Proudly a fem­i­nist

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

THE EDITOR, Sir: THE PRIME min­is­ter said the F-word and I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it. It is not of­ten that we have political lead­ers, par­tic­u­larly males, claim­ing the ti­tle ‘fem­i­nist’. It is a word that has been mis­in­ter­preted and mis­used by in­di­vid­u­als in so­ci­ety who are dis­trust­ful of women be­com­ing equal with men. Fi­nally, we have a political leader who (and I am be­ing op­ti­mistic) is will­ing to de­mys­tify the word ‘fem­i­nist’ and, hope­fully, this can cre­ate a shift in the con­ver­sa­tion around gen­der equal­ity.

A fem­i­nist is a per­son who be­lieves in so­cial, political and eco­nomic equal­ity of the sexes (wise words from Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adiche). Fem­i­nism is con­cerned with men and women hav­ing equal op­por­tu­nity and eq­ui­table ac­cess to pub­lic goods. Fem­i­nism, how­ever, has been mis­con­strued as man-hat­ing rhetoric which is about putting the women on top and men at their heels.

What fem­i­nism wants is not the de­struc­tion of men, but rather the de­struc­tion of pa­tri­archy – a sys­tem in which men and those char­ac­ter­is­tics as­so­ci­ated with them are treated as valu­able and women are de­val­ued and sub­or­di­nated.


Pa­tri­archy op­er­ates on the ba­sis of gen­der stereo­types which say all men are (and should be) one way and all women are (and should be) the other way. Pa­tri­archy cre­ates an idea of mas­culin­ity which re­quires men to be lead­ers, emo­tion­less and dis­in­ter­ested with ‘soft’ things like school, stan­dard English and neat­ness. Men who are ed­u­cated, speak stan­dard English and are neat are of­ten la­belled ‘gay’. Within pa­tri­archy, a gay man is not truly con­sid­ered a ‘real man’. These ideas about mas­culin­ity have harm­ful ef­fects on men.

Boys who are raised to be real men are en­cour­aged to be reck­less and are not taught self-con­trol. This has a di­rect im­pact on their per­for­mance in an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem which re­quires obe­di­ence and qui­etude to suc­ceed. Pa­tri­archy pre­vents boys from achiev­ing aca­demic suc­cess at the rate at which girls are achiev­ing it. The re­sult is the cur­rent gen­der ra­tio of ma­tric­u­la­tion from lo­cal univer­si­ties.

And even af­ter this dis­ad­van­tage to men, some­how women only make up 17 per cent of the lead­er­ship (board mem­bers) in the pri­vate sec­tor and 19 per cent in the pub­lic sec­tor. Par­lia­ment is less than 25 per cent women. Even though more women are leav­ing univer­si­ties, the un­em­ploy­ment rate is higher among women. This is an in­escapable fea­ture of a so­ci­ety which cel­e­brates with women who give birth to boys on their first preg­nancy, and weep for the women who have girls on the first go. In spite of the dis­ad­van­tages, men re­main priv­i­leged. Women are still seen as home­mak­ers rather than lead­ers. They are sub­jected to higher lev­els of ha­rass­ment and sex­ual vi­o­lence.

Like my prime min­is­ter, I am a man and a fem­i­nist. I un­der­stand the harm­ful im­pacts of pa­tri­archy and gen­der stereo­types.


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