Guest blog: PROGRESSIVE AND BALANCED MINDS by Nigel D.N

A view from a progressive and balanced male mind point of view.

Progressive – Promoting or favouring progress towards improved conditions or new policies, ideas or methods. ²A person who actively favours or strives for progress towards improved conditions, as in SOCIETY or government. (English Dictionary)

Balanced – Containing elements in appropriate proportion, proportionately weighted on all dimensions and therefore unlikely to tip over (English Dictionary), without one side benefiting more than the other

However I chose to define Progressive as promoting, favouring and striving for progress towards the total leveling, equaling and fairness in the conditions that affect males and females across all divides that be in the society, at work or in the church and at home.

So the whole definition of Progressive and Balanced Mind from me would be – Minds promoting, favouring and striving for progress towards the total leveling, equality and fairness in the conditions that affect males and females across all divides without favouring any particular gender (However keeping in mind the duty of the present man in correcting the misdeeds of the yesterday man)

A whole separate group of people might say “well bud a progressive and balanced minded person must surely be a feminist”, well guess what, you are soo sooo sooooo much right. As the correct definition of a feminist is “A social theory or political movement which argues that legal and social restrictions on women must be removed in order to bring about EQUALITY of both sexes in all aspects of private and public life” – (English Dictionary) And the unfortunate decide to define feminism as “a radical group of women (mostly single, unmarried and  bitter) fighting to own the world” The misconception and wrong definitions have been spewed by both genders, hence so much has to be done to educated the present people on the real feminism. Accepted well there are so many magazines and blogs including this one trying to teach and open eyes on feminism and tearing down the gender divide. Feminism isn’t a competition of the genders NO!!! Although a healthy competition is good for progress and development it should never be regarded as a competition but rather from the correct definition as the balancing of opportunities for both genders. If you want to call it a competition then level the playing ground and let the games begin. However I feel the target people the majority of people who are ignorant to this particular topic don’t even use the social media, internet or even have access to magazines. In a post I read on this blog the writer was saying that it’s too late to try and educate the older generation but after going through a long time of analysing how we can achieve progressive and balanced minds, I remembered that this older generation are the ones we send our children to and they spend most of their time with them and their ideologies are rubbed onto the young children easily hence the need of educating everyone this would be very difficult but we would be no different from the previous “oppressors” if we don’t try to make them see how a change of mind, perception can culture a beautiful tomorrow, with fairness and equality an order of business rather than a favour or quota given to a specific gender.

A little background on me, I come from a family (extended) with a lot of female children coincidentally I have uncles and aunts who are very much progressive. I would never imagine a world in which my female cousins were disadvantaged by the divide of the sexes and to the limitations imposed on what females should do career wise. The world would have minus one Operations Research and Statistician, we wouldn’t have an engineer and certainly we would have lost out on having that tough and law keeping police officer. All those opportunities if taken away from any of my female cousins, it would have created a gap and certainly a fissure and weakness in the structure. And also we would have lost out on having a Biotech Scientist in the Editor and owner of this blog. And you, the reader think of yourself, your close female scientist friend or relative, your very own trusted female doctor they all wouldn’t be there if they had not had a progressive and balanced minds behind them to make them realise their interest, curiosities and dreams! Hence the need for an up rise of Progressive and Balanced minds from both genders.

On a larger scale had there been not a few progressive and balanced minds from Madame Marie Sktodowska (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) Curie’s era in the 19th and 20th century we would not have an X Ray and whilst on this point think of how many times X Rays have been used to save a lot of lives. That is how much a gap and weakness in structure it would have caused in the world. She is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and also the first person to win it twice, not just twice but twice in two different science fields – (Wikipedia). This is what happens when we level the playing field. She was also the first female professor, now think of how many great scientists (male and female) who were tutored by her. There is ton lots of females that have done equally greater and better given same opportunities with their male counterparts.

In conclusion, as a young man hoping to be a dear father to children (daughters and sons), I want to give equal opportunities, support them according to their interests and curiosities, tearing down gender divides and standards set already by letting them chose for their own, regardless the field being predominantly female or male.

Nigel D.N (2019)

THE GENDER GAP

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FEMINISIM

  • “The movement that seeks to place women above men and trample men into the dirt” ( Urban Dictionary, 2008, no pagination)
  • “The belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes” ( Brunell, no pagination)

When I uploaded my first post, Women Up, the feedback that I got from the people was quite interesting because for the same writing everyone had something different to say and sometimes contrary to each other. Most people were on board with what I had written, they thought I was making valid points and that it really was time for women to Women Up. Granted the gender that mostly held this view was female however I did get some positive feedback from some males. One female told me that my post had not been feminist enough and one of my male friends said that it had been too feminist, aggressive even.

