While the world, particularly the blacks in America, clamours for an end to racial discrimination, I would love to share my thoughts on another issue which begs discussion, the call for gender equality, simply put- feminism😃. I know how sensitive this topic can be so I beg every reader to be as open minded as possible, having regard to the fact that we are all entitled to our opinions.
What do feminists want? Equal treatment of all genders. As glamorous as that might sound, is it actually feasible? To a very large extent, yes.
I am a straight African male and i do not deal with most of the issues women face regularly. But I can tell you that there are lots of cultural forces, most unhealthy, that push men to oppress women and at the same time, damage themselves. I am too lazy to tell you why, and because that is not the intent of this write up, I will delve straight to my topic. My problem with feminism is not what it connotes but the methods of approach being implemented by our feminists, especially our modern day feminists. At this juncture, may I state categorically and without fear that I am a feminist and I submit that we all should, as a matter of fact, be feminists.
Sadly, when the issue of gender equality is raised, people rebuff it with the simple “but no one stops our women from voting” or “I don’t see anything wrong with women. My boss in the office is a lady.” While, these are still subjects of feminism, they are issues that have been long raised and settled before now. The feminist movement, retrospectively, can be broken down into three paradigms. The first paradigm in the late 19th and early 20th century where the agitation was for equal political rights. The second paradigm in the 60s and 70s calling for legal and professional equality. And the third paradigm, which is clamoured for now is social equality.
So do not think that this movement is recent. You’re definitely not the first feminist and not the first anti-feminist either. You do not have to be extremely radical about it. I know a couple of friends who call us feminists “ife na eme n’isi”, an Igbo term which means ” people who have something wrong with their brains.” Let’s move on.
As we can see in the laws of many countries, the level of legal and political inequalities among sexes have been reduced to a barest minimum. I say this because much still needs to be done in some parts of the world, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. Whereas, social inequality is still a fierce battle that is eating up different structures and institutions in a lot of countries. And this is none other than the fact that, while you can easily know if a woman is denied the right to vote in an election; or you can easily pick up your calculator to tell if a man earns more than a woman, while they both rank equally in the same office, that cannot be the same with social inequality which is more complicated. You are no longer dealing with institutions or offices, you’re dealing with the minds of people and how their perceive things.
Is there equality if I fired three employees, two of them being females? Would that be sexism? You cannot know until you find out why I fired them? And you cannot know why I fired them until you become me and see things from my point of view. The mind.
It is not difficult to know when a female child is given less money to school than the male child. But it is not the same with a person liking a brother and disliking a sister. Is it because of the fact that she’s female or that she is just a shitty person? The point I am trying to make is, while you can easily tell when there’s political or legal inequality against a female, you cannot as regards social inequality. And with these different paradigms, come different methods of approach. You cannot use the same amount of force in breaking kernels and eggs.
Previous paradigms of feminists were willing to die to secure their right to vote, their right to get the same employment as a man, their right to speak publicly interalia. And then it was a just cause, compelling, filled with a burning desire to be part of the struggle. But today, we have feminists fighting so hard not to feel oppressed.
What is my problem with that? It is very simple. When dealing with matters relating to the mind and how people perceive things, you should not come with coercion.
Psychologically asking, if you wanted to convert a die-hard Moslem to a christian, do you come with force? Let me digress a bit. Please to all those religious fanatics who still employ the use of force to convert, we are in the 21st century please. There is nothing a good approach and right words cannot handle.
And what is it with some feminists and their feelings? You hear a feminist say, “I feel you don’t consider me a better half.” Does anyone owe you the right to feel better? The earlier you realise that you, and no one else, are responsible for your feelings, the better for us all.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Previous feminists went out to be the change they desired. They gave compelling reasons why everyone deserve equal political rights and got their right to vote. They went to schools and got that university degree. But today, some feminists are more concerned about enforcing thoughts and perception about how a woman should be seen, rather than actually going out there and becoming that woman we should see.
Chimamanda Adichie is my favorite feminist. She is not the foremost nor the most renowned globally, but I just respect her mannerisms and approach. She knows how to best prove to you that we all need to see ourselves as equals.
A lot of men have learnt to give women their deserving respects. But the issue now is not with denial of rights, it is with the stereotypes attached to gender equality. And in Africa particularly, we owe this stereotype to culture which we still hold very dearly.
But the way you destroy stereotypes is by being the contradiction of the stereotype. The way you change minds is by demonstrating to people through your actions, how wrong they are.
You become filled with hatred and resentment when you get angry any time you walk into a restaurant with a man and the waiter comes to the man, and not you, for the orders. You want to be seen as the best in the room, be the best in the room. You want respect, you earn it.
While we have done a great deal in addressing political and legal inequalities against the women folk, social inequality remains one that needs a much different approach than is being employed. You need to be more pragmatic when dealing with the minds of people, especially the ones that have gone through years of forming. You cannot force respect, except you want fear. You want respect as a man or a woman, the appropriate way is to earn it. And, although very wrong, since the vast majority of the society opine that men are not equal with women, the onus is on you to prove to the world that what a man can do, a woman can do too. And please let’s correct this notion that “the future is female.” That does not speak well of a group agitating for gender equality. The right mantra should be, the future is equal.
Eke Onyekachi is writing from his bedroom amidst this lockdown. Stay safe!