Notes from Kinna and Wunpini; Classism in feminist activism in Ghana

Feminists arguing among themselves, engaging in callouts, massive blowouts and epic disagreements is never a bad thing in my opinion. Because most of these disagreements, even the most vicious ones have the potential to lead to a clarification of ideology and can result in opening of spaces, inclusion, growth etc. Quite a lot of the clarity we have, particularly about ourselves as African and black feminists, has come from disagreements, blowouts, some with open letters, that have been rightly instigated by our ancestors and elders in the wider African and international spaces.

 

”This is not the first time my ethnicity and or class status has been attacked because someone disagreed with me or someone was just being insensitive. And it probably won’t be the last time. I don’t regret shaking the table and causing us to squirm in our middle/upper class guilt. Hopefully, we reflect on our privileges and pay attention to how we are complicit in reproducing oppressive systems” Wunpini F. Mohammed

 

We are a movement in which growth, inclusion and learning (and unlearning) feature prominently and anytime this is threatened, in any form, either by a lack of understanding, by an absence of knowledge or by discrimination, feminists have disagreed openly with each other. We have and continue to hold ourselves to certain ideals; we strive for accountability; we go towards deeper understanding and the movement can buckle under our expectations even as we organize for necessary and essential freedoms.

 

”At moments like these we should all create space within ourselves and our movements for deep personal reflection, learning and unlearning” Kinna Reads

In patriarchy, everything about women is judged. Some of the most vicious patriarchal tools are also the cheapest; these are tools which anyone at any level of the hierarchy can deploy – one doesn’t need much power or resources to use these tools. Some of the cheaper tools are the entire spectrum of victim-blaming in rape culture, judgements on women’s sex lives etc. And yes, the policing and judgement of how women spend their resources is such a tool. Even though, the majority of women spend a greater proportion of their resources taking care of family and community. So anyone in patriarchy can police women’s spending habits. Women also judge how other women spend their money too.

 

In other words, folks judge women’s spending habits not because they are classist but because they are deploying a patriarchal missive. The above “double standards” type of posts (1) shame poor men, and, by not giving other scenarios excuse (2) richer, more resourced men and (3) other members in the wider patriarchy. The above posts are all classist any which way one assesses them. In addition, the posts empowers other folks to come and comment with more shaming of poor men.

The irony is that calling out or objecting to these posts was always going to be done by fellow feminist(s). Because feminists are intimate with the ways in which patriarchy functions. We are the ones who decry toxic masculinity the most, we are the ones who understand how poverty is a further violence wreaking havoc in the lives of women, who are already burdened under the yoke of patriarchy. We are also the ones keenly aware of how poor men suffer some aspects of patriarchy. Pointing this out is NOT giving poor men a pass to freely engage in misogynistic behavior.

The face of poverty in Ghana is a woman with a child. Women and children are adversely disproportionately affected by poverty, which is a thoroughly human-made oppression. There are women who suffer under the very conditions described in these “double standards”; there are young women who everyday make difficult choices about how to divide their allotted daily meagre budgets; there are mothers who face difficult, unimaginable life and death decisions because they are poor. Ghana is one of the most unequal countries in the world. And in the current societal condition, where we shame poverty; where we call poor people “lazy”; where churches make poor folks understand that the “favour of God” is not functioning in their lives, where we have failed to expand freedoms for poorer citizens, in such a society, and in all societies, NO FEMINIST SHOULD ENGAGE IN POVERTY SHAMING.

It is not FeministPolicing to ask and demand that Ghanaian and African Feminists include fighting against classism in their praxis. Instead, it is an imperative that feminists on this continent also fight against classism and all the forces that continue to impoverish the lives of the majority of women and men on this continent. I don’t know how we can be victorious in our fight for more freedoms otherwise. Frankly, it’s impossible.

It is wrong to weaponize other oppressive isms while doing our feminist work. Feminists must not perpetuate other oppressions. It’s wholly counter-productive to our cause.

Now to what caused me greatest outrage. There was quite a lot of back and forthing and subs (on Twitter) from both sides. And again all this I took as par for the course really. But then there were outrageous, again poverty-shaming, statements like “should we eat off the floor” (in response to Wumpini’s “Gh feminists gather in 5-star hotels’); and an invitation to Wumpini “to come let’s discuss the experience over Bourkina”.

There can be NO room in our movements for ethnocentrism. NONE. At a minimum, in whose name do we gather? Are some women more worthy and others not? Again, we cannot weaponize other oppressions as we seek to defend our actions. In Ghana, one of our most vicious oppressions and discriminations is that which we subject our families in the three Northern regions to. An oppression that functions in every sphere of their lives.

Wumpini had every right to call out the classism in the original posts, (if not her, then some other feminist(s) would have). When the argument devolves into bitter words on both sides, even then, nothing justifies ethnocentric comments.

Like how patriarchy deals with women by routinely sending gendered insults our way, we must acknowledge that our ethnocentric socialisation means that we must work hard to rid ourselves of conscious and unconscious ethnic bias. Simply put, Feminists should not engage in such behavior.

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