CULTURE, CURRENT AFFAIRS

The Opposite of F is not P

By Claire Martens

All of us reading this belong to something; a movement, a motivation and a state of living. We belong to this club simply because we define ourselves as women. But what of the other similar, but wholly different, side of humans; the man? I have never heard of a movement called “masculinism”, so I often wonder how it feels to be a man confronted by that rather disconcerting, pain-in-the-ass, bitchy, strong, determined, but oh-so-fluffy, creature called a feminist.

Does he revolt against us secretly, but praise our determination? Is he slightly intimidated by the fact that his bad toilet humour just isn’t going to cut it? Does he wonder if he should open the door for us, in case it gets slammed in his face because it is considered offensive behaviour? Or does this show-down between man and feminist result in him grabbing at the closest thing he knows; asserting his masculinity, striking out with fists clenched, his ideas chauvinistic and confused? I always wonder if feminism will reinforce his patriarchy and whether they really are two sides of the same coin.

There are theories as to why a man will be violent towards a woman. I hope someone can enlighten me better, but as far as I have read, one explanation for the culture of violence in South Africa is that it is a sad, perplexing reaction to Apartheid. I don’t really know what that means, but I can guess. I can guess that the state of the “man”, and his relations to others, has changed so drastically that he is no longer sure of his place in this new world. Having experienced so many years of powerlessness (and here I speak of African men), men are asserting their new freedom, but in a dangerous and asocial way. And this is not an excuse to be violent; but in understanding the disease, one can hope to find the cure.

If this theory contains some truth, then it seems that men no longer understand what it means to be a man, what is expected of them and what role they hold in the new South Africa. They only know how to assert their masculinity, like an animal, which grows larger and more intimidating when its territory is threatened. Through the haze of uncertainty, they act out against women, whose own power continues to grow since the end of Apartheid. Woman becomes the enemy, because she threatens the power of the man. If this is the case, then somewhere along the line the message was mis-communicated, or perhaps misunderstood. When women demanded a better status in the new South Africa, they weren’t demanding a better status than men; they were demanding the same status as men. And therefore, I was wrong; the opposite of feminism is not paternalism, power or patriarchy, but humanism.

So what does masculinism look like? Because I think we need a movement for men. While women are in motion within and towards something big, men are left flailing in the wake, uncertain of how to react. I am not asserting that men need more rights, more opportunities or more freedoms. What men need is a safe place to go when the darkness of our new land engulfs them; they need a safe place to go where they can feel like they belong. They need a movement which will help them to develop a new culture of norms and standards which will help them to deal with this new land. They need a movement which explains what it means to be human.

Masculinism should not be a movement against women, but a movement in parallel to women. We as feminists, who believe in equality of the human state, have the ability and responsibility to encourage this movement. We are the ones who should be determining the rules; we are the ones who should be creating the commandments. No person should rape another person; no person should abuse another person; no person should discriminate against another person. There is a dark wave which is washing through our land and we all need to play a role in extinguishing it.

Who is with me?

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2 thoughts on “The Opposite of F is not P”

  1. Very interesting theory. I think that across all cultures in South Africa, there is also a cycle. When men had to leave their families to go and work in towns, many turned to alcohol or were abused by other men themselves. Because masculinity and emotion did not coincide, they simply retaliated on their own families, teaching their sons to do the same. I think that because of the conservancy of many of our cultures, men are taught that they cannot share their feelings but at the same time, must be in control of a family. That is a nervous condition waiting to manifest itself in some form of behavioral pattern. And again, be passed down to children. I think you are right. Where is the space for men to talk and to open up? Where can we allow men a place to feel OK that they are frustrated and fed up? Or to ask for help? I reckon, we start at the place where the cycle began. At home. We let our brothers, sons, husbands and partners know that their home is a place where they do not have to put on a mask. We offer them safety, love and understanding. Maybe they’ll pass it on to their brothers, sons and fathers too and we’ll get a little piece of “masculinism” beginning?

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  2. Wonderful article and though-provoking.
    You hit the nail right on the head with acknowledging that men are frankly left behind a little in the wave of feminism. As much as I support the ideals of feminist theory, I have drifted away from calling myself an outright feminist as I have always found it to be exclusionary to men and without men, and without women, no one on this planet would get very far. The last paragraph of your article sums up my views very well: it’s not just “men shouldn’t abuse xyz” and “men/women shouldn’t rape women/men” – it’s taking the gender discrimination out and replacing it with a humanist perspective – “no-one should abuse anyone, no-one should denigrate anyone”. We have a lot to teach our men aand boys what it means NOT to be a man, and what is fundamentally wrong with the current chauvinistic and paternalistic upbringing in many countries. We have a lot to teach our women and girls what is really so wrong with calculating and expressing your worth via outer beauty and looks. I dislike being part of any group that sides with a single gender, even if that group very admirably advocates much needed respect for the other gender. I believe we would all be better off seeing each other as humans first. As human beings that breathe the same air, strive for the same fulfilling and exciting lives, and want the best for ourselves and each other. At the end of the day women need, want and cherish men. Men also need, want and cherish women. Without each other we are a very lonely species. So next time you decide to support one or the other organisation for whatever reason, maybe take the time and ask first “what can I do to further the situation on the basis that they are just as human as I am”, and then ask afterwards “How can I help this women and/or man reach their potential fully?”

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