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The Pop in Gender Politics

Boy, don’t you be a fool to think we’ve truly achieved equality in every sense, because that’s a fool’s paradise.

Gender equality has grown to be that pop song that’s overplayed on radios by virtue of being a chart-topper. You know, that song that inactively gets encoded and etched into your brain because it’s also slapped in your face?

When you’re in the kombi, it’s being blasted through the speaker faces of that Busy Signal omnibus. Whilst crossing by that corner shop along Cnr Street town name and some vaguely African sounding road, you also hear that same song. You get to your destination, be it school, work, aimless meandering Central, or just life I guess, and there it is, that same song. Consequently, it starts out as you singing the tune in your mind, and before you know, you’re humming it all the way across town, the worst-case scenario, it becomes something that people grow to know you by to the point that the song (which initially literally made you cringe) now reminds people of you.

I know right, even more cringe. Thousand times cringe.

Now, pop songs are called pop songs because they work. They are a tried and tested formula, hence the favourable results of how easily that hate for it can turn into love affirming the thin line that separates the two. Unfortunately, I’m afraid a song that goes by the name Gender equality, which personally I can bump to any day, has been afforded the same sad fate. At the mere utterance of the word feminism, people have already inadvertently decided that they don’t like you because you’re radical and just too political for their liking and comfort. To be referred to as a feminist has become something you cringe at, because of the insinuations that come with the aesthetic and construct. And just like that, something that started out as a beautiful thing has been tainted and made to appear as something else that’s contrary. It’s pop music all over again, and maybe that can be attributed to the holes of misunderstanding that have been poked all over this airtight bag of feminism.

But, the world still goes round, and that pop song is forever etched into existence. Thus it begs the question of whether or not gender equality is a fool’s paradise.

The world, experience and life has moulded me to opine that we’re still very much a far cry away from ever securing the bag of gender equality. Yes, don’t get me wrong, the glass is half full. But given the choice, I’d love a glass filled up to the brim with that full cream milk because hey, I may be a full-grown woman but I’m still trying to fill out my jeans and be able to relate to Beyonce’s pain of jumping to put jeans on. Gender politics is a touchy sensitive matter, that’s often flooded and furnished by the “unpopular opinions” which if you ask me, are so unpopular they’ve become the holy grail of popularity, and of course, I don’t know who needs to hear this, but oh well.

The fabric of our Zimbabwean society is embedded in cultural traditions and norms that have governed this haven that we’ve come to call home. It’s dawned on me, on more than one occasion that in as much as gender equality is ideal, and has been a long time coming, it’s once again a gift from our Western counterparts. At its core, it’s largely a Eurocentric/Westernized movement that has once again been shipped to our motherland on a lanky fish boat, with no space for anything beyond what it came with. Sounds familiar? Great!

It’s hard to imagine that a ravishing nation endowed with the zest of a savanna sun-kissed aura, could ever fully adopt a Western concept. I know what you’re thinking, colonialism, but that was a different time, people. Is it really possible for us to achieve the utopia of equality? Traditionally, and biblically, we’re of the opinion that man is the head of the house, and in as much as it’s hard to admit, the boy child and the man does take precedence over the girl child so often. It’s become so much of our reality for so long, that it’s become a blind spot of a sort. And you know how we Africans love our traditions and religions, so much a part of it is like skin to bone.

I’m not a magician, and definitely lack the clairvoyance to tell what you’re thinking right now, but I have a pretty good idea. You’re thinking;

“What is this full-grown woman talking about? They preach and advocate for equality, and seem to be seamlessly contradicting themselves, these women! It must be those darn monthly cycles.”

Well, if that’s your stream of consciousness, I don’t know what to say to that. But, what I can do is further explain and elaborate on this point and myself.

Gender equality is an unattainable utopia. Yet it is important for my fellow young brethren to come to appreciate that, first things first, the idea of gender equality was put in motion because it was necessary. For years on end, women had been subjected to the short end of the stick, by virtue of being female. Girls weren’t afforded the same opportunities as boys, and this stretched across all demography. It also went beyond that and tapped into perceptions and ideologies that were prejudicial in nature. The plights that women went through and experienced which were more or less peculiar to them were just too apparent to ignore, and yet that’s exactly what happened.

In her 1892 work, The Yellow Wallpaper, American novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman follows an unnamed protagonist as she lets us in on her post-natal depressive episodes through journal entries. Sadly, the husband shows little to no care concerning her plight, attributing her melancholia to some sort of “nervous depression” distress that could only be cured by idleness, and so they (the men in her life) take away the few pleasures of existence she indulges in such as writing in her journal which proved to be cathartic for her. As the story climaxes, she descends into an insanity pit, due to the passive lack of understanding and empathy from everyone around her. Most damaging in hindsight was the diminishing and belittling sentiments regarding her condition from what was supposed to be the support system of a woman in an ailment. This woman was practically locked in a mansion of grandeur that had all but the makings of an asylum, which arguably only accelerated her descent into madness. One could easily allude that the surrounding people just, more or less, expected her to be okay when she wasn’t, resulting in uncaring negligence.

