It’s women’s month in South Africa and if you’ve watched government TV long enough you’ll know how much it’s been drilled into us to take extra care of women this month, as if this is the only month that they matter in. There is also a school of thought that thinks (see what I did there?) that women issues should be taken into extra consideration this month as if they all happen simultaneously in August.
Abuse, rape, femicide and gender equality are some of the special issues that are thrown in our faces this month but are women the only ones affected by these issues? They happen across the board but there seems to be bias towards the women’s plight, understandably so, because well it happens more to them.
South Africa has some of the highest rape statistics in the world but do these stats also include the countless men that are raped on a daily basis in and outside prison? Do they include the countless boys that are molested and violated by older women across the country on the daily? I’ve never read a single news report talking about male-on-male rape or female-on-male rape for that matter. There hasn’t been any official research done on a national level about male rape statistics mainly because not all victims will want to report and open an official rape case because of the indignity attached to it.
Do our abuse statistics, and campaigns for that matter, also include Sipho who is too ashamed to tell anyone that his girlfriend calls him useless for not being able to find a job and that she slaps him around occasionally? Or Diederik who was taught never to raise his hand to a woman but finds himself in a conundrum when his wife hits him every time she sees him talk to other women? Probably not, because these kinds of incidents go largely unnoticed as a result of how our society is put together.
Society perpetuates the idea that only women face these issues hence they are shoved down our throats at every given opportunity, more so this month. Don’t get me wrong I’m not downplaying the issues that women face – which would be a grave error on my part. All I’m saying is that there shouldn’t be “male” and “female” issues because ultimately we are all exposed to the same circumstances, even if not to the same degree, so a helping hand would help all of us.
Having two separate camps fighting for the betterment of each group while also fighting each other is counterproductive. We’re in this together! As cheesy as it sounds it’s true we just need to see the bigger picture and what the greater battle is. Gender and race are two very common struggles in our society today, just like black people have ended up fighting each other instead of working towards the greater goal of economic emancipation together the same can be said for both genders.
Women have been blinded by feminism and men have been conditioned by tradition. Both these things are part of the greater struggle of gender relations and equality which will lead to a world all these gender lines don’t exist anymore and individuality is embraced throughout. This is a pipe dream but it is very achievable.
Take patriarchy for example, by definition it is a social system where males are the primary authoritative figure and inversely entails female subordination. Many feminists and opinion leaders perceive this to be a female problem, which on the surface it does look like. If we were to look beyond just the practicalities of it all we would realize how much of a problem it is for males as well. Patriarchy is synonymous with hyper-masculinity because as the head of any structure, be it a family, a business or society you are not allowed to show weakness.
You are therefore not allowed to express your emotions (yes ladies, we have feelings too). You are not allowed to show vulnerability or any glimpse sensitivity. You ,as a man, are therefore left to be this emotionless beast that’s seemingly supposed to crush rocks with his bare hands and go out hunting to provide for his family.
This is a trap that men fall easily into because of patriarchal constraints in society (I blame society for a lot!) and because of cultural influence. Women also perpetuate this stereotype, unwillingly so, in everyday life. A basic example would be a man courting a woman, even though she is obviously interested in you she will insist on you as the man making the first move because society (again) has conditioned women to think that you are somehow promiscuous if you go after what you want.
Here’s my point: We’re all in this together whether we like it or not. The statistics of rape wouldn’t be so high if men were taught not to think they have ownership over a woman’s body instead of women being taught to be weary of rape. Abuse wouldn’t be so rife if men were taught that you don’t need to strike a woman to get your point across. All these teachings can only happen between men so ultimately these aren’t just female problems but human problems, the sooner we realize this the sooner we can overcome these issues together.
I didn’t want to sound preachy but the gospel has to be heard! Let’s move away from painting issues in gender-specific colours. The bigger struggle is not gender equality but human equality if we can win that battle than we’ve pretty much won the war.
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