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Too much peppering, too much sugaring: Dilemma of feminist activism

If you take too much pepper, what will happen to you?

Doctor: People tend to run , get diarrhoea.

And, if you take too much sugar?

Doctor: You put a lot of work on your pancreas. You are punishing your pancreas, you may get diabetics.

These days pepper and sugar connote more than just taste. It has found a place in Ghanaian gender discursive formation. The recent momentum in the feminist activism gained national attention when a group of young women calling themselves PepperDem Ministry stormed social media and lately on radio and television with sharp, cutting, and radical approach for gender equality and identity. One of their aims is to flip traditional gendered roles and narratives. This they do by “pouring pepper” on toxic narratives that in their view perpetuate female subjugation.

But the high-flying activism suffered a set back, so many think when a patron suggested cooking may amount to slavery. It has been canvassed, the comment may have been taking out of context.

With this labour was birthed a new group-SugarDem Ministry, the opposite of Pepper Dem. Convinced that the activism of Pepper will cause disharmony at home and in the society, this movement believes equality must be subjected to nature and biology. Their modus operandi is to “sugar” men to get what they want.They intend to pour sugar on these narratives instead of pepper.

This feminism casting in the Ghanaian media landscape appears like a reenactment of the gender struggle in the 70s and 80s between Feminists (radical feminists properly so called) and Womanists.

Feminism on the one hand refers to issues based activism interested in destroying the patriarchal system of power that divides society on the basis of traditional gender roles. It often considers men as enemies of women.

READ: Feminism or womanism in Ghana

Eliminating male control and superiority entitlement is the only way to bring about equality and identity. For instance, why should a female carry the name of the father or husband, male entitlement over a female body, why must cooking be the preserve of women, why should male counterparts earn more than females. There are other forms of narratives that despise unmarried women/single women or women without children. The nuances in some of the narratives can be so subtle that it can easily be glossed over.

For example it is always the woman who is tagged as a prostitute or husband snatcher if seen in the company of a man who is not her husband. Many feminists do not subscribe to religious doctrines and teachings. For instance many see the Bible as one instrument used to perpetuate female subjugation for centuries.

Womanism, on the other hand, is a social framework that separates itself from feminism, celebrates womanhood and aims at achieving and maintaining an inclusive culture in all societies. Womanism recognizes nature and biology as dictating the gender roles of men and women. Many Womanists are usually religious. For Christians or moslems, they believe in the principle that the man is the head, the woman must submit to the man. Their creed reads in part;

“We love men. We like being women. We love children. We like being mothers. We value life. We have faith in God and the Bible. We want families and harmonious relationships. We are not at war with our men seeking money, power and influence through confrontation”.

In the19 60s and 1970s these two groups did have a go at each other. At a point the inter-group antagonism lent credence to the old adage that women are their own enemies. But this was the nuance; the feminists were mostly elite white women and the womanists were mostly black women who faced oppression and discrimination at work compared to their white female colleagues. They are rejected the treatment of black men as subordinates to white women. Despite the duel, the success or benefits that came by way of recognition of women rights and right to identity like right to vote, equal pay, right to carry your own name among others have been share by all. Sometimes I wonders if women opposed to a more radical feminism activism would want to decline such benefits!

On Ghana’s social media landscape, this struggle appears to have re enacted itself. This time there are no white women but black women who subscribe to the ideals of feminism (PepperDem) as against black women whose idles and approach matches that of Womanists or at best Liberal Feminists ( SugarDem). There are still black men but the solidarity is with the men who have been sprayed with PEPPER.

The perception of many is that PepperDem is creating enmity between men and women, breeding women to be arrogant and controlling in the home, getting women to abandon their “call role and here the presumption is inclusive of cooking and taking care of the man as the head of the home.

For the sugarDems, there’s too much pepper. Instead of pepper women should “sugar” their men to get what they want. They accept the ma has a special place at home and society as the head. There are certain roles only men can perform and that order must be respected and complimented by the woman. They see PepperDem as the over otherness of the female other.

However, PepperDem may say, until there is enough pepper, “the oppressor” meaning the MAN is unwilling to simply let go the ego/superiority mentality.

But in all of this, the real beneficiaries have been MEN.

Truth be told rarely have I ate a food that has both Pepper and Sugar, its either you want to pepper it or you want to add sugar.

But like my doctor adiviced, there are consequences for too much of each of them.

By Sammy Darko| Journalist|Lawyer|Lecturer at UPSA.

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