Deirdre Byrne


Feminism is a word, a discourse and a political position that is frequently met with suspicion in African circles. There are various reasons for this distrust. Some (often those in disciplines that have proactively embraced decoloniality) hold that feminism is a western colonizing construct, which has been imposed on the country by imperialists. This response implicitly or explicitly accuses feminism of complicity with a colonizing agenda that desires the subordination of African epistemologies. Others equate a feminist political position with an uncritical anger and aggression towards men. They argue that, far from being antagonistic towards men, women need to make alliances with men in order to craft an inclusive and sustainable future for the African continent. In the light of these discursive and political contestations, this article argues that centring African feminisms is an important decolonial move. It brings to light the dangers of a universalizing view of African feminisms, noting that feminism in Africa, as in other contexts, is neither monolithic nor univocal. In this way, it aims to decolonize feminism in African contexts and to demonstrate that feminism has a significant role in contemporary African political and theoretical discourse. Finally, it suggests a response to African feminism – and African feminists – for white feminists based on solidarity, ally-hood and respect, arguing that such a response is important in the decolonial project.

Author Biography

Deirdre Byrne is at Department of English Studies, University of South Africa email: byrnedc@unisa.ac.za