By Uchegbu Ndubuisi
WITH every big, historical movement comes the danger that we will swing too far to the other extreme, tipping the balance unhealthily in the other direction, says Anya Briggs, an essayist.
Feminism is a movement that has over the years been introduced and widely adopted in Nigeria and the world at large as a mechanism that seeks justice for women and end sexism in all forms. In many of its contexts, feminism seems to involve at least two claims, one normative and the other descriptive. The normative claim concerns how women ought (or ought not) to be viewed and treated and draws on a background conception of justice or broad moral position. The descriptive claim concerns how women are, as a matter of fact, viewed and treated, alleging that they are not being treated in accordance with the standards of justice or morality invoked in the normative claim.
Together, the two claims provide reasons for working to change the way things are; hence, feminism is not just an intellectual but also a political movement. This movement has been propagated by so many illustrious personalities all over Africa such as Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker, producer, and writer, Yaba Badoe; Liberian peace activist, women’s rights advocate and Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee; and Nigeria’s acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; who have all identified themselves as feminists and have written and given speeches on various current topics relating to women’s issues in Africa and beyond.
In a personal, eloquently-argued essay adapted from her much-admired TED talk on “we should all be feminist” and sampled by Beyonce in her track, “Flawless”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defined a feminist as a “person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Does this definition reflect its true meaning? This question continues to be a boggler while observing the situation of things currently faced by men in the society. Whenever gender inequality is mentioned, our focus is usually on women; that women should receive equal respect, opportunities, and payment as men, and have the right to choose what happens to their bodies. These are terrible problems that women face to some degree in most countries around the world. However, gender inequality is an issue that affects men too. According to Emma Watson, an actress and Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations, in a speech at the UN General Assembly, “fighting for
women’s rights has become synonymous with man-hating”. I may be wrong, but feminism has been so over flogged that women in some countries are now seen as superior beings entitled to some privileges when compared to men, thus losing the true essence of equality between sexes.
For recruitment in a banking sector, statistics have shown that banks prefer attractive women (and in few cases, attractive men) for posts which involve direct interactions with medium to high-profile clients. I have never been to a bank and seen more men than women on the counter accepting money and paying cheques given by the customers. I agree that this may be uncomfortable for some attractive women in question especially those who are not aware of the hidden purpose for their recruitment. But even among those who are aware, many are offended. Only few are concerned. On one side, the banks are not necessarily at fault for being capitalistic and business minded, but it is discrimination nevertheless because there are male graduates who are good at sales and communication but left to roam the streets with their certificates all because they are not women.
Face the facts: Nowadays, women are paid more, given more second chances, sided more and are gaining too much of advantage over men. A skinny guy can be ridiculed by girls, called a wimp, unmanly, womanly and every other thing you can imagine but if he dares open his mouth and point out a fat girl eating McDonalds, he will be flamed to high hell. When relationships fail, it’s a fact that men get tragically overlooked when it comes to getting custody of their children. According to statistics, women receive custody of children 92% of the time in cases of divorce and illegitimacy. People will argue that the children needs to stay close to their mothers but this astoundingly high number means that men are being denied the opportunity to become positive role models in their children’s lives. Consider as well that the average child support payment due from women is half the amount due from men. And despite this fact, women are twice as likely as men to default on child support payments. Unlike women, society prevents men from showing emotions and vulnerabilities. While it’s perfectly permissible for women to be aggressive, the moment men let down their guard and cry they are accused of being effeminate.
They have real feelings as well, but unlike women, they don’t have the freedom to express them openly without having their masculinity and even their sexuality fall under question. Women have been in space, fought in wars and have served as heads of state, so why is it that men are termed the bad guy if they fail to hold a door open for a woman? Has it ever occurred to you that the guy who devised the “ladies first” policy may have created it just to check out his girlfriend’s ass? When it comes to equal treatment and equal rights for equal pay, women make more noise than a backfiring Bulldog. So why is it that when it comes to picking up a dinner bill, these same women suddenly become mute? Ladies can’t have it both ways. Being equal means assuming equal duties. With great paychecks come great responsibilities.
Even in television series, men are mostly depicted as grossly incompetent. From Family Guy to the Simpsons to King of Queens. According to Marge, Homer “chews with his mouth open, hangs out at a seedy bar with bums and lowlifes, blows his nose in towels and puts them back, and scratches himself with his keys”. Similarly, Family Guy’s Peter Griffin is a lovable oaf who “isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind; usually the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time”. The women in these same series, meanwhile, project an almost saintly glow as long-suffering wives and dedicated mothers. It’s a sad fact that we’re living in a world where unsubstantiated statements can be made about men, when these same claims would never be tolerated if they were directed at women.
Uchegbu Ndubuisi is a Public Affairs Analyst