This world isn’t kind to girls. Before you dismiss this as the ranting of yet another “man-hating”, bra-burning feminist, consider this; 75% of all the women worldwide will at some point of their life experience either sexual or physical abuse in their life. That means, of all the women you interact with, one of them is bound to have experienced some kind of abuse at some point of their life. For me, that one person is my mother. One of my older sister’s earliest memories is of my mother getting beaten up on an almost daily basis by the man who was supposed to be protecting her. I was too young then to understand it all. But I am not young now and I refuse to be oblivious to all that goes on around me anymore.
Lindelwe (she’s the Media intern at the Public Affairs section and my adopted sister when we walk the streets of Harare) recently wrote an article asking why feminism is an argument at all (find the article here. I’m actually quoted in it hehehe). My simple answer to that is that the very fact that women are almost always the victims in abuse cases requires that there be dialogue on what feminism really means in today’s world.
The way I see it, feminism is all about expecting society to treat men and women as equals in life. I admit that men and women are quintessentially different beings with different strengths and weaknesses. That by no means, gives anyone the right to treat anyone as an inferior. Neither does it mean that a woman cannot do the job a man can; it might simply mean that she has to find alternative methods to do so.
Feminism is about fighting to make sure that promotion in whatever system we exist in, is based on promotion and not on gender. It’s not hoping that the government adds a couple of complimentary seats for women in parliament. In doing so, the new Zimbabwean constitution reinstates what most of us already knew; that society is still making allowances for women and not looking at us as equals.
Feminism is about hoping that one day, society will judge both parties of an unplanned teenage pregnancy equally. I recall one single mother talking about how being a single parent not only opens her up to ostracism from the community but puts her at risk of sexual abuse from men whose excuse is “Hanti wakambozvara hako– you have given birth before right?”
Feminism is fighting for that day when a woman getting beaten by her husband doesn’t prompt the statement, “she must have said something to instigate him”.
I’m sure at this stage some men are mentally crucifying me because they believe that men too suffer from gender-based violence. And it’s true, there are cases of men who are raped or who are physically abused b their wives, but till the day that that number accounts for 75% of the male population, you won’t hear me crying about inequality.
As a last word, my hope is that when you look at your little sister or little daughter; always remember that it could be her. She could be in that 75%. And when you look at your son, remember that you have the obligation to teach him that the physical strength he might possess is not so he can lord over women but so he can protect them. My hope is that, male or female, you too will advocate the end of violence against women.
From this feminist, here’s to 365 days of activism against gender-based violence.