Trapped in defiance; fleeing from conformity

There is nothing that beats the adrenaline rush that comes from standing out in defiance, going against the grain, challenging the status quo and refusing to compromise one’s personal convictions.

We are socialized to count ourselves among the collective, to protect the interests of the group and deny ourselves for the sake of keeping the cultural edifice intact.

An unfortunate consequence of feminism has been the alienation of its proponents from mainstream platforms of social intercourse and interaction.

In our endeavor to be distinct from the traditional portrait of a woman, we have abdicated our choices, limited our scope and denied ourselves some of life’s simple pleasures to prove the point.

Yes, feminists of my generation are trapped in defiance. How so?

The best proof of our convictions often lies in total repudiation of what we choose to reject . . . therefore we are forced to be reactionary in our thinking, rebellious in our way of life and cynical in our outlook.

If the world states that womanhood entails the barefoot, pregnant image bending over an oven baking pie and preparing dinner – then my repudiation of it must culminate in me refusing to don an apron, carry a pregnancy and bake anything.

Of necessity, feminism must reject the image of womanhood proffered by society and seek to define the concept of womanhood in a context devoid of cultural norms, social constructs and the ideologies that we internalized during childhood and we were socialized to believe in adulthood.

For instance, I have found that there is a near frantic effort to assert one’s feminist credentials by expressing no desire of marriage.

Because marriage is an ideal hammered into us for so long, to free ourselves we believe that opting for a non-marital status is the best way of defining ourselves outside the societal portrait.

What of the feminist who happens to think nothing is wrong with marriage?
The one who believes that marriage is a good institution and aspires for it?
Has she betrayed the ‘feminist’ cause?

While I believe that marriage for women as for men, must be an incident of life not it’s purpose; I am not comfortable with the idea of scoffing at the marital institution.

Recently I overhead colleagues pondering why most female politicians are unmarried, why most gender activists in the country are single and why marriage is so abhorrent to the feminist?

The answer to all this is simply that the goal of the feminist is attained through a consistent non-conformist stance.

Marriage for the feminist is regarded as the height of conformity so to counter this the feminist goes the single route.

Motherhood to the feminist is too engendered a status as to hold appeal so she will go the adoption or artificial insemination route.

The family unit is too encumbered with societal expectations – breakfast on the table, laundry to do, dishes to clean, diapers to change, meals to prepare and a house to keep clean – and it is all such a cliche that the feminist refuses to reinforce social stereotypes and thus forgoes the role of nurturer, mother and wife.

...with time we either sink or swim reaching for whatever defines us

By wearing the label of feminist, it appears ours is a task of fleeing from conformity but in our flight we are incarcerated by our defiance.

For if our world is painted in shades of black and we are dead opposed to the color, our expression of this opposition is served well by us donning white, is it not?

Where then is this freedom we are clamoring for? While we refuse to be defined in terms of blackness, we automatically find that our deviation is itself a cage in which we have to ‘conform’ to certain concepts.

To be regarded a feminist, you have to adhere to certain values, is this not another form of conformity?
Where in this blanket term called feminism is the individual’s so-called self-definition?

For if we are labeled feminists then the definition of who we believe ourselves to be is a foregone conclusion, there is no room for ‘self-definition’ within the confines of a tag.

I have found out that my brand of feminism does not preoccupy itself with fighting men, man-made institutions, customs, rituals and traditions.

Mine has always been a repudiation of the supremacy culture holds over my life. For it is this seemingly infallible thing called culture that has the final say on matters pertaining to conduct, identity and beliefs.

I challenge this thing called culture that is viewed as being beyond reproach, the ultimate authority governing every aspect of my life and stuffing me in the pigeonhole of stereotype.

I will not uproot it and throw it into deep abyss, no. I will prune it, I will concede that there is some good in it as I recognize the evil in it and it is the evil that I rage against.

When society demands that I get married – it is not ‘freedom’ when I choose not to – that is mere rebellion.

If society bids me to get married, and I want to, then my freedom would lie in me getting married on my own terms.

The feminist’s freedom does not lie in passive defiance, neither does it lie in refusing to conform, it lies in choosing to live life on her own terms.

If she is to be a mother then it should be on her terms, if she is to be a wife, it should be on her own terms, if she is to have a home, it should also be on her own terms.

I fear my generation’s brand of feminism has added up to nothing more than the throwing out of the baby with the bath water.

