climbing. What’s wrong if my sister and I can climb trees? My definition of feminism says, if females are afforded equal opportunities as males, it would in fact be more helpful to us men because we will no longer carry the burden of being the only providers in the home, like ill-arranged societal orders have had it for centuries.
However, I do not believe that letting females have whatever they want, whenever they want it, without going through what a male who wants the same would have gone through, is a means of promoting women’s rights. It is simply keeping them in the same spot that society has had them in for centuries. It is still telling them that they are powerless and weak. Letting a girl sit in the middle on a bike, in the name of protecting her against physical harm and promoting her rights, is a modified way of saying she cannot do without men. Women, do you really mean it when you say you want 30% representation in parliament? Is it meant when you say enough of the abuse from men? Is it true that you want to be independent decision makers? If all of these are really meant, then take a holistic look at my non-sugar coated definition of feminism. Letting men give you easy access to things, that they themselves would have to fight for with their sweat and blood, is conforming to gender roles that say females are weaker vessels, and as such, they should not be given the toughest tasks. Let yourself fight the status quo to have your rights recognized. Agreeing to letting a male do everything that requires effort is equivalent to abusing your rights. Merely being given free or easy access isn’t a promotion of your rights. It is just a form of respect that anybody can give anyone. Women, if you settle for this, you have agreed to a modern trick that still makes you decision takers, but never decision makers.
Authored by Emmanuel Tro Johnson
Featured Picture by Claire Connelly