Advocation for gender equality and rights have gained full momentum in the 21st century. Women have protested against the injustices pervading all domains of life – in the workplace, at home, on the streets. Truly, we have come a long way.
While I laud the valiant and ardent efforts of my fellow 21st-century women, and their predecessors who challenged sexist norms in society, with unfailing awe and pride, I lament a factor hindering our steps towards equality – the “us against them mentality”.
Yes, feminism is a woman’s cause. We fight for our rights, dignity, recognition as equals to the opposite sex. We advocate for the aforementioned with downright fervour. We aspire for an equal society – social equality and equal rights for all. We do not want to be painted with a broad brush, to have stereotypes hastily imposed on us before we can prove our worth at something, to be chastised for taking on roles conventionally prescribed to men by societal norms. We do not want any of that. But when the roles are reversed do we practice the very ideals we advocate? Do we challenge the stereotypes and expectations imposed on men by society? Do we support men who take on roles conventionally and traditionally prescribed to women?
While I agree that misogyny is the bane of every feminist’s existence, I have to remind some that sexism and males can be mutually exclusive. Yes, this is a perception held by many women, but the number of women who do not hold this view is staggering. We cannot paint all men with a broad brush, assuming that they harbour sexist perspectives or view the fight against gender inequality with utter disdain and apathy. To do so is to contradict our very own views and aspirations. We cannot try to challenge traditional roles forced on women while also imposing traditional roles on the opposite sex. We women support the feminist movement, but sadly we tend to perpetuate various social norms imposed on men that perpetuate sexism in our society. For instance, expecting a man to pay on dates, screening out potential partners who do not have a higher pay scale compared to your salary or wage, viewing emotional men as weak, downplaying male sexual abuse, and much more.
Both sexes have an important role to play in the eradication of sexism. By turning a blind eye to such double standards, we allow ourselves to wallow in a cesspool of shameless hypocrisy. Excluding men hinders our aspirations. We have to recognize that both sexes experience great disadvantages and injustices in different areas. We have to work against double standards against both men and women. Through this, we can achieve true equality.
So instead of driving a wedge between the two sexes, let us declare war on sexism, misandry and philandry. We can do so much better than attack the opposite sex, we can together topple sexist notions and injustices all for the sake of peaceful coexistence. It is not “us against them”. It is us against misogyny, misandry and all-encompassing sexism.
Feliciana Nezingu, South Africa