The Beginners Guide to Gender Equality

The Beginners Guide to Gender Equality

By Mangaliso Ngomane

When this all blows over you will have picked up a host of new habits if you have been following QRATE on Social Media and the recent #TogetherAtHome campaign, you’ll definitely gain some new skills. 

Today let’s talk a bit about equality. What is equality? Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights or opportunities. Qrate, for example, aims to promote equality through various programmes with a focus, particularly on gender.

If you believe in gender equality then believe it or not: YOU are a feminist.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash - equality
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I am Mangaliso Ngomane. And I am a Feminist. Forget what you’ve heard, men can also be feminists because all that Feminism is simply is a belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. This theory extends to the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

Gender equality means that the different behaviours, aspirations, and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favoured equally. It respects the differences of the two and does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.

Gender equality is the concept that all human beings are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. That’s my favorite definition of it. Gender equality is freedom and freedom that is only for some is not freedom at all.

 “Gender equality is not just about equal opportunity but it is also about shedding some light on discrimination.

For example, a boy is not entitled to a better education than a girl, but all children have the right to quality education. A woman will become pregnant and a man will not, this is not grounds for unfair advantage with regards to payment and promotion in the workplace.

So serious is the issue of gender equality that it is number three on the list of Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). This is the world’s big to-do list of urgent issues to attend to by the year 2015. The world has met considerable progress with regard to meeting that goal.

My First Book of Feminism (for boys) - equality
Suggested Reading: My First Book of Feminism (for boys) by Julie Merberg

However even though society has made great strides from where we were only 100 years ago, there is still so much to be done. Even in 2020, women around the world still have to fight daily, at home and at work, to overcome gender inequality.

“Men are an important voice because these women do not live alone and discriminate against each other in isolation. Often it is men reinforcing these stereotypes and discriminatory behaviors by choosing to look away or not say anything.”

In her article, This is What a (Male) Feminist Looks Like, Heather K Adams rounded up five traits of a man who does not just use the feminist tag as a shield. Remember we’re all in this together and neither gender is “better” than the other. 

So gentlemen, here is the list: 

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
A man that is truly interested in being informed about an issue will show it by asking questions, don’t assume you already have the answers.

2. Listen closely.
Do not roll your eyes when you get an explanation of why something is important.

3. Learn. 
Show your commitment by paying attention.

4. Change. 
Being a Feminist is a process that involves learning and growth.

5. Try.
The Feminist man isn’t perfect, no one is, but he does all of the above all the time because the work of a Feminist is never over. Never stop trying.

You don’t have to start out by saying how much of a man you are or by asserting your masculinity before announcing your alliance with femininity. The idea isn’t about your gender at all. But your genuine belief in social justice and equality.

Gentlemen, if you run a race and win do you still feel like a real winner if your opponent ran and lost with an injury?

We’ll talk again about this very broad topic but until then check your privilege Qraters! And Stay Home. Stay Safe. 

Mangaliso Ngomane is Qrates Public Relations Intern. Mangaliso is a 27-year-old traditional man with a modern mindset. He is creative, but in today’s world who isn’t? His quest to make a change has to lead him here.

Mangaliso Ngomane - equality
Mangaliso Ngomane
Youth Power

Youth Power

By Raeesah Noor-Mahomed

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There is no experience that can be equated to standing in a crowd, screaming at the top of your lungs and collectively marching for a cause. United in anger at the injustice you are facing. Calling for a change.

Womxn have faced oppression from men for hundreds of years. We have been shut down and silenced for so long. But we have had enough. Womxn all over South Africa have taken a stand against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Womxn have organized protests and shutdowns. Womxn are fighting against the system of oppression. Womxn are revolutionary.

We have a voice. And we are going to use it.

I am a 17-year-old female. The world is a scary place for women and marginalized groups and South Africa’s GBV rate is four times more than the global rate. We, as the youth of South Africa, have decided that we are not going to sit down and watch our sisters get killed. We decided to take a stand.

