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What Is The Fate and Role of Feminism in the Cancel Culture Era?
IMAGE COURTESY/VOX. A black woman holding a placard during a women's rights protest.
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What Is The Fate and Role of Feminism in the Cancel Culture Era? 

Being cancelled is the new being woke, so they say. But, does it leave room for tolerance, one’s own side of the story and contrary opinions or belief?  According to the pop culture dictionary, cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.

While most of the cancelling happens on and via social media, there have been dire consequences for people who have been cancelled for picking a stand that is unpopular to what most people believe and in the end are no longer wanted or supported publicly leading to people boycotting their products or services.

But, in the era where contrary opinion that does not blend with what the majority want gets cancelled, what role is feminism playing and what fate does it have and can it be cancelled too?

Nafula Wafula, an advocate for gender equality and human rights explains what it takes to have feminism create an impact during this era.

Faith Nafula is an advocate for gender equality and human rights.
Nafula Wafula is an advocate for gender equality and human rights.

She says, ‘’Feminism is the equality of the sexes in access to social, political and economic rights and the belief that all persons were created equal and should have equal access to opportunities and that women’s rights are human rights.’’

With many misconceptions and myths of what feminism is, such as the belief that feminism is a western concept, could it be that really, feminism can be seen throughout the African history despite most of the patriarchal inequality seen today being a result of imperialism?

‘’Feminism is inherently African and we can see that in pre-colonial leadership structures and practises. There is also the belief that feminism is anti-Christian, God created all persons as equal, and the sexist practices in the bible were as a result of the culture in existence as the time and not because God endorses sexism.’’ Elucidates Nafula Wafula.

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But has cancel culture changed anything where feminism is concerned?

According to Nafula Wafula, cancel culture also referred to as call-out culture has done both good and bad for the feminism movement.

‘’The Me Too movement was built on cancel culture. Gender based violence (GBV) and many gathered violations are considered taboo and GBV remains to be one of the most under reported crimes.

The normalisation of sexism on social media and in the society also contributes to rape culture and the sexism that affects our society today, it literally feeds patriarchy.  Cancel culture ensures that persons are held accountable for their actions and allows survivors or those whose rights have been violated to speak out confidently knowing that there shall be consequences.’’ Adds Faith Nafula.

Does that mean then that in a society that hardly protects the oppressed, cancel culture serves as an accountability and preventive tool?

On the other hand, there are people who have been called out and punished for simply having a different opinion, leading to a society that is fed and fuelled with bias. Many have been cancelled for mere ignorance, lack of knowledge or for making the error of saying the wrong thing hence resulting to further enmity or disagreement and pushing away would be allies.

While there have also been radical feminists who have cancelled personalities, organizations and other movements, does feminism have room for contrary opinion?

‘’Feminism does have room for a contrary opinion, I believe though, that if one’s opinion is clearly against the fundamental rights of another human being, they should be called out.

Calling out entails acknowledging the other person’s opinion, understanding why they think as they do then offering the right information for them to consider and feminism in itself, as an ideology, has divergent schools of thought and to ‘blanket’ assume that feminism has no room for contrary opinion feeds the negative stereotypes or views that have been formed against feminists.’’ Clarifies Nafula Wafula.

So how is the feminism movement in Kenya and is it working for or against women?

‘’We are where we are, as Kenyan women, because of feminism. Women in whose leadership feminist ideals shone through, who stood for office in brutally patriarchal politics, fought for laws against harmful cultural practices, fought for laws against sexual and gender based violence and gave their voice to the constitutional processes that allowed us to have the two thirds gender rule.

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Just like any movement, the feminist movement has diverse individuals with diverse priorities. We should never confuse the selfish interests of a person or group of persons with those of an entire movement.’’ Explains Nafula Wafula.

However, while cancel culture is yet to take dominance within the African continent, perhaps not as much as it is in the global south, it is slowly taking over within the continent.

Globalisation and technology has also meant that Africa is more or less moving at par with the global north, albeit not from an equal front internally.

There is a more leeway here though and this is because the perceptions about Africans are mostly informed by culture and religion which excuses a lot of patriarchal and sexist behaviour.

Does politics add to or remove from the contributions of feminism during this cancel culture era?

According to Nafula Wafula, ‘’African politics is build largely on colonial structures and imperialism which is inadvertently patriarchal. If we do not have the rights of women and other minorities ingrained in our systems, we become the oppressors.

In this way, many of the systems on our continent are oppressive. This is with regard to representation, access to rights and opportunities and is that way in both omission and commission, the way it oppresses or fails to protect the rights of women and girls. We have made great progress and that is to be celebrated, but there is still a lot to be done.’’ Notes Nafula Wafula.

As the world is progressing on a daily basis, the question that every individual ought to ask themselves is, before calling out anybody, before having someone thrust out of social (Media) or professional circles online or in the real word, how true is their opinion and can you agree to disagree with them? And under what circumstance is it right to cancel someone?

NAFULA WAFULA is a fierce advocate for gender equality and human rights. She is also passionate about Pan-Africanism, youth empowerment and social justice. Currently, she is the Vice Chairperson for Policy and Advocacy at the Commonwealth Youth Council. She is also the programs director at Brydges Center, an organization that provides child rescue and protection services, education and economic empowerment to at risk youth and out of school girls.

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