Does The ‘Community Is Dying’ Trope Truly Protect Women?

Although I don’t want to get married, I have often thought of an ideal marriage as one where both partners and their families work together in a harmonious partnership.

If marriage wasn’t generally a place where women encounter the loss of dreams and the possibility of never leaving domestic, financial and emotional abuse, then a marriage with a man who actively seeks to partner and complement my strengths and weaknesses will definitely be an option.

However, in the African context, marriage is far from being a partnership. This becomes obvious in incidences of childcare and housework. A woman with a healthy husband who needs to go on a trip, often finds herself worrying about the wellbeing of her children. In some instances, she asks her sister or even her barely ten year old daughter to look after the family.

Recently, there have been lots of conversations on Black and African Twitter on how the “community is dying”. 

A common thread I’ve noticed in them is that that statement is often uttered when a childfree woman refuses to pick up the slack and take care of children when the father is alive and well. It is also said often to women who do not want to participate in catering to people as if they don’t have their own lives. 

I hardly ever see it said to men and boys who ignore their responsibilities as fathers and literally leave their children stranded.

Now, here’s what I find interesting. In instances of rape and domestic violence, the very community comes together strongly to ensure that women’s voices are silenced and that women remain in abusive marriages. 

The same community that begrudges women for not performing full time parenting roles where men are present, was actively involved in trying to silence the rapper Megan Thee Stallion when she reported a case of violence.

The same community that blames women for leaving abusive marriages in Nigeria still actively mocks women like Toke Makinwa for being bold enough to thrive after divorce.

The same community that says women must bring something to the table and not be a liability to men still actively shames working mums as not being good wives and women for wanting careers and motherhood.

Is community dying or are women just waking up to the fact that more often than not, communities and societies are run on women’s often free and unappreciated labour? Is community dying or are men getting angry at the fact that women no longer want to perform tasks that can be outsourced? Especially when the supposedly male tasks of protection and providing are outsourced to home security firms and the extra money from wives respectively?

Speaking with Buhle, a Zimbabwean blogger and mother, she explains that the community’s dying trope is similar to the accusation given to feminism of how feminism makes the African family die. To her, both of them don’t place women’s true interests and wellbeing. 

In her words: “I think this thing about saying community is dying is similar to the way men say the family unit is dying and how they blame feminists for the family dying. Quite a number of [African] men say feminists are working with whites to destroy the family. If you look at these two statements, what is common? 

Let’s look at who’s doing the labour and the heavy lifting. It is the women. So now the problem is that the women have said: ‘Hang on, we are doing all this labour and first of all you are not appreciating our labour and second of all we are not being compensated for it so maybe we are taking a step back’.”

She went on to say: “So for me, the issue is it was never really community if that ‘community’ depends on one part of the community. If we are speaking of a community then why can’t both men and women contribute towards this community? You can’t say to me we are talking about community when women are the ones doing the heavy lifting. For example in Zimbabwe, during Christmas, it’s normal for people to leave towns and go to the rural areas. 

However, more and more women are saying they aren’t going because there’s a lot of hard labour expected from women everyday while men do minimal labour.”

The honest truth is that if a community relies on only one party to survive, then it was never a community. It was simply a space filled with those working and those being parasites.

We cannot make true progress if our communities don’t see men and boys pulling their weight and equally contributing to the wellbeing of that family or community.

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