Prescribed feminism: Take two pills and call me in the morning?

We forgot that we had to live in a way we chose without the constant guarding and guidance of a patriarchal society.

We forgot that we had to live in a way we chose without the constant guarding and guidance of a patriarchal society.

You know what the problem with an “ism” is? It’s too harsh. It carries an air of revolution about it, which makes the harshness almost cool. Trendy. And that’s why feminism has become a label that all women feel prescribed to carry.

Women’s rights: the right to equal pay, equal parenting, work, the right to be funny or have an opinion or a good old-fashioned cry that isn’t determined by an alternative chromosome.

Just a few examples. Not since Beyoncé made the thunder thigh sexy has something been more talked about, posted about, argued, lived. Lived? No.

The epitome of any lobbying and living a feminist lifestyle is the freedom to choose. The notion that women are people too, vaginas and all, and that we possess the ability to choose for ourselves. Really we do.

So why don’t we?

Somewhere in the trend, all of that got lost. We choked on the smoke from all the bra-burning, labelled ourselves feminists because, why not? And then forgot that we had to live in a way we chose without the constant guarding and guidance of a patriarchal society.

Feminism is prescribed, just like medication. We think if we medicate every so often it limits the patriarchal notions of what our lives should look like. But it doesn’t. The images of a life and role we’re supposed to fulfil just because we’re women don’t go away. Because we won’t let them.

I long for the day when what’s on my curriculum vitae, for example, outweighs when I’m going to get married and start breeding. Even if the first four pages of my CV say “1984 to 2014: finding herself”.

I long more for a day when I have the courage to whip out said CV in response to these pathetic questions. Or for the courage to rip off my own arm so I can throw it at the person who asks the question.

These conversations still guide and determine our choices, they still serve as the smoke machine in our clouded fantasies.

They don’t stop us from wishing for what everyone else says we should want. “I got married (for example) because that’s what I was supposed to do, but hey, this is what being a woman means now because I at least got an education, go feminism?”


And we’ve forgotten this. We fought and continue to fight all the misogynists and then we forgot to fight those little niggles in ourselves.

Our parents may have mastered the art of “equal opportunities for girls” and even offered it to us on a silver platter, or maybe they really didn’t, but the rest of the fight is ours.

Feminism is a genderless piece of baggage or something else that’s genderless and not derogatory to either sex.

Feminism is a bitch, isn’t it? Wait. No. Feminism is a dick, isn’t it? Wait. No. Feminism is a genderless piece of baggage, isn’t it?

Everyone said it would be cool. No one warned us it would be so hard. No one warned us that no matter how much we wanted to leave the doily behind it would be in our faces, all the time, tempting us, like wanting to have thighs like Beyoncé’ (seriously, her left thigh is more attractive than my whole body).

“Give me ovaries at war and a mass suicide in my pants – I’m a woman, I can take it. But don’t ask me to fight the norm.”

There’s a self-perpetuating idea of self-sexism that exists in all of us. It has nothing to do with men. It has everything to do with us. With us as women and our mothers and our sisters and our constant need to want to measure and fulfil and thrive in achieving all of that. Because they determine the roles we play. They determine what our futures should look like. What a woman is and what her life is.

We are sexist towards ourselves and we think we’re not because we practise prescribed feminism. “I can be a woman (in the gender norm way that I am too afraid to fight) as long as ... ”

Prevention is better than cure. Unfortunately, in this case, we cannot prevent the ghosts of women from generations past who creep into our subconscious and tell us that being a woman looks like one thing. We can’t even consolidate it with popping the feminism pill every now and then. (Compared to this daunting psychological task, the premenstrual cramp is like cuddling a cloud in a field of daisies. Trust me, I know).

But we can cure it. We can cure the Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty fantasy syndrome and stop it from spreading.

We can do that by understanding that feminism doesn’t mean that we’re damsels in distress with jobs, this time around, who are still waiting to be saved. But that we have a choice to save ourselves.

Because being a woman doesn’t look like anything really. And a woman’s life doesn’t look like anything either. But it feels a lot like choosing for yourself.

(Even if you did choose that for the rest of your life, your only goal would be to fashion yourself into Bey’s left thigh. The next time you pressure yourself into the life of what a woman’s life is supposed to look like, think about that limb instead. It’s more pleasant. Promise).

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is the social media accounts director at Ogilvy PR. She was previously the deputy digital news editor and social media editor at the Mail & Guardian. Haji has an honours degree in journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and continues to write columns for the M&G. Read more from Haji Mohamed Dawjee


blog comments powered by Disqus

Client Media Releases

MTN zero rates access to university online content.
Soweto communities to benefit from eKasiLabs programme
Sentech achieves clean audit again
NWU to offer Indigenous Language Media in Africa course