When You Have a Woke, Feminist Brother

Letter to my baby sister and to all my sisters wherever you are in the world

Dear Raissa,
Yesterday, you turned twenty-two. Although this slight increase in age may mean nothing given that there’s a lot of fuss around being twenty-one (drinking alcohol, for starters), it may surprise you that I think twenty-two is an even arduous age to turn: you’re not exactly new to your twenties, and you’re not exactly old either. At twenty-one, twenty-five seems within reach; at twenty-two, it’s possible for you to stretch your arms into the ether of time and wonder:

Where will I be at twenty-five? What will I be doing?

It is so possible, in fact, that you may stretch even more and touch thirty, scream, then return to your new age with a new sense of urgency.

Or if you are like me, you may not.

Whether I want it or not, the way I was raised and the direction I took has affected your life and your own path. I will not watch idly as I see the fruit of my actions growing in a direction that my wind may have blown. The last thing I would wish for you, or anyone, is to walk a path I trod before.

I’ve paid the price for this.

Yes, there are things I think you can gain from me: we both love making things with our hands; I make words, and you make people’s features come to life. You ended up studying what I did at the undergraduate level, and even during the holidays, you spent a lot of time at the radio, just like I did. I am the first male child and you are the first female. In more ways than one, we are similar in our love for communication, interaction and people. It is this blood, our father’s quest for innovation and our mother’s natural trust, that has gotten us very far both in school and life.

But we could never be more different.

You may have heard about ‘strange’ things like patriarchy, feminism, the #metoo wind, domestic violence and a few other conversations which most people would rather not have. You may have been told that there is a way to act as a woman if you want to have a happy home. You may have been told that if you don’t behave in a certain way, if you don’t agree to have sex when you don’t want to, you may never have a boyfriend.

You may have been told that you would make an amazing housewife because of the way mummy raised you.

Mummy taught me how to cook, and clean, and wash my clothes. But you still do all better than I do because she paid special attention to her first daughter. You are my third sibling, but whenever we had holidays, you governed the kitchen and home. I had to take permission from you to seek food. You ran that house. For years, even before you became the gorgeous, chatty, rebellious, smart, stylish woman that you are turning into, Mummy made you the interim leader of the house.

Most men, like me, don’t see how hard it must have been for you to be the only one who could be trusted to do the difficult and time consuming chores. Most people, don’t think that when a woman does this for her house or kids, she should get any extra attention. In fact, in 2018, as a man, writing this, it will be said that I am not reasonable. Or rational. I will be asked to explain what I am insinuating.

This, dear sister, is glimpse of the difference between you and me in this world. A view I will fight till my dying breath because I think it robs you, and Mummy, and your sister, and all the women in my life of their very essence.

Sister, we live in a world where people who look like me wrestle you into submission and call it the way things should be. They have a fancy name for it: tradition.

No, wait — people who are male like me, but with another layer of privilege. I write this so that you will not be led by the zeitgeist. That you will not allow the modus operandi of the ‘youth’ claim your youth, while you let men like me write your future and dictate how much money you get to make, how you get to dress, who you get to love, the kind of work that you get to do, or worse, how you get to love.

If you ever hear anyone say “boys will be boys” as a lackadaisical explanation of poor human treatment from people like me, do not, my sister, do not let that slide. Because if Daddy thought that shoving you during our play time was a thing that boys did, and let it slide, that’s what I would have done.

If Mummy thought that boys shouldn’t know how to wash, cook, and clean for themselves, I would not have survived my time in the University — or life.

If I thought that women were de facto tools for sex and food, I would not have had the amazing friends and sisters who have stood by me, time and time again.

People like me, are meant to protect people like you. We are born with more muscle mass because, according to evolution, we had to fight lions and hunt for food to bring back home while you took care of our next generation and prepared the game we brought.

But, you may have noticed that some people stayed cavemen. I will never advice you to engage with them because these un-evolved apemen don’t have shame and don’t feel guilt of any sort. They often wear suits. They walk like us, talk like us, make use of their privilege and even have families. Many have PHDs in something. Some are even minsters. A good load are presidents.

But they never evolved.

They see lions in their wives. They see practice stands in other women and if they do not punch you physically, they will jab emotionally and fortify the glass ceiling where you work.

Sister, I want you to take a moment and think about this:

They look like me, but they don’t think like me. There are more like them, and there are more like me. And there are people who look like you, women, who behave like those people who look like me but don’t want the fairness that comes with humanity.

People should complement you. Not complete you. You’re already born whole and complete. You lack nothing. Give yourself as you are and receive those who care enough to do the same. But do not, ever, feel that you need anyone to be complete. Especially when it comes to love and friendships.

That is why we fight. That is why I write this. Because women, who look like you, and think like you, have been able to do more when the whole world said that they couldn’t because their place was in the kitchen, and that their only achievement in life was marriage and children.

Let me be clear, I don’t think you should go out of your way to become ambitious to prove a point to anyone. Be ambitious, because you are ambitious. Not because someone, or me, said that you should be. If you want to be a wife, a mother, take care of a loving home and are happy with it, that, my sister, is my dream:

That you do what feels right to you, and that brings you joy.

Because no matter how ambitious I may be, I will never carry a child in my body. That, in itself, is a gift people like me will never get to grant the world.

We were privileged to have loving, considerate parents who sent us to the most expensive schools, and sacrificed their own comfort to give us schooling. But that is not all there is about education.

My sister, you need to read oh! Read. Books are the gateway to the world beyond. Books are the way you fortify your existing strengths and discover parts of you that you didn’t know existed. Books are how you discover Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Maya Angelou, Winnie Mandela, and the host of people like you, who didn’t stop at anything, not even when people like me said they should.

Not even when people like you shamed them for trying to be ‘like men’.

Your twenties are a developmental uptime you can harness to become the person you want to be. You can start gaining the skills you want to have, and building the personality you want to have. You can start working in the direction of the career you may want to be in and try things in fields that pique your curiosity.

You only live once, but if you do it well, once is enough– Mae West

You are young, and fresh, and full of life. Our country is in turmoil and many things aren’t going the usual way. I hope you don’t let this hold you down and cast a shadow on your drive and send you spiraling down a path of hard return. If anything, I pray that you see the blessings in your life, the things to be grateful for and work to enhance these gifts for others.

I’ve always wanted you to start a business with your gifts, but if there’s one thing that I have learned from having the same blood as you, it is that you’ll do it when you want to do it, not when everyone wants you to, especially not me.

Dear sister, I wish you stay stubborn, stay happy and stay young in spirit. I wish you find God and have faith in His workings. I have seen His hand in my life and every day I smile at life. I wish you joy and many returns. We may not see each other in a very long time, but I have faith in you and I believe that you will work for the things you believe in and stand out amongst your peers — because we are all born with unique gifts and abilities.

No one can be youer than you — Dr. Seuss.

Your brother,

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.