For some time now I have wanted to delve into the issues faced by the other half of society, Men. The seemingly privileged and inhumane half. I did not see it fit to write about women and men in the same post for fear of taking the much-needed attention towards each gender but at the same time we cannot continue to treat the two as different entities because that only strengthens the division between us. The other reason being that I did not want this current post to sound like an apology for what I had written, which I am unapologetic for. I guess as a female and coming from a point of bias it took me a much longer time to get myself to have as much fervour and passion to write this piece as I did when I wrote the previous one. This by far was the hardest piece of writing I have ever written.
There is a largely shunned definition for a feminist, that they are angry and bitter women who hate men. Feminists are not man hating but we are angry and bitter yes and I do not think that we should be apologetic about that. Surely, we are justified, are women not being culled and violated daily? ‘Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change’ (Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie). It is because of this anger that I fully claimed the tittle of a feminist, although the real strength of a feminist lies in not letting this anger cloud your sense of judgement and cause impartiality towards men.
I have come to the realisation that if I embrace feminism as a one-sided fight, I would be a hypocrite and not embodying the true definition of a feminist. In a way a lot of us practice Misogyny in the name of Feminism. In fighting for women’s rights and equality for women men have lost the limelight.
The fight against inequality is not the battle of the sexes to prove who suffers more injustice and who is the oppressed. We do ourselves a great disservice by alienating each other when what we need to be doing is fighting side by side.
“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man so man is born of woman. And all things are from God” 1 Corinthians 11-12.
What we need to recognize is that the true enemy is an inanimate and abstract object, which is the mental shackles of societal norms. When women speak, men should be willing to listen and when men speak women should also do the same and if we do not then how will we learn. Educate and truly listen to each other, sometimes that is all it takes. The problem is that we are not talking to each other but at each other, we hear each other but do not listen. If you are not willing to listen to your male/female counterpart, then why should they listen to you.
Short story: A king complained that his feet hurt. He sought for someone to come up with a plan to cover the entire forest with soft material so that his feet would not hurt when he walked about.
A clever young man heard that the king was offering gold to the person with the best plan. He advised the king to cover his feet instead of changing the entire forest. The king had a pair of covers made from animal skin and his problem was solved.
The problem is Gender Expression [how you demonstrate your gender (based on traditional gender roles) through the ways we act, dress, behave and interact.]. In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ‘The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they make one story become the only story…The consequence of a single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity different rather than how we are similar.’
The way women and men behave towards each other, and think is more nurture than nature. The difference between men and women is more in physicality than anything else. Women and men have different hormones that will affect their anatomy and psychology; however, society exacerbates those differences. We are all brought up in a world where stereotypes and gender roles have been constructed. In as much as women have been taught their place in the world, men too are taught their place in the world. Even before the hormones that bring about the obvious differences kick in; males and female are already being raised differently. They are taught how to feel and react to different situations, how to act, dress, what their interest should be.
There are a set of masculine expectations that males need to learn. They must fit into what has been termed the ‘Man Box’. A man must be strong, tough, hard, never show weakness, highly sexual, breadwinner and so forth. Men are influenced by masochism, the only way they know how to express their feelings is by fighting. In no way can a man express physical or emotional weakness or else they fall out of the man box; they are weak, and a man can never show weakness. In truth there is a greater pressure on men to abide by gender roles, they are forced to fit into a hyper-masculine and misogynist mould. Anything outside the ‘Man Box’ leads to a man’s sexuality being questioned, he is called a homosexual. When a man does not conform, he is shunned by other men, ‘fear of guilt by association’. “Why does physical strength get to matter so much in an age where we don’t fight lions for our lunch”
“To be a man is to be in charge. To be gentle is to be a wimp, a weak excuse for a man, an object of derision and ridicule.” – Michelle Tomey
Men are intimidating, macho, powerful, respected. Etc. All the labels that we as women yearn for and are currently fighting for. These labels might be empowering for women but for men spell out completely different connotations and carry a whole lot more responsibility. If a man falls outside this criterion then somehow, he is deemed somewhat less of a man.
Some then argue that a man is raised by a woman so in turn the woman is responsible for how the man turns out. I agree with this notion, but you see the woman only raises the man in a way in which society has taught her to. The African proverb, ‘If you educate a man, you an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation’ really comes true in this regard. Traditionally child rearing is regarded as a woman’s job, she disciplines and teaches the children while the man works. If a woman is not emancipated and empowered, how is she going to raise empowered men and women. Once again, we continue to breed generations of oppressed men and women.
How many times has the story of gender been narrated through the eyes of a man and when it was, have we been willing to listen? I think it all boils down to the fact that for the longest time men have always been portrayed in a bad light, they have always been viewed as the perpetrator. It makes perfect sense that people will not be willing to hear from a man. In as much as many women have suffered horrendous atrocities at the hands of men, we need to accept that they too face a different set of societal pressures. The problem is that instead of attacking the root of the matter we attack the victims. While we are attacking men and casting all sorts of profanities towards them, the next generation of men is falling victim to this same plague and in turn we perpetuate this cycle of trashy men. Many other women fall prey to these burdened men with fragile egos. It is important that we inform ourselves to prepare future generations and for that we need to set a platform on which men can relate to the feminist movement.
Let us start a culture of telling each other’s stories as well as our own. A man might be more willing to be educated on the issues of gender by another man and a woman by another woman. Secondly, we should be able to call each other to accountability, being silently feminist or an egalitarian [def: a person who advocates or supports the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities] is not enough we need to address the problem and the problem is gender. Undoubtedly there are some good men in the world, instead of saying ‘not all men’ what are you as one of those good men doing in order to alleviate these issues.
We have made immense progress in fighting for women’s rights and their rightful place in the world since first wave feminism, from women being allowed to vote, to participate in the working field. Presently women have a better social standing compared to then. I believe that there is only so far that, fighting justice systems, legislation and laws can take us. In the same way that effects of colonialism are still there even after the institution of colonialism have been broken down, the effects of gender inequality still exist. Yes, you might be able to get that position, that position, secure the bag but society will still consider you inferior as a female. Usually when feminists are made to argue their case that inequality really does exist, we’re forced to point out the obvious things like lower pay, prejudice against women, lack of representation, just so we can have a water tight argument but all those things are just secondary. We might fight for inclusivity in workplaces, parliaments and every other male dominated arena but at the end of it all what we get are mere handouts.
In Zimbabwe women are pushing for amendments to the electoral act so that it provides for half of the seats in National Assembly and senate to be reserved for women. Outwardly this seems like a bold and empowering move for women but is this really the empowerment that we seek. I think that women are proving gender stereotypes to be right, that we as women cannot compete equally with men, that we need to be put just a step up for us to make it in this world. This is exactly what we are refusing, many women have fought in hard conditions, when odds were not in their favour and still came out tops. Women like Marie Curie who defied the odds in a male dominated field, in way harsher challenges than those of present day.
What we need to break down are the social structures that are keeping us captive and if we do not then men and women will never be truly empowered. The empowerment we seek is being able to make our own decision, be ourselves, pursue what makes us happy without having to face stereotypes, be it gender, race, ethnicity.
WHAT UNITES US IS FAR GREATER THAN SEPERATES US.