Women Power: The Role Of Real Men In Women Empowerment Initiatives
Women power, or more accurately the power of a woman can never realised without appreciating the role of men. And I mean it. For a long time, women empowerment initiatives have either been heartless to men, or they have simply left them out of the equation all together. For the most part, it has been like a struggle between men and women!
Men are usually positioned as the significant “other” who are inherently evil with a mission of making women’s lives a living hell. Indeed, some women who have power and authority have used this as a tool to revenge against men. I do understand where such approaches originate from considering the damage most women have endured under the abuse of men. While I respect these various approaches, women power might never be fully reclaimed if they continue to exclude the perpetrators or position them as enemies.
Realistically speaking, a conversation about women power cannot be complete without espousing the of men, who affect women in all spheres— socially, economically, physically, name it. Moreover, on a deeper level, women’s struggles are not “women’s issues” but rather, a concern for the entire society. Historically, men have held power over women in many arenas. While women are viewed as powerful, for the most part, it has been in regards to their femininity, and the power they have over men in sexuality matters.
But there is more to women power than that! Empowerment of women should engage men as allies, and challenge them to step away and re-think, specifically how they use their power and position to affect the women in their lives. We need to change our beliefs and attitudes towards men and women and employ a more integrative approach.
Soul food for real women places emphasis on a positive message as opposed to a more confrontational approach, which seems to suggest that men enjoy battering women, an approach promoted by many feminists.
The fact is, although divorce rates are skyrocketing in recent times, there is always that desire, that feeling, that yearning to be in a loving committed relationship, even among the most powerful women (and men). Besides, there are some good men out there who simply do not know what to. Therefore, blaming men is a counterproductive method that pushes them (men) to the edges, inciting in them an urge to fight back. Rather than ENTIRELY blaming men, we have to challenge some of the factors that have molded their masculinity, that makes them want to grab power from women.
Notably, we are brought up in a society which allows men to be assertive, oppressive and aggressive. Imposing decisions and other “macho” characteristics are viewed as indicators of strength and power, and such traits are highly valued. In fact, even in the 21st century, a “good” man, especially a man who expresses emotion and sympathy is neither considered attractive nor romantic. In fact, in some Kiga cultures [Uganda], a real man is expected to be tough, to the extent of thoroughly beating up his wife on their wedding night. Unsurprisingly, women power is quite the opposite of what is described here. How then, can we talk about women empowerment when such beliefs are still held?
Additionally, popular discourses of masculinity paint a real man as a provider and a breadwinner, while women are positioned as trophies, who can live on their partner’s handouts (Kameza money). Such stance are dis-empowering to women. Unless men take responsibility and become reflexive of their role, unless they see women power as a tool for development and support women empowerment initiatives, the whole women and men conversation will never reach a common goal.
And here is why
We are not in the 1940’s anymore. Men got away with so much in those days. Today, women are on fire. They want what rightfully belongs to them. They want to claim their power back. They want men who will own up the mess, and work towards making this world a better place for everyone, including women because they deserve it. That is women empowerment! That is women power. When Women have the freedom physically, emotionally, name it, without feeling the dark cloud of men hovering over them.
“The fairer world is no dream: It can be made a reality if each of us takes the matter seriously and works towards that end”. McPhail 1890-1954