Maya Angelou said, “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” People who are against feminism will try to manipulate this statement and claim that there is some sort of bias in this belief of feminism and that it is just a guise for women to gain more rights than men. Why is feminism so controversial though? What is it that we fear so much that we won’t allow it? Is it because of the term it self since it stems from the word female?

I actually do not know when I became a feminist. I was never aware of the fact really. I remember last year in matric, for English we had to do a prepared speech on social problems. Initially I wanted to do a speech on informal settlements because I had done something similar in Geography. In my preparation I realized that I did not have enough content and so I googled for possible topics and for some unknown reason I chose Gender Equality. In the process of gathering the information I can not really say that I had an epiphany or anything like that. After I had presented my speech a classmate asked me if I was a feminist. I knew I had heard that word somewhere before but I never knew what it meant. what I knew was that I was for gender equity. I said no, an answer that when I finally learnt what feminism, I wished to retract. You see, after hearing the word an ignorant me had assumed that she meant that I believed women were superior to men. Which leads me to my next question, should this term be changed to be more inclusive and to sound less lopsided. To answer this I would like to quote from Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

‘Why [FEMINIST]? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that? Feminism is, of course, a part of human rights in general but to choose to use the VAGUE expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.It would be a way of pretending that it was not [WOMEN] who have for centuries, been excluded It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human but about being a [FEMALE HUMAN]. For centuries the world divided human beings into [TWO GROUPS] and then proceeded to [EXCLUDE] and [OPPRESS] one group. It is only [FAIR] that the solution to the problem acknowledges that..” (2014, p. 16)

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Feminism has been misunderstood by most people, I do not know whether to say it is ignorance or simply being misinformed. I feel the greatest disservice that has been done to the movement is having a misandrist ( a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against men ) claim to be feminist. I am in no way faulting them , I believe that they too do not understand the truth of what they are advocating for. One can not claim to be a feminist and hate men or try to make women above men. As a feminist I thrive for equality between the sexes. Equality in every sense of the word and in every area of society.

Some people think that when we advocate for equality and woman empowerment we mean that women should now take over the roles of men. Ancient society was built on the bases of survival, men and women were assigned to different roles in order to enhance the chances of survival of the offspring. Even biologically our metabolism is specialized differently for survival of the species. For example in males wounds heal faster than in females, estrogen causes wounds to heal slower (Research gate, 2006, no pagination) and ” [m]en…are more burdened by illnesses during their life…and have more chronic illnesses than women…” All the differences that exist in men and women are simply for survival. If the father has an illness the mother will quickly recover and be able to look after the offspring and the same applies when the mother gets hurt.

However in modern society we have completely misunderstood these differences. If you were to look at males and females the main differences would be in our genes, hormones, anatomy, behavior and ultimately psychologically. “Boys and girls are naturally different but socialization exaggerates the difference” Men are naturally stronger than women, they are bigger, run faster, can lift heavier things generally men stand a better chance in a fight with women. There hasn’t however been any evidence to prove that gender has an effect on a person’s intellectual ability. So much attention has been focused on how weak women are physically as compared to men, so what they’re not physically strong?. When it comes to health men are the weaker sex throughout life (Health Harvard, 2019, no pagination). I do not see anyone constantly pointing that out. Yes men are stronger but that is so that they can protect us as women and ultimately our offspring and not for them to attack us and use this to claim superiority.

One thing that I have come to realize is that it is not only us women who suffer the consequences of gender, “…refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men- such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men” (WHO, no pagination), but men too. Although they have been given the upper hand, not everything is rosy for them either. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they are fighting their own battled but because society has taught them be strong and not curve into any emotion, they take whatever abuse that we subject them to, yes even us females are capable of being on the giving end. Another famous quote from Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie “…but by making them [males] feel they have to be hard – is that we leave them with very [FRAGILE EGOS]. The harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is..]

The more I try to analyze and understand Gender Inequality the more I realise that it is the ‘root of all evil’. So many evils that we are fighting as a society and there seems to be no clear cut answer. Issues like gender based violence. Presently South Africa is experiencing a ‘surge’ of gender based violence and femicide. I refuse to call this a surge because I don’t think there has been a rise in such occurrences but that women are finally finding their voices. Rape used to be a thing that was swept under the carpet, if parents found out that their daughter was raped they’d keep it under wraps just to avoid being “embarrassed”. For a long time rape was a woman’s fault. Former Zimbabwean first lady publicly said that women wouldn’t be raped if they didn’t wear revealing clothes. Our female ancestors used to walk bare chested so what do you have to say about them, were they also asking to raped?, or was something wrong with the men then? or is there something wrong with the men now? If the first lady of a country says such a thing then it must be right and so women kept quiet for fear of being judged of being asked’ ” what were you doing there”, “Why did you use that road”? e.t.c.

