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Are women their own worst enemies?


Women have a challenge to free themselves from always pulling down themselves.

File picture: Pexels

“Fundamental to patriarchy is the invisibility of women the absence of women as a force to be reckoned with” – Dale Spender, author of Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done To Them.

In her piece, Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A theoretical Analysis, Abeda Sultana notes that nowadays women are seen in positions of power and in general have wrested benefits in greater or smaller measures.

However, argues Sultana, “but all this does not change the fact that the system is (still) male dominated.

Sultana attributes the position of women to patriarchy. And despite the differences in levels of domination, the broad principles remain the same, i.e. men are in control.

But as pointed by Anna Mokgokong in her piece, “Women are own worst enemies”, it is ironic that patriarchy finds allies in women themselves.

The well entrenched patriarchy in society finds its ally in women’s dislike and lack of support for one another.

In his classic book entitled Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shares a story symptomatic of what we call a “Pull Her Down” syndrome that plays itself out whenever we become jealous of someone’s success and wish he/she stayed mired with us in our position of destitute and helplessness.

Women have a challenge to free themselves from always pulling down themselves. As Judith Butler in her book, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence, aptly puts it: “If it is to be, it is up to us”.

In his article, Adam Minus, Affiong L Afffiong, argues that in African politics and indeed in public life, the invisibility of women is blinding!

He further laments the tragedy that has befallen women’s movements all over the world, and especially Africa.

Women give the impression of being unable, unwilling, disabled or possibly uninterested in bringing this power of numbers to bear in our politics and on politicians. So, the subconscious gets reinforced over and over again, and as men determine women provide and as men articulate women animate and as men discuss women entertain and as men lead women tag along.

In the conclusion, Affiong asks: can women stop participating on men’s terms or will they proceed on the route of self-determination?

Will women politicians and activists begin to play the game on their own terms, or will they continue to wait for election to beg, plead, demand negotiate and pass resolutions, or will they begin to seek to redefine the rules of engagement?

Women should take heed from the Algerian society, which, according to Frantz Fanon in his book, The year of revolution in Algeria, in the fight for liberation, in the sacrifices that it was willing to make in order to liberate itself from colonialism, renewed itself and developed new values governing sexual relations. The woman ceased to be a complement of a man.

She literally forged a new place for herself with her sheer strength.

At a global level, Francis Fukuyama argues in Women and the Evolution of World Politics, that male tendencies to band together for competitive purposes, seek to dominate status hierarchies and act out aggressive fantasies toward one another can be rechannelled but never eliminated.

Despite the many uncomfortable assertions that are advanced by Fukuyama, his prognosis of the future is quite refreshing and offers a ray of hope to the womenfolk.

Fukuyama wrote that by the middle of the next century, Europe will most likely comprise rich, powerful, and democratic nations with rapidly shrinking populations of mostly elderly people where women will play important leadership roles.

The US, argues Fukuyama, with its higher rates of immigration and fertility, will also have more women leaders but a substantially younger population.

He says a much larger and poorer part of the world will consist of states in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia with young, growing populations, led mostly by younger men.

Time will tell. Hanna Rosin’s book, The End of Men, also offers a ray of hope. The book offers an insightful examination of changing economic positions.

The gist of the book is not that men are ending, but that male dominance is.

Shongwe works for the KZN Department of Arts and Culture. This article is written in his own personal capacity.