Being an activist is to write a page in the history of feminism

Challenging the deeply rooted patriarchal structure of power is not an easy task. In fact, feminism, whose main aim is to bring back some form of egalitarian balance, has been working for two and a half centuries, all over the world, in all fields of human activity. This activism is not without resistance to change in some men and women, more paradoxically. This confrontation is expressed in an extremely violent way sometimes or more sly and in low intensity, by a work of undermining the self-esteem of girls, from an early age, to extinguish in them all voices of revolt against this absurd system of domination. 

Black Africa does not escape these problems and the context adds additional difficulties such as: the precarious status of the most basic human rights when they exist, pressure from religious and traditional actors that always intervene in the management of social affairs; ethnicities and identity rivalries inherited from the pre-colonial or colonial eras and that are not yet resolved; material, technical and technological means well below international standards, etc. All this will help to find, of course, creative and original ways of campaigning, but adds additional barriers and therefore a mental burden specific to those who struggle for gender equality.

This external reality induces, among and within individuals, an obligation to spend energy in structuring groups, discussions, preparing actions, projects, information, etc. This has a cost in terms of physical and mental health, particularly in terms of wear and tear. In addition, asserting feminist positions and trying to get out of enslavement expose women activists to insults, being taunted, isolation, stigma, predations, physical and sexual violence, institutional violence and deprivation of fundamental freedoms, among other things, as retaliatory measures. All this happens with sometimes internal shifts and conflicts between the values that one defends and the internal values that structure one’s identity, sometimes paralyses one’s thinking. These are gaps and conflicts that subjects try to resolve or for which they try to find temporary solutions by pursuing activist work.

Listening and support spaces remain infrequent, and staff, when qualified, are sometimes too few for these specific cases. Indeed, at the core, psychics professionals are mainly trained to search within subjects the conscious and unconscious motives of some problems. They are less inclined to validate the reality of systemic violence, to deal with the effects of the totalitarian patriarchal system on those who are victims of it daily, to question their own status as a subject or professional to this patriarchal system, to take into account activism and its repercussions on subjects. On the one hand, caregivers have been trained in various approaches and who are able to put their knowledge and skills into perspective and, moreover, are “feminist friendly”. This social and institutional underpinning is superimposed by a crying lack of personal emotional support to subjects and can expose them to isolation, loneliness, precarious social relationships, and lead to physical and psychic pathologies (burn-out, depression, anxiety disorders that more or less reduce social interactions etc.). To meet these different levels of lack of well-being, it is necessary to employ more solidarity in positive and benevolent interindividual or group experiences. However, it may be important to have space and time to refocus and choose.

In this writing can be an important medium and an outlet that sometimes turns out to be therapeutic. Writing allows one to discharge as well as to let go by the very gesture of the trace dug in the paper or coded signs on the computer. Writing allows us to take stock, to put in word one’s experiences (lived emotions, feelings, situations,…), to reclaim aspects of one’s history, internal coherence, and continuity of existence. This activity gives voice to what may have been disqualified or could not be said because of lack of space or due to social censorship. It makes it possible to re-establish the experiences of the subject and by the operation of distancing, which the writing operates, to empty them, in whole or in part, of their negative or toxic valence and to give them another status. This is a status other than the aggressive or traumatic status they may have had at first, without denying it. Writing is also to save oneself from the effects of confusion related to events they experienced, social injunctions inconsistent with the values they defended or the internal logic of the subject. It is about taking some distance and an opportunity to depend on the links that we do not always know, in the dynamics of everyday relations. The cleansing thus obtained allows to soothe the pain and often to free oneself from it. To say things, to write them is already transforming them, is to get out of the brutality of the event and it is also to make one’s experiences shareable. This aesthetic, sensual and creative sharing can be addressed to one or more people and receive an unexpected and benevolent group support, which is a source of new personal transformations. It is also the means to convey a unique experience of one’s commitment, to disseminate ideas and make imitations by bringing new individualities together with these feminist movements. Transforming bad things into words is also a wonderful power of rocking the status of victim, locked in closed doors of violence sometimes about one’s own history. It is active and capable of bringing beneficial changes to societies. Writing and its dissemination gives the possibility as here, to know that others are there, invisible but present through their writings on which one relies to continue to advance. Writing promotes opportunities for resilience.

Khaïra Thiam

Khaïra Thiam

Clinical Psychologist

Individual Giving

Our core duty is to foster solidarity among all Africans and we do that by hosting and co-creating events, key actions, and campaigns. We are constantly working to amplify our efforts and impact, but we can only do that with your support. Please donate to Africans Rising so that together we can build the #AfricaWeWant.
Invisibles Giants Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>