“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun,” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” Translated from French, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849.
Why start an article about attacking patriarchy with quotes from men living in biblical antiquity and the 19th century?
To illustrate the contradictory dumbness of wisdom. King Solomon was having a tough time at the beginning of Ecclesiastes hence the world-weary despondence in his complaints.
Karr was also coming from a place of cynicism, very French of him. Both men are right and both men are being incredibly self-indulgent. Yet their words have become canon for the weak, and are constantly used against optimistic dreamers like me who try to preach the gospel of a better world if we just make the effort.
Well. Change cannot happen in an atmosphere of defeat. I wrote last week about the dire situation that men find themselves in Tanzania. Men are increasingly committing suicide, the boy child is being marginalised and worse yet abused. This is not being done by women — this is a social ill that is our collective fault. And we know it.
You can hardly open an online conversation app in Tanzania without stumbling into a discussion about family, men, women, relationships and parenting. The frequency with which these topics recur is an indicator of how many of us are struggling.
Tellingly, the discussions result in the emergence of two camps: the majority of conservatives that blame modern life and technology for our social ills, and the minority of progressives that say that the problem isn’t things, it is people and how we choose to live.
One camp is rooted in fear and resistance to change, the other embraces potential and preaches agency. Guess which one is likely to help us “win” in life from the individual level through to the global level?
I promised last week to address how we can deal with the dark side of our society, that which allows patriarchy to keep oppressing and killing us. The side that results in child pornography, pregnant schoolgirls, domestic violence, suicides, workplace sexual harassment, state violence against indigenous peoples… the list is endless.
I am afraid that the answer to such big questions is infuriatingly simple: practice radical love. Radical love, in stark contrast to the attitude from the two quotes, cannot afford to be idle and passive. It is dynamic, a force to be reckoned with.
Radical love puts the onus on partners in love and life to support and respect each other in order to honour their relationship. It requires parents and guardians to give the best of themselves to their children, this demands selflessness that verges on madness sometimes.
Radical love of community makes a servant of you. Radical love of humanity will make a pacifist of you, and a feminist sympathiser because you will side with the downtrodden.
As a feminist this is part of what I find both attractive and challenging about this political stance.
Feminism is full of angry people because they cannot stand injustice. It is full of questioners because it challenges the status quo. But it is also full of radical love because it is obsessed with justice, healing, understanding and with improvement.
The starting point is women as the subaltern in the patriarchy but really the radical love element of feminism makes it care about everyone. So next time you decide you think you know what feminism’s end game is, be sure you are not confusing it with matriarchy which is patriarchy with a female face.
The brand of feminism I practice is one that aims for self-destruction. If the goals of gender equity and equality before the law are achieved in our societies there will be no more need for my brand of feminism. We can just work on being the best people we can be, irrespective of sex and/gender. And this is also why I can happily study masculinities as part of my feminist practice. It is how I know from testimonies and from academic reading that men are victims of the patriarchy, which is why dismantling it is in everyone’s favour. And feminism is the only political stance whose sole job is to do exactly this.
If we want our boys to be safe, to enjoy the privileges and protections that are increasingly being offered almost exclusively to girls then we have to get radicalised. We have to see them as children first and raise them with all that radical love entails. Those of us who can must try to love grown men out of their traumas, bad upbringing, fear, ignorance and violence and rehabilitate them where possible.
We might even have to give them a brand new way of being that doesn’t threaten their identity, while giving them room to be authentic and free from the yoke of sexism.
To conclude, I was going to offer a manly poem by Whitman or Kipling, but those have been done to death already. Instead let me offer you the wisdom of the singer Des’Ree from her song You Gotta Be. It is an excellent anthem for anyone who is trying to human well in the 21st century and perhaps even beyond. Love will save the day.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]