It is only when all black groups, join hands and speak with one voice that we shall be a bargaining force which will decide its own destiny.”
– Winnie Mandela, 1976
During the past few months I’ve been experiencing one of the highest peaks of my career. I’ve gotten to speak to more and more influential people and one thing rings true in most spaces.
Man: *Does something sexist*
Also Man: You know, I have no idea why women hate men.
I’ve experienced subtle things from having late-night meetings in which, as the only woman present, I’m asked whether or not my husband has given me permission to be on a call that late.
To being on a set doing a job which I’ve organized and having my male colleague be treated as if he is automatically in charge or even being given the credit for my work.
Yet time and time again, more men ask why women hate men. It’s easy for me to give a simple answer. From the time of my birth, I’ve experienced abuse and violence at the hands of man.
I’ve watched my father put his hands on my mother before walking out forever. I’ve been raped by a family member and by a boyfriend. I’ve been punched by another boyfriend and all this was before the age of 21.
Yet the true reality is more nuanced than that. The biggest pain and anger stems from the daily nuances. Anger from being ignored or constantly assumed to be lower and less powerful. Anger from having your ideas stolen or having a man casually saying your own words back to you whilst simultaneously telling you to dream bigger because you have so much potential. Anger at being excluded, given fewer opportunities even when you work ten times more, anger at being automatically assumed to be less than.
This sexism is a dangerous sexism. This sexism is ingrained in most of us. Men and women. This sexism can be subconscious like when people automatically assume the man is a doctor and that a woman is a nurse. This sexism is in our television, in marketing, in our education systems, and books. Yet even as I’m able to acknowledge this I must first acknowledge that I am privileged.
“African Feminism does not exist in opposition to western feminism.”
My feminist journey began online. Nothing was more exhilarating than realizing that I had finally found an identity. One simple word that could encompass all that was within me.
Feminism, the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.
My mind was completely amazed at the simplicity of it all. Equality could solve so much. In an equal world both men and women could be free to love and express emotions without shame or fear. Both men and women could live and work within the roles that best defined them. Free to choose, to love, to have passions, dreams. Feminism to me was magic. Imagine it, this simple act could mean less abuse, no wage gap, reproductive rights, maternity and paternity leave, equal pay and so much more.
But what does this mean for Feminism on the African Landscape?
When you learn about feminism especially online you learn quickly about the idea of western feminism. When I started learning about feminism I was excited. I felt empowered. To a large extent I felt a disconnect to my culture and I yearned for the mordern world that the western world seemed to represent.
Then I started talking to women from around the world and especially women from Africa. Often on television feminism is represented through women who are fighting against gender roles within the home and workplace. Yet here I’ve seen something even more powerful. Women who are fighting for the food, security and education of their communities.
My mother was a single mother. I remember being a young child often she would be home late into the evening, out to work early in the morning and travelling around the country. Even when times were hard we did not go hungry. She managed to raise two educated women who’ve managed to become successful in their own rights and her story is similar to many others like her. Women who’ve unquestionably become symbols of black women strength but have been stripped of being symbols of feminism.
“The lack of the feminist label doesn’t negate the credibility of Black African Feminist work.”
I am because she was. She is because my grandmother was. My grandmother told me of how she built the place we now call our Kumusha (Farm/Rural Area). How at first she would sleep on a rock by the fire at night and work during the day with a child on her back while her husband was in the city working. How she started with one hut and then eventually, now a house with plumbing and electricity.
My grandmother is feminism and my grandmother does not hate man. My grandmother, my mom, my aunts. They’ve worked so that I can have the privilege to have the problems that I now pocess. My privilege.
Feminism looks like the women who’ve created their own car system that takes schools kids to and from school. That carries water and food for those in their communitty.
For women in places like Chitungwiza, feminism looks like standing in long queues every single day inorder to get access to water for the family. The risk of rape, sexual assault and harassment in this society is constant and even more so for the daughter who must be in long queues into the night or early in the morning before she is able to head to school.
She doesn’t have the privilege of water and at times even the privilege of education. Yet many of these women both young and old they are building and keeping their communities afloat. When you speak to them about gender equality they are just as quick to speak to you about uplifting the entire society and after all isn’t that feminism at it’s heart is about?
When you speak of feminism people often look for the simple things. It’s easy to attack a culture, attack traditions or even beliefs without first understanding the systems of oppression and most times the systems of racism that hold them up. Yet if we are to be honest with ourselves, as Kathleean Hanna says, ”There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.”
Which brings me to the most controversial ally: The male feminist.
When I’m asked about my anger towards men I often refuse to be apologetic. I have a right to be angry when I am grooped in the streets. I have a right to be angry when I am harassed online simply because of my gender. I have a right to be angry at systems that make my life harder simply because I am a woman and I will never be apologetic about that but I still believe that feminism needs man and women to work together.
Finn Macky, asked a question that challenged me, “When we say feminism is about equality which men should women be equal to?”
I mean the privilege here is clear to see. Simply by virtue of being a man, there’s a whole host of opportunities whether in education or in the workplace that open up. There’s the privilege of never having to consciously make the decision to walk around with condoms, not for your pleasure but as protection Incase a man should force himself on you that you may atleast bargain for your health.
It’s not being afraid in public spaces, not running across the alley or feeling fear with sudden movements. Not flinching at a single touch and yet having to co-exist with the loud voices of the men who’ve decided that simply by being born they are entitled to your body. It’s being able to fear jail because there’s a constant threat of rape whilst we fear life for the exact same reason in everyday life.
Yet I refuse to be equal to the man who fears his own emotions because he was taught to be a robot and has the inability to feel empathy. Patriachy has raised our men to believe that they need to be unemotional, confident, logical, independent, providers. This has been painted to be the opposite of what it means to be a woman.
In simple terms; What it means to be a “man” today is to not be a girl. Not be feminine. Terry Real, a world renowned therapist talked about this in a Forbes article. Stating how the human race has created what he refers to as the ‘great divide’ in which humans have seperated themselves into feminine and masculine. Which the masculine is exalted and femininity is devalued.
In his interview he shares this;
“Patriarchy does not exist only in men. The force of patriarchy is the water that we all swim in and we’re the fish. Women can be just as patriarchal as men by holding those same types of values and biases
The essential relationship between masculine and feminine is contempt. I know it’s ugly, but it gets uglier. The third ring I call the “core collusion.” The core collusion is that whoever inhabits the “feminine side of the equation” – whether it’s a child to a parent, or a hostage to a kidnapper – has a profound instinct to protect whoever is on the masculine side of the equation even while being hurt by that person.
That’s true of children who are being traumatized, who are trying to regulate their parents. It’s true of races who are trying to manage up to the ruling race or class that is oppressing them. It’s true of women to men. I believe this is one of the unspoken, most profound forces in human psychology and human history. The perpetrator is protected.”
When I often express my anger towards Patriachy and I’m met with the feminists hate men cliche I think of this. I think of the thousands of men who’ve resorted to suicide because they aren’t ‘strong’ enough, ‘manly’ enough.
I remember learning that my abuser was abused himself and then hearing the same story being true of other men. I thought of how we aren’t taught to be equipped to handle the reality of our abusers being victims too. I hear of perpetrators who were abused and I think what if, what if when they tried to speak out about their own abuse they were heard and the person arrested would the result have been different today.
Alot of this is learned behavior, only about 1 percent of the world population is made up of psychopaths. The rest of us we are made up of trauma and truly become the essence of what we see in the world, what we choose to see, what we choose to praise.
For many men even those who are raised by single mothers there is a huge disconnect with feminism. Yet if we look closely, yes even at our men there are examples of feminism all around us.
My best friends dad always wanted one of his children to be a doctor. He made a point of treating all his children the same, they recieved the same education. Were given all the same opportunities. It was only at school were she was told that she couldn’t do anything that her three brothers could do. Yet even then he took her to his surgery and taught her. He made sure that the expectations of success for her were no different than he had for her siblings. He was eager to make sure that no matter what she could always provide for herself. I was stunned one day when she confidently told a man that she was going to make her own money, own her own surgery and she only wanted him but he was to have no illusions because she didn’t need him.
She always told me stories of her dad and as I stood stunned by how brave my best friend was, I started to realize that her dad too is an example of feminism.
Traditionally when a woman has a baby, they go back home to their mother so that the mother can assist and help her raise the baby for the first few months. My cousin brother when he had his baby told me that they wouldn’t be doing that and when I asked why, he simply asked. “Why shouldn’t I be the one assisting my wife to raise our baby and why I shouldn’t I be there in the first few months of my child’s life.”
I was shocked because I had no answer to his question and yet I usually have an answer to everything and I realized that my brother too is an example of feminism. I started to look more closely and I saw that we are surrounded by everyday examples of feminism. Both in men and women.
As much as I’ve been surrounded by men who perpetuate everything I despise about society I’ve also been blessed to be surrounded by men who support women and treat them as equal. To man who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, men who aren’t afraid to be helpful and be present in their children’s lives. Men who choose to cook so their wife can finish her project at work and get the promotion she’s been working for. Men who aren’t afraid to hold her purse and clap so she can climb the corporate ladder. Men who encourage their daughters just as much as their sons. Men who teach their sons the importance of consent. Men who love themselves. Men who can ask for help and offer it. Men who love.
These are the only men, I want to be equal to. Make no, mistake the other kind is trash and we don’t like trash.
Amanda Marufu is a feminist tech-entrepreneur, TV producer, blogger, author, and co-founder of EdTech Company SMBLO & Visual Sensation, a media company aimed at spreading awareness and positivity through media. She is a global ambassador of the Better Tomorrow movement, and focusses on providing sustainable solutions for communities.
Social Media: @adminmanytait52