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Vanessa Onyema: 5 Misconceptions I Think People Have About Feminism



dreamstime_l_55486620The very first moment I heard ‘We should all be feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it was like an awakening –  a power surge. It was like something I’ve wanted to hear, someone saying my thoughts in a more intelligible way. Also from the moment she made that speech, a lot of unnecessary meanings and misinterpretations have been given to it.

At a tender age even when I didn’t understand gender preference. I saw that in many homes in the Eastern part of Nigeria, families would choose one male child over a dozen female children. The birth of a male child is celebrated, and the parents are praised, because even if that child doesn’t have to inherit anything momentous, he is an heir. I was born into a family of four, dad, mom, sister and I. So even before I could give it a word, I felt the tension.

A friend of mine once told me a funny story of refusing a lift from a young man and his reply was ‘Are you a feminist?’ It was funny but this stuck with me and made me understand that people see feminism differently and I will try to break them down in the best way I was able to learn it.

A Woman Contesting for Power Does Not Make Her a Feminist
I once tried to be a course representative in the University and the boys in my department saw it as emasculation, an insult, a bruise in their ego. Eventually I had to step down to the post of assistant course representative. I only tried this because I felt a girl should be given a chance. They placated me with words like the stress, harassment from the male lecturers, but I knew what they really meant, I can’t rule them. Even when some women try to campaign for posts like local government chairman, there is always this sad remark of ‘she won’t take care of her husband and her family she wants to contest. This doesn’t make women like this self righteous feminist like we think; it just makes them who they are. I know people say sexism isn’t an issue anymore, but it is.

The Fact That She Doesn’t Like Domestic Work Doesn’t Mean She is a Feminist
The terminology A woman’s education ends in the kitchen has populated our brain that a woman must learn how to cook whereby in the real sense some hate it. Most men enjoy cooking than most women and when a man delights in cooking for his spouse, some men begin to see him as one in bondage. Cooking has never been a sign of strength, neither is it a sign of weakness, so when a woman says she hates housework, it means she has tried it and is not cut out for it, not that she won’t do it because men should also do it.

Wanting To Support Financially Isn’t a Sign of Feminism
Now this particular one baffles me, because you find a group of men chatting and the topic of discussion is how this girl demands a lot – as if she is entitled to their salary. These same men will also complain on how a girl tries to get gifts for them or give them money. I’ve met boys that can take money from women and I’ve also met boys that won’t dare it. In the particular case of a man not accepting cash, even though you don’t tell him, he already feels controlled and some women are not also helpful with their bossy nature and sharp tongue. A man sees spending as a way of showing prowess and superiority; that’s why even in the case of ‘sugar mummy’, they find a girl of their class that they spoil to keep them sane. Not all girls who try to support with cash is a feminist or trying to control you with her money, she might just be helpful.

Rude Female Boss ≠ Feminist
In the work environment, people will most likely prefer a male boss to a female because to them, all female bosses are stuck up – definitely not all. Some female bosses are very nice and people will describe her as a ‘such a nice lady’ ‘very humble’ ‘always jovial.’ They won’t mention feminist. However, when she is unnecessarily cranky, a drama queen, she is a feminist and if unfortunately unmarried, that’s just icing on the cake. I know most females in high positions use it as an opportunity to command respect and create an unhealthy working environment. She is not feminist, she just has issues.

Being Career Oriented Doesn’t Mean She is a Feminist
As the world evolves, females own businesses, run companies and more. These females believe that it shouldn’t be limited to the males. They also have to show support so that they won’t become dispensable. The saying ‘a man with money women flock to. A woman with money, men flee’ Men will only flee when they know they are out of your league and there is no stage a woman can reach a man hasn’t. So when a woman is success driven, she is not a feminist, she just doesn’t want to limit her abilities when she knows she can attain a standard.

I could go on and on with different misconceptions but I will leave it at these for now. Feminism stresses on equality, not overpowering. It’s a woman coming out to say I can do this because I have the qualifications and ability and leadership shouldn’t be limited to one gender. Yes, we have different biological roles – even though currently science has redefined that. It doesn’t interfere with capability. This goes without saying that if I should call myself feminist, then my feminism is not one of domination or of emasculation, my feminism is one of significance.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime


  1. Dongagaleo

    March 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    My classmates think the opposite. My friend thinks yelling at her boyfriend makes her a feminist. My classmates think I am an extreme feminist because I refuse to have a boyfriend till I am through with school.
    Next week we are writing a women studies exam and a guy in the class said to me, ‘I must pass this course, I will insult men eh… Till I pass.’
    a classmate is getting married soon and when she brought her card, a boy in the class said ‘you are about to be an object to this man, you have to respect him!’ and when i argued that she is no object to anybody… He said you are overly feminist, you won’t get a husband. All because I aired my opinion about him calling her an object.
    I use my classmates as an example because I hardly have a life outside class and family and secondly because we have been offering a women studies course for more than nine months now and they still don’t get what it means to be a feminist.
    It has nothing to do with demeaning men. Women are supposed to just shut up. Sexism exists. Just visit my class for a day, girls are not suppose to talk, this guys would just rush and call you an extreme feminist….

