Vusi Shongwe
‘Fundamental to patriarchy is the invisibility of women, the unreal nature of women’s experience, the absence of women as a force to be reckoned with" - Dale Spender, the author of Women of Ideas: And what men have done to them.

My motivation to generate controversy rather than consensus derives from an article written by Ian Mitroff and his colleagues titled Assumptional Analysis: A methodology for strategic problem solving. The article supports my conviction that our culture unconsciously trains us for compromise or even the avoidance of conflict.

We run the risk of reaching a compromise too soon and for the wrong reasons because of our inability to tolerate conflict and controversy. The article, therefore, aims to generate discussion by juxtaposing patriarchy and matriarchy.

In his article titled Women and the Evolution of World Politics (1998), Francis Fukuyama asserts that woman leaders endanger our world given their incomprehension of "masculine" world politics. Some girls, like Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir, might play with the boys by curbing or overcoming their disposition toward peace, love, and other "caring" emotions.

But women are genetically incapable of handling a world rife with testosterone-charged aggression, hierarchy and violence.

Fukuyama portrays, as observed by Youba Raj Luintel’s piece Do Males Always like War?, that women are "incapable” of venturing in the realm of politics that has been “male-friendly”: aggressive, competitive, tough and force demanding.

Fukuyama, as observed by Lily Ling in her Hypermasculinity on the Rise, Again, claims that feminists seek to control men and so they should, given men’s aggressive tendencies.

As if giving credit to women, the industrialised democracies, argues Fukuyama, score best with the most number of women in politics.

Higher numbers of female politicians, officials, bureaucrats and the like ensure that a "zone of peace" is enjoyed by liberal democratic states only. He cautions, though, that the feminisation of politics would work only if the world were to become so. Fukuyama argues that men will continue to play a critical role, if not a dominant part in the governance of post-industrial countries.

The task of resocialising men to be more like women - that is, less violent - will run into limits. What is bred in the bone, concludes Fukuyama, cannot be altered easily by changes in culture and ideology.

He posits that male attitudes on issue, from child-rearing and housework to “getting in touch with your feelings” have changed in the past couple of generations due to social pressure.

But socialisation can accomplish only so much and efforts to feminise young men will probably be no more successful than the Soviet Union’s efforts to persuade its people to work on Saturdays on behalf of the heroic Cuban and Vietnamese people.

Contrary to Fukuyama, Wrangham and Peterson in their piece Demonic Males, say nothing much has changed since early hominids branched off from the primordial chimp ancestor five million years ago. They contend that group solidarity is based on aggression against other communities and co-operation is undertaken to achieve higher levels of organised violence.

Lest it be forgotten, Fukuyama informs us that chimpanzees are man’s closest evolutionary relatives.

Not only are they close on a genetic level but they also show many behavioural similarities. Fukuyama tells us that only chimps and humans seem to have the proclivity for murdering peers.

He says biologists think there are profound differences between the sexes that are genetically rooted.

This view led to many people becoming uncomfortable and charges of “biological determinism" arose. As if he were contradicting himself, Fukuyama posits that no reputable evolutionary biologist would deny that culture also shapes behaviour and can overwhelm genetic predispositions.

While there are feminists, as Fukuyama points out, who believe that sex differences have a natural basis, by far the majorrity are committed to the idea that men and women are psychologically identical and any differences in behaviour are the result of some prior social construction passed on by culture.

Interestingly, as pointed out by Luintel, Fukuyama’s arguments have made many feminist scholars respond to his "grossly untenable ideas”, some of which are spurious while others unsupported. Fukuyama’s article, as observed by Luintel, sparked intense debates over the issues of women, gender, demography and world politics.

Fukuyama’s take on the role of women elicited the public opprobrium of many people, with feminists being the focal point. Responses were, for the most part, hostile towards his position and ask what was wrong with it.

Katha Pollitt’s piece Father Knows Best asserts: “Just about everything.” J Ann Tickner in her Why Women Can’t Run the World: International politics according to Francis Fukuyama, is scathing when she says: “Not only does this type of reasoning feed into more strident forms of backlash against women in international politics but it also moves our attention further away from important concerns."

She says hypothesising about the merits or disadvantages of women in charge or debating the aggressiveness of men and women does little to address the realities of oppression faced by women.

In her piece, Ling objects to Fukuyama’s assertion that biological differences "extend beyond the body into the realm of the mind".

She argues that the simplistic projection erases the wisdom and learning that men and women have accumulated over millions of years.

It is, Ling says, the lived experience and not genetic inheritance that warrants attention. She says it is time we stopped looking backwards to apes. Thus, it is time to be human.

Lest it be forgotten, Barbara Ehrenreich and Katha Pollitt assure people like Fukuyama in their article, Father Knows Best, that women can be every bit as aggressive as men.

Ironically, the system of patriarchy has found allies in women. It is disheartening that women converge and reach a point of consensus about not liking one another. They are their own worst enemies. Patriarchy finds its ally in women’s dislike and lack of support for one another.

In his classic book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shares a beautiful story that is symptomatic of what we call a "Pull her down" syndrome that plays itself out whenever we become jealous of someone’s success and wish he/she had stayed mired and wired with us in our position of destitution and helplessness.

As Judith Butler in her book, Precarious Life: The powers of mourning and violence, aptly puts it: "We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

Equally true, if women have to end dominance by the menfolk they have to take heed of the 10 most important two-lettered words: “If it is to be, it is up to us.”

Does someone recall that single women teachers of the ’50s and ’60s would be suspended from their jobs if they fell pregnant? Women of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s did not chase Ben 10s to "replace" their husbands and partners who were fighting for a cause worth leaving their wives for.

It is such heights of systematic oppressions that went into constituting the substance of women of the ’60s who were made up of serious, sterner stuff. In response to these and many other challenges, women of the ’60s started concepts like stokvels to lift themselves up. Women, you were on your own.

In his article, Adam Minus, Affiong L Affiong asks: What is it that women have not yet acquired, recognised or considered that will bring them as individuals to the dining table of power?

He argues that in African politics and public life, the invisibility of women is blinding. They are prevented from helping and folks do not seem to notice. Affiong laments the tragedy that has befallen women’s movement all over the world and especially in Africa.

Women give the impression of being unable, unwilling, disabled or uninterested in bringing this power of numbers to bear in our politics and on politicians.

The subconscious gets reinforced over and over again, and as men determine, women provide, and as men articulate, women animate, and as men discuss, women entertain, and as men lead, women tag along.

Women should take heed from Algerian society, which, according to Frantz Fanon in his book, The Year of Revolution in Algeria, in the fight for liberation, in the sacrifices that it was willing to make in order to liberate itself from colonialism, renewed itself and developed new values governing sexual relations. The woman ceased to be a complement of a man. She forged a new place for herself with her strength.

It would be disingenuous and remiss not to acknowledge the milestones that South African women have achieved over the years.

Names that come to mind are Dr Margaret Mncadi, Victoria Mxenge, Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, Winnie Mothopeng, Dorothy Nyembe, Philda Shange, Lilian Ngoyi, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Helen Joseph and many other heroines of our Struggle for freedom.

South African womenfolk have bequeathed the world global icons of the stature of Miriam Makeba, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka and many more - and we can produce more.

* Shongwe works in the Office of the Premier of Gauteng. The article is written in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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