Women Empowerment and Religion

Against my will this morning, I came across a post that was shared by a certain Man of God, and in that post, he was reposting something that had been shared by a Reverend I consider to be quite misogynistic, even though he insists otherwise. I’m a Liberal, so it’s normal for me to find some of the things that Conservatives champion to be quite distasteful. But to each their own, because you know…Liberal. Here’s a screenshot showing part of that post:

That is just part of the post. Feel free to view the rest of the post on his page where he tries desperately to justify his points. Perhaps I should mention that I agreed with some of the sentiments. I just didn’t seem to agree with the basis upon which the sentiments were based! For instance, I agree that the boy child tends to be left out in some of the discourse about female empowerment. And when the man is included in such discourse, it is mostly to play the role of a villain rather than an ally. I myself have villainized men in many of my posts and comments on social media. But, I can explain.ย ๐Ÿ˜‚

First and foremost, I think the posts by the 2 Men of God were a veiled attempt at speaking against a certain section of the LGBTQI+ community and so some of the good bits kind of got lost in translation. I understand why Christians speak against this community. What I don’t condone is the way they go about preaching this message and how they passionately pray for the ‘sinners’ to be punished. Now, I’m not saying that these particular men of God did this. I’m saying that they belong to a community of people who tend to do this.

You don’t see any love in their talk against the LQBTQI+ community, but you cannot miss the disgust, anger, and hunger for blood. If I was gay and the first message a Christian used to try and ‘convert me’ was, “repent or you’ll go to hell”, or “Because the Bible says so,” believe me, there would be NO repenting of any kind taking place!! And if indeed there is a hell somewhere, someone best believe there are reserved spots there: the preacher of such a message, and the receiver of the message who’s being deemed ‘sinner’.

Moving on, I felt that most of the points the Rev spoke against which are targeted at efforts to empower women are argued from a very narrow point of view. An ignorant perspective. Think of Affirmative Action in the US – a movement intended to address the disparities brought on by years and years of discrimination against People of Color (POC), particularly, black people. If a white person stood up and spoke against AA, we all know what they would be called.

Another typical example is that of the BET channel – which aptly stands for Black Entertainment Television. If someone is going to stand up in arms to campaign against such a channel, they MUST first understand why the name exists and the motivation behind it. At face value, I agree, Affirmative Action gives people of color preferential treatment over other races. If you’re not a racist or a POC, you would feel some type of way about this. Similarly, BET prioritizes Black people and its entertainment is largely for the black audience. Yet, if another tv station were to be named WET (๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚, yoh, the ambiguity!) for White Entertainment Television, it would be called racist because guess what – there has never been a racial gap in white entertainment which was the basis for the existence of BET. What I’m trying to say here is this: context matters, A Lot.

If one is going to speak against feminism or its subsequent movements and actions, they must do so only if they understand the history and overall context of the movement. No one is saying the boy child isn’t important. In fact, yes, he should be protected too! It is indeed true that there are negative consequences that will arise from a singular focus on empowerment, and I’m sure most of us have heard the cries about empowering women and not empowering men to cope with the crop of newly empowered women.ย ๐Ÿ™„ย In as much as I agree that the modern man is villainized, I also recognize that the reason he is presented as a villain – is because for so many years he has enjoyed the privileges that come with being a man at the expense of women. What’s worse is that even women themselves have been programmed for so long to enable this imbalance in power between the sexes. And it certainly doesn’t help when religion promotes this.

I feel religion is the most destructive vice of them all because it leaves very little room for negotiation. People simply get away with abuse of power and privilege in the name of “The Bible says so!”. To remove this vice, a conversation must take place between the abuser and the abused. And therein lies the problem.

Anisha

When I was a little girl, I was made to believe that I existed only to be a man’s helper. He was to be a prize to be won and I was to him something to be owned and controlled. I was to forever live in subservience to him if I wanted to secure marriage or survive in the world. The people who preached this message to me genuinely believed they were doing it out of love. And maybe they were because that’s the only truth they knew. However, me being me, I never understood why my needs as an individual didn’t matter; why I could never be an equal to another human being; why I needed to bite my tongue even when I desperately needed to be heard; why I couldn’t aspire for certain things even when I had the skills, talents, and passion to attain them. So on and so forth.

And that is how at a tender age, I started to see men not as allies, but as humans blocking my path to greatness. My parents, society, religion, and even my government seemed hell-bent on supporting men and keeping me in check. Why? Because that’s just how things were designed to be. I went ahead and got an education and discovered during this period that it didn’t matter whether or not I had what it took to excel in my studies. More and more I found myself in a position where I had to earn those good grades, not through commitment to studying. No. Some male lecturers had other ideas. I remember going to write one final exam knowing beforehand that I would fail it because I had a debt to pay. I had turned down an offer to travel for a ‘seminar’ with a lecturer. I never reported the lecturer because I had heard that he had done that to a number of students and nothing had been done to him. To this day, he is still working at the University of Zambia.

After education came employment. Without experience, it soon became clear to me that if I were to secure a job, I needed to accept one of the many invitations to dinner by heads of companies, departments, or men in general with ‘connections’. The requests for a dinner or lunch were so frequent that I started to wonder why they never included such a course in the university syllabus: Dining with Impudent Wanton Menย  (DIWM) 101. To this day, this has been my experience and that of many other women in the corporate world. The sexualization of women doesn’t just stop at the point of entry into employment. It is not enough that you have gotten the job. Now you must keep that job, not through meeting deliverables because God forbid that you’re actually good at your job! None of that matters. During workshops, conferences, meetings, collaborations, etc. awaits an invitation for a dubious rendezvous or a dinner when all you just want to do is focus on the work and rest.