“We teach girls shame. Close your legs. cover yourself. We make them feel as if though by being female, they are already guilty of something” but we turn a blind eye when it comes to boys’ behavior and see them as naturally sexual beings. It takes two to have sex so I wonder how that’s supposed to work out. Oh wait I know, women are supposed to say no and men are supposed to take forcefully because they are entitled. Men and women have been taught that women are subordinate to men. Because of these “fragile egos” when a woman says no to a man then they feel disrespected somehow less of a man. So they use the next weapon that they have been taught, ” women are weak and men are strong” and resort to violence, rape.

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If only when it came to gender we would focus less on physical strength but on other things too, like intellect, creativity and individuality. In fact let us not focus on gender at all. When asked to write down the kind of world I would like to see when it comes to gender I said “A GENDER BLIND SOCIETY” Not meaning to say that we should completely overlook gender but when it comes to opportunities and everything do not look at the person’s gender and completely judge them on it. So many women capable of greatness but are not being given the time of day. Will you please give us a hearing.

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Back to my introduction. When I finally realised that I was a feminist I went out and read up on it and I was hooked. I will try to make anyone who listens believe in feminism because “We should all be feminists”. I always love to debate with people on the issue in the hope that like myself they’ll “see the light” but it almost never works out this way. Most people usually argue against feminism by saying , ” simply because”, “society”, it is our culture”. I on the other always try to present the “facts”, statistics, what I and other females I know have been through. There’s this one friend of mine that always like to engage me on this topic. He doesn’t believe in equality at all, he believes women are meant to be governed by men. He goes on to say that the issue about the wage gap between men and women is justified. He claims to have read an article that explained why women are paid less than men. According to him, it argued that men are generally paid more because men are more willing to dedicate their lives to their jobs than women are. I said to him, well that’s good. Even I as an employer would kill for somebody like that but that is only because of his dedication and not that he is male. Secondly it doesn’t explain the reason behind the gender gap, if we are both doing our jobs well and you choose to go the extra mile that might I add is not required of you, why would I earn less than you.

His argument really didn’t hold any water but still he remained adamant that there was no gender bias in the working area. I then came to learn of what’s called Confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. In simpler terms we tend to quickly accept whatever we already believe in. One thing that I ask of all males is, “try to put yourself in our shoes”, that are very tiny might I add. His other argument was that women are not being oppressed. Is oppressed to strong a word. Maybe because of our view on oppression due to our history of being colonies we have this radical understanding of what oppression is. Yes, women aren’t directly told that, “you won”t do this”, no. Society is so against the empowerment of females so much that these messages are implicitly conveyed to us. The world tells you what you can and cannot do. Invisible boundaries are engraved into our schema- a mental structure of preconceived ideas. Teach your young girls that the sky is the limit, that the world is their oyster in the same way that you teach boys. “Do not ever tell her that she should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never reason enough” ( Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie)

Stop teaching girls to be more aware of their outward appearance. We make them care about superficial things, beauty is only but skin deep. There is more to females. Let’s not teach them slender waists, shapely breasts and firm buttocks. Girls starve themselves, tease each other and some suffer from depression because of this narrow minded view of beauty. As long as you’re healthy then you are perfect. We as women should not conform to these oppressive definitions of beauty. Beauty lies within you, your mind, your radiant personality, that is what should matter. You will never fit into this tiny box they want you to fit into. When you conform to their narrow minded perceptions of beauty and “sexy”, they call you slay queen.

‘DON’T BE PRETTY BE BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE BEAUTY IS IN THE SOUL’

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Women have been turned into sex objects. Advertisers using women’s bodies to advertise their products just because sex sells. Music producers using naked women to sell music videos. You can hardly ever see a man’s body being defiled and degraded in that manner. Now our bodies have been stripped of their dignities. The message is loud and clear, women are sexual objects meant to satisfy your sexual pleasures and fantasies. Currently society is ridden by the plague of prostitution, women’s bodies have been degraded to mere commercial products and a price has been put on them. Not to say there is no male prostitution, it is there but for some reason it is more appalling than a woman selling her body for money.

