To be active is to write a page of feminist history

Challenging the entrenched patriarchal power structure is no small undertaking. In fact, feminism, whose main project is to bring back a certain form of egalitarian balance, has been working on this for two and a half centuries, all over the world, occupying all fields of human activity. This activism is not without resistance to change in some men and, more paradoxically, in some women. This confrontation is expressed in an extremely violent way sometimes or more underhandedly and in low intensity, by a work of undermining of the self-esteem of the girls, from the youngest age, to extinguish in them all velleness of revolt against this absurd system of domination.

Black Africa is not exempt from these problems and the context adds additional difficulties such as: the precariousness of the most elementary human rights when they exist, a pressure of the religious and the traditional which always intervenes in the management of the affairs of the city, ethnicities and identity rivalries inherited from the pre-colonial or colonial times and not yet solved, material, technical and technological means well below the international standards etc. All of this contributes to finding creative and original ways of activism, but adds additional barriers and therefore a specific mental burden to those who fight for gender equality.

This external reality induces, at the inter-individual and intra-individual level, an obligation to spend energy in group structuring, discussions, preparation of actions, projects, information work, etc., which have a cost in terms of physical and mental health, particularly in terms of wear and tear. Moreover, taking feminist positions and trying to break out of bondage exposes activists to insults, taunts, isolation, stigmatization, predation, physical and sexual violence, institutional violence and deprivation of basic freedoms as retaliation, etc. All this with sometimes shifts and conflicts within the subject between the values he defends and the internal values that structure him and his identity and even sometimes sclerotize his thinking. Discrepancies and conflicts that the subjects try to resolve or for which they try to find waiting solutions by continuing the work of activism.

Listening and support services are still rare and the staff, when they are qualified, are sometimes very little qualified for these specific cases. In fact, psychology professionals are mainly trained to look for the conscious and unconscious motives of such and such problems within the subject. Less to validate the reality of systemic violence, to address the effects of the totalitarian patriarchal system on those who are daily victims of it, to question their own adherence as a subject or professional to this patriarchal system, to take into account activism and its repercussions on the subjects. It is therefore necessary to find caregivers who have been trained in various approaches and who are capable of putting their knowledge and skills into perspective and who, moreover, are “feminist friendly”. This social and institutional lack of support is superimposed on a crying lack of personal emotional support for the subjects and can expose them to isolation, loneliness, precariousness of the relational fabric, and even lead to the emergence of physical and psychological pathologies (burn-out, depression, more or less de-socializing anxiety disorders, etc.). In order to respond to these different levels of malaise, it is necessary to deploy all possible solidarities in positive and benevolent inter-individual or group experiences. However, it can be important to also have some space and time to yourself to refocus and sort out.

In this respect, writing can be an important support and an outlet that is sometimes therapeutic. Writing authorizes the motor discharge as well as the letting go by the very gesture of the trace dug in the paper or the coded signs on the computer. Writing allows one to take stock, to put into words one’s experiences (emotions, feelings, situations experienced…), to reappropriate parts of one’s history, one’s internal coherence, one’s continuity of existence. This activity gives voice to what may have been disqualified or could not be said due to lack of space or social censorship. It allows the subject’s lived experiences to be recaptured and, through the distancing operation that writing carries out, to be emptied, in whole or in part, of their negative or toxic valence and to be given another status. A different status than the aggressive or traumatic one they may have had at first, without denying it. To write is also to save oneself from the effects of confusion linked to the events experienced, to social injunctions incoherent with the values defended or the internal logic of the subject. It is a distancing and a possibility to depend on the bonds of control that we are not always aware of, in the dynamics of everyday relationships. The catharsis thus obtained makes it possible to alleviate the pains and often to release them. To say things, to write them down is already to transform them, to get out of the brutality of the event and also to make it possible to share one’s experiences. This aesthetic and aesthetic sharing, because sensual and creative, can be addressed to another or more than one other and receive an unexpected and benevolent group support, source of new personal transformations. This means is also the one to transmit a singular experience of its commitment, to spread ideas and to make emulators by rallying new individualities to these feminist movements. To be passers-by of evils to words is also a marvellous power to switch from the status of victim, locked up in the huis clos of violence sometimes, to subject of its own history, active and able to bring salutary changes to societies. The writing and its diffusion give the possibility, as here, to know that others are there, invisible but present by their writings on which to continue to advance. In this way, writing fosters the possibility of resilience.