I AM WOMAN! An Editorial Feature In Celebration of International Women’s Day 2018

The tides of history appear to be swaying in a different direction for women around the world. This weekend, the 90th Oscars celebration took place for the first time since the New York Times exposé on producer Harvey Weinstein, the first since Time’s Up, the first since #MeToo became a household name across America and the world included. “

Kimberley Jev Writes

Photography By Robin Bharaj, Make Up By Bunmi Ogedengbe (NeonVelvet), Hair By Ayoola Bakare (Rarelook), Concept & Styling By Franka Chiedu, Model is Tail Sabetskaya (Agency: D1 Models), Cover Design: Enosh

As little girls, we are often shaped by our views and surroundings, in the past, we romanticized our futures as women, of happy homes and families with limited education on how to approach less than pleasant situations in the marital home or in relationship dynamics in the home, the workplace and the public. Over time the images and expectations placed on us via advertising have moulded and shaped our experiences. Thus far the narrative for the fulfilment of womanhood in certain environments has been less than desired. In 2018, womanhood has fortunately reached the point where the fairy tales that teased our youth have to be addressed.

It was a shock when Angelina Jolie filed for her divorce from superstar Brad Pitt. It was an even bigger shock when the women of Hollywood took to social media to call out their abusers online and by affirmative action take a stand against sexual harassment in their industry. The silenced flocked to the Times Up movement.

The tides of history appear to be swaying in a different direction for women around the world. This weekend, the 90th Oscars celebration took place for the first time since the New York Times exposé on producer Harvey Weinstein, the first since Time’s Up, the first since #MeToo became a household name across America and the world included. At the prestigious award show, strong leads came to the forefront to speak of creating a future that involves moving forward towards healing. “It’s a new day in Hollywood with new challenges for all of us,” said Jennifer Lawrence.

More and more in communities around the world, women are refusing to adhere to old traditions and patriarchal ways in their communities. The conversation on the wage gap between women and men in the workplace alone has shown that women can be silent no more. Women who have never dreamt of using the law to complain or who were worried about being victimised for sharing their stories were able to take advantage of the #MeToo hashtag significantly. The more these stories are told, the more we see that this has been a pattern of women’s lives. The more these stories are told the more we see that women are very human. “What’s different right now is that women – white women, privileged women, working women – are listening to each other in a different way,” said Rebecca Walker

What has come to the spotlight with the #MeToo movement is that most women have been conditioned to meet the needs and expectations of men. “What it means to be a man is often to control women, and it’s often through coercion and violence. Having space where men have other models of how to engage with women, what it’s like to have relationships with women that are empowering for both parties and that doesn’t require an enacting of force or aggression or coercion or manipulation. But for that we must rethink masculinity from the beginning of boys’ lives and give them space to say “you can have a conversation about your feelings” said Len Castro to the Guardian on the movement and reimagining masculinity.

Spreading like wildfire, around the world, movements have been sparked to push dialogue that appears complex but necessary for women in societies to become a part of. In Africa and in the diaspora many women are pushing to feel empowered and challenge their stance on how their basic human rights and needs are to be met and respected. We need to evolve if we are to adopt new practices, take on new values in order to heal and shift narratives for a better understanding of ourselves. Among many communities more and more women are finding the courage to change the status quo, calling off engagements, breaking up marriages that have held emotional, physical, spiritual and traditional bonds on them as women. In many homes, it is becoming clearer and clearer among our society that women are no longer assets or properties that can be owned.

Today modern feminism commands respect, embracing diversity and a shift in mental reasoning means recognizing and appreciating our differences, rather than pretending there are none. Gone are the days of outdated feminism that claimed to earn a “male” salary I must be exactly like a male. Sophisticated, modern feminism must allow women to be fully feminine and yet equally respected and rewarded for their contributions

When Tarana Burke creator and facilitator of the #MeToo movement set social media ablaze, with her movement charged with calling out sexual offenders of women in notable industries, young people had no language to talk about these subject matters. This is something that is changing; young people have a way to talk about it now. Hearing the words ‘rape culture’ doesn’t seem foreign to the British woman, the American woman, Nigerian woman, the Indian woman, the Lebanese woman, women around the world are becoming at ease with using direct language to call out their discomforts in their marital homes and various relationships. “You can dislike the tone of this language; you can find it aggressive, or vague, or wide-reaching, but there is no doubt that to the person drenched in shame, hearing the words “rape culture” communicates at the most basic level: it isn’t your fault,” says Burke.

While not every woman may have an unhappy marriage or be pressured to endure unpleasant situations or adhere to strict patriarchal traditions, there is an uprising of women who have had to face insurmountable experiences and are facing the music head on when it comes to leaving old ideas behind. “Leaving my marriage wasn’t easy, I struggled and struggled for many days. In fact, I would say leaving a marriage in my country Nigeria is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. This is because you are not allowed to consider yourself in the situation you are going through. We are programmed to worry about what people will think,” Tracy, a mother of two based in Lagos, Nigeria says.

“Our society has set a standard that women are to endure whatever unpleasant experience marriage throws at them. This makes men believe they can get away with things. All a man needs to do is threaten to return you to your people who wouldn’t want to bear the public shame, the thought process is always about what Madam ‘A’ or Madam ‘B’ would say. Note my use of ‘Madam’

According to Selema, a high-profile family lawyer who deals with divorces and separations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital “society is becoming more aware of the pains women suffer in marriages in Nigeria/Nigerian households. It is a bad cycle and women are beginning to realize they can break this cycle. “I expected to be shunned from many circles and experience isolation, but I got a lot of solidarity from women around me. Even though I received some flack from older aunties and relatives, many of my peers and some more forward-thinking elders and even members of my church was encouraging. I would say almost every woman I have met of my age group and shared my story with gave me strong and encouraging responses. When social media was buzzing with the “Me Too” hashtag it really pushed me to tell my story, not just for myself but for my daughters. My daughters are going to grow to be strong and supported women, they will grow to know they deserve to be in households of peace, deserve love and marriages that agree to their terms and conditions and as more and more women take the stand against dated traditions, it is my hope the attitudes towards women around the world will change, because we are women and we are human.”

More and more in communities around the world, women are refusing to adhere to old traditions and patriarchal ways in their communities. The conversation on the wage gap between women and men in the workplace alone has shown that women can be silent no more. Women who have never dreamt of using the law to complain or who were worried about being victimised for sharing their stories were able to take advantage of the #MeToo hashtag significantly.

Today modern feminism commands respect, embracing diversity and a shift in mental reasoning means recognizing and appreciating our differences, rather than pretending there are none. Gone are the days of outdated feminism that claimed to earn a “male” salary I must be exactly like a male. Sophisticated, modern feminism must allow women to be fully feminine and yet equally respected and rewarded for their contributions.

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Franka Chiedu
blanckeditor@gmail.com
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