Friday, July 06, 2012

Talking loud and doing nothing

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 23 June 2012)

Lately I have noticed a common grievance among certain men concerning gender equality. These men recognise the progress being made by women in this area; however, they believe there can be no real discussion on gender rights if men are not included in the discourse.
I saw a comment on Facebook this week where one man said men “must also carry the torch with women if the walls of the existing patriarchy are to be broken down. Anything less is ineffective…any discussion on gender must be inclusive or it is a complete waste of time. All men are not the enemy.”
Another gentleman expressed similar sentiments to me when he said, “Any decent-minded human being would /should see the seriousness and try to help curb the senseless taking of lives. I’m saying that the more men are involved with you Sisters in this fight [the] more in-road[s] will be made.”
Although I get what these caring men are saying, one certainly cannot blame women for feeling like men do not understand or even care about the problems women face. After all, most of those problems were created and continue to be perpetuated by men on a daily basis.
Yet still, I willingly and happily agree that there are some men who want to fight for gender equality. These men truly understand the issues and are genuinely moved to action. But let us be honest and acknowledge that they are few in number.
The rest of these good-hearted men believe in the idea of gender equity in theory because the words sound good and they know it is the right thing to do, but they still continue objectify women and continue with the old habits that are at the very core of what propagates domestic violence and gender inequity.
For example, I posted this statement on my Facebook page; “You shouldn’t slut shame, after all every normal healthy person likes sex.” My purpose was simply to state that it is wrong to make a woman feel guilty for enjoying sex, a natural biological function, by calling her a slut. There were several male friends who were emphatic in their affirmation of my point.
One respected male friend responded thus, “Have you observed how you’re getting all these male responses Sis. Stella Ramsaroop? Keep dangling this approach like a ‘carrot stick’ [and] you would surely get more male support and contribution in your advocacy against domestic violence and abuse. You Sisters can’t fight it alone. We’re in this together. Right Brothers?”
I responded like this: “No offense, Bro, but why should the brothers need a ‘carrot stick’ to support our fight against domestic violence. I don’t do this for a reward. I do it because people are dying. Shouldn’t that be enough reason alone?”
This is the problem I see when it comes to men who want to join women in the quest for gender equality. First of all, there does not need to be a special invitation for men to join the fight for against domestic violence or gender equality. Secondly, men should not require a reward for joining the fight if they are sincere in their objective in supporting women.
Moreover, what are the men waiting for? Where are the men who are standing up and demanding the government do something about the scourge of domestic violence? Where are the men who are outraged at the constant maternal deaths? I hear crickets chirping and nothing else.

Celebrating men

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 16 June 2012)

Every week, this column celebrates women in all their glory, whether by highlighting the great things women accomplish and presenting her-story, or by underscoring the many injustices meted out to women and standing up for their rights. This week, I want to celebrate men.
In the process of addressing the pertinent issues facing women today, which is the focus of this column, I frequently report on the problems created by the men who abuse and oppress women. However, in honour of Father’s Day I want to celebrate those men who stand with women as we fight for our rights.
It is not easy for me to celebrate men because I spend a lot of time researching women’s issues and working with women, as such I know very well the devastation men inflict on the women of Guyana and around the world. But it is exactly because of my difficulty in celebrating men that I am writing this column today.
If, as women, we neglect to celebrate the good in men, then we become just like those men who refuse to celebrate the good in women. It is their lack of respect for women that allows them to think they somehow have a right to rape, torture, oppress and murder us. Sisters, for the sake of the human race, we must not become this animal, too.
It is imperative to recognise the men who stand up to the abusers, who strive to keep women safe, who join us on the protest lines and who take a stand in legislative bodies to insist on women having equal rights and a voice. It is vital to celebrate the men who do live up to their parental responsibilities, who hold down a job and support the family instead of drinking the money away and who work side-by-side with the women doing the household chores.
Yes, I see so many atrocious things men do to women, but I also see glorious exceptions to the rule. In today’s world, where there are so many ways to harm a woman, it is so refreshing to see men who choose to care about women.
It may seem that I am congratulating good men for doing the right thing by simply being good men, which is what they should be doing anyhow. After all, no one thanks women for not beating men. Still, I think good men deserve some recognition for choosing not to be one of the animals that endanger the lives and rights of women.