I would like to believe, anyone that has met me, knows my attitude in regards towards gender equity. I my share opinion honestly, I laugh loud, I am committed to the Marvel cinematic universe and sometimes appreciate the DC one and I wear pants because dresses are off-putting for me.
I’m not saying these are inherently male attributes but they might not necessarily be seen or perceived as particularly feminine either because of the way we have been socialized. For whatever reason however, I am comfortable doing these things and do not think I am any less woman as a result. One of the contributing reasons is my dad who has done an alright job in not making me think otherwise.
I was raised in a family of four, my mother very mild mannered, sweet, soft spoken woman and incredibly beautiful. I have an older sister, equally delicate in the way she carries herself and walks around as if ballerina music plays to her every existence. I on the other hand did not inherent any of these qualities. I played in mud and liked it, I have enough scars on my legs to let you know I wasn’t playing with just dolls, I am synonymous with messy and my driving is not delicate. Growing up, my dad allowed me to play with cars and visit his friends with him. Both my mother and he, did not dictate my personal choices even though they could have told me I wore too much black and I could walk more like a girl as I was hearing it from everyone else.
My dad brought me up in a time where gender equality and championing women’s rights wasn’t the new normal, where raising up strong independent women wasn’t common, encouraged and celebrated. Nothing for his children was out of reach. Of course there were basic responsibility and chores we handled that might have been perceived to be assigned to women culturally. However, he would never bring that out as such, but as all of our responsibilities and each one of us had a role to play. His father died when he was young, and was raised by his strong mother, who inspires me as well. His upbringing resulted in him respecting women and flowed naturally from that.
I am old enough now, I now know from our discussions how he sees and interacts with the world. He tells me about his livestock and the struggles he has having with tending to his herd. He shares some of the issues he has and thoughts on the world. It gives me hope that a man who screams nothing but masculinity can also be honest in his vulnerability and fears to his girl child no less. In his career, he once was private secretary to a female minister and not once did he speak ill of her or the unqualified nature of female leaders and it certainly did not demean his own virility. He remained secure in his own identity as a man. He and my mother would emphasize that our education was their priority, that it was important over their own aspirations. They gave up a lot to pay for that education and even then, still have not imposed their way of life or choices on my sister and I. This extends to my sister, who is older and there is no pressure on her to have children or marry from my parents despite it coming strongly from society.
Without books, seminars or media influence to be pro-women, my dad (with the help of my mother of course) has been able to do that on his own. In a time where it might have not been applauded, he raised two little girls into African queens. Of course mistakes have been made, from a generation who did not any better and had no reference. I think however, because of him, I am bold in becoming whomever I want to be. I have been raised to believe in myself and not limit myself or the opportunities available to me. I am unable to downplay who I am or try to fit in a mold society has placed for me while the pressure to do so is apparent and overwhelming.
Men are important in the agenda of pushing the progress for women’s rights, equality and empowerment. It goes beyond hashtags, posts or articles (not that there is anything wrong with them because this is an article too) but men in silent spaces where it’s not expected can and should move the needle on this issue. We make real instrumental and fundamental change when we start in the places that we reside and operate. Intentionality about women’s rights in private spaces is as important as it is in public forums. How we raise our children, how we speak and discuss these matters with friends and colleagues, in our circles of influence is where a difference is made that reverberates throughout time.
Happy Women’s Day