So as you may or may not know, since seeing Sheryl Sandberg on Oprah’s Next Chapter, I have just been the most passionate follower . I purchased her book in the second week of this month and I have been using it as a greatness guide since. Sandberg discusses many issues in her book (obviously, because…it’s a book..) and one of the topics I would like to make reference to today, which struck a chord in my heart, is the topic which deals with socialising men to the concept of gender equality and feminism. I personally am guilty of under performing in this task.
“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?”- Ellen Page
I get so carried away with trying to convince women why it is in their best interests to join the movement (Yes, some women don’t see the point of fighting for gender equality) that I tend to dismiss or disregard any questions or opinions men may have about gender equality and feminism. Why? Because I feel most men personify feminism, turn it into the new f word and give it an unjustifiable persona of a women who fears personal grooming and deodorant. And for this reason, most men, not just those in my circle, are left in the dark because as soon as they have an opinion about it, it gets shut down faster than Thandi’s dream of growing up to become a F1 racer.
Another reason why I feel I have been prejudiced all this time is because I thought and I felt that it would be more advantageous to exhaust my efforts on women who did not understand the movement than men because after all, it is a female struggle. However, this changed when I read the 8th chapter in Lean In: WOMEN, WORK AND THE WILL TO LEAD titled Make Your Partner A Real Partner. I read the sad truth about how mothers were not seen as going home to babysit their children but fathers were. It all became painfully clear that as women, we were either taking on the role of Superwoman, where any male effort to take on more household or parenting duties was frowned upon or discouraged; mainly because we felt threatened that we would lose our sense of importance or guilty because it has been a stereotype since the beginning of time that it is a woman who deals with household and parenting disputes. Or, we took on the stance of Super feminist, where we did not credit any of the exertions made by men because we felt they were inadequate. In doing this, we pushed men out and made equality in our personal spaces become something only found in a utopia. I am proud to admit that I have now overcome my ignorance and realise the futility of excluding certain genders in trying to achieve gender equality across the globe.
Continuing on where men fit into gender equality and the concept of feminism, a friend of mine, expressed that he had elected to rather take the position of deputy president in his committee and hand over the presidential title to a female because he believed and I quote “ She was competent and I did not want to lose her on the committee. I was running against her but had I won, she would not have been on the committee at all so I withdrew and ran for deputy president” You see, this is where men fit it.Apart from him having a commendable amount of maturity to step down and allow a woman a fair chance at leading; men help by acknowledging and trusting the proficiency of women.This is exactly what we need! Not hand outs or sympathy because we are women; but the opportunity to have a fair shot at positions and greatness because we are the best candidates for them, irrespective of us being women. I will admit that it is saddening to still see how men have the advantage of competence just by virtue of them being male, and that had my friend not stepped down, his anticipated scenario may have played itself out. Sheryl mentions affording other women the opportunity to sit at the table. I believe it would make a colossal difference if more men also began to take on this responsibility because the pursuit for gender equality is not just a one sided matter, it is multi-faceted.
With initiatives such as www.menengage.org and www.unfpa.org socialising men and young boys, I believe gender equality will no longer be a fable, but a real thing. It will be something effective and in the beginning maybe admirable but hopefully in the end, a norm.
With this, I would like to leave you with a quote by Vera Nazarian who is a two-time Nebula Award Finalist author, award-winning artist, publisher of Norilana Books, musician, philosopher, and creator of wonder.
“A woman is human.
She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man.
Likewise, she is never less.
Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”
**Special thanks to Mbewu Movement for editing my post