Gender equality

The Diary of a Non-Male Chauvinist

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I know they think I’m weird. They call me a Feminist, and then wonder if there is even such a thing as a Male Feminist. And so they make light of my masculinity, going short of calling me a woman. But I am not a woman; I just dearly love women. Moreover, I am  by every standard male and masculine. But one thing I will never be is chauvinistic. I cherish the fact that a woman’s vagina birthed me. And in the same vein, I hold the belief that everyone deserves the right to be respectfully treated at all times, no matter whether it is a penis or a vagina that they have in between their legs.

Growing up as a little boy, I was always in awe of women. I always knew that there is something very special about them; something almost beyond human. Their resilience to life’s hurdles amazed me and inspired me. And so did their beauty, which up till date continues to mesmerize me by the way. But with every passing day ever since my childhood days, I came to realize that these beautiful set of humans called women aren’t always treated with as much justice as they deserved. Being female in our clime (African traditions) and indeed elsewhere can be synonymous with disadvantages. Women are short-changed at every level and aspect of life. And so I realised earlier on that this injustice has to be called out, repudiated and denounced. This is so important, because short-changing our women simply amounts to short-changing the whole of humanity. And this isn’t what we truly want for ourselves; is it?

As I have become grown with my worldviews expanded, I have come to become a total advocate/supporter of feminism. It is a good thing to be, because having availed myself the opportunity to learn about the long history of female oppression and the struggles that led to breaking down most of the glass ceilings, I knew right away that I had to become a part of the movement- the movement to break down the rest of the glass ceilings that is. Moreover, the truth is that I myself have been negatively impacted by the injustice called gender bias. My paternal grandmother was of course female. And even though I never met her, I knew the story of her life. She was a woman short-changed and disadvantaged by her own father, maybe not purposefully, but because it was what the culture specified. You see, she was the first child of a local Igbo Chief. Her father had the resources to put her through school just like he did her younger brother. But she never got that opportunity because it was uncultured for a young girl to go to school when she ought to be married and “tending her husband and children”. Consequently, my paternal granny never got the most basic education. This was unlike her brother who acquired a masters degree back in the 1960s. To cut this story short, my grandma, who married a local farmer, died as an impoverished farmer, whereas her brother became one of the most influential men of his time. The difference between them was that one got the opportunity to thrive whereas the other was denied that same opportunity…just because she was female.

Feminist

The decision to treat women and girls with respect does not do any harm. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case when women’s rights are violated and abused by culture and maybe legislation. I therefore use this medium to call on every well-meaning man to embrace gender-equality; embrace humanity. Respect and empower women, because s it is often said, the rest of humanity succeeds and thrives when women succeed and thrive.

Best!

-Emmanuel Abara Benson

 

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A MALE DIARY (PATRIARCHY RUINED MY LIFE)

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Patriarchy ruined my life because I let it!

It first started like a force beyond my control; my mother’s inability to get an education affected her economic/social status in life. This consequently determined a lot about my own life because not only was she ill-prepared to face life (just because she was female), she had been married off to a loser at an early stage. Her younger brother on the other hand got all the education he ever wanted (courtesy of being male), and had gone on to do great things in life. [Un]fortunately for me, my father gave me nothing in life other than life itself. So after he died early, it was as though he never even existed!

I had to work extra hard to position myself on the same pedestal as my uncle’s children. It was a hard thing to do even as I was constantly disgruntled as to why the man was wealthy enough to give his children the best in life while I struggled all by myself. My mother told me severally that the man was a money ritualist; she couldn’t even figure out the cause of the problem! But one thing was clear to me, and that was the fact that she never really got along with her younger brother.

It took me a while [though] to figured out the reason for the disparity in status and economic success of my mother and uncle. Unfortunately this was after I already did let the causative factor ruin my life! You see I was my mother’s only son and as such she adored me just like my sisters did. Like most cultures of the world, my Igbo descent privilege manhood. So I was a treasure, while my sisters were more like tools- for protecting the treasure! I enjoyed the attention and in fact lived for the it. It was my birthright. But unknown to me it would be my nemesis!

I mentioned earlier how I suffered to accomplish everything I achieved in life. But the truth is that my struggle for survival is child’ play compared to what my mother and sisters went through. The funny thing [though] is that they never even realize their predicament they were into as a result of culture. To them it was an honour to make their son/brother/lovers happy. It is an honour to most women to protect the interests of the men in their lives. But unknown to most of them they do this to their own disadvantage. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them much; I mean culture made them so!

Regrettably I never appreciated the sacrifices of the women in my life. What can I say…I was the privileged man in the midst of women. I grew up lacking maturity of mind even though physically I was every inch a man. My privileged, male-chauvinistic ways would later rub off negatively on my relationship with women especially my wife Caroline whom this story is about. She was the only woman who ever truly loved me (my mother aside). Just like my mother and sisters, Caroline also sacrificed a lot of her comforts to be with me and make me happy, including defying her dying father’s wish of having nothing to do with someone of my ilk. When things were hard for me it was Caroline who footed the bills. She even helped me to get a job using her family’s connections, all the while having to deal with my mother and sisters who all rejected her. They disliked every bit of her person. It must have been hard for her- all the difficult times she hard trying to conceive a child. My people would call her names, telling her she was a man in a woman’s anatomy. I never for once defended her, yet she stood by me and loved me nonetheless. She would eventually bear me a son. But I was too privileged to find that satisfying.
Caroline found it difficult bearing more children after the birth of our son. This therefore became a major source of dispute. My mother wanted more grandchildren, five more perhaps seven and preferably all boys. And she had a demand- if Caroline my wife couldn’t make that possible the only option was to get another woman for me. I agreed with this plan mostly to please my mother but mainly because of my insatiable appetite for variety. Sneaking around and cheating on my wife wasn’t enough; I needed a reason to make my cheating official and having more children was it. So I began to cheat openly. The plan was not just to marry any other woman into the family, but to taste the waters (and the grounds) to find the one(s) fertile enough for my purpose- expanding the family. Using this excuse I went ahead to disgrace my wife greatly. I would bring the different women into our home and force her to sleep in the guestroom. But as though nature was punishing me none of those women ever became pregnant for me. Yet Caroline stayed.

As the years passed I got worse. My mother and sisters couldn’t make the situation any worst either. But just as the say- change is the most inevitable thing. I was so surprised when Caroline gradually became a different woman. She began by not caring too much about my feelings as she used to, and then she began cheating on me just as I did on her. Eventually she left me, taking my son. The boy hated the idea of me just as I once hated my father. I would never hear about my son for many years except that he had relocated to Canada with his mother where he studied at a top university and became a successful business executive.

As I write this, I am a middle-aged man with no family and no peace of mind. Patriarchy ruined my life, and I let it…

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~Emmanuel Benson
(Based on an interview with a man who has chosen to be anonymous. Names have been changed to this end…)