Someone paid a visit to our newsroom recently and the first thing the person remarked on was the fact that the place was crawling with men.
During the course of a 30minute dialogue, she managed to punctuate every other sentence by exclaiming, “hey, but there are so many men here, how do you work with all these men around?”
Eventually I got tired of the remark and retorted, “men are people too” so when I go to work I don’t think about all the men I’ll find there, in my mind I think of all the ‘people’ I will find there.
What has their manhood got to do with anything?
They are people too and I don’t understand why that lady had to feel so intimidated by them – does she walk around in the streets feeling nervous every time she comes across a group of men or she just figures they are just people going about their business while she goes about hers?
Perhaps I have no reverent awe for men because I figured a long time ago that we (women) had been duped into believing they were superior beings somehow when in reality they are just ordinary people who have had the great fortune of being born with the ‘right’ organ in a society that celebrates such anatomy.
I have since found that everything I was led to believe about girls and boys, about men and women was grossly inaccurate and bordered on the mythical rather than on reality.
I remember growing up in rural Siyoka, there were strict rules regarding showing respect and when a male person entered the room we where in we would all get off the chairs or stools and immediately sink to the floor.
We did it without questioning, conditioned to be submissive and to accept our ‘natural’ place as being inferior.
What I loathed was having to kneel down then lie on my side with my arms stretched out and my palms held together, sinking my head till my forehead touched the floor and I was inhaling the cow dung we used to polish the floors and then choking on the dust I would wait for the male family member to acknowledge my greeting so that I could sit up again.
This was ‘respectful’ I was raised to believe but over the years I have had occasion to wonder why someone has to lie on the floor, roll in the dust and act like a groveling dog could translate to a show of respect?
So these and other practices we inculcate lead us to believe that men are super beings, super human and ‘better’ than us but all these a superficial social gradations, a well-woven tapestry of illusion and a ploy to justify the continued oppression of one group of people by another along gender lines.
When someone asked me recently whether I thought women could ever be equal to men, I told him that I didn’t think that women could ever be equal to men.
I told him that as far as I was concerned women have ‘always’ been equal to men – we were merely socialized to think otherwise.
And the fact that he could even ask such a question is indicative of the fact that he too was raised to erroneously believe that men and women ‘could’ not be equal when in fact our humanity demands that we have equality.
One consequence of feminism has been that it has challenged the idea of male supremacy upon which patriarchy has rested for centuries.
What really makes a man better than a woman? Men are just people too.
They have frustrations and fears. They have insecurities and anxieties. They have stresses, fevers and ailments. So in a newsroom filled with human beings – I see a person before it registers in my mind whether the person is a man or a woman.
I especially liked the way my friend Bhekilizwe Ndlovu put it, “There is no need to even discuss equality. We are equal but different. It is the difference we must embrace and never allow it to create discrimination.
It is discrimination that makes us begin to think that perhaps we are not equal. If we concentrated on exploiting and enjoying our differences we would be better off. No one would even talk about equality or lack of it. Women would never even ask because they will be busy enjoying difference.
The biggest enemy to community is the refusal to accept the fact that we are different. The web gets bigger as other variables come in. Such variables as race, ethnicity, place of origin etc and in post colonial Africa we are faced with the reality of hybridity of cultures and the false belief that patriarchy is infallible.”
At the end of it all – men are people too and women, women are human too.