Then comes marriage. I think I’ve written on this topic one too many times so I won’t go into it this time. Today, I stand proud and call myself a feminist. I ask myself why certain people are not okay with me standing up for myself and ensuring that girls around me and those coming after me have a safe space in which they can thrive without having to seek permission first from someone else. When from a tender age you’ve been placed in a position that gives someone else power over you, at some point, you’ll start seeing that person towering over you as an obstacle. And this is where it all starts.

This is why I stand against the idea of ‘naturally respecting’ men by virtue of their chromosomes. In my experience, most men have not earned the right to my respect. I encounter men on a daily basis and the first thing that comes to mind isn’t me rendering them respect. The first thought is almost always; how can I protect myself in this situation!? And then the men go ahead and qualify the theory of the ‘Self-fulfilling prophesy.’ Whatever the truth may be, I must have done something to deserve such actions towards/against me. And the more and more the perpetrators keep hearing this, the more justified in their actions they feel. Why? Because of society and Religion. This is why the male figure keeps coming off as a villain in the feminist narrative and yet the issue is deeper than that.

The fight has never been about getting the power from men and placing it on women, thus leaving men powerless and subservient to women. What is the point of working had to remove a vice only to have it repeating itself in reverse!? The fight for equality cannot be reduced to that. Women do not desire the power and control that men have over them so much that they would wish to possess it for themselves and use it against their perceived ‘enemy’. Women want men not to be given that power in the first place. If indeed men were designed by nature to be superior to women, it should be left to nature to help assert their dominance. Religion, laws, and society have no need to band together to enforce this power. Equality in this scenario is basically just that: level the playing field and nature will take its course.

A petite woman who never or rarely exercises to build muscle is most likely to fail to lift up a 200kg bag of maize meal from one spot to another. The same can be said of a petite man. His single Y-chromosome will not magically give him the strength to lift that bag. Nature. However, a woman of a certain weight (muscle) and height can move that same bag. A man of a similar build will too. It would be futile for the petite woman to cry and demand that she be allowed to carry the bag because on her own, she can’t. Fact. However, if she wants to, she can get others to carry the bag for her, maybe even pay them for services rendered. The key issues here are; ability and option. One gender is assumed to have certain abilities by virtue of their chromosomes and therefore they have all the options/opportunities available for the taking. The other gender? Not so much.

The other gender must prove itself worthy first, and even when it does, it must continue to prove it deserves to keep what it earned, not because it’s failing in some way. No. But because it doesn’t have a certain letter in its chromosomes. And that’s the difference between inequality and feminism. If it’s still not clicking at this point, then, by all means, let Jesus take the Wheel!ย ๐Ÿ˜‚

So, for someone to stand up and use their influence to decry women empowerment movements and paint them as agents of the devil simply because there is a gap of inclusion somewhere makes you wonder where their hearts truly lie. These programs aimed at empowering women are equivalent to the US’ Affirmative Action, but against gender discrimination, gender-based violence, etc. which have been a cancer to women for so many years! They’re trying to counter a system that insists on putting women at the mercy of their male counterparts. And within that system that is being fought, the man is at the center. This is a fact that can’t be helped. Whether men signed up for this role or not, it doesn’t matter. Religion, society, and the laws of many lands have placed them in this villainous position. Its called Patriarchy. So no, feminism isn’t the one painting men as villains. The patriarchy is. Feminism is simply shining the light on that fact and some people are uncomfortable with the spotlight being on them.

The fight has never been and should never be about Men versus Women. It’s a fight for Humanity; a fight for all human beings to be treated with respect and dignity even if there’s a certain law or verse somewhere that seems to suggest otherwise. Instead of fighting a well-meaning system, we all should be fighting to make the system better because no system is perfect. Even as it tries to address certain evils, other evils might be born in the process. This is just how the world functions. Take for example the New Dawn’s commitment to providing free basic education for all. The downside has been that classes are now overcrowded. But, does this mean free education should stop? No, that won’t solve the problem. Making systems better will, and it requires more work to achieve that. We should not expect to see change overnight. Free education will continue to be offered and as time goes by and more resources are allocated, the schools will be fully equipped to handle ‘free education’. This is how women’s empowerment works as well.

The issue isn’t the movement or what it stands for. The issues lie in what it takes to fulfill the agenda. So yes, I agree – men should be allies and not villains. Shaming men for being ‘feminists’ means you’re in support of systems, beliefs, and cultures that rob women of their dignity, abuse women, and deny women their basic human rights. Radicalism does exist in feminism but that is no ground to preach against a well-meaning movement. Hypocrites and false prophets are filling up modern Christianity, but does that mean the whole religion is bad?

In the same way that it’s not everyone who is familiar with the bible that is qualified to preach the Word, the same must be applied to who and how we share other messages, especially when these messages have to do with other people’s will to live or their basic human rights.

Just because you have the right intentions does not automatically make the message that comes out of you right. What if in trying to promote something, you end up completely discouraging others from listening to you or your kind simply because you neglected to study context or use the appropriate words to communicate?

In the end, you would have caused more than good. 

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