The Imperialism of Feminism

Nafissatou Tine has worked as a lawyer for almost five years, during which she created a website designed to act as a reference guide for Senegalese law practitioners and service providers. She has also been involved in the activities of the Women Association Lingeer, which she co-founded and which promotes African women through arts and culture.

Nafissatou Tine. (Photo by Meagan Doll)

In the Western history, women were expected to stay at home, where they were taught how to be good wives and good mothers, and of course how to stay pretty and silent. They felt dominated and oppressed economically, politically, and in their own bodies. They decided to speak up and fight for equality.

They got released from home and went to school. They now occupy positions their grandmothers and mothers never dared dream about. They boast economic independence, now able to afford everything a consumer society creates to anticipate their wildest desires. They contribute to the full functioning of the capitalist machine, just like the other half of humanity, with the exception of certain wives of well-to-do men.

They are involved in political activities – some of them even leading countries – and one is about to lead the most powerful country if she manages not to get knocked out by the glass ceiling.

They claim to be in control of their own bodies, while the pharmaceutical industry feeds them hormones that convert male fish into female, and the beauty industry (mainly controlled by men) defines how their bodies should look with the goal of selling more yogurt and cars.

They are still expected to be good wives, mothers, and of course, pretty. They also have to be as competent as men at work, while making less money. The pressure to perform well, both at home and at work, is silently crushing them while their unrestrained pursuit of the perfect body leaves deep wounds but no visible scars.

And now they want to free all the ‘oppressed women’ around the world. As always, they have started by setting up universal rights for complex and plural women.

In African history, women’s conditions have always been diverse, depending on their background as rural or urban women, whether their society is patriarchal or matriarchal, the ethnic group they belong to, the country or region they are from, and their personalities. Consequently, their need for equality differs dramatically depending on their social class, cultural background, beliefs, values, and the way they were socialized to be women in non-individualistic societies. They too used to be discriminated against because of their gender, notably in terms of access to lands and high-income activities. They too used to deal with arranged marriage, polygamy, female genital mutilation, rape, and domestic violence. Within the same Africa, women never stopped being the drivers of economic activities (in agriculture and trading). They never stopped influencing policy or familial decisions through their men (husbands and sons), who personify authority within their social group. They never stopped exercising spiritual power as priestesses. They never stopped organizing and fighting for their rights.

Being freed from the domination and oppression perpetrated by the other half of humanity is the least of their concerns. Revolutions and evolutions have to be driven by and within the oppressed people themselves. The contingencies of a given society impose changes naturally, but when the changes are dictated from the outside, it is called imperialism.