By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa
Every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face. But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand.”
– Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero
It is difficult not to hate men. Honestly, if you are a woman witnessing all the injustices of the patriarchal system we live in, you cannot help but to hate them. I hate men. I fear men. I walk around the streets wary of being attacked. Using a toilet at the mall is a life threatening exercise. Most abductions happen there. Many women are attacked and raped there. A simple exercise of releasing oneself is dangerous, because of men. Often we ask ourselves how human beings could be so cruel towards other human beings. This reminds me of an extract I got when reading Ain’t I a Woman by Bell Hooks:
We must understand that our anger (and hatred) is something that comes from within us. It is not a woman’s fault. It is the attitude that patriarchal society has encouraged us to feel towards all women. When finally confronted with the reality of feminism, which threatens our power and privileges, our defences cannot hide our true anger and we turn to incredible violence.
We have to accept that this anger belongs to us and stems from our hatred of women. I know men say that they really do not hate women, they have just treated them unfairly because of socialization (“Those other men are rapists, not me”). This can be a cop-out and untruth. All men do hate women, and until we take responsibility for our personal hatred, we will not be able to seriously explore our emotionality nor treat women as equal human beings.
So men hate women? That would be a sound explanation, otherwise why would they hurt us like this? Hatred runs deep. This emotion alone can drive people to do the unthinkable, well a sufficient amount of it. Look at how deep white people hated black people. Is there a justification acceptable for this? Not that I can think of. How can they invade people’s land, kill the population and sell them off as slaves? Can we simply say the reason was the richness of the land? Impossible. It is deep hatred, a hatred no truth commission could ever erase. White people hated us for just being black. So it is quite possible that men hate women for just being…
Can we talk about how men think the struggle against white supremacy only affected them? They are always talking about being emasculated by white people. They say their manhood was violated when they were sold as slaves and kicked out of their land. This is usually said by men alive today, men who were not there during colonisation or apartheid. Fine, let us agree that history affects our present. These two periods affected Africans in ways unimaginable. To this day our people are fighting to get their land back, trying to build back their dignity, and ridding themselves of white masters. We were born into these struggles, we are part of them, and hopefully we are moving in the right direction. But why is the struggle of women side-lined?
Firstly; we were oppressed by tradition. Women have long been made subhuman who only exist to be objects for men’s satisfaction. Women had to bow down to men and perform all household duties. Cooking, cleaning, washing, looking after children, farming (they fed children in every way), and every single thing needed. I am not exaggerating. Mamotladi Ivy Matloga said it better in her book Madness in Duggart:
Rough-skinned knees were their common feature because of all the kneeling the needed to do just to survive a normal day. Knees went down to tie a bunch of firewood together. Knees went down to lift a bucket of water off the ground to the head. Knees went down to put a fire together, and then down to blow it, then again to cook a meal. Down on their knees they went to serve the men in their lives. They had to kneel for their basic needs to be met. Knees went down again in routine prayer.
Look at women running households today; how many are providing financially and managing the house as well? Back then men had the excuse of providing financially, but did they really? How many men went off to cities looking for work and abandoned their families upon arriving there? The wives had to accept that he had made a new life, without them, and stay to ‘build’ their families. Men who still have this mentality are appalling. What is even worse is women who defend them. But who am I to judge? We all have different paths in this life thing.
Secondly; the wars fought in history meant women were left alone in villages to take care of families while men went out to fight. While these women carried the children’s emotional struggles, they had to scramble for food, and fight off soldiers. There was nobody to protect them from soldiers invading their homes and raping them. Somehow it had become a norm for soldiers to rape, it affirmed their manhood apparently. What of those victims? Who helped them through those traumatic experiences? Who was there when women were scared to go look for food because soldiers (the very people who should be protecting them) would rape them and decapitate them? Why is this suffering not acknowledged? What of the women who became liberal fighters as well? We know what happened in those anti-apartheid camps. We know how male comrades physically, emotionally, and sexually abused the female comrades. The women know how they were killed for being too ‘headstrong’. There was the apartheid government to fight, and the male comrades to be wary of. We need to appreciate the women of 1956 that took to the streets to fight against the pass laws on the 9th of August. Why then is the men’s struggle more important, and why is the struggle enough reason for them to behave like beasts?
Lastly; this is one of the reasons men give for being abusive that baffle me. “I watched my mother being abused by my father” – and you enjoyed it so much you are doing it to the woman you love? By accepting this are we not implying that girls who grew up watching the same phenomena might be abusive, or crave being abused? Instead of making up these excuses, why are men not seeking help? Because men are strong, right? Because men do not talk about their problems. Because men do not cry. Our lives are crumbling down and here we are holding on to ill teachings of society. Men hiding behind the teaching of culture or tradition are not only hindering progress, they are killing future generations. I pity boys born in these times. I feel sorrier for boys growing up in these times, those who have already inherited these teachings. Where does it end? Women should accept that they are abused because men are holding on to childhood anger and them having penises mean they should not deal with it? Why are we used as men’s rehabilitation centres?
The women today are unlearning the oppressive teachings that has been passed down through generations. Why are men holding on to the very teachings? Why are we not helping the little boys with a different education? The problem of absent fathers contributes to these badly raised boys. Our little boys do not have good male role models. I appreciate that mothers raise their children with love, and teach them everything they can. But what happens when they leave the house and meet other males in the streets? What lessons are they getting out there? Drugs, booze, abusing women – show you are a real man. There is no father to teach this boy good manners and responsibility. Very soon this child will tell his mother; “I am a man, no woman tells me what to do.”
I saw a post on social media where a man was explaining that some men choose to be absent fathers because they do not want to contaminate their children with their demons. I got so mad! The nerve of that guy! Are we supposed to accept this? Why make children if you cannot raise them? Who will raise your children for you while you are loving them from a distance? Is there some magic that raises children with absent fathers with demons? To think men were actually agreeing to this! Yesses…
We should also address the effect of social media in our lives. Yes, it has helped with breaking barriers between countries, and financial classes. We know how difficult it was to communicate in the not-so-distant past. But the very social media is exposing people to destructive things. Human traffickers apparently gets a lot of their ‘products’ on social media. These men lure young women with relationships and money. What woman does not want to be loved and spoiled? Liking fine things does not mean I want to be sold off, neither does it mean I want to be raped. Social media is also a good tool for activism and raising awareness on certain topics. But we have perpetrators in masks there pretending to be saints. The hypocrisy in those streets! I mean, Arthur Mafokate was one of the men that led the #NotInMyName march that was promoted on social media. How many of those men were abusers and rapists wearing activists’ masks? That whole march threw a shadow to the #TotalShutdown that was an all-women march against the violation of women. A revolution so massive! But it only made us stronger, women will continue to fight those men with everything we have.
Oh the ever useful social media! Someone posted a question there; “How can we curb underage drinking?” I shook my head in disbelief when I saw that post. Children learn from what we do, and not what we say. My generation of adults are treating alcohol as the ‘you are cool’ label. Every child wants to be cool. Children are conducting themselves in the manner that we are. We should be careful of the things we are showing them. We inherited the hatred from our bloodlines. White people inflicted pain to our ancestors that we still feel today, therefore we hate. Women have been oppressed by culture, by men, and even by law – so we hate. Children are sucking this hatred from our breasts. They are growing up witnessing the injustices – therefore they hate. Our daughters and sons are being raped in diapers – therefore they hate. We are wiping their blood and tears, while trying to heal their scars – so we hate. When does the cycle end?