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LET US TEACH THEM AMBITION instead. We should stop teaching girls that marriage is an achievement. Let marriage be as it shoukd be, two people finding companionship in each other. We should not teach our girls to aspire for it. From birth girls are being trained to be wives, cooks, cleaners, and if a woman is not able to do these things then she is deemed to be a failure.

We fear change, that is understandable but we can not keep sacrificing the happiness of our females just so we can stay in our comfort zone. My statistics lecturer once said during a lecture that the divorce rate has gone up and that is because women are more financially independent and can afford to walk out of an unhappy abusive relationship. Nothing wrong with what he said, but how he said it was. He was insinuating that this unstable society with dying relationships is the fault of women. In the opinion of the older generations, society is dying. How many more women have to be bashed, to lose their lives at the ends of our partners before we see how wrong we have been? ” A divorced daughter is better than a dead daughter” (Ngwenya, 2019)

I always argue with my grandfather on this issue. He believes that a woman is not worthy of respect. He say that an unmarried woman or a divorcee can never be respected in society. That a home without a man will be disrespected and defiled. Why? only because there is no male. Don’t I by the virtue of being human deserve respect. Something has got to give. Nelson Mandela says that, “As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half itself, it is doomed for failure”.

Some will argue that it is our culture, that is how things are supposed to be. Logically the strongest and wisest person is supposed to lead and so men have led. How that made women subjects and of a lower status than men I am still to understand. If it is our culture that teaches us to abuse and maltreat women is it not time that we changed our culture. When you watch black panther you will see that Wakanda has an all female army,it was actually inspired by a real life all woman army in Africa ‘chosen for their incredible ability to beat up men’. The Dahomey or the Dahomey Amazons of the kingdom of Dahomey- now known as the modern day Republic of Benin ( The Sun, 2018, no pagination). So then how is it our culture, however there’ll still be people that will argue that there aren’t from their culture is different. African history hasn’t really been documented since writing hadn’t began before colonization, only a few cave paintings exist, so there are still pieces missing from our history (Sturtevant, 2017, no pagination). Virtually most of our history was lost. So what if we have this thing all wrong, just what if?

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As the world entire battles gender based violence and femicide can we look towards FEMINISM for a possible solution.

I realize I wouldn’t be a true feminist if I went on and on about females and their oppression but to have written about the woes of men and women together would have taken away the much needed attention to either of the sexes. Gender is quite a complex and controversial issue to, one that cannot be fully discussed and resolved in one post. So help me as I try unpack the other half of society, MALES in the second part of this piece. In the meantime I wish for both parties to think critically on this issue, try and put aside all biases and try to understand our females more.

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REDEFINE SOCIAL STRUCTURES

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The last time I posted about social normalization, which is defined as the process through which ideas and behaviors that may fall outside of social norms come to be regarded as “normal“. But then I got to thinking, it is these very norms that hold us in bondage. Gender roles do not fall outside social norms rather they are social norms. The question is however what is it that we define as normal?

If so then isn’t it time we question these norms. I’m in awe of the hold that society has on us but then the funny thing is that society constitutes of us. If we aren’t happy with these ancient norms then why not simply reform? Simple, it is not that easy. To try and oust century long ideological beliefs that we ourselves were brought up in sounds near impossible. However if we push to educate our children and pave for them a new way then we will slowly get there. Change is gradual and I have come to realize the reason why feminism is so largely frowned upon is that it sounds so radical. Complete Gender Equity will not be realized today, neither are we going to live to see it but the future might. Only if we start striving for it now.

To challenge the only thing that a person has ever known and try to convince them to all of a sudden start seeing things differently is in my opinion futile. I get so frustrated when I try discussing gender equity with ‘adults’, no matter how much I back up my claims they will always ‘stick to what they know’. I myself cannot claim to be completely unaffected by social conventions. I however recognize how completely wrong this is and my wish is for our generation to also make this realisation.

Going back to my earlier posed question. ‘What is it that we define as normal?’

It has been observed that there has been a ‘steady rise in IQ scores across generations that cannot be explained genetically ‘. IQ is not only the potential a person is born with, but an indication of a person’s developed “intelligence” by the time he is evaluated, after being exposed to the influences of his first years of life. This then shows that the way that life influences us has also changed. This I believe is the reason why we are at loggerheads with the way things are in the way that we live. The cultures of the past generations, the way they governed themselves, their education systems, all these things we have reformed to suit us, Why can’t the same be done with the gender roles that they established.

