Down with chivalry and up with the African Revolution!

Editor's Note: In recognition of International Women's Day, UhuruNews is publishing this initial article on African women, which will appear as a monthly standardized page in The Burning Spear newspaper and (The Burning Spear online).

Although Yejide is the author of this article, she will not necessarily be the writer of all the articles, but she will be the ongoing editor of this page. We call on other African women to contribute their writings and experiences to make this effort a success.

WASHINGTON, DC—A few months ago following a local event, me, another African woman and two African men participated in cleaning up a space we rented for the event, which involved clearing away food, folding tables and moving them out of the room and a number of other tasks.
I went to work clearing tables and proceeded to fold one of them down and move it out of the room when I was halted by the other African woman who had an objection to me doing work that was—in her summation—something that men should do, saying "No, no you don’t do that. Don’t you see there are two brothers here?"
I was surprised and a little irritated by the question, especially since everyone was engaged in work, and to sit idly by and wait for the brothers to finish what they were doing before they could take the tables out seemed ridiculous, especially when I was able-bodied and quite capable of doing the task.
Besides, folding tables was something I’ve done plenty of times before and so it wasn’t a question of whether I was trying to be man-ish, it was more like I saw work that needed to be done and so I did it.
This is not an indictment of the sister, but more so an example of one of the bourgeois ideals African people maintain.
The idea that women should behave in ways that would guarantee their subservient social status and inferiority to men, like pampering and what they called women's work, grew out of the system of feudalism.
This concept is rooted in chivalry, a feudal moral code created by the exploiting royalty during the Middle Ages, which extolled honor, valor, loyalty and fostered respect towards women of the aristocracy.
This feudal concept serves no purpose in the African community other than to satisfy petty bourgeois delusions of being accepted into the rank and file of the capitalists.
Certainly chivalry did not apply to the African women who were kidnapped, stowed in ships, raped, worked to death, etc.
I’m reminded of the speech given by Sojourner Truth, an African woman who escaped slavery, when at the 1851 white Women’s Convention, asked the question "Ain't I Woman?"
"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?"
While African women were toiling in the fields, working in someone’s kitchen, or taking care of white children while she left her own children to fend for themselves, white women were 'suffering' a chivalrous oppression that restricted them from full participation in the capitalist economy, which required, as its foundation, the subjugation of African and other oppressed people.
Chivalry may not be dead in bourgeois circles, but the promulgation of it in African working class communities needs to find its death quickly.
We have too much work to do and it is necessary that all hands be on deck. African women should not accept this idealized bourgeois worldview that somehow women are a protected gender, meanwhile both African women and men are dying under colonialism.
We must realize that as an African nation, we are all specifically oppressed and that to end our oppression, every last one of us should work toward an end to imperialism.
Instead of focusing on idealize roles based on Europe’s conditions under feudalism, we must call upon our own history of resistance, when the struggle to free ourselves didn't center on gender freedom, but more so, on the overall freedom of our people.
The resistance of Harriet Tubman in America, Nzinga in Angola, Nehanda in Zimbabwe, Nanny in Jamaica, Mekatilili in Kenya, Solitude in Guadaloupe, Yaa Asantewaa in Ghana and Assata in the U.S. are all worthy of emulation.
More than that, the conditions surrounding their struggles help us to understand the fundamental contradiction, which is that gender is not a factor to the colonizer when he or she comes for our resources.
There can be no more standing idly by waiting for someone else to carry out the work of the African revolution when African women are capable of leading, organizing and putting up a fierce resistance.
Anything short of that leaves the ranks of our people open to reactionary tactics and at least half of our people unavailable for struggle and revolution.
Down with chivalry and up with African Internationalism!


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