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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Would the 21st Century Man please stand up?

A friend of mine confided in me a while back. She informed how she had been told by a guy that she had a strong feminist streak and was always intent on having her way. To him, it was unattractive. Picture the character Taraji P Henson plays in ‘Think like a Man’. My friend is a winner in so many ways; she's pretty and very, very smart. Her strength and determination convince me that she would grow to be very successful. However, she has fears that this single mindedness and sense of ambition would turn boys off. I said to her "Any boy who's scared of going out with you for those reasons is insecure and definitely not worthy of you".

The world has changed. In the past, women were seen as some sort of inferior species. There was no statutory compulsion that they be paid equally with men, even if they had the same qualifications. There was no legislation to curtail marital rape. Wives were expected to stay at home and accept the role of being cleaners and cooks. I watch the TV show ‘Mad Men’ today and cringe at the sexism that was prevalent in the time it was set. Sexism isn't dead yet. It's still very much alive in the way women are encouraged to put up with their cheating husbands. They are told "As long as he's not open with it, just keep shut". In Nigerian society, a broken marriage is seen as some sort of failure and this leads to us forcing people to stay together when it is so evident they are doomed. Some men are so brazen that they do it without any fear or inhibitions.

Feminists are constantly mocked as bitter, unattractive and incapable of getting the d. That is the creation propagated by men who are worried about their contributions towards ending Patriarchy. Yes, there are some extremists who really take the cake but it would be wrong to paint all of them with the same brush just as it is unfair to think all Muslims are terrorists or all Nigerians are fraudsters. There are exceptions. As a result of this, being a feminist is seen as some sort of joke when it should be respected as a stance to ensure that people should not be treated any differently because of what they have between their legs

One campaign I am particularly passionate about is the Page 3 campaign. The Sun, the most viewed newspaper in the UK runs a feature on its third page where a glamour model is depicted in her birthday suit. For one, the idea of it is very distasteful. It also reinforces the sexist stereotypes that we have struggled to blur in recent times. Kids are a curious bunch and newspapers can help to satisfy their curiosity. Turning the cover page and seeing a lady's tits feeds the young boy's mind that women exist to satisfy him. Things like this enhance that laddish subculture that girls "should flash for the lads". Where would it end? Less than a month ago, I was at a talk by a man who has served as Deputy Editor of the Sun and its sister paper, News of the World before its demise as a result of the phone hacking scandal. My lecturer, an Israeli lady who is also anti Page 3 questioned him on it. Like Politicians are wont to do, he dodged the question. His defence being that "There are worse things to be outraged about". He told of a conversation he had with his 18year old son and a couple of his friends in which he informed them of the disdain felt for Page 3, which they laughed off as harmless. That in itself highlights how damaging the campaign has been as people have become so desensitised to it that they see nothing wrong. He didn't end there. He told us how he had recently discovered what female genital mutilation was and he felt we should direct our outrage at that. Most of us in the class had that puzzled look that evidently indicated we thought he was off his rocker.

The 21st century man should not be intimidated by a woman's prospects. He sees nothing wrong in going after girls who are more intelligent than him as he is sure in himself knowing that he brings something to the table. Moreover, isn't it great to be with people who challenge you to improve yourself? He sees nothing wrong in being a house husband if his wife had a better job as it is a sacrifice one is bound to make to ensure that those moments that make one proudest to be a parent are not witnessed by Blessing the house help or Bassey the cook. If the roles were reversed, she would probably do the same. The 21st century man has to do away with his irrational ego. The 21st century man has no qualms supporting the feminist cause as he understands that he is doing the right and sensible thing and it does not detract from his masculinity.  Would the 21st century man please stand up?


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