Friday, 29 March 2013

Deconstruction of problematic masculinity

If the argument by a section of feminist society is true, that all women are born feminist, then by that simple definition then I do not qualify to be one, nevertheless I will leave it for you to judge after reading this short read.

I have been following the just concluded/disputed Kenyan elections with lots of interest.  The dismal ratio of men to women elected into different posts goes ahead to show without an iota of doubt we still remain a male dominated society.  

One story that has caught my attention is the election of Ms Peris Pesi Tobiko as the first Maasai woman as a member of parliament in the history of Kenya. I take cognisance that it has been argued in different forums that she is no ordinary woman among the Maasai probably because of her lineage or such. I will not concentrate on those small details but I will reserve my energy on the issue of man/woman relationship  with power by bring in a small highlight of the Maasai community in the background.  

Historically the Maasai people as it has been the culture of many African communities has always given women a low-deal. Women have been left to bear children, bring them up, cook and watch over the household while men deal with more ‘important ‘matters that concern the wider community. Over the years, this position has been challenged by many and in different cultures and I can attest to the fact we have recorded tremendous improvement, nevertheless some communities still hold dearly that, power is a preserve of man and a taboo for a woman to even dream about it.This led me to ask why is it man has always treated the woman so badly in some cases to even being violent to her which led me to some interesting findings!

 How do we define masculinity? The Crisis of masculinity starts from the definition. It is how we define ourselves as men and how we can construct the idea of who we are only in relation to power. The question of masculinity I would argue is at the heart of gender violence.The crimes against women are not a problem of women but a crisis of how we define ourselves as men. In most societies we think the way that we construct our manhood must be one which perceives women as either the object of our needs and desire on one hand or in the other hand construction of women as mothers, as sisters or daughters to almost making them sacred. In so doing we are caught in thinking that women are inferiors be it in spiritual or cultural contexts. 

In recent years we have been involved in gender equality but it just go into putting one gender on a pedestal. The only way to create the sense of the other as truly human is to acknowledge that the other person has power contesting the same thing as you are. How then do we deconstruct this problematic masculinity into realising that empowerment of women is empowerment of men too!! The struggle for gender justice, equal relationship should be not be as a favour for one that is struggling under my construction but for ourselves as men! Struggle for women justice should be struggle for making men more human!

What happens when a boy wears pink? What happens when a boy want a toy that is considered feminine? Stop behaving like a little girl! He is mocked. I pose and wonder is that not the beginning of brutalising the little boy and teaching him very hard and aggressive definition of masculinity.  

When we deny our children the opportunity to grow into who they are, when we impose a harsh understanding on boys on what it means to be a real boy---Cowboy never cry, real boys don’t cry, don’t act like a girl. In the alpha male personality programming, outbursts of anger are tolerated but tears can only be shed in private. Men are socialised to shed tears in more ‘civilised’ way. One can cry in public ‘only ’ if someone close dies or when you win a major title or such kind. Apart from these incidences it would be assumed that men are configured without tear ducts. I then pose another question. Is it that men do not cry or is it that they do not know how to?

All these contribute to the construction of very harsh understanding of what it means to be a real man! When we deny our own gentleness , compassion, emotions, our own ability to cry it results into a much harsher society and it becomes easier to impose these stereotypes on others making them vulnerable to our own crimes!