As African we are proud of our culture, it makes us who we are. I am equally proud of my culture and where I come from. Culture has been one of the greatest contributor to gender inequality. I am not saying that we should discard our culture, No. However something has got to change, refusing change is the main reason why we as the black community will not progress. If something no longer works for you, you either replace it with a new and better version or you improve it to meet your expectations. As is with our culture, we need to improve on grey areas such as the treatment of female children. Being female isn’t cause for exclusion.

SOCIAL NORMALIZATION

‘Studies have shown that patients are more likely to consider doctors more trustworthy and knowledgeable if they are wearing the traditional white coat over formal clothing’.

I once came across an advert for a detergent that read , ‘Your house wife in a bottle’. If you ask me I’d say this advert had the exact same effect on it’s target market. I doubt that the majority of the people found anything wrong with it rather they found it quite befitting. A stroke of genius if you ask me who wouldn’t want to have their very own housewife in a bottle.

Normalization: ‘social normalization, is the process through which ideas and behaviors that may fall outside of social norms come to be regarded as “normal“‘

Such stereotypes towards women have become an engraved part of society so much so that we do not see anything wrong with such adverts. We have come to associate basic house hod chores with females to such an extent that we would trust the efficiency of our house hold products through their being likened to a house wife. Imagine it had went something like ‘Your husband in a bottle’, I doubt it’d have been approved, talk less of attracting customers.

Ever noticed how a lot of household products like dish washing liquids, washing powder, bleach, down to commodities like bread generally use women to advertise their products. Everything that we watch on television, see on social media continue to indoctrinate these society forged gender roles. Our female children automatically pick up an interest in domestic chores and start envisioning themselves as wives and mothers. They are made to play with dolls, cutlery whilst their male peers play with toy cars, tools e.t.c. Gender roles become embedded into their subconscious at a very young age, before they even have an understanding of the world they already hold a certain perception concerning gender roles.

So yesterday my grandparents made a remark towards my younger brother because he always has cereal instead of a proper meal. They said that, and this is a direct translation, ‘ If you don’t eat then you won’t become a strong boy’. If he cries then he’s told that a boy isn’t allowed to cry and that if he does then the other kids will laugh at him. The male child is made to believe that he is supposed to be tough and not show any weakness, you’d think they’re being trained for some war. Not only are girls taught their place in the world but so are boys. As they witness the upbringing of their female counterparts they also learn how females are supposed to be treated. And so the hierarchy of the sexes is realized.

I for one do not remember any of those remarks being made at me while I was growing up. All I heard was ‘munhu wemsikana haafanirwi ku…’ which is Shona for ‘a girl child is not supposed to’. It was all about what I could not do by virtue of being female or ‘as a girls child you’re supposed to’. It was as if I was handed a ‘THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF BEING FEMALE’ manual. Girls being told not play with boys because they’re rough and that we might get hurt. From a young age we’re taught to fear males and the harm they can inflict on us and so we always give in to them.

Gender roles have been normalized beyond normalization itself because real distinction between what is true and what is not has been blurred. Thus I find myself torn as I write this, are we trying to invalidate our way of being or we have been blinded by social norms so we can conform??…..

Why Women UP

More often that not we have heard the remark ‘ Man up’ as if insinuating that there is strength in being a man. If a man shows any sign of weakness then they are told to stop being a woman, a whoose, a sissy and so on. These foul words depicting weakness are used in the same context with the word women so does this infer that women are weak?. Why? Does our nature of openly showing our emotions spell weakness for you? Is it because we’ve been quiet for so long, taken the back seat and let you lead like the ‘head’ you claim to be?

I beg to differ, women are powerful. To that woman that has raised her children all on her own, that woman that has picked up the pieces after being broken by a man, that woman who has been brain washed to believe that she’ll never amount to anything, that woman that has been abused time and again without any vindication. For all these women, I asy Women Up

I recently attended a workshop with a the Gender Reconciliation Organization and I realized how I held this narrow minded view of Gender Equality and mostly gender oppression. I then decided to make some additions to my alterations post.

Yes it is true that women have for the longest time been oppressed by the patriarchal society and still are in the modern world. Many young women stuck in the villages making fire, fetching water and whatever is the narrow minded view of a female’s place in a home.

What is gender? Well Google says that, “Gender is the state of being male or female in relation to the social and cultural roles that are considered appropriate for men and women.” What I have deduced from this that Gender is something that has been hand crafted by society. It is something that we have normalized and used to box in the different sexes. Not only females have fallen prey to this.

Many females have failed to execute their dreams and ultimately their life’s purpose because of this social plague. Girls that have denied any form of education because they were only groomed for marriage. Families that have deemed educating a female child as a waste of time because heyy “she’ll get married and leave this family anyway”. Is her XX genotype cause for her suffering.