By: Kananelo Khoetsa (2019 Activator)
Women engaging amongst themselves, theorizing, and defining not only their challenges, but also the patriarchal system they find ourselves in, and the role men play in advancing patriarchy, run the risk of perpetuating the very culture they are working tirelessly to dismantle.
Selokela Molamodi, I believe, is one of the individuals who understands this statement and Ringa Namajita launched in July 2021 speaks to this.
Ringa Namajita is a campaign that is aimed at having young men open up and unpack the challenges they face. The initiative was founded after she observed that a lot of GBV conversations in the country were mostly exclusive to women. An unfortunate consequence, she notes, of such as arrangement is that more often than not, men are seen as perpetrators, as abusers, and rather than talking to them, listening, and attempting to understand them we end up talking at them. This undeniably results in their becoming defensive and at times no longer caring to form part of the solution. Selokela uses the reception of the #MenAreTrash movement in the country as an illustration of how when we talk at men, they become defensive, and are then unwilling to participate in helping remedy our social ills.
Scott posits that suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimization. The question would then be whether women run the risk of having their experiences and challenges defined and validated by men by including them in their conversations?
To this, together with the backlash she has received in running her campaign, where she was told that she wants to heal broken men, that she should allow men to deal with men problems and being asked that if she is pro-women and women empowerment, why then is she vesting her energy in men? Selokela responds by asking who constitutes the nation when we say that by educating a woman you are educating a nation? She further reprimands the prevalent culture of invalidating men’s emotions and suggests that we remain cognizant of the fact that young men are still developing their personalities, and by listening to them, understanding what they are going through we may end up raising a healthier generation, this she argues is the untraditional route she took to empower women.
Selokela’s Zoom sessions, I believe, have challenged a lot of widely held beliefs, such as “men are not good listeners””, “men do not like talking about their feelings”, “men are not willing to understand women’s issues and challenges”, and the union of men under the “bro-code”. Selokela starts of by highlighting how men are willing to talk and wish to be heard without judgement. She says that she has never felt unheard and that the stereotypes she has encountered are more an aberration of human behavior than that of gender. Concepts such as “rape culture” are not fully understood, for men, harassment has more to do with violence than behavior. She further notes how men at times turn a blind eye on certain things done by other men in their presence due to power relations dynamics rather than the “bro-code”.
It goes without saying that by not including men in conversations about challenges that affect us as a society we run the risk of treating the symptom, not the cause.