When I heard the quote “feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes” on Flawless by Beyoncé, I was like, yeah! This makes sense! When I went to find the original Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TEDx speech, the message resonated even further.
I mean, of course, we should all be feminists! It is for the improvement of the whole world! But that was over five years ago and now in this new decade, I can’t help but question the implications of that feeling.
Nationally across almost every aspect of life, women are consistently placed behind men. We get paid less in the office, we have lower access to finance, we have almost no reproductive rights, and fewer girls and women are enrolled in education regardless of the level. Which completely justifies the need to make a concerted effort to focus on the empowerment of girls and women.
So, initially, when I heard about things like the men’s conference and how the boychild has been left behind, I was angry!
These East African men of ours were being big babies now that women were catching up with them, and sooner or later would be playing on the same level. But on second thought, when we were busy empowering our women, did anyone remember to teach the men how to handle the situation?
Most of the men, more so the powerful ones watched their fathers be the alpha male in the household as they fulfil a tradition passed down to provide for the family. While their mothers first job was to look after the home and to be a good wife.
The priorities of women have undoubtedly changed, while those of our male counterparts haven’t. Where our mothers hoped that their husbands would respect them enough not to cheat on them in their matrimonial bed, women of this generation expect their husbands to be faithful.
Where one of the most important qualities behind choosing a mate for our mothers was, if they can be taken care of, women of this generation want a mate who can support them to follow their dreams – both professional and personal. Even in the workplace women -albeit a special select few- have moved from serving tea to calling the shots in the boardroom.
But very few men have changed with the times. That is why the #MeToo movement happened because, fortunately, unlike our mothers, we stood up and said enough is enough! That is why women are walking away from unhappy marriages and proudly owning the title “single mother”.
The irony is not lost when you have conversations with these men who have been reluctant to adapt, their hearts break when they speak on everything their mothers went through, they flip out at the thought of their sisters or daughters being treated the same way. However, the majority of the time, that just does not translate to how they conduct themselves in relationships both professionally and personally.
We – not as women but as the society – do truly need to allow men to create safe spaces where they can sort all these issues out. Let him talk about how they are attracted to that woman in the office whose red skirt is dangerously short and how that makes him feel.
It’s important for men of this generation to understand how to give constructive feedback to their partners on issues that bother them, not because it makes them any less of a man but because they value their relationship so much that they are willing to put in the work. Because God knows the generations to come will probably appreciate that we broke the cycle.