Thursday, February 02, 2017

A man's job?

The sex war is far from over. I don't mean the gender war. I mean the sex war. Man versus woman. Male versus female. It is far, quite far from over. Even the feminist in me recognises that on many fronts, patriarchy and paternalism continue to hold sway. It is why even otherwise sensible adults still labour under the illusion that stay-at-home spouses, frequently wives, do not perform work, or that any man who, in the middle of a workweek, is to be found at home has some kind of dysfunction: after all, all men must work to provide for their families; all women must prepare to be provided for.

The sex war still revolves around the myth of the proper role of each sex. Men work to provide for their families. Women care for the home, but this is not considered work. This war informs so much of hat we have come to consider normal today: Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, Nazleen Umar, Kingwa Kamencu and Julia Ojiambo were all uppity, overeducated, presumptive women simply because they refused to remain in their proper sex roles when they chose to advance their names in the presidential election. They should have stood for lesser elective positions: woman representative, member of county assembly, mistress, concubine. Political power, according to the all-knowing man, is the preserve of men.

By the time the third United Nations Conference on Women was being held in Nairobi, many beautiful and important things had taken place in my own home and in my immediate community. Wives were no longer house-wives and it wasn't expected that a boy would sit in his own shit throughout the day because he was expecting his mother or the house-help to change is shorts for him. Man and woman had a hand in contributing to the family wealth; only the man held back by culture and tradition was determined to provide everything for his family, without help or advice. It is the lesson he taught his children, boys and girls, and it is a rule he enforced with ruthlessness no matter how much he loved his wife or children.

I saw an amazing exchange today. A woman, presumably educated and a feminist, couldn't understand why a man would be home in the middle of the day if he had a job. You see, a man must have a [proper] job. A man's job can never be in the house; it must be outside the house, and it must keep him outside the house so that he isn't seen in the home at the unusual hour of the lunch-hour. If a man can't meet any of these simple conditions, he is not really a man. He is a woman. Or a boy. Neither of which is a good thing. Like I said, it was an amazing exchange.

Perhaps this is not a generalised affliction. Perhaps this is the exchange of a combative interlocutor who must will every argument. But sometimes it is impossible to tell whether or not someone truly understands the import of the ideas that underpin some of the tropes they perpetuate. One of the inevitable outcomes of the liberation of women from the shackles of patriarchy, paternalism and misogyny is that, if the trope that children must bond with their parents, or that the home must have at least one spouse chained to it at all times, more and more women will work outside the home and, to use a favourite from the US, bring home the bacon while more and more men stay at home, to look after the home, to care for the children, to be the emotional sponges that women have been for millennia.

If [the sex] roles are no longer assigned because of ones sex, but are assigned because of need, availability and ability, then it shouldn't come as a shock that it is possible for a MAN to be at home at lunchtime. That would be his JOB, wouldn't it?

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