The unlearning of nervous conditions - Chasing freedom in an unequal world

Nobuhle Mtshali | Mar 05, 2019
Imagine living in a world where you ask yourself on a daily basis why your existence is significantly harder and more challenging purely based on your sex. Do not get me wrong, my level of peace about being blessed with womanhood far outweighs the amount of anxiety a person should have living and protecting this gift.

This then begs the question as to what led to the abusive and isolating environment that women have been forced into, why is it that my gender is such a colossal threat to society that living as a woman within it, leads to explosive and exaggerated violent displays of power which ultimately ends in my kind being systematically oppressed, wounded, maimed and/or killed?

Due to the countless amounts of trauma that this continent  has been through, pinpointing those said events as the start of the murderous thread that led to the subjugation of women could answer the above question, however patriarchy has been alive and well long before any outside “trauma “ or  nations  stepped onto our shores.

Over the years, the women of Africa have had to endure systematic oppression over an array of issues such as cultural, political, religious as well as economical.  Long before colonisation and slavery took place, traditional culture has been founded on patriarchal value systems which adopted  oppressive yet accepted  forms of role categorization of women in the African society. One can begin to understand the lineage of a typical African women's' developmental impediment. The position of women in pre-colonial Africa was hindered mainly because of the societal norms that existed.

As is the norm in many different societies, African women would be type-cast from birth and taught via chores and day-to-day behaviours the cruel art of subservience which ultimately determined their path in life. All these teachings were fundamental in ensuring that the girl child was moulded and primed to be a perfect wife. Perfect in that she was at the beck and call of her husband and family and was equipped to handle the needs of her spouse.

The same held true for the boy child in the traditional African environment. The boys were type-cast to perform male specific duties with their fathers which conditioned them to become dominant over their female counterparts. Just as young girls were primed to be wives, homemakers and respect their husband, males were taught to be providers and expect an unquestioned acceptance and redistribution of the oppressive lifestyle they were taught by their elders, continuing the cycle of a one-sided privilege.

Now it is important to pause and add that household chores and other assigned duties that may befall  many women  in and out of Africa, are not the reason why women were and still are oppressed. It is the entitlement and commitment to using those assigned responsibilities as a way to dominate one gender over the other. Also, it is the exclusivity of certain roles being applicable to certain genders that create the pillars of oppression.

Gender inequality and sexual discrimination form as a backdrop for many women in the African trajectory. Inequality is as infectious as disease, a crippling attitude that kills ambition, crushes the oppressed spirit and perpetuates the suppression of women gathering and rallying together to emancipate themselves and future generations.

In the midst of all the chaos, it is important to note that the opposite does exist in matriarchal societies.  Even though there are many progressive strides within these societies, there is a glass ceiling to the momentum gained in that these societies usually operate in isolation, thus the growth of the long-standing wave of tradition will hardly spill over to other borders in the interest to preserve and protect those within.

A study conducted by The University of San Francisco (UFS) in 2015 observed that matriarchal societies within Africa, particularly the Ashanti tribe in Ghana showed positive feedback with regards to the effects a matriarchal environment produced. The study found that the importance of education was a valuable lesson afforded to all, an investment that was bearing fruit in that, more girls had instructive information involving reproduction topics which then created an increase in reproductive agency in the use of contraceptives, the choice to postpone childbirth and a massive decline in infant- and child-mortality rates. However, they found that there were still inequalities that inadvertently pushed for the privilege of men over women.

According to UFS, there was a discrepancy in the number of women enrolled in secondary education compared to the number of men. This was explained in terms of the sociocultural view that women were best suited to be mothers, and men were financial supporters, they also found that the provided education severely limited choices by emphasizing home economics as the best career for African women. The women who were interviewed indicated that because of a kinship-lineage emphasis, they felt pressured to have children to continue their lineage and more importantly, they felt that their social status was linked to their ability to bear children.

So unless a matriarchal community has control and access to change all levels of society (political, social and economic), it operating in isolation and without the support of pertinent institutions such as educational stakeholders who can redefine the curriculum to favour all , the perpetuation of patriarchy will live on.

Although change makers may be creating massive strides in ensuring women have rights to almost everything, even though access is not guaranteed, there are many obstacles that women continue to endure, obstacles that leave us well behind our male counterparts. From policing women’s bodies through enforcing patriarchal limitations and rules in child rearing, clothing, controlling the digital climate and perpetuating rape culture, the world is still priming men to dominate over their female counterparts and conditioning women to concede and actively continue the toxic culture.

This then leads us to the present. Albeit the many years of brainwashing and conditioning, the search for equality amongst the oppressed has always been a growing force against patriarchy. Furthermore in an attempt to keep the upper hand in almost every aspect of society, women chasing an equal freedom afforded to men by men, has led to a bloody and underhanded war against us. This then makes it almost impossible for our gender to make any sustainable gains and come out of that war alive, but here we stand.

So, what now?