The morning after Uyinene’s body was discovered my history class had a discussion. We all voiced our anger at the way womxn have been treated and the extreme sorrow we felt over the loss of life. We could all feel the much heavier weight behind this case. Because we have lost so many womxn because of men. And we are tired.

“So, girls, we know this has been happening for too long,” my history teacher said, “but the question is: are we going to sit back and watch this happen? Or are we going to protest?”

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Word of the protest got around fast. The next day almost the whole school was on our school’s entrance at break for the protest. We sat with tape over our mouths and listened to girls poetry and speeches and heard their heartbreak. The choir sang. And we all sang along.

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GBV School Protest

“The tears wouldn’t stop flowing.”

The protest lasted for three days. For three days girls held each other and cried. Strangers held strangers. Girls shared their stories and anger at the injustice we have faced. It was like a mass funeral and we grieved for every single womxn that we’ve lost. We supported each other. We were unified. And we were so powerful. I have never felt anything like that amount of power and unity in my life.

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GBV Protest in Sandton | Photo Credit: Ammaarah Cachalia

And young womxn all over the country did this. They used their voices and shared their anger. And we listened. We took a stand. We led a revolution. It is so important to speak up against injustice, especially in youth spaces. We were born into a world of chaos and we are the ones that are changing it. Listening to the youth take a stand against GBV and being part of the movement is so empowering.

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As a young person, it is so frustrating to watch as “people in charge” do nothing to solve the problem. It is so frustrating to see them ignore the issues that are in plain sight. The youth are frustrated and tired and we have decided that if the adults won’t spark a change, we will take matters into our own hands.

GBV protest
GBV Protest | Photo Credit: Mara Mbele (@mvrv_m)

It is important to have these discussions amongst the youth because we are fighting for our future and our world. We have to talk to each other and support each other and unite to spark a change. I have felt the power the youth hold as I marched with them and called for a change in one big mass of unity. 

I have felt the strength we have as a collective. 

And it felt good.

change

Raeesah Noor-Mahomed

(QRATE Social Media Intern & Gender & Climate Change Activist) 

Masculinity 4 Kids

Masculinity 4 Kids

Son: “Daddy, what does it mean to be a man?”

Father: “Nothing son, absolutely nothing.” 

Food for ThoughtWhat do boys in South Africa think about being boys today? What do they imagine is expected of them? Whom do they look up to and how are they navigating the transition from being boys to becoming men?

What does it mean to be a man? That a man does not cry? That a man provides and protects?

Maybe these are not the right questions. 

But maybe this story will provide the right answers. 

Andisiwe and Tshepo, a newly married young couple, are planning on having a baby. Tshepo wants a daughter but his aunts are adamant that his firstborn should be a boy, “to carry on the family name” they say. His uncles also insist that his firstborn must be a boy too, “to show that he is a man in the bedroom” they say. 

On the other hand, Andisiwe wants a son for a firstborn and her mother agrees, “to please your husband and stop him from taking a second wife” she says. Her father would rather she has a girl, “girls always remember home and their mothers’ she will look after you, well into your old age” he says.

Ever wondered why those who imagine about having children prefer certain sex over the other? The story of Andisiwe and Tshepo can help us see what it means to be a man, an object and symbol of multiple complex expectations. Does being a man born in a patriarchal society mean the same as in a matriarchal one? 

Andisiwe and Tshepo finally have their baby boy who wailed at birth which made the nurses on duty celebrate. Baby Mandla kept his parents up at night crying in between feeding and nappy changing times, he also laughed a lot each time he was picked up. 

Being held, sung to, kissed on the forehead and talked to made baby Mandla giggle endlessly. The affection Andisiwe and Tshepo gave to baby Mandla made him smile each time he saw his parents. Baby Mandla grew into a strong and healthy boy child who always ran into his mom and daddy’s arms each time they show up home back from work. 

