The F-word: If only men could start loving women
Sometime in the early 90s, I met a guy who would be my friend.
In the process of getting to know about each other, it transpired that he was a father of a toddler.
I asked what sex the child was. “Eish, yisfebe Joe!” She is a whore, said the child’s father.
He was disappointed that his child was not “intwana” – a boy – which he would have preferred as he started his family.
I did not know then how to react and I still do not know today.
Imagine my angst the other day when he waxed lyrically about how great his daughter had turned out and that she had even bought a car.
She was daddy’s pride and joy.
The man who about two decades ago thought nothing of using the harshest words possible to describe an innocent toddler for the unforgivable offence of being born without a penis, was now brimming with pride because his daughter had completed a degree and was now a useful member of society.
The conversation with my friend has haunted me since.
If my friend could not see human dignity in his own flesh and blood, how could he be expected to see it in other girls and women?
What would the point be of telling this man that “real men don’t rape” when he will not see the irony of saying he’ll kill anyone who hurts his daughter but still regrets that she is a girl?
Having never forced himself on a woman, he might even sign up for the “real man” campaign.
My friend embodies the complex levels of misogyny in South Africa.
Too many men hate women for no other reason than that they are women.
In case you are wondering, yes he is still my friend.
I am not proud of him, but he is my friend.
Rape and femicide, and sometimes both, are simply the end of the line of a psyche that sees a woman as a thing to relieve sexual frustration, a deficient boy or even a curse.
I am not a fan of “real men don’t . . . campaigns”.
My main problem with these is that they tend to focus on what is not rather than what is.
We pay inordinate amounts of time trying to establish what a “real” man is and even more on what it is that they do not do.
Taking my friend as an example, he would qualify for what a “real” man is because he does not rape.
If we were to stick to the “real man” paradigm and asked ourselves a different question – what do real man do? – we might find better and more constructive answers.
We might flood the discourse with the idea that a “real” man respects and loves the women in his life, be they mothers, sisters, daughters or partners.
A subsequent question might be how do they manifest that love and respect?
Again, the answers may be directing men and boys towards positive behaviour rather than the current dogma based entirely on a “thou shall not” template.
Positive encouragement instead of concentrating on what males should not do, would make for boys and men to see themselves in women; to assume that the respect and dignity they crave applies to women too.
Men might realise that respect, dignity and a sense of security are human needs, and have nothing to do with being born with a penis or a vagina.
It would, I hope, also blast some myths about men and women having some genetic advantages over the other.
Instead of women boasting that they have a natural bent towards “multitasking”, they could teach their sons that this is not nurture and not nature.
They would tell them that whatever women can do – like clean the house, take care of the children, prepare meals – are all an outcome of many years of lazy men leaving these chores to women and then cynically praising them just so women can feel better about being house slaves.
This still being the month of love, it would help if men started thinking more carefully about how to love the women around them and perhaps, if that became the norm, sexual violence might start going out of fashion.
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