Thanks Obama – Why I Am a Feminist

So I just learned that in 2010, the Obama administration created the Young African Leaders Initiative, “to invest in the next generation of African entrepreneurs, educators, activists, and innovators.”

I had no idea this was a thing, and neither did most of my friends, even the politically and socially active ones; even the ardent Obama supporters. Thanks American exceptionalism.

They posted a video earlier today sporting a panel of activists to discuss issues of gender justice and equality. It was immensely refreshing to hear these voices, directly from the perspective of African nationals, because so often I encounter anti-feminists in the US loosely referring to gender injustice in African nations as a “gotcha” tactic to bolster their shitty arguments with undue social capital.

I’m not saying Obama made me a feminist, but I am so grateful for this initiative, for a glimpse into the state of the discourse in African nations, and a chance to network with activists and young people across the world. I also wish that more Americans, on all sides of the discourse, would actually listen to conversations like this, because we could learn so much from our African counterparts.

Okay, now for some boring theory time:

I am an aspiring feminist because I recognize that the patriarchy affects everyone, people of all genders, in harmful ways. Said without jargon, I am a feminist because I have come to notice certain patterns in how the world works, and how we treat each other. Namely, I have noticed that men are in power over women, and that this power imbalance results in devastation to all parties.

As a gay man, patriarchy hurts my body. The way I am sexually gendered goes against patriarchal structures; the fact that I am attracted to other men threatens the stability of other men’s relationships, because I don’t live or feel the way men are supposed to live or feel, and that makes other men question why they live and feel the way they do. It also means I don’t fit into the space we’ve carved out for men in relationships with other men and with people of other genders. Because of this transgression, I am targeted for violence. Aside from slurs and threats and ridicule (all of which I have experienced), this violence also takes the form of constant, never-ending pressure to reject my sexually gendered identity and conform to expectations. Expectations of what a man is supposed to be; especially a Christian man. More on that later.

Unfortunately, this violence also takes the form of housing, job, and healthcare discrimination, and hate crimes. We live in the shadow of the Pulse shooting; we champion the victory of marriage equality while at the same time recognizing that that milestone needs to be the first among many.

I hope we can be encouraged by remembering that young people across the world, in Zambia, Mauritius, The Gambia, and Ethiopia, as well as many others, are also fighting for equity along gender lines, and an end to the patriarchy.

For all these reasons and more, I call myself a feminist. Thanks Obama for helping open lines of communication between young people dedicated to making the world a better place, where gender differences are celebrated, not regulated.


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