I will not flee from conformity; I will free myself of it by living on my own terms.
I will not seek refuge in defiance because rejecting a thing and having nothing to offer in its stead is nothing short of foolhardy.

To paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft’s sentiments, I do not wish them (feminists) to have power over men or society, but over themselves.


12 thoughts on “Trapped in defiance; fleeing from conformity

  1. Tetekai says:

    Great post. Can i post the link to this post on my blog with some of my favourite parts?

  2. Sharon says:

    *standingovation* Of all your pieces, this has to be my favourite. I have always said I am not a feminist – for I genuinely love being a wife, respecting my husband, baking pie while he flips TV channels and bearing children. You nailed it, its my choice and I chose a long time ago not to be trapped in defiance – non-feminists (in the strict sense) have more true freedom than feminists.

    Haaa wagona Delta – proud to know of you!

    • itsdelta says:

      Yoh! Such effusive praise coming from you Sharoe!!! This is too much…. I am so so touched! I respect your opinion so much and I admire the courage with which you hold on to your convictions and so it means a lot to me to have you endorse my views.

      I am the feminist that happens to believe in marriage and think it’s an important institution.

  3. Sharon says:

    I really believe its high time young ‘enlightened’ women of our generation stopped lying to ourselves and to each other…most of us want to get married (not everybody wants to and thats perfectly fine). My problem is with pretending that marriage is backward and people end up being small houses to our husbands waiting on them and begging them to leave us and marry them – aiwa bodo. Choices have consequences. Being married and having kids may mean that some of my goals are temporarily shelved or delayed but marriage and motherhood can never really hold us back if we want to get to the top of that corporate ladder.

    But bottom line, everyone is free to chose what they want for themselves. The greatest thing about your piece is its unadulterated honesty…I just have to share it on my wall…

  4. Sandisiwe Ncube says:

    I like this, I like it a lot.I love this because it speak to many things that we as women forget sometimes. And I like what it says. Its OK for me to want to get married, its OK to have babies and its OK to want to bake pies and do all the things that are required of me as a wife. And these things do not define me, do not make me weak. NO. They do not at all!

    I too want to get married, bake pies and have beautiful babies. At the same time that does not make me backward in anyway it means I am fulfilling my destiny and the things that I have been called to in my life… (its not the same for everyone, we dont have the same desires and the same destinies). Me wanting to be a wife does not make me weak in anyway either, and this is where we need to understand that strength is not about being dominant, its not about being the loudest or the proudest or the best. We forget there is strength that only a woman can have, a quiet strength, a graceful strength and that submission is also a demonstration of strength (especially for us strong headed characters).

  5. cindy says:

    i cudnt agree more with u ladies. Sharon u r so ryt its not ryt to pretend that we don wanna get married then u end up being my dad’s small hse cozing my mum grief. i want to get married& i will but that wont stop me form achieving my goals or make me less of an individual. thnx 4 the piece itsdelta

  6. years later I come thru and have a few things to say:

    1. I am a feminist of “this generation” and like Sharon said, I might want to get married again, I think. lol but like you said Delta, it has to be on my on terms seeing that the last time I was married was not on my own terms. LOL. It wd be a great negotiation package. LOL

    2. I believe in serving, not just man, but ppl in general and this has nothing to do with feminism or culture but it is something that is deep within me. I celebrate it even when it is abused. I am a MaMoyo and I love deeply, passionately and utterly. LOL I love loving ppl in the manner they wanna be loved and in the manner I feel best expresses my love for them. If hubby likes food cooked by me, I will do it..just not as regularly, cz I am lazy. and my being lazy is not a feminist stance but something that even my mother can tell you about.

    3. Rebellion is detrimental and, like you said, the shrub needs to be pruned bcz there are amazing things in tradition and culture that can even help and serve the feminist cause

    4. I find that there is all sorts of feminisms out here…I stand for self identity of the woman. She has every right to identify herself as how she mother, wife, business leader, church leader, spiritual, financial wara wara…the choices and options are wide. Anything else she does or chooses, is all good by me so long she made a conscious decision and choice, then “Aloha” I am ok. I am against the idea of women being given identities by others.

    A great read, btw.

  7. emmie manala says:

    I’m loving this Delta…I so much believe in my potential but as a woman sometimes I get discouragements even from my female counterparts ….and I very much agree with Sharon….I used to take marriage as some king of imprisonment and thank u Delta and Sharon…I now know its about resilience and determination…I can move on with what I love doing even in marriage….ngiyabonga kakhulu…I always thought it impossible

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