Photo: Miriam Syowia Kyambi Fracture (I), 2011-14. Installation / performance.
Kenyan Feminist Artist Miriam Syowia Kyambi during her installation performance, "Fracture" which examines the questions: where does one stand as a woman, as a human being? Much of her work dissects and brings into question issues of race, perception, gender and memory, examining how our contemporary human experience is influenced by constructed history, past and present violence, colonialism, family and sexuality.

When I look back on the first moment I ever explicitly identified as feminist, I am quickly taken back to a lovely day for the month of June. The sun was high, and my best friend and I took it as a perfect opportunity to bask in the summer. We were laying on a picnic blanket perched in the heart of a park. As we took effort in absorbing as much vitamin D as possible, we began our daily, random banter. It usually ranged from celeb gossip about cute boy band members to politics centered on the oppressive system.

As always we started talking about One Direction then shifted to matters of gender inequality. We were both voicing our frustrations on what it is like to be a woman “in a man’s world” (Mind you we were fourteen). And it is then and there that I heard myself utter the words loudly, “Maybe I am too much of a feminist…”. I was only fourteen when I explicitly declared something that would later influence perhaps what is my worldview, identity, etc., yet I never took a moment to ask myself why so? And it is only a couple of years ago, after reading this written piece, I began to question, “why feminism?”

Some of my reasons can be categorized as the obvious, core beliefs of feminism:

-Because I was born into a patriarchal culture, religion, and system where there is little regard for women unless they reproduce, marry, or do something a man cannot do.

-Because I am black, African, and woman, and yes, color does make a difference because my experience with the patriarchal system differs from that of a caucasian woman.

-Because of my fight for equality cannot and will not overlook matters of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, culture, (dis)ability.

-Because of any violence against women which includes acts with a misogynist cultural, or religious incentive such as honor killing, female genital mutilation etc.

…while others are anecdotal, personal life events that have given me frightening, yet much-needed insight on what other femmes have to deal with and go through on a daily basis in this ‘man’s world’.

-Because in my early teens, I was prey to middle-aged men on the streets who would either cat call, or harass me. Because these same men would go to the lengths of sparking ‘innocent small talk’ with me, and it always ended up in them asking for my number, and me hesitantly declining because I was scared that my ‘no’ would end up having consequences.

-Because I am aware that there are people out there who think I was asking for it. Because I know too many women who have been in similar situations, and it should not be up for debate whether they were asking for it.

-Because when I was fifteen I confided in a figure of authority that one particular boy in class was verbally, and at times physically tormenting me, and all she could tell me was ‘he probably likes you’, and I am sure she thought my experience fell in the lines of ‘if a boy is being mean to you, he probably likes you’.

-Because too many young girls are brought up to believe that torment and abuse are an indication of the presence of endearment or even affection.

-Because in junior high, I was the object of hypersexualization. My voluptuous body garnered me names such as slut, seducer etc. And it is then I learned that we as femmes are expected to carry shame. The shame of looking, dressing, and sexually expressing ourselves in a certain way.

-Because as a Black, African Immigrant femme living in Europe, I’ve faced a lot of gender-based racism such as being aggressive, predatorily solicited for sex, being demeaned for not living up to the Eurocentric beauty standard.

-Because I was brought up in a household where misogyny was subtle, yet apparent. While my mom worked a 9–5 job, she was still expected to come home and fulfill her ‘role as a woman’ by cleaning, cooking etc.

-Because as the eldest daughter I grew up following in mother’s footsteps by cleaning, tidying, and serving an able, grown man.

-Because at the age of eighteen I had finally had enough of the societal constructed the gender roles put on me which were always put down as ‘cultural practices’.

-Because after years of mental, verbal, and physical abuse, there was only so much abuse I could take, so I finally reported my dad to Children’s welfare.

I still believe that my strive for intersectional, gender-based equality would still be inevitable, but were it not for what I went through in my personal life, I wouldn’t be able to empathize with other individuals on a humanistic level about matters of oppression. Looking back at my fourteen-year-old self, I think she was only uttering words without truly knowing the meaning it would later hold not only in her personal life but also professional.

— Acquelline.K.Wanjiru

Acquelline.K.Wanjiru is a Kenyan-born a poetess, songstress, and writer, but currently based in Finland. She is a young, afro-bohemian femme who articulates the beauty, triumphs, sorrows,and everyday struggles of being Black, African, and Woman, and the unfamiliarity that comes with shifting from adolescence to adulthood.

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