I often engage on topics around patriarchy on social media and the narrative is repeatedly astounding, leaving me feeling so helpless at times. Women cry out in justified and understandable fear and anger, and are mostly met with defensiveness, victim-blaming, shaming and more abuse. Men will shamelessly deny any part in the simplest forms of their perpetuation of a culture of oppression – a result of their social privilege born from a system of patriarchy; the leading and arguably the single underlying cause for Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Many “keyboard warriors” as they are often called, continue to refute that a system whose ideology is based on power being held only by men directly informs GBV, among other issues. They see no correlation between GBV and the formation of gender roles and stereotypes to reflect and enforce dominance over women. Scarier even is the fact that thousands more men and women, off social media and in our daily lives, hold this very same belief.
So you get this brigade of men that will say “Not me, I have never harmed or oppressed a girl or woman in my life!” So it wasn’t you that sat and laughed along as your uncle spewed details of how he overpowered and got what he wanted from your aunt because he is the man of the house? It wasn’t you that laughed along with your friends as they swore at and verbally humiliated the young lady that walked down the road because boys will be boys? Did you even stop to think of how afraid she was walking down that road, how relieved she was that in the least it was all just words? You didn’t smack the only female at your law firm office on the buttocks because you just couldn’t help yourself with her in that dress. I suppose it also isn’t you that tells your partner they may not go out and not tell you where they are going and with whom, while you go wherever you want at will with no obligation to tell anyone. You have never held back a female employee from a promotion by virtue of being a woman and therefore will not be able to handle the position. It definitely isn’t you that walks around telling anyone that cares to listen that women are what is wrong with society , that women are restless, unruly and won’t stay put, because somewhere in your mind you have concluded that you are to be listened to and obeyed yet you are not ruled and forced into obedience by anyone.
And here you have it – patriarchy unchecked by those that are all too quick to say “Not all men”. If you ask for any semblance of a solution, you’re met with, “stay indoors at night, don’t wear short skirts, don’t accept free drinks, don’t back chat and don’t work in a male dominated industry” – all supposed solutions are aimed at policing women for something they have no control over; for the actions of men. Because it is too much for men, in all their superiority, to simply police themselves and each other.
For the disease that patriarchy is, men in South Africa today abandon their own children by the numbers, even before birth. I’ve come to understand and accept that relationships don’t always work but there is nothing impossible about fathering your children after a separation. Women are constantly labelled bitter when all they are is possibly and rightfully resentful of the fact that the greater portion and often the sole responsibility of parenting falls on them. So much of my generation knows what it is not to have a father in their home yet there’s so many of them that still don’t care to make it better for their own children. Especially when they now know and understand the disenfranchisement of black men and black people in general – totally oblivious to what our history teaches us and how we can use that to better our lives and the future of our children. Where is the glitter of patriarchy that is apparently meant to fashion a man into the head of his family then?
I’ll tell you – it is drowning in an inability to account for its actions and more concerned with defining the role of a woman. It is waiting to invalidate the lived experiences of women. It is preoccupied with the silence of women when a man is a victim – I once heard the line, “Our (women) problems are our problems but your (men) problems are also our problems” on a TV programme that I can’t recall about Black Men Silence. We have so much knowledge now and generally understand what oppression and white supremacy has done to the black community – we argue a need for change but never fully commit to the smaller steps required to attain the bigger picture. The lack of ownership and fear of accounting for our actions perpetuates the same supremacy that beats us all down every day. Men only know this when they are the victims.
Patriarchy is hateful. It is “Not all men”; it cries foul when women opt to choose themselves instead of being victims. Instead of protecting our women and girls, it sees a woman’s plight as an attack and becomes defensive. Patriarchy is willing to give up the life of woman for a two minute conquest – be it by force or manipulation. It exempts itself and only acknowledges the bare minimum, citing being a provider. It forces women to negotiate being equal in a “man’s world”. It uses manipulation and all things unsavoury to gain control; taking advantage of the need for union and a sense of security, while women continue to get the short end of the stick and end up sacrificing so much just to do it on their own. And why not? We are doing it on our own anyway and as much as I may sound like a broken record, we need to find the certainty we desire within and for ourselves as women. We need to understand the culture around patriarchy and its ramifications. This is important to help us as women to identify situations we are confronted with under the guise of love and stability, when essentially it is nothing more than deceit by people that are afraid of equality because it means they are no longer superior.
Women are not lost. Let us be champions of our own lives. Let us acknowledge the wrongs of this world and continue to fight to be seen, heard and safe. Let us own our place in this world because nowhere is it valid to accept the inferiority imposed on us yet our strength has and continues to see us through so much. Let’s continue to come together because leaving it to others alone; waiting for a rescue, just will not suffice. We do not need the validation of men to lead our world to the best it can be for our future generations.