Mandla was raised into a respectful African child with lots of aspirations for when he grows up and finally leave the house for high school. His mother and the housekeeper told him that he had to toughen up for high school and stand up for himself. How does one toughen up for a cruel world? 

Mandla had to learn that one had to control his emotions, if necessary, deny them in order to put up a show of bravery as any sign of weakness is frowned upon. Such lies we put up with. The toxic part about this is that boys are raised to be men who struggle to acknowledge and express their feelings in the name of bravery. 

We fail to see that heroes and saints are people who experience fear, have weaknesses and are also ordinary. The idea of a man being one with everything under control, unlimited strength and all the other stereotypes of being macho are a big ask. If anything they set males up to fail, to fail at being who they truly are as individuals.

Furthermore, according to the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), estimates that 60% of children have absent fathers. The impact of the lack of absent fathers or positive father figures has an impact on the development of the boy child’s perception towards manhood. 

Luckily, Mandla is part of the 33 percent of children who are born and raised in a household by both parents. 

Now, how do we break this down for kids to begin to see toxic masculinity in the area of emotional intelligence? How about a drawing and coloring activity on how your favorite food tastes? Getting kids to begin to think about the qualities they like in something like food and giving them a language to express it, in this case, drawing and coloring. From food then taking it to appreciate people and creating gifts for family members and or friends. 

Toxic masculinity hampers emotional intelligence. It encourages a limited view of what a man is and even has an impact on intimate relationships. The sad part of this is that some females, those who help raise the boy child, take an active role in socializing them into toxic masculinity.

“Children are regarded as a gift, yet at times boy children are considered an investment whether for family name purposes or not.

So, what does it mean to be a man? 

Again, nothing but allowing your boy child to express his individuality for himself. Figuring out the rules of masculinity and trying to live up to them is part of every boy’s childhood. Most boys find the test of masculinity scary and hard to pass. 

Perhaps the test should be that boys should be allowed to be themselves and not constantly measure themselves against the societal standard of masculinity. This is an invitation to shift from living life and raising your boy child based on what people will say, “abantu bazothini?” towards what is best for your boy child.

Image by James Wong

It is important to talk to boys about the reality of gender expectations and help them figure out how to negotiate this problem. If a little boy is struggling to feel adequately masculine by acting tough, it’s not helpful to criticize or mock his interests. So instead of teaching the ills of toxic masculinity, we should instead instill a culture of positive masculinity – that is freeing the burden of societal expectations on the young boy child. 

Remember that each child is unique and requires a tailored approach making it impossible to expect your boy child to go through life with the burden of trying to be a certain man who only exists in societal expectations. 

Part of parenting is being great stewards of who our children are born to be, acknowledging their strengths, weaknesses and potential then guiding them towards who they are wired to be. Early Childhood Development and formal education, in part, help with this yet the validation, approval and shaping the boy children into what being a man start from home. 

So we have decided to create a few tips for challenging gender stereotypes in the home:

  • Ensure that children receive equal praise for the same behavior. For example, praising both boys and girls for being neat or being active in physical activities. 
  • Encourage children to be friends across genders.
  • Use the anatomically correct terms when referring to body parts. 
  • Point out, critique and discuss gendered representations in the media.
  • Avoid gender-specific language and statements such as “that’s a man’s job.’ and ‘that’s not lady-like.”
  • Encourage gender neutral toys and colors.

Back to the story of baby Mandla, it takes a village to raise a child. Until we, as a society, grapple and engage in open dialogue on notions of masculinity we will continue down the toxic avenue. Change begins with you and it is possible to raise children aware of positive masculinity tailored for each child to be themselves.

By Traver Mudzonga

About Traver Mudzonga: 

Traver is a photographer and brand culture design art director founded on creativity, passion and skill for highest possible results.Photography is more than a job for him, it is an expression of life. Having over nine years of technical and management experience as a Production Designer, he now focuses on brand strategy and inspiring brand culture.

Follow him on twitter: (m_traver), instagram (mtraverfolio) and visit his website: www.mtraver.com