  2. Modupe Ogundare

    March 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    You’re right on many counts… Feminism isn’t an excuse for the bitter lady across the street to spread her venom, neither is it the ready-made title for the dear female standing by that which she feels is right.

    Take away our desire to define things and engulf our every activities in titles and you’d realize that some of the everyday humane treatment you give to others is listed on someone’s definition of feminism.

    It’s quite a relative and volatile subject, understanding of its nuances is very germane.

    Great read Vanessa!

  3. Cindy

    March 6, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    What I try to tell people but it’s no use explaining to someone who is stuck on being ignorant. Some will read this and still have issues with it. Even some women don’t get it.

  4. Oluwabusola Adedire

    March 6, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    As long as there is English, thinking, and reading, there will always be misconceptions. I think our desire to fit feminism into a box is what causes the different arguments. While, I agree with the generic idea behind feminism I think some arguments are still flawed. Like, the objectification of women vs sexual liberation. How much of ‘patriachy’ do we attribute to religion or culture? It looks like everyone can’t seem to agree… and the humans that we are, still judge people based on their choices.

  5. Mr. Egghead

    March 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    First of all, equality is a myth. There has never been any society where men and women have the same rights. Paradoxically, maintaining balance requires that the pendulum situate itself off the midpoint. Women should not have equal rights to men, rather they should have rights that give them comparative advantage.
    Case 1: In the US today, college admission rates for women are higher than that of men, yet there are more scholarships and internships available to women.
    Case 2: Women who advocate feminism still agitate for male chivalry and bash men as “un-gentlemanly.” Decent behaviour like giving up your seat for a woman or picking up a stranded woman are all benefits of the inequality you are fighting. Today, if a man and a woman are abandoned on Onitsha-Enugu express, the woman is more likely to find somebody to give her a lift.
    Case 3: How many rows of farmland is a woman likely to cultivate? If Mr.A has two sons and Mr.B has two daughters, who will till his land faster?

    In summary, many feminists just want more privileges without any of the added responsibilities. Women should explore their areas of comparative advantage and exploit them instead of all this feminist brouhaha.

    • Hia

      March 6, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      That’s a bunch of crock egghead. All you did was generalize feminists and women in general as if you know all of them. Try again because your argument is flawed and juvenile.

    • ElessarisElendil

      March 7, 2016 at 1:03 am

      Fine I’ll add statistics to his “juvenile argument”.

      1. Chart showing the surging female acceptance rates. Equality? Here you have a spin on his traffic abandonment assertion. In wartime being male is very dangerous. Equality?

      3. Do you really stats to tell you he’s right?

      Might be me, but I’m not seeing how his assertion is juvenile. Maybe you can try making an actual argument over name calling?

    • Moi

      March 7, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Ok, how did chivalry render equality of sexes impotent or vice versa. The two ideologies are independent…

      FYI: Chivalry – meanings:
      1. the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code.
      “the age of chivalry”
      2. the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, namely courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.
      “tales of chivalry and knightly deeds”
      synonyms: knight errantry, the knightly code, knighthood, courtly manners, knightliness, courtliness, nobility, magnanimity; More
      3. courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards women.
      plural noun: chivalries
      “he still retained a sense of chivalry towards women”
      synonyms: gallantry, gentlemanliness, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, consideration, considerateness; More
      antonyms: rudeness, boorishness
      4. archaic
      knights, noblemen, and horsemen collectively.
      “I fought against the cream of French chivalry”

      That’s about how much ignorance I could read this morning….

  6. seriouslyjoking

    March 6, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    People generally misunderstand what feminism is. Feminism is not a label, it is a movement and ideology- political, social, legal , cultural – that it takes into account all issues about women. A common thread in feminism is the clamour for women’s substantive and formal equality and rights.
    People generally think being feminist is being anti-men. No No No!. This is the biggest misconception and disservice to feminism. Yes, there is the radical aspect of feminism that aggressively opposes interaction with or domination from men. But there is so much more to feminism besides domination and oppression. A feminist can be all of the above this writer identified but this does not necessarily mean her choices are informed by the fact that she is a feminist.
    I advice people to read up about what feminism is all about.Starting from when women advocated for equal rights, special treatments because of their precarious positions and campaign against dicrinimtion and gender bias.
    I am a proud feminist to the core, not the aggressive, radical, anti-menish type. But the kind that advocates for women’s rights and my rights as a woman.

