When men argue that modern feminism has brought about their discrimination, I empathize with them because I know that if I wore their shoes, I would probably sing the same song.
The average African man is raised in a beautiful world of privilege (Relax guys! It is okay to admit this every once in a while). Because the African society is still very much patriarchal which is evident in cultural norms like a wife taking her husband’s name, male child preference and men being traditional rulers, the average African boy is coated with an extra layer of entitlement.
For example he sees that he is given preferential treatment in his family over his sisters, he sees that his education seems to be a priority over the female children, he sees his mother as a subordinate to his father who is often referred to as “The Man of the House” and for a little icing on the cake, his truancies gets excused with “boys will be boys” while his sisters’ get chastised with “Is that how you would behave in your husband’s house?.
Long story short, the average African boy is empowered and even made to believe by what he sees and hears, that he is superior to his female counterparts. So when these boys become men and their twitter timeline is flooded with tweets about ladies not taking their husbands name, getting reserved slots in political and traditional offices or refusing to be “groomed” for their husbands house, it might seem a tad unsettling and if I’m being ambitious, they may even feel discriminated against.
I get it. If you give a child food meant for two and convince him that the food is meant only for him, when you take away half that food to give to a second child, the first child would feel cheated even though the food was originally meant for two. The social, economic and political opportunities in the society was meant for two (male and female) but in the past had been given almost entirely to the males. Feminism (modern feminism if you will) attempts to take half that opportunity and bestow on the females like it was meant to be and like the first child in my analogy, the men feel cheated. Like I said, I get it.
The word “discrimination” means to set apart a group of people in a negative way so the topic simply begs the question “Does feminism set aside men in a negative way?”. While feminism does not cast men in a negative light, it also does not remain silent in the face of men who perpetuate things like misogyny and sexism and that “call out your bullshit” attitude is commonly mistaken as an attack on all men.
I assure you, it is not. Perhaps one thing that helps push the narrative of feminism being discriminatory of men is how conditioned we as a society have become towards sexist content. But with the rise of feminism in modern times, chances are if you tweet something sexist, you will get called out and what follows are a series of “you feminists are just out to get us!” Or “it is a joke, leave your feminism at home”. It would never be discriminatory to call out sexism.
The major reason why the narrative of feminism being discriminatory of men is a dangerous one is because it pushes the idea that feminism is a male vs female combat and that is untrue. Feminism sees the patriarchy in the society and calls for a reordering; what many people are unaware of is the fact that the existing system of patriarchy has both men and women as the victims. Women in the sense that our worth is often tied to a man and men in the sense that they are held to unnecessary standards e.g “being the breadwinner of the family”.
So you see that it is unwise to accuse a movement that fights for both sexes of being discriminatory against one of the sexes. However feminism will continue to remain discriminatory of victim blaming, female genital mutilation, child marriage, misogyny and a thousand other constructs that are harmful to the world at large.
Chisom Anastasia Nwaezuoke is a physiotherapist, writer, public speaker and yogi. She is also a sexual health and reproductive rights advocate and volunteers for HandsOff Initiative.