Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how Gaby and I met. However, we’ve known each other for a while now and she is one of the most beautiful souls with so much knowledge instilled in her. So yes, Gaby is definitely a part of this series!
(LJS) Hey Gaby! How are you?
(GG) Hey Laila! I’m good thanks – really excited to be a part of this!
(LJS) I’m excited for YOU to be a part of this!
What does being a 21st century woman mean to you?
(GG) It means being blessed to live in a time of immense progress. The past 200 years have seen development in leaps and bounds, and we’re making dizzying changes every day: attitudes, technology, rights. Like, did you know that sociologists have found that even the invention of the washing machine contributed to female empowerment? The thing is, the progress hasn’t been universal, and there are still so many forces trying to remove the freedoms to shape our own lives. It’s a bit of a weird experience.
(LJS) That’s very well said. What barriers have you faced as a woman today?
(GG) Only really the ones created by society’s expectations: the incompatibility between what I’m told that a woman should be, and the choices I want to make. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I grew up in a society where women were relatively privileged, so I don’t think I’m doing anything too spectacular. The strong women are those pushing against barriers by literally existing.
(LJS) Do you recognize yourself as a feminist? If so, what type of feminist are you?
(GG) Honestly, I still find it odd when people ask this question. To me it’s a no brainer: I’m a woman, so I’m a feminist. I’m a human, so I’m a feminist. The sky is blue, bees make honey… That’s how the world is. Why would I not support gender equality?
(LJS) You just took the words out of my mouth. My exact reaction whenever I’m asked the same thing.
(GG) That’s not to say that I’m a strict believer in everything that 21st century feminism stands for. I recognize myself as an intersectional feminist, because I feel that – putting it bluntly – the mainstream has always been a platform for middle class white women. There’s an entire spectrum of experiences and oppressions that exist within the hierarchies of the sexes, and I feel that one of the huge fall-backs of the mainstream is that it leaves the rest of us behind. I’ll probably be crucified for this, but I also think sometimes that we need to try stripping back and remember where feminism’s foundations lie. Arguments about body hair and freeing menstruation are important, but they’re only sub-parts of the central movement: the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. We won’t all agree on the peripherals, but I think we need to remember to cement ourselves in that central aim.
(LJS) I’m an intersectional feminist too. Several women in society are stuck in an intersectional system of oppression that we have to firstly dissect and then eradicate. I don’t actually believe that one can say they’re a feminist if they’re not an intersectional feminist. When did you first recognize the fact that gender inequality exists?
(GG) I actually wasn’t explicitly aware of it for a long, long time. I mean, I went to football camp and noticed I was the only girl there, but I put it down to the fact that my friends just didn’t like football. I think I was enormously sheltered because my Dad is a man that’s far from intimidated by strong women: he values them. He challenged his four daughters to be the best, and our gender was never a barrier. To this day, he expects a politician, psychologist, author, and Olympian to buy him sports cars when he retires.
Then I got older, and started studying gender inequality at school. At church, I’d get into arguments when I was told that gender roles were designed and willed by God. A guy I was seeing, told me that if we got married, he’d expect me to do the cooking-and-cleaning, submit-to-your-husband thing. Although gender inequality had surrounded me my entire life, it took until I was 15 or 16 to see it in its true, all-singing, all-dancing form.
(LJS) It’s crazy how the topic of playing male dominated sports has come up in at least half of the interviews I’ve held for this so far. It’s a serious issue especially within schools when you’re made to feel like you can’t play football or basketball or whatever it is because you’re a woman. And if you do, you’re laughed at, insulted and used for banter. When you’re faced with barriers because of your gender, how do you overcome them?
(GG) I’m one hell of a Capricorn, meaning I love proving people wrong when they assume I’m not capable of something I want. There’s been no inspirational formula to overcoming my barriers: it literally comes down to brute stubbornness. I’m not expected to be financially independent, so I am. I’m meant to be ashamed of my body and sexuality, so no way. I’ll be in politics, married and a mum at the same time – and I really hope someone tells me that I shouldn’t or can’t, because it’ll be so much more satisfying in the end.
(LJS) My thoughts exactly! What is your greatest achievement so far?
(GG) Dating a Yoruba man and surviving… No, I think my greatest achievement is getting to where I am right now. I’m studying a subject I love, investing in my future, pushing AYAL to the next level… As of yet, there’s not really an achievement that stands out above the others, just goals I’ve set and reached – but ask me again in a couple of years.
(LJS) LOOL at Dating a Yoruba man and surviving!!!!! That’s great though – you’re at the University of Manchester right?
(GG) Haha! Yes I am.
(LJS) That’s brilliant. So what does “The Future is Female” mean to you?
(GG) In a word: empowerment. It means a world where ‘woman’ is acceptable and equal, not subordinated, quietened, or seen as a threat. It’s not dragging down men because we believe that women are superior: but it’s time to focus on the female because there isn’t yet an equality of status or opportunity. “The Future is Female” means empowering the woman until the thing hindering her achievement isn’t her gender, it’s the scope of how far she believes she can go.
Gaby is the Social Media Officer for the University of Manchester’s Aspiring Young African Leaders Society – a platform created this year to debate Africa’s issues and opportunities. She is currently working on #NOSUGARNOCREAM, a campaign that launches today to challenge trends of colorism and skin-bleaching in the African community. In the meantime she’s studying Politics and International Relations, with a future aim to work in politics and development in Côte d’Ivoire.