This Women’s Month I am realizing something fascinating that I had never paid much attention to in my rejection of patriarchy. How, central to the objectification of a woman, her womb is. That baby making machinery that only a woman’s body possesses. It seems the age old battle between man and woman is over control of this machinery. On the light side it could be seen as womb envy. Man does not trust Woman enough to leave her womb in her care – and he can only control her womb by controlling her, remote control. I realized this when I felt a rebelliousness rise in me when a respected friend tweeted – “unless clinically advisable, a woman ‘empowered’ to refuse bearing children is a woman recruited against humanity”. I felt like he had just reduced women’s achievements to the product of our wombs. So if you refuse to bear children it renders all your other achievements naught if you are a woman. This is laughable because I do not think anyone can contest that all over the world it is mothers who, most oftentimes, raise the children when things go awry in relationships, sometimes even when things do not go awry. This means women understand what must happen to the product of their wombs and most importantly they actively participate in rearing tomorrow’s generation. Surprise surprise, most women do want to have children, maybe it is biologically engineered, maybe not. But women want children to look upon with love, little hands to clasp in fierce devotion, not as some achievement for human progress. And some women do not want children. There are any number of reasons for that. To try and create a society that forces a woman to go against her choices is basically showing her who is boss. To say you are going against humanity when you choose to not have children – that is a serious indictment. Criminalizing people’s choices. Why am I so touched by my friend’s statement? I could easily brush it off as misogynistic thinking and live on, but, because of everything else I respect about him, I felt it needed more of my time. I do not know my friend to be anti women, nor do I know him to be disrespectful of us, quite the opposite. Another friend said “whilst fighting for equal rights, do not let go of your divine right to be mothers, it is the biggest honour”. To which I responded that women are not giant wombs waiting to fulfill their purpose by popping out babies. His feelings were hurt. I was just annoyed by all the ignorance and I guess not too preoccupied with being politically correct. What I found interesting is that these two friends of mine both have big issues with feminism. As a woman, feminism is a hard topic, especially with people who have no understanding of the experiences patriarchy puts a woman through. Most men are as blind to patriarchal privilege as most white people are to white privilege. To the patriarchal man self-determination means something different when applied to gender relations. Enter culture and religion and woe unto the woman. The woman says, ‘just give me the tools to self determination and watch me do my thing’. Patriarchy says, ‘only if you do it like this’. Feminism is definitely anti patriarchy but it is not anti men. Feminism says we are more beautiful together when we are more equal together. Is that not the same equality black folk fight for? Are black folk fighting so they can be white? If you do not equate identity with equality why would you want to believe feminism is women wanting to be like men? But I am not interested in that school of thought. It is not worth the time. I am more concerned how fear and mistrust are complicating the struggle to get the woman free. If the man believes he can be trusted to do right by future generations why is it impossible for him to extend the same courtesy to the woman? The message seems to be that men must protect womanhood to protect the future because women cannot be trusted with their bodies and the future. This is discomfiting. No wonder most cultures and religions dictate to a woman like a child. What will it take for men to take their eyes off women’s perceived shortcomings long enough to deal with the logs in their eyes that are weighing all of us down? Because there are certainly many ways our men can protect us from ‘themselves’. By relegating us to wombs and not brains they have opened a pandora’s box that unfortunately will plague the sons and daughters they father. This pandora’s box will only be closed by them. If you can quantify someone’s worth, you can disqualify it.
Article first published in Sowetan, August 14, 2013