I know folks are going to be irritated by this brazen claim. But it is a true story. I did discover feminism. In fact, I discovered feminism in a trotro a year ago. And it wasn’t in a moment of calm contemplation, either: no! The discovery came in the midst of a loud argument in which all the passengers in the trotro from Mallam to Madina had joined together in a single armed column against my lone self. Alone, against the ‘madding crowd,’ I stood up for common sense, and thereby, single-handedly, I discovered feminism. The story goes like this:
I’d closed from church at Auntie Aku. I’d gone to see my mom at Gbawe. I was returning to Legon. You can get a Madina trotro from Mallam Junction if you manage to go across that flyover. At 6pm, we were all listening to the news on Peace FM. One of the news items got everyone excited. It was about sex. A married woman had been caught having sex with her lover in an uncompleted building. Nobody was interested in the other news stories. Why should we, when we can all condemn that shameless woman who had disgraced herself and her family!
Given my usual diffidence, I hardly strike up random conversations in the trotro, much less if that’s going to put me in the middle of a raging debate. But I did just that. Maybe I did it because there was a stately woman sitting next to me, and a pretty lady close by. Anyway, forget about the motive! What matters is that I spoke.
‘Men also do it,’ I said.
A man sitting close by rashly brushed my statement aside: ‘But it’s a disgrace for a woman to do this!’
‘It’s a disgrace for men too,’ I said, expecting to soon get support from the stately lady next to me. She didn’t bring support. None of the women in the trotro did. Meanwhile, the rash young man next to me was gaining more allies to his side. They said if men do it, that doesn’t mean women should also do it. I said none of them should do it, not just one person. Else, all of them should be allowed to do it. They said a good woman doesn’t do cheat on her partner. I said a good man doesn’t cheat. They said yes, but it’s not as bad if a man does it, as when a woman does it.
‘Don’t women have the same feelings as men?’ I asked.
To my horror, the stately woman sitting next to me turned and asked me to stop the kinds of things I was saying. But at that point, I was too deeply engrossed. There was no turning point. I said the desires which push men into doing it isn’t an exclusive property of men. An old man asked me if I’m married or I’ve ever married. Hearing that I haven’t, he said I don’t have the necessary background to talk about these matters.
If at this point, you’re visualising a calm, polite debate in which I present my case and my combatants present theirs, then I’m sorry to say that the narrative above has failed to capture the bedlam into which the trotro had been thrown. This was no ivory tower analysis of gender equity. Every passenger in the speeding trotro wanted to be heard describing how stupid, unchristian, wayward and crazy I was. And they all wanted to be heard at the same time. One man reluctantly dropped off when we got to Lapaz; he hadn’t told me all the things that he wanted to say to me. But he shouted a rude comment to me as he jumped out of the trotro and scurried across the street.
And although I stood alone, in some way, it was kind of cool. You might think this is arrogant, and maybe it is: but it was nice to know I was in the right, and all those poor suckers had no clue what they were talking about. I mean, it’s also kind of sad to think that such a large swathe of humanity is misguided about such a basic thing. I’d never thought of myself as a feminist or whichever label folks prefer to use. But now, I guess I was one.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that discovering feminism can be very dangerous.