  7. Corolla

    March 6, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    @Seriouslyjoking you articulated my thoughts clearly and concisely! Three gbosa for you…

  8. Anonymous

    March 6, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I think one of the main reasons there are misconceptions is the fact that all ‘feminists’ have different definitions for feminism. One may say feminism is not anti-men but to another ‘feminist’ that’s what it means for her. It may be wrong but since there is no book or guideline for this movement, feminism can mean anything to anybody.

  9. My epistle?

    March 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Loooooolllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I always laugh when I hear somebody claims feminist. I decided go for women’s studies lectures one day and see what’s up. I laughed my ass out. I came to the conclusion that the self acclaimed feminists and the feminism movement is confused. I learnt things like there are liberal feminist, AKA the original feminists. The ones that smoked so as to be seen as equal to men, the ones that wore undies outside because men exposed their bodies without issues. The ones that think only white Caucasian women should be equal to white Caucasian men. The ones that were and still have very white supremacist ideologies. Now I also learnt about radical feminism. Aka brainless feminism. The ones that think men should carry children in their non existent wombs and women are cursed because of their wombs, lol. Then there’s the second wave feminism. The one I can at least see small sense with. These are the ones that believe in the socio economic equality of both sexes. They never go out of the jurisdiction of socio economic equality. Now there’s the third wave feminist. These ones tell everybody what to do. They never mind their business.They think their own ideology is supreme. They tell women how to raise their children, tell men when to have sex, tell women when to stay and leave a relationship, tell children what to do, tell couples how to run their home. Autonomy is non existent in their dictionary. Now, there’s the anti racist feminism, these ones fight for racial equality. They are the ones always analysing every magazine cover, to see if all races are represented on the covers, always watching every tv show to see how if every race is represented in the cast etc. Here’s the funny thing I also learnt, the feminists belonging to these various movement don’t even like themselves or agree with themselves.

    Now, this made me curious and I decided to look at the lives of all the self acclaimed feminists I know, both professors and others. I actually set out to interview them especially in the department of social sciences, arts and humanities. The psychology major in me could not let it go. I had to find out more, I had to know more. I interviewed both men and women. I realized that the self acclaimed feminists were no happier than their colleagues they look down on for not joining the feminist movement. Feminism didn’t stop their partners from cheating or didn’t even accord them respect. Neither were the feminists promoted or in higher position of authority than the non feminists. Even among the men, the ones that support the feminist movement didn’t have happier lives than the ones that couldn’t care less. Although my little research lacks some validity due to the size of the sample hence cannot be genelized. For those who are interested in how I went about it, I used a likert scale type method to for the research and also asked open ended questions to avoid bias. I’m Black African so that might have biased the interview a little, due to the fact that nobody would want to me to label them racist. My research cannot be generalized but I doubt it’s far from the truth. As for Nigerians and feminism, I have a lot to say but I can’t pen all down. All I know is that Nigerians don’t know what feminism is, I mean none. Feminists don’t even know what it is yet, given the categories of feminists there are. Besides from the women studies lectures feminism should not and is not the problem of third world countries. They should be focused on not dying and living healthy lives first. I’m not the one that said it o. It’s the women studies profs that say it everytime.

    I notice Nigerians always mix human rights and feminism together. There are basic human rights that should be accorded to everyone by the virtue of them living in the world. Fighting for those rights didn’t make you a FEMINIST! Please get the difference. Anyway I’m not interested in feminism or its movement or what it entails. Although I remember when I was younger and till now my everybody tells me, you’re too strong for a woman, come down, you behave like a man and the likes. I have never carried placards or whatever protesting male domination. I have never hounded for any women’s anything but people still talk with me for a few seconds and I assume I’m a feminist, lol. It makes me think if feminism is a movement or a character trait in women they disguise as feminism. I’m not for or against the movement. I could care less. I just think the feminism movement is confused.

    • Md

      March 7, 2016 at 2:17 am


  10. Netizen

    March 7, 2016 at 10:00 am

    All I want is to be treated with dignity and respect, giving an equal fighting chance based on my intelligence, treated as my own person. I don’t want anyone thinking they are doing me a favor or that I owe them something. I want my significant other to recognize that things I do for him are out of love and not because he is entitled to them. Is that so much to ask? Why can’t people just understand that having different sex organs doesn’t mean one is less important? Some days ago, I read a news about a company giving the female workers mentrual leave every month. The out cry was so appalling. Everyone was shouting “shebi they want equality?” Where is our empathy as humans? Recognise that men and women are different but at the same time……….*sigh* Who am I kidding? A lot of people have their minds made up already. Sometimes I wish I was never born. There’s nothing I hate more than being female especially in this society.

  11. Njayasworld

    March 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    The problem is that you guys see feminism as a bad thing or something strange, even the writer is not standing firmly on her facts, I see her as still beating around the bush in some paragraphs.Feminism is not trying to overpower the males but trying to be significant and playing serious roles in the society. I am a male feminist anyways/

    • Md

      March 7, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      No you are not a male, who are you trying to deceive

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