A story in The Guardian, “Interview Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi: ‘Life is about making myth’,” has annoyed me. I first saw it when its link was shared on social media with the following comment extracted from it: “Feminism is failing to take hold in Uganda because of the discrepancy between middle-class and working-class women.”
I clicked on the link, read the story, and from it, I learnt that, apparently, in her book (I haven’t read it), Makumbi introduces the reader to “indigenous feminism.”
And I wondered, how then is “feminism failing to take hold in Uganda?” It is simply oxymoronic to assert so, when there is indigenous feminism in Uganda, which Makumbi introduces in her book. The recommendation: “If feminism isn’t making headway in Uganda, let’s go back and look at what our grandmothers left behind,” further incensed me.
To me, as a cultural anthropologist, feminism is feminism. It should be appreciated by understanding and equally elevating the central logical of it in different cultures. It turns out, seemingly, that the feminism in Makumbi’s book, which is alleged failing to take root in Uganda, is of the global-west.
Why should one even think about global-western feminism taking root in non-western cultures? Unless, of course, indigenous feminism of the first nations of Uganda, for example, are subjugated as not good enough; needing to be erased and replaced with exogenous global-western ones.
Seriously, if one does not want to sound or be culturally imperialistic, one should make the effort to understand the central logic of global-western feminism and that of the Iteso, my people, the firth largest first nation of Uganda; of the Baganda, Makumbi’s people, the largest first nation of Uganda; and so on; without creating an impression that there is a need for the central logic of feminism of one culture to take root in another’s cultural setting.
Makumbi’s use of a ‘class classification’ in order to carry her narrative, if that is what she does, is unhelpful for her book. ‘Class classifications’, particularly, as they are framed in the context of the global-west, often don’t fit in the context of our lived experience here in Uganda.
And really, why is it necessary for a ‘domestic worker’ in Uganda to overtly identify as a feminist? She doesn’t need to, as much as I don’t need to. In her actions and in my actions one can deduce if she or I are a feminist or not; or if they be male, one can identify if he is a feminist or not, through his actions. Here actions encompass words, as well.
But, make no mistake, the story in The Guardian contains sufficient ‘small untruths’, factoids really, that are intended to hook the audience of the global-west. Makumbi’s book will likely sell like hot-cakes in the global-west and it will be read from the perspective framed by the story in The Guardian. And that is what I find offensive.
I am disappointed in Makumbi for providing such content or if she didn’t for not rebutting the factoid laced story in The Guardian. And which story, by the way, has put me off reading Makumbi’s book, as it has had the same effect on other Ugandan women of my calibre that I know of.