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Why We Should All Be Feminists (III) - How Has Feminism Developed? The Waves Of Feminism

LESEGO NSWAHU NCHUNGA
Whereas the legacy of Western feminism may often be seen to be centered in “bourgeoisie individualism and patriarchal control over women within capitalist industrialised societies”, many African’s concerns are more cultural, communal, poverty and power.

It is a bold embrace of sexuality, religion and culture in their diversities, using deliberate efforts.

The earlier post-Protectorate accounts of Botswana feminism were, as detailed in the first piece in this series, focused on advocacy on civil and political rights. By and large, this insisted on the separation of women’s realities. The emphasis was on the public aspects of women’s daily lived experiences, almost often to the exclusion of what is considered private aspect of women’s existence. The public elements were things such as women’s political participation, the inclusion of women in the development of the economy of the country, women’s labour rights as well as the involvement of women in the civic duties as well as those related to citizenship. On a global perspective, this was what was known as the second wave of feminism.

This was followed by the third wave, which brought attention to women as private beings. It moved away from the idea that women are all the same. Some would say, it was in this wave that we started actively thinking of women as individuals, and not parts of clusters. Individualism and diversity were resounding themes. There was more public discussion about things that were usually considered private, and particularly sexual and reproductive health rights. It was in this period that the Penal Code was amended where it relates to abortion rights, to create provision for termination of pregnancy in certain instances, such as when the pregnancy is as a result of rape, or where it poses health risks for the person carrying it, or where the foetus threatens to be born with deformities. It was also in this wave that women who are generally sexually marginalised became overtly vocal about the specific challenges that they face. This was also around the time that gender as a construct, started being discussed, beyond just social roles, but as a non-normative paradigm and idea.

This wave was generally from the 90s until around 2008. Towards the boundary or otherwise end of this wave, many assumed the end of feminism. Because of the forms of advocacy that were embarked on, there was little that was publicly visible. Engagement was more higher level, as opposed to being heard in the court of public opinion.

The fourth and current wave of feminism is the one that disambiguates sexual assault, harassment and misogyny.  These are topics which have largely been concealed under the guises

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of what we have come to know as respectability politics, which silence those who question mainstream behaviours which have been made acceptable by concealing the realities. Respectability politics essentially refers to the attempts by some members of marginalised groups, to police their own members and show their values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values instead of challenging them.

It’s the idea that conforming will protect a member of a marginalised group from social prejudices and discrimination. An example is when women groups advocate for women’s rights at the exclusion of the rights of female sex workers, because of social morality and the insistence by patriarchy that women cannot, of their own accord, publicly decide to use their bodies for economic value. Usually, the misconception is that the silencing of sex worker movement in public discourse on women’s rights, will keep women’s rights acceptable and palatable. Or the idea that sexual violence is taboo, and those who discuss it are crass, crude, unpolished, and are therefore not believable. If they are not believable, then they must have deserved it.

The current wave of politics, in most of its manifestations, attempts to undo this. It often completely unpacks the normative ideas of existing, on a daily basis teasing out the many nuanced and subtle abuses accommodated and encouraged by misogyny.

Whereas the older waves of feminism used tools including documentation in academic articles and even non-academic articles, the fourth wave is often deliberated on social media pages, where actions, words, conduct and performances are publicly dissected, and even the smallest form of prejudice is highlighted and change demanded.

It is at this point that the current wave of feminism finds itself differing from the previous waves. Because of how bold it is, and how it confronts absolutely everyone, bagolo often misunderstand it to be disrespectful, too boisterous, and departing from the previous confines of activism and advocacy. And perhaps it is quite extravagant, overzealous and extremely more questioning.

This is because beyond just policy, which seems separate from the people, it insists on social change of individuals. It’s misconstrued to be “man-bashing”. The truth is that it is intended to be the slaying of patriarchy, a system usually thought to benefit men than women, and yet it favours nobody. The current wave of feminism moves beyond the pages. It maintains that the translation of our politics or beliefs and values into reality.



There Are No Others

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