Reason Wafawarova On Monday
The targeting of women in politics for ridicule, derision, humiliation and violent attacks by male thugs is not a mere expression of intolerance, frustration, or polarity. Rather it is a perpetuation of a long tradition of women oppression — a tradition that reflects more the weakness of the perpetrators.
Joice Mujuru, Thokozani Khupe, Priscilla Chigumba, Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, Trudy Stevenson are just a few of our women in politics that have been ridiculed and humiliated through vulgar verbal attacks of a sexist nature, and the deplorable trend is not going to end any time soon.
A woman who differs with the political establishment suddenly becomes a “whore”, a “prostitute,” or one who is acting on the motivation and drive of those with whom she sleeps.
One female “avid reader” of this writer who used to occupy a prominent role in one of our national institutions once requested for a piece on women oppression with an emphasised reminder of Psalms 89 vs 14. I did the piece in 2011.
The verse reads: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your (God’s) throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” (New International Version,1984)
She pointed out there is a God in Heaven and all men who tread upon women with reckless abandon need to remember that God himself sits on a throne that rests on righteousness and justice — ready to pour out his legendary wrath on whomsoever He sees as unrighteous or unjust.
In essence, this reader was invoking divine intervention in matter of grave concern.
The specific request was to tackle the psychological effects of women oppression, and to be discussed specifically are “stress, heartache, unforgiveness, intimidation, domination, ridicule, isolation and even stigmatisation on matters of HIV and AIDS infection”.
Surely men do suffer these ills as well and they are most certainly also victims of HIV and AIDS stigmatisation.
The fact that men suffer ridicule too does not mean that women oppression by men has a lesser effect on its victims.
Our women are scared to enter politics because of the destruction of the black man, and this ranges from psychological, social to economic destruction. We deride women because we are weak and hopeless.
Our self-worth and esteem stand so much destroyed that we follow the path of the former slave/colonial master as reflected by our attitude towards women, especially the black woman.
This is well illustrated by the African-American black man who still treats women and children the way the slave master treated male slaves during slavery.
This is the time when male slaves were required to breed with various women so they could produce a variety of strong and beautiful children, but being denied the opportunity and chance to take care of the children, because the children were meant to be sold to faraway places for the profit of the master.
So, the tradition of producing babies without taking responsibility began, and today the practice goes on unabated. Even the William Lynch syndrome has survived since he propounded it in 1712.
The manipulatively created divisions between women and men still persist to this day and trust between the two groups is so much undermined.
A poverty-afflicted man sometimes feels so economically impotent and so hopeless that he resorts to lashing out his stress on the woman that shares a life with him.
This way, the very man that is supposed to protect her often abuses the woman. There is a myth that teaches society that men ought to stand for women, and it is based on this myth that many women develop a dependency on men that they know to be abundantly irresponsible.
The irresponsibility and hopelessness of men does not take away the expectation that every woman carries a sacred instruction to be forever faithful to whichever man might be considered their partner in life, regardless of how dishonest or irresponsible that man might be.
So in our politics we assume an expectation that a decent woman must give way to the leadership of men, otherwise we deride them as disrespectful prostitutes.
Prophet Elijah Muhammad has a saying that goes, “A nation can rise no higher than its woman”. It is the woman that produces a nation, including the very man that often sees it so fit to oppress the same woman.
Prophet Muhammad also taught that teaching a man is teaching an individual, while teaching a woman is teaching an entire nation.
It makes sense when most prominent people in life are so fond of talking about how their mother raised them, rarely ever talking about the role of their fathers.
It is the heartbroken folks in life that are often so fond of talking about the abuse from their fathers, or the total absence of fatherhood in their lives — all because their father sired and fled them.
Denying a woman an education is denying a nation that education. Barricading a woman’s way up the social/political ladder is barricading the upward movement of an entire nation.
The oppressive man today cannot stand the voice of protest from the more conscious of our women, getting furious and contending; “How dare the victim bleeds under the cutting lashes of our domination and social repression? How dare she yells out in pain when we kick her butt?
