By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
As the world commemorates International Women’s Day, it is always an important time for humanity to evaluate, and take stock, of just how far the struggle for women’s rights, equality, parity, and their dignity has come – especially after the landmark and world-changing Beijing Conference of 4-15 September 1995 – through critical lenses that should shed light on whether there has been any progress, and if not, what are the challenges still to be overcome, and how.
In this discourse, I shall desist from delving on issues that usually surround such a significant day – particularly, on the fight against gender based violence, and parity with men in all facets of life – as I sincerely believe that most of these pertinent matters would be the main topics of discussion on this crucial day.
As the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is, “#ChooseToChallenge” – which is premised on the understanding that, “a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change” – I have decided, to centre my writing on challenging women themselves to seriously and honestly introspect on whether the direction their struggle how come, and is going, is truly progressive, emancipating, and leading to equality with their historically unfairly privileged male counterparts – or, has some (and, definitely not all) women have actually inadvertently, or deliberately, chosen a path that has led from one form of oppression to another.
When I look back at the very early days of global women’s rights activisms, I can not help feeling of sense of pride in the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott – who pioneered the struggle in the United States of America (US) in the 1890s – when the majority of women all across the world were basically subjects of men, and considered inferiors and minors in every aspect of life, who were regarded no better than child-bearing, cooking, and cleaning machines, who had no other place in human society.
However, as the worldwide brave fight for women’s liberation grew louder and fiercer – since, this struggle could be very nasty and dangerous, as some activists in such countries as the US, were arrested, brutalized, and even incarcerated on allegations of terrorism – New Zealand, became the first self-governing country to recognize their right to vote, when Governor Lord Glasgow signed a new Electoral Act in 1893.
Over the proceeding decades, the women’s liberation movement gained more and more victories against a patriarchal world, that felt increasingly unsettled and threatened, resulting in higher walls of resistance being built, instead of destroying them.
However, since the landmark 1995 Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights, the cause and course of this struggle took on several divergent forms and directions – as the women’s liberation movement no longer remained homogeneous, but some continued on the path of parity in the workplace and other aspects of life, whilst others believed that the world did not need men (who were looked upon as oppressive enemies), and still another group appeared to simply morph women from being subjects to mem, to being mere objects of men.
And, the last group is the one that I decided to focus on today.
I can not forget watching a certain television program that focused on teenage girls, and what they regarded as oppression of the girl-child – whereby, most of those interviewed complained about how boys were, for instance, allowed by their parents to go out partying all night, or drink alcohol, whilst their female siblings were instructed to be home from school by dask (usually 17:00 hrs), and were expected to partake in household chores.
The girls interviewed were understandably clearly not amused by such a set-up – as such unfair treatment of boys and girls by their parents was undoubtedly a sign of discrimination – yet, what got me seriously worried was how the interviewees suggested would be a fair resolution…they wanted to be allowed the same ‘privileges’ as their male siblings.
That certainly shocked me! Why? Simply because, it was obvious from the examples they had given that what boys were being permitted to do was what was wrong- as it not only encouraged indiscipline at a very young age, but also led to a generation of irresponsible males, who believed that partying, and staying out all night, was the essence of life.
Therefore, why would the girl-child emulate such a lifestyle, and in fact, aspire to be like that? Would the fair and normal thing not have been for the girl-child to advocate for the boy-child to also be subjected to the same restrictions as them – which, instilled values of responsibility and maturity?
That is where I believe some in the women’s liberation movement have gone seriously astray, as they seek to become irresponsible, wayward, and rogue replicas of their male counterparts, in the name of equality.
It would appear that, over the long course of human history, and the accompanying subjection of women – most had, in fact, developed to perceive that anything that men were allowed to do, was somehow superior, and showed power and status – a view, which, quite frankly, is not only gravely flawed, but immensely disturbing, since that inculcated in some women an unhealthy desire and aspiration to do anything men did…no matter how despicable, vile, or shameful.
Honestly, who can deny that, in human societal development, the males of the species had gradually been socialized wrongly, and moulded into villainous, violent, disrespectful, and irresponsible menaces on society – so, why would women strive to be similar, as a form of equality, instead of fighting for men to actually become more like women…who, in the main, were brought up to be the complete opposite – decent, respectable, reasonable, and responsible.
More over, and even more troubling, just a quick look at most of the music videos produced in this day and age (and, deceptively packaged as ‘modernity’) would leave anyone, with any sense, filled with repulsion – as the women folk are usually the ones portrayed as nothing more than sex objects, who would be, in their skimpy attires, grovelling at, and salivating for, the men’s money and affluence like little desperate puppies – yet their male colleagues would be more presentable, respectable, and clearly ‘in charge’.
Surely, is this where the women’s liberation movement, made globally famous by the likes of Stanton, Anthony, and Mott, has reached – whereby, women have been emancipates from being subjects of men, to willingly become objects of men’s sexual pleasure?
Indeed, one central component of democracy and freedom, is the right to choose how one lives his or her life – without any interference and control by anyone else – nonetheless, it is very troubling when watching how our ladies appear to believe that this ’emancipation’ and ‘equality’ necessarily translates into being male equivalents of reprehensible, irresponsible, and undisciplined human beings (instead of inculcating in our boy-children the same values we used to train up their female siblings) – whilst, also allowing themselves (women) to be used and portrayed as good for nothing sex objects and toys.
How then can this struggle for women’s rights be won, when whenever my son switches on the television, or watches a music video or movie, most imagines he is bombarded with are those of desperate-looking scantly dressed women drooling and groveling over decent-looking men, who have all the money and power?
Honestly, how are our boys supposed to then perceive women? Should we then be surprised when they grow up, in this 21st century, still believing that women were created for nothing else, except sex and partying?
Moreover, how are our girl-chidren being socialized into believing women to be, when also at the mercy of such images? Are they also not to perceive themselves as mere objects, who can not accomplish anything on their own, but need men for money and power, whilst providing sex in return?
It is time that we challenged each other as society, as exactly what direction this struggle for women’s rights is headed, and if we like what we are seeing.
If it is alright, then that is fine with me – however, let no one cry when we find ourselves, as the world, back to the 15th century, when our female counterparts are squarely back as subjects of men, as surely I see that is where we are headed, if we do not change our ways soon… because, already, many feel very comfortable and emancipated being objects of men.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263733399640, or email:email@example.com