“AS MEN, the majority of us are trapped in a patriarchal prison. The majority of us are misguidedly convinced that this obnoxious and preposterous system is somehow inspired by God.
Patriarchy manifests itself through our families, churches, schools, workplaces and our televisions telling us that men ‘do not show emotions other than anger and aggression’, ‘do not display your vulnerabilities or fears’, ‘do not seek help in any shape or form’, ‘do not cry’, ‘do not refuse sex or remain faithful to one partner’, since all of these actions will in some inexplicable and nonsensical way reduce your manhood.”
These words are from an old piece by the South African feminist male activist Mbuyiselo Botha read as if they were written today. What does that tell you?
Not the fact that there are feminist males in South Africa. Not that he includes himself as part of those of us trapped in a patriarchal prison. But, if what is still happening in many African countries is any kind of evidence, it’s going to take such a lot of energy, a very long time, and many more ‘woke’ men to rid ourselves of the injurious ‘real man’ notions he is talking of.
I don’t think Botha was even thinking about men like his namesake Roelof Frederik ‘Pik’ Botha, longtime foreign against minster of South Africa (1977–1994) who was famous for his slipperiness with the truth – also known as diplomacy; or Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the psychology and sociology professor and newspaper editor who became the seventh prime minister of South Africa (1958 to 1966), who embodied all that is obnoxious about patriarchy.
The feminist man was writing about the world in 2011. Little, it seems, has changed since 1958 or 1948 BC. Men like Pik Botha and Hendrik Verwoerd, in all hues, still manage to climb the highest office all over the world and our country too. God help us all: one, being Donald Trump, may become the president of the United States of America. We have such men running the political affairs of South Africa and the corporations that dominate our needs and tastes.
I often wonder how men like Mbuyiselo Botha continue to believe in conscientising men for an egalitarian world. Perhaps you have to believe in a brighter future to be a feminist man in Africa.