First, I have to warn you that I might not be the best author for this article, which is why I sought the help of a close ally, classmate, and feminist who helped me with edits and feedback. You should also note that I am not a feminist but strongly in support of gender equality and women empowerment. Hence, the reason why I am writing this piece on how I think gender issues can be tackled today.
If you pick five random black African young men and ask them what they think of women, and femininity, they’ll give you answers ranging from the endless list of requirements that they require their wives or future wives to embody. They’ll further go to the extent of defining what the role of the woman is to them and to the society like that definition has been tasked to them by God from time immemorial.
Furthermore, these men would probably also touch on the brouhaha that feminists are purportedly causing all over the world and (in their ignorance) how God has ordained men to be superior and women to be inferior to men. Trace the tone of their speeches or description and you will find a taint of homogenic masculinity therein. As a result, they feel like they are entitled to certain and exclusive things, norms, traditions, and values in the society. For instance, there are some people who believe that a man can and should be allowed to have unrestricted access to another woman’s body, a man cannot and should not cook, a man cannot be weak, a man cannot cry, and a man cannot be beaten by a woman. In fact, it goes on to absurd things like a man cannot moan during sex! I once engaged in a conversation with a friend and she narrated her ordeal to me on how some guys from a prior conversation she had listed things their future wives can and cannot be. They also justified that if their wives are infertile, they can go elsewhere to get a child from another woman as well as justified their responsibility to correct their woman, whichever and however they please, when she is wrong. Afterall, they paid for her bride price.
The structure that our forefathers created and sustained during their lifetime is to be probed first.
But surprisingly, the reason why they have this notion might not entirely be the fault of these young men. The structure that our forefathers created and sustained during their lifetime is to be probed first. (Although I am aware of thoughts on the fact that they had slavery and colonialism to tackle first as opposed to thinking about equality at that time). Society has defined the role of men to be higher-ranking than that of women. The idea or definition of masculinity and femininity are both social constructs which have been sustained over the years from generation to generation. Every century, certain events happen within societies across the world and the social constructs of these genders prevail even with the way women perceive or see themselves. The androcentric culture has not just made men superior but allowed women to belittle themselves and create a ceiling, limit, or wall to what they can achieve in life. In other words, some women view themselves as people that have limited potentials, which thus breed limited achievements. Andrea Cornwall a professor of anthropology and international development at the University of Sussex carried out a research in South Eastern Nigeria. Her research proved that women around that region prefer not to have a job as long as the husband has money and is earning a salary (Cornwall, 2001). Thus, proving the fact that some women today already succumb and are strongly immersed in the patriarchal status quo of the society.
But in the last century, the road to gender equality revolution has rapidly changed the face of the patriarchal society that we exist in. Women are now allowed to work and earn income in white collar related jobs, vie for leadership and political offices as well as acquire wealth independently without the help of a male figure (although we all know that this is still in sporadic quantities). Over the years, this has challenged the status quo of patriarchy as the world strives to a more equal society. However, in the world of today, we are still faced with a difficult task of probing what the normalcy of patriarchy is and trying to see what is wrong with the norm; what is wrong with the status quo then redefine that into something that is fair and just for all.
Tackling patriarchy in this age and time starts with one thing: Effective Conversation. Effective conversation is the key that unlocks the door to sustainable revolution. It is the very beginning of ensuring a sustainable revolution. This is partly because the journey towards a sustainable revolution is not a “lone wolf’ challenge; but rather, the collection or coalition of the efforts of a committed group. Having in-depth conversations about this issue is the first step towards achieving the goal of gender equality. The more we talk about it, the more we are conscious of our actions, reactions, words, decisions and even our thoughts and how we view both genders. When we have no escape but all we can do is engage in this conversation, that is the beginning of the revolution. Imagine a world where this is a constant discourse that the media portrays on a daily basis or a world where people constantly engage it on social media — this will breed the change we all strive to attain in the end which can be centuries from now.
The journey towards a sustainable revolution is not a ‘lone wolf challenge’ but rather, the collection or coalition of the efforts of a committed group.
In the spirit of having effective conversations, one thing is required — open-mindedness. Effective conversation is not complete until the people engaging in that conversation are open-minded. In short, we cannot have an effective conversation without open-mindedness. These two terms complement each other. If we’re not open-minded to discussing the issue of gender, we are not going to achieve anything but rather, we’ll keep creating an unsafe space for the female gender while perpetuating our homogenic masculinity and privileges. In contrast, when we are open-minded, then can we start challenging our ideas, beliefs, and values and thereby have the opportunity to harness our agency of choosing what is right from wrong. The coalition of effective conservation and open-mindedness is the way we can kickstart a sustainable revolution that will address gender issues in the world today. A century or two centuries from now, generations unborn will proud of us and they’ll look behind and say that it was what happened in the 21st century that redefined gender roles forever.
The black African man does not desire to be patriarchal, but it is the society that makes him so. If he desires to be free from it, he has to look beyond the society.
Finally, for the young black African man, in addition to having effective conversations and harnessing the power of open-mindedness, we all need to look beyond our societies. The black African man does not desire to be patriarchal, but it is the society that makes him so. Therefore, we are faced with a challenge to choose between what society has branded us to be and fulfill the prophecy of the society upon us, or be a part of a revolution that aims to achieve an equal world and create a just and fair world for both genders. We need to look above society and culture and whatever our friends, families and even community elders might think of us. While imbibing open-mindedness and engaging in effective conversations, until we look above society and what it has confined us to be (to be a local oppressor), until then can we kick-start the vision of ensuring an equal world for all.
Cornwall, A. (2001) ‘Spending Power : Love , Money , and the Reconfiguration of Gender Relations in Ado-Odo , Southwestern Nigeria’ : Wiley. Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable