For a long time I wrestled with the feminist label with which I had been branded as a result of my outspoken and passionate nature when discussing injustices dealt to the women of our society. In my little teenage mind, the term was synonymous with the senseless and blatantly sexist idea of women superiority depicted in First for Women Insurance advertisements; it represented the much resented working woman who undermined and belittled every man on her path to prove her competence; and it represented the “twenty-first century woman” who felt that she did not want to marry and have children simply because she did not need a man- her collection of accolades hanging uniformly on her wall to serve as a reminder to anyone who forgot or questioned that. None of these sentiments resonated with me and I rejected each and every one of them with equal hostility.
Except, when I read about the rape crisis in my country, of which women were the primary victims, naturally, I could not help but feel compelled to speak up. It was not just this topic which had my blood rushing in my fury, it was the issue of child brides, infant rapes, women trafficking and prostitution, lack of prenatal care for women leading to maternal death. I was aggravated by the reality of women not being permitted to drive in some countries, women who could not have a say in whether they want children or not, women who worshipped the idea of a son more than anything simply because of the cultural superiority of the male child.
Feeling passionate about these issues, apparently, made me an official feminist, according to some people. While standing firm in my beliefs that these injustices must be eradicated, I found myself rejecting the feminist label. I realised that in society, feminists are seen as a threat. They are irrational, oestrogen-driven women who, by virtue of their nature- emotional and eager to protect- wrestle with everything and everyone in the world to achieve women domination.
There was something completely wrong with this. This was why so many of the issues which marginalise women are often swept under the carpet; because society does not take the messengers of these issues seriously. We have seen this happen time and time again, regardless of the substantial gravity and urgency of the content of one’s message, if people do not have respect for the messenger, the message falls on deaf ears. We have seen this in Parliaments all over the world- when our very president, Jacob Zuma speaks, when Julius Malema of the EFF speaks, when Lindiwe Mazibuko speaks, and contrastingly when the Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks.
Therefore, I believe that so many injustices dealt to women which have existed for centuries are not left disregarded because they are less alarming, it is because these issued are advocated for by the wrong people. Feminism should not be a cause for the women and by the women; it ought to be a cause for the women by mankind because, quite frankly, woman herself is not given the choice on whether or not to be for mankind. She bears life to mankind and nurtures that life which later on deserts her and leaves her with not so much as her dignity.
We need men to step up and join the feminist movement and we, women, need to let them- welcome them.
I recently read a blog about a woman who invited a male friend to a feminist march and he was turned away, told that it was a women’s only march. This right here is a perfect example of why the cause burns to ashes. Many feminist movements adopt a “we don’t need your help” attitude towards men. This completely alienates the male counterpart in the process to bring about change. It conveys a message which says feminism seeks to prove that women can do things by themselves too, except the message we need to be conveying is that none of us can do anything by ourselves (men and women alike). We simply want you to acknowledge that we can do the things you can too, just recognise us people who have something more valuable than our fertility and sex appeal to bring to the table.
With that being said, another less effective means to popularise feminism is placing the burden on teenage boys. I agree that to educate them about how to value and respect women from a young age is important however, children do learn best through imitation. It serves us no good if the adult male in society models one thing and the boy is taught another. It is much easier if you appeal to all generations of men to assist in making this a concerted effort.
Women-only feminist parties are simply the converted preaching to the converted.