You know? That guy, who believes you are less of a person because you are a woman.
Patriarchy Is No Respecter of Proximity
Most of us know him, have met him, interacted with him. Sometimes he is in several men and occasionally he is all bundled in one. That guy, the patriarchal guy who believes you are less of a person because you are a woman, less of a woman because you’re unmarried and asks you - “is that how you talk to your husband at home”.
That guy, who makes sneaky comments that reek of the entitlement he feels over you/your body JUST because he is a man and you’re a woman. THAT guy, who can’t handle you leading him because he finds it insulting that he, A WHOLE MAN, be under a woman.
Here’s how i think about this. As we grow from childhood to adulthood, nature and nurture plays out. Nurture is how we are brought up, social norms, expectations that we somehow align with subconsciously and it ends up affecting who we are, altering our personality, our unconscious reactions to things.
To an extent we cannot control our nurture because we don’t decide who our parents/guardians will be, what society we will be nurtured in, and consequently the things we will pick up. However, i believe it's the responsibility of every person, woman or man to be self aware and introspective enough to know when we have learnt bad habits and begin the journey to unlearning them.
That’s how i assess people generally, by how willing they are to unlearn/relearn because sometimes there are some things we initially can’t control, but we can definitely control our reaction to most things.
I believe it's the responsibility of every person, man or woman to be self aware and introspective enough to know when we have learnt bad habits and begin the journey to unlearning them.
Back to my point - THAT guy could either be 1, someone who has learnt all the wrong things and frankly doesn’t know any better so cannot do any better. OR 2. he could be someone who knows better, but unfortunately won’t do better because maybe he still enjoys the privilege and still is unwilling to let it go, even at the expense of other women, their rights, freedom and individuality.
I have bad news for you. That guy could be anyone, a stranger, a colleague, your father, brother, pastor, and even your husband. People you respect and admire could be THAT guy and likely will be if you live in Africa. Throughout my journey till date, i’ve met THAT guy, as a boss, a friend, a colleague and sometimes your relatives i mean people super close to you.
I have more bad news for you (sorry), sometimes even as a woman you and other women could be THAT guy too. Yup, you could be that guy too. Do you know how much crap women have been nurtured to accept over time that we frankly never objectively assess to see its basis and how they affect us? We just regurgitate and continue the vicious horrible cycle.
This is a human thing, i mean, look at our so called “culture”, some of it is rooted in the most unrealistic oppressive things, yet because its tradition people hold on to it.
Here's How I Handle That Guy
So personally, here are three ways i try to handle THAT guy, whether directly to the guy, in myself, or with a fellow woman.
That guy himself
Floor them with competence: I mean it’s unfortunate that as a woman you have to be EXTRAordinarily competent to show you’re equal and while we fight the good fight to ensure being woman is enough to be considered human enough, it is always oh so amazing to watch the facial expressions of someone who underestimated you struggle to compete and it being clear without very few words how superior you are. This gives me so much joy!
Call it out and take action: Nope don’t let it go, don’t keep quiet. If it’s tricky situations where talking may be detrimental start it anyhow, give a really dirty look, give the uncomfortable cough, walk out, and if you can please, please talk. Let them know their behavior is only acceptable in their sight because they are not the affected sex, call out how they are complicit in spreading oppression of women just because their ego has been inflated over time by societal norms, culture and nurture. Call it out and take action!
Tell them to unlearn. Make it personal to them, i typically do this, for some reason this hits a nerve (for most) and they begin see how it can be really damaging to think that way. Some are genuinely unaware of the negative impact of their views and behavior towards women.
Be Self Aware and Unlearn the toxicity
Yeaah, sometimes its actually me. You will occasionally find yourself (as i have), saying “harmless” comments, doing “harmless” things on autopilot that counter the very message you’re trying to preach. Like that “harmless” conversation at work and how you said you don’t like hiring women because their “wahala” is too much and how they’ll come saying they are pregnant and how you prefer men because they work harder. Darling that’s a harmful stereotype and you shouldn’t spread it. It’s harmful to people’s perception of women and it doesn’t do you or other women any good.
Guide other Women with Love
I genuinely believe if people know better, they are likely to do better. And i’ve seen so many women mirror the very patriarchy that oppress them. Like some Stockholm Syndrome type situation. Again, nurture at play here most likely. Previously, i would be so mad and try to win the argument by being very direct, pointing out occasionally rather harshly how what they were doing was so wrong.
But over the years i realize, unlearning is hard and before teaching someone to unlearn they need to see first, the need to unlearn and sometimes communicating that need that need isn’t straightforward. P.s still learning this, i occasionally still call it out rather directly.
Here, i ask questions as to why they think that way and after a while show them the problems and how it affects them personally and also people they love. "Would you feel the same way if someone said that about your daughter?" Also, it helps to share how women have historically been oppressed and how people had to fight for the privileges we currently enjoy and how it is our collective responsibility to preserve and promote that.
Here's a list to assist with that argument (I got you!)
After all of this hard work some people are not going to get it still. Say your 2 kobo and keep it moving and keep being your awesome liberated self. Maybe they’ll see it and want it too :)
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