As Men, Do We Know How To Engage With Women And Engage On Women’s Issues?

As men, do we know how to engage with women and engage on women’s issues?

We are sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, boyfriends, friends of women who deal with a myriad of economic, physical, mental and sexual assaults on each and every day.

In 2016 silence is tantamount complicity. We can’t just throw around imaginary threats about how you’d kill anyone who harms your daughter.

Our silence is hurting the people we claim to love. These things are happening to them while we are in these women’s lives. Here’s what the rape stats are actually say to you: Homeboy there’s very high probability that bae is going to get raped. Many of the women who get raped, THEY HAVE BOYFRIENDS! And it didn’t happen because she was being a hoe. It happened because a guy just like you felt entitled to do it. Yet we still believe that it’s not our problem because we didn’t hurt anyone.

So, now, I ask again, do you know how to engage with women’s issues? If Yes, how? If No, why not?

At any given moment in a man’s life, he will be a son to a mother, or a brother to a girl, or an uncle to a niece, or a good friend to a woman, or a boyfriend to a woman, or a husband. Either, at any give moment, most men have a woman in their life whom they care for and feel the need to protect. But now, do we, as men, know how to engage with or engage on social issues that have to do with women? Most importantly, why is it that the more women are collectively vocal about an issue, the louder the silence from men?
Recently, there have been protests at Rhodes University and among other issues, the mostly female students are calling for an end to what they feel is a culture of rape on the campus. The #FeesMustFall movement dust had not even settled when the hypocritic cracks in society’s discourse began to show. Seemingly, it was felt that the movement’s strength had to be awarded to men and women were to be seen as accessories rather than equally capable partners. This means that the victory for equal access to education was a bitter-sweet one for women. Most importantly, it showed that men could fight side by side with women and still be totally oblivious to the fact that women themselves face challenges that men do not. The recent Rhodes Protests have become yet another testament to the fact that, in times of revolution, there can be no sacred cows.
When I first heard of the concept of a “rape culture” a few years ago, I struggled to grasp it. It seems like a contradiction. Culture is something you cherish, something you celebrate and are proud to be the custodian of. Tragically, therein lies the irony; rape culture is cherished, celebrated and most men are the custodians of it.
One of the comments to a recent Facebook post of mine on the issue pointed out something that had never occurred to me. A friend mentioned that one of the ways in which rape culture is maintained is through the casual sexual objectification of women. This was through how men talk about a woman as she walks by. This is a scenario that each and every man has found himself in since he was a teenager. Growing up in the hood, we’d spend a lot of time with our friends standing around street corners talking rubbish and checking out girls. Every so often, a girl would walk past and a guy in the group would say something like, “yoh, Lerato’s got some serious ass”, then another would say, “if she ever gave me a chance, I’d do her till her legs trembled”. Now, bear in mind that boys are raised to be competitive, someone always needs to have a one up on the everyone else. So, invariably, there will be that one guy who will say something like, “If I got her, I’d make her scream and cry”. In that moment, we know the guy, and we know that he is not talking about screams of pleasure but, I guess, therein lies the sordid humour.
Of course, most of the guys in that group would be just talking crap. Heck, at that time, most, if not all of them, had never even seen a vagina, much less know what to do with it. But, amongst the chuckles, a seed is planted somewhere. A masochist seed; a belief that there is some kind of sexual gratification to be gained from hurting a woman and that somehow, women enjoy the pain and that this pain of “pleasure” reinforces a man’s virility. This is why rape is seen as an act of power rather than sex. Most rapists are fulfilling fantasies that they have harboured since childhood.
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine detailed on her blog how she was raped by someone she was familiar. What struck me about what she said was actually what he said afterwards. It was something along the lines of, “girls like you like it rough”. Remember that guy who joked about making a woman “scream and cry”? Well, that’s what he grew up to become. What was missing in the conversation at that street corner amongst those teenage boys was someone to say, “but you do know that hurting a girl is wrong right?” But there was never that, so here he is, blaming her for not enjoying being violated. It didn’t occur to him that he had raped her even though she repeatedly asked her to stop. This, sadly, is the good guy vs rapist mentality. He still thinks that he is a good guy who was actually giving a woman what he believes she wanted because only hardened criminals are called rapists. This is part of the reason why so many women do not report rape because the perpetrator is this friendly guy that everyone likes who raped her in her his posh apartment on his pure leather couch.
Why am I pointing out these scenarios? Because the reason why so of us keep quiet when it comes to women’s issues is because we are directly or indirectly implicit in the creation of those very issues. If you asked a guy if he’d attend a women’s rights march, he’d probably be down with that. If you asked a guy if he’d attend an anti-rape protest he’ll probably want a breakdown of the logistics, what time the thing starts and ends and he’d probably run it passed the guys group on WhatsApp. Why? Because “women’s rights” is such vague term that there’s unlikely to be questions directed at the guy himself. An anti-rape protest puts you right in front of the firing line because, directly and indirectly, he has things that he needs to answer for. The truth is that there is no such thing as “women’s issues” in the same sense as, if you speak about crime, there is no such things as “victim’s issues”.
triarchy is a fraternity built on loyalty. “Bros before hoes” is not just a catchphrase, it is sacrosanct…
To be continued…