“How dare she strikes back when we strike her? How dare she protests when we get ourselves involved with other women, even threatening to find own joy with some other men? How dare women accuse us? Where are their manners and respect for culture, tradition and even divinity?”
So Thokozani Khupe faces the wrath of male chauvinist hooligans loyal to Nelson Chamisa, who are more than convinced that “this country will never be ruled by a woman,” and that their party “will never be led by a woman,” let alone one hailing from a tribe they count as numerically inferior.
So our male politicians will deride Priscilla Chigumba sexually because they believe she is “only a woman” leading Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. She must have illicitly slept with some man to achieve that — so we are told.
Today’s man finds in his victim evidence of an ungrateful and blameworthy woman: unfaithfulness, infidelity, laziness, rebelliousness, obnoxious, moral laxities, skewed values, uncaring, disorganised and so on. In his mind a man finds a woman he perceives to have these shortcomings and he concludes that the diagnosis is that this is the type of woman that deserves punishment, humiliation and ridicule.
Yes, the woman in question may indeed have these shortcomings, but does that say there is a nature of weakness existent within her? Or does it say a weakness has been created by a patriarchal system that surrounds her? So what we men do is to ignore social circumstances disadvantaging the woman and we are so fond of testing the individual woman, well extracted from the system that creates her.
We measure her and we attribute what the male-dominated society has created in her to her own individual shortcomings, crucifying her as an unacceptable woman worth the scorn of all sane people, other women included.
Let us once again look at the issue of prostitution. We have men out there who relieve their fantasies and debauchery upon the prostitute.
This allows them to treat their wives with a seeming respect, while they reveal their true nature at the bosom of the lady of so-called pleasure. On the moral plane, prostitution becomes the counterpart to marriage.
Tradition, customs, religion and moral doctrines alike seem to have no difficulty adapting themselves to prostitution — all to accommodate not the sin of the woman, but that of the wayward man.
The universally accepted explanation that “sewers are needed to assure the cleanliness of the palace” is not without cause.
Common among us are the unrepentant and intemperate male pleasure-seekers who are afraid to take on responsibility of a home with its ups and downs, and who flee from the moral and material responsibility of fatherhood. So, they discreetly seek out the address of a brothel, an assurance of a relationship that entails no responsibility.
Then, there is a bevy of fickle-minded men who have an obsession to ridicule and humiliate womanhood in general because of past grudges they have no strength of character to surmount, that way losing confidence in all women, who they have no qualms to collectively label “tools of the devil”.
These are the hypocrites who proclaim their contempt for female sex too often and categorically, a contempt they strive to assume in the eyes of the public from which they have extorted admiration through false pretences. These people often make up the regular customers at brothels and for pick up ladies of the night until their hypocrisy is eventually discovered, one way or the other. But do they pay for it? No.
While we may want to avoid making value judgments on polyandry, we cannot fail to denounce the weak man who is looking for a polyandrous arrangement. This is denunciation targeted at the hordes of idle, money-grubbing gigolos lavishly kept by rich ladies.
From an economic point of view, prostitution includes both the prostitute and the materially minded married woman; the only difference between the woman who sells her body by prostitution and the one who sells herself in marriage being the price and duration of contract. So by oppressing our women economically we are depriving them of opportunity; we are effectively forcing the women folk into the same rank — that of a prostitute or an oppressed wife.
We must see in every prostitute an accusing finger pointing firmly at society as a whole. Each man that plays partner to a prostitute turns the knife in a festering and gaping wound that disfigures humanity’s God-ordained order. None of us wants our mothers, sisters or wives or daughters to be prostitutes and this is precisely why we should save our women from this social leprosy.
We live in a society that sees the birth of a boy as a “gift from God” and that of a girl as an act of fate, or at best, an offering that can serve in the production of food and the perpetuation of the human race. It is a society that teaches the little male how to want and get, to demand and be served, to desire and to take, to decide things without being questioned and so on.