Novelist Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Photograph: Granger Historical Picture Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s sad to say that this was the reality faced by women stretching as far back as the medieval ages as women’s problems and issues weren’t something that was given precedence because well, it was and since has been a man’s world. Forgive me for raining on your parade, but understand that this was the reality, and goodness forbids, it still is today.

But like all things of the world, what was born out of necessity in its purity has been tainted and coloured with all sorts of brushes in our present day. It is important for us to understand that the gender equality movement was necessary because the disparities between men and women had just grown too much to be ignored, and ultimately, this spilt into other facets of everyday life.

And so my fellow brethren, fall out of the habit of snidely justifying matters by using gender equality as an excuse. Most importantly, fall out of the habit of holding on to bitterness when it seemingly appears as if this whole gender equality thing is not fair, because it’s a man’s world, and despite that man is born of a woman, the discrepancies regarding the Ls women have had to take compared to you, my brethren, is undeniable. So yes, the world has progressed to a point where females are now afforded the chance to go to school, get a good job, access the same resources as men and the like. But boy, don’t you be a fool to think we’ve truly achieved equality in every sense, because that’s a fool’s paradise.

We’ve simply reached a state of armistice where we’ve arrived at a point of attempting to even out the grievances and discrepancies that’ve been the order of the day for centuries now by setting some things right one day at a time. But we’re far away from equality; it’s a fool’s paradise, particularly in this part of the world because unlike in the West, the discrepancies that occurred between man and woman were also a culmination of traditional practices, identifying with the patriarchal system of our motherland. And these traditions still persist today because, in as much as culture is malleable and can morph into different shapes, that aspect of our culture remains headstrong and very much prevalent today. Ours is a case of culture, and of tradition. So in as much as we’ve painted the surface with a coat of gender equality, it’s still rust underneath.

Do not be fooled, equality is glitter. The girl child will always be bound by cultural expectations and norms that will not allow her to experience childhood or adulthood the same as the male, it’s been that way since the time of Mzilikazi, and it still is now. Severity may be the only factor that has morphed into a different form, hence I find it completely ridiculous to have someone utter “gender equality” to justify ‘unfairness’ on their part, because to me all it says is, I as the man cannot take an L, whilst you woman takes a win. This ultimately is a reflection of the issue of precedence once again, we’ve simply graduated from only boys are allowed the affinity of education, to only girls take Ls. Can we not be allowed some wins after centuries of intensive stifling? If we can’t, and you doom us to an eternity of Ls, what colour world will the next generation of little girls live, because it goes beyond us, and it’s bigger than us wholly.

Equality in every sense of the word maybe be fool’s gold, but it doesn’t make it okay for you to continually push for us to go back to that short end of the stick when we’ve fought for more. For years now we’ve bypassed insensitive comments trying to take away from the few wins we are afforded from time to time because what’s a molehill to a mountain?

Now, before you have my head on a spike, I will speak another truth into this, because the playing field has to be levelled off. As ye shall unite, then will the revolution beginneth! Gender equality poses a threat to the livelihood of a society deeply embedded in its religious cultural practices. Is that perhaps why we subconsciously constantly fight it? Better yet, when we speak of gender politics we should remember we have a bigger question to answer before we go fishing in the pond, and that is, are we ready to also change the face of our religious traditions and cultural practices? Because that is essentially what it means for us.

Gender inequality is not perpetuated exclusively through differential access to and control over material resources. Gender norms and stereotypes embedded in cultures respectively reinforce gendered identities and constrain the behaviour of women and men in ways that lead to inequality. Therefore, to an extent, I stand to believe that this whole gender equality fiasco is a threat to the existence of mankind because it stands to create false hope for us about a utopia that is ideal but is inconceivable even in imagination and thought. What a tyranny to commit to humankind!

And once again I salute you, antagonists of our make-do world, for now, you have teased and tantalized us with fallacies of a utopia we will struggle and fight for beyond reason and reasonable doubt to no avail. It is only until when we conveyer belt and bridge our eyes as masses to open and see the truth of glitter we’ve been deceived to think was gold that we will be saved from the possibility of this being the driver of our apocalyptic end. Jesus take the wheel!

Tarisai Krystal

A femme fatale who harbours aspirations in everything and anything that allows her to create. An avid music listener, a sucker for a good story. A creative who’s passionate about empowerment, expression, and consciousness.

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