Men’s Month sabotages Women’s Month
A Men’s Month is an insult to the genesis of Women’s Month, says Sarojini Nadar.
Johannesburg - As we reach the end of another month of activities dedicated to highlighting patriarchal injustices, I am led to reflect on the extent of the success of this month’s campaigns.
This has been prompted by a man at a conference who counselled me that women should stop “gloating” about August being Women’s Month because men had their “own” month too – July!
On inquiring what “Men’s Month” was devoted to, I was told: “To men, of course! Men’s month is to recognise men as the leaders they were born to be and so they can take back their rightful role as heads of their families and homes” – a role God had “designed for them” and one that ostensibly was being eroded by the constitution and, of course, feminism.
An investigation on the internet reveals that the national Department of Health observes July as Men’s Month, to promote men’s health. Other sites say Men’s Month is to encourage introspection, so men can recognise how they have been socialised to oppress women.
The commemoration of July as Men’s Month is very far from these objectives – as the scolding I received showed.
The problem I have with a Men’s Month is aptly captured in the cartoon that highlights the reaction to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. By asserting that #Alllivesmatter, efforts to draw attention to the cause of justice are diluted, distorted and disintegrated.
Furthering the view of men as leaders is the idea that men are “protectors” of women, captured in this statement on the Department of Health’s Facebook page: “As men, we provide shelter and comfort to women and children. We do not harm them. Those who harm them are not doing it in our name, as men.”
Using a race analogy shows up the absurdity of the paternalism in this campaign: “As whites, we provide shelter and comfort to black people. We do not harm them. Those who harm them are not doing it in our name, as whites!”
Power obtained by birth – through race, gender, ethnicity or class – is dangerous and oppressive.
Insisting on a Men’s Month is a refusal to accept the complicity of men in women’s oppression and the patriarchal systems that endorse this.
A Men’s Month is an insult to the genesis of Women’s Month, which honours the courageous actions of women on August 9, 1956. It’s effect is to dilute, distort and disintegrate women’s power and it must be resisted. Aluta continua.
* Sarojini Nadar, PhD, heads a prestigious scholarship programme in gender, religion and sexual and reproductive health rights at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
The Sunday Independent