Bongiwe Nkomazana on Gender
WE have terms that we as Zimbabwean people downright misuse and abuse in our day to day conversations. You know words like “basically” at the beginning of every complex explanation or using the term “irregardless” (which is not even a real word by the way) instead of “regardless” and throwing in “shame” in everything we say for extra emphasis . . . you know what I mean, shame?
However, nobody can hold that against us because English did come on a boat. But there is the term “50/50” that I feel is important for us to understand moving forward only because it affects our mindsets when it comes to gender equality. So when we utter 50/50 what are we really thinking in our heads?
What made me actually write on this topic is how often I have heard men say to me or to the next woman that we should do a certain something for ourselves because, after all, we are the ones crying for 50/50. I have failed to comprehend what that actually means but let us illustrate it for interest’s sake.
If we have a heavy chair, a man and a woman in a room and they are lucky enough to exist in a society that believes in and practises gender equality will that first of all, magically increase the chances of the woman being physically stronger than the man and secondly, does that mean that the man should not be a gentleman and offer to carry the chair instead? To those who are not sure, the answer is no to both questions.
However, when I calm myself down because I get very annoyed at the misuse of 50/50 and get to thinking more about it, I realise that the misunderstandings occur at gender equality. We all understand gender equality differently. Personally, I have come to understand it as the equivalent abilities of both men and women to access opportunities and execute their rights.
The World Health Organisation refers to gender equality as the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men, girls and boys where the interests, needs and priorities of both, women and men are taken into consideration while recognising the diversity of different groups of women and men.
The key words are equivalent and equal from whence we derive the popular subject term, 50/50. Then there is a peculiar group of people that plainly believes that gender equality is women saying that they want to be men. This group will ridicule gender equality till the sun comes out and rightfully so because if gender equality was of this notion it would actually be absurd.
Moving forward when we say 50/50 know that we are talking of the equal treatment of the girl and boy children. Do you know that up to today some communities still prioritise giving their sons an education and not their daughters?
When we say 50/50 we are referring to the equal recognition of all professionals because equally qualified and deserving women in the workforce are still paid less than their male counterparts. The 50/50 is a scenario where policies and procedures do not discriminate against males or females.
Think about how condoms are used for an optional act but can be accessed for free yet the cost of sanitary wear has left some young girls and women with no choice but to use leaves and newspapers for that time of the month that they have no control over.
A fortnight ago, we saw how Serena Williams was penalised for code violations because she did not agree with an umpire’s call yet we have seen men in the tennis court cuss out the umpire and display a flare of emotions with little to no repercussions at all. When we say 50/50 we are referring to deep and real issues like these ones that affect women immensely.
There are gender roles in every society. They are a bone of contention to many but they exist and we should come to terms with the fact that people choose what they want to do and how they want to do it.
Nowadays, it is not only the man who is supposed to be the bread winner. We have couples who agree amongst themselves that the wife will bring in the monthly cheque whilst the husband tends to the children and the home and power to them. Those then become their roles.
However, on a lighter note, most of us still prefer the traditional roles where a man opens the doors for his lady and plays knight in shining armour but ever since the potential knights caught wind of this 50/50, chivalry has died. It is almost as if men choose to misunderstand the gender equality concept just so they have an excuse to not do the nitty-grittys.
For example, men legit do not court women nowadays but I guess 50/50 applies here too right, equal opportunity for both the man and woman to court and be in that relationship? As much as I am all for female emancipation I also enjoy a manly man that can slaughter a cow and change a tyre in a jiffy but you would be lucky if a man stopped to help you change your flat tyre at all and if they did, the whole time would be a sermon to remind you why 50/50 is a bad call because now look at how you need a man to change your tyre for you. That is not what we mean by 50/50 people!
Not to put anyone on the spot but hands up if you understand what 50/50 is and you say it with your mouth but are only ready for a 60/40 or 70/30 in favour of men in their authentic lives.
I cannot shake off the feeling that as much as gender equality is the right route to take, most people are uncomfortable with it and so attempt to cancel it out by convincing themselves and others that it is laughable and/or illogical. Just the other night, a very dear friend of mine who knows my stance when it comes to gender issues told me that I should not try to change what has been done for centuries before me and that I should more or less fall in line with being what I am expected to be by society i.e a good quiet girl that goes with the flow.
Despite the many responses that were floating chaotically in my head, I just told him that nothing great ever came from that mindset. My point is to encourage both men and women who are advocates for gender equality that you might not see the benefits of it today or even tomorrow but future generations will live in a world where their gender does not have an effect on the quality of life they live.