It is the future woman that is dealt blow after blow as society drums into her head norms that lead nowhere. There is this psychological straitjacket called virtue that produces in her the spirit of personal alienation.
She is nurtured to be preoccupied with being protected, inclining her to seek the supervision of a guardian or drawing her into marriage, not necessarily because she is fully ready for motherhood or being a wife, but because she seeks refuge in the life of a man.
The childhood of a girl child is sometimes such a monstrous mental fraud. This child from as young as two is taught to be true to her role in life: to serve, and to be useful.
Her four-year or five-year old brother is allowed to play till he drops from exhaustion or boredom, but she is required to enter into production. From that tender age she plays assistant housewife to her mother.
It is an occupation without pay since we are all generally agreed that housewives “do nothing”. In many countries they write “Housewife” on identity cards and passports of women who have no income, but they never write “Househusband” for men in similar situations. The label signifies that the woman has no job; that they are not working.
Tradition and obligatory submissiveness makes the woman grow into dependency, more and more dominated, more and more exploited and repressed, and with less and less time and opportunity to advance herself and to discover her own potential.
They young man’s road is strewn with opportunities to develop himself and take charge of his life, yet at every new stage of the young girl’s life, the social straitjacket is pulled tighter around her. We have a society that demands a heavy payment from women for simply being born female. That price is paid throughout a woman’s life, until the weight of her toil and the effects of her physical and mental self-negation lead her to the day of eternal rest.
The African society is still largely agrarian, patriarchal and sometimes polygamous; turning the woman into an object of exploitation for her labour power and of consumption for her reproductive capacity. It is a wonder how women manage to live with this peculiar dual identity.
It makes them at one and the same time the vital knot that ties together the whole family by their presence and attention, and guarantees its fundamental unity, and yet also makes them marginalised and ignored. The depth of a woman’s social ostracism is equalled only by her own stoic endurance.
In order to be recognised positively by the society of man, in order to obey his command, the woman envelopes herself in demeaning and self-effacing detachment. It is a life of sacrifice and deep-rooted subjugation.
The woman is the source of life, yet a mere object. A woman is a mother, often reduced to a mere domestic servant. She is the nurturer, and yet reduced to a house slave. She is made invisible, faceless, and voiceless.
We all know our mothers are, or in the case of some of us were, the pivot, the unifier; yet always in chains — in the shadows of male domination.
This writer’s mother (Rest in Peace VamaGumbo, VaChin’ombe) was, like most mothers, the pillar of the family’s well-being, the washerwoman, the cleaner, the cook, the errand runner, the matron, the farmer, the healer, the gardener, the grinder, the saleswoman, the comforter, the child minder and the teacher.
She was the labourer with obsolete tools, putting hundreds of thousands of hours for a hopeless level of production, her body so wearied by the practice that it had to make a pre-mature departure from the face of this wretched earth only at 66 years of age. Tears will never dry.
She was always the first to work and the last to rest. She was the first to fetch water and firewood, first at the fire, yet always last to quench her thirst, and always last to put out the fire. She would eat only if there was food left and only after all of us children, and sometimes after her husband, my late lovely patriarchal father.
The woman is the cornerstone of the family, carrying both family and society on her shoulders, in her hands, and in her belly. In return, she is paid with oppressive and discriminatory social practices – treated like a child-bearing machine, sanctioned with food taboos and other repressive customs, overworked, and expected to be an unquestioning obedient wife.
Society rewards the African woman with dangerous pregnancies, self-effacement, HIV and Aids infections, and innumerable other evils that define the tortuous life of an African woman; married or divorced, working or unemployed, young or old.
Sister comrades, the struggle to liberate women is a women’s struggle to deepen the democratic and popular revolution that should define our politics in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa today – a revolution that grants our women a new society of justice and equality, in which men and women have the same rights and responsibilities.
We cannot achieve this when we choose to demean, deride, ridicule and humiliate women in our politics, in our national leadership, in the corporate sector, and indeed in our religion.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia