Gender Links (Johannesburg)

7 December 2012

Zimbabwe - Promoting Progressive Forms of Masculinity

On 11 November 2012, Brian Munjodzi bashed his girlfriend, Tinopona Katsande for allegedly asking him to do the dishes while she did the laundry. Katsande, a prominent performer and ZimFM disc jockey, posted photos of her bruised face on twitter. The photos attracted the attention of many Zimbabwean women and men who either castigated or empathised with the lovebirds.

The reaction from some women and men on social media shows that there still a blatant tolerance of violence in Zimbabwe. As a man and a father to a girl child, it saddens to see that my daughter is growing in an environment where violence against women is accepted as normal.

It is appalling that in this day and age that men still beat up women for trivial things such as giving a hand in the home. Some men believe that women should be "disciplined" by being beaten if there is any misunderstanding.

In response to Katsande's case, women and men alike raised the question, "anga aita sei?" meaning what had she done to be beaten. This implies that some Zimbabwean citizens believe that when a woman is beaten, there must be a reason and she deserves it. The beating is meant to discipline her.

One reader also questioned, "murume wacho akamuroora here?" (did the guy [Munjodzi] pay lobola for her). This points to the general acceptance of violence against women where lobola or bride price has been paid. Thus women are treated as objects and some men normally feel that because they have paid lobola, then they "own" the woman and can do anything they want.

The readers also accused Katsande of being talkative, "ah, kanotaurisa", and may have challenged her boyfriend. Therefore women have to be subservient and never talk back to a man as this can invite a beating.

Even though Katsande's case received a lot of publicity, there countless similar cases. As men, we continue to violate women simply because we feel emasculated when women speak up their views or suggestions that do not tally with what patriarchy prescribes.

Reflecting on the Katsande-Munjodzi scandal, any progressive woman or men should not condone violence in whatever form. There is no excuse for beating anyone or violating them because they do not agree or concur with what one thinks.

If our society is going to change for the better, if we have to groom a different generation of men who will respect and care for our daughters, then women and men must desist from violence.

The era of men being rough, tough, mean and aggressive in defining manhood is long gone. It is important to realise that one can be loving, nurturing, caring and assist in the home. They will still be a man.

Violence brings more harm than good as it ruins relationships with wives, sisters and our children. In most cases, as men we end up incarcerated or paying heavy fines because we have violated our partners simply because we couldn't control our tempers or egos. Ending violence against women will not only benefit women and children, but men as well.

In order to redefine constructions of masculinity and create a more equitable society for women and men, there is need for institutions such as schools and families to focus more on "power with" instead of "power over."

Rigid notions of masculinity call for men to dominate and exercise control over women, which is "power over." When men are unable to use this power or when their subordinates do not comply, most men then resort to violence resulting in a lot of harm on women and children.

"Power with" approaches allow men to share power in the home, at work and in various social gatherings. It encourages men to live in harmony with women and work together for the common good.

The reason why women have been left behind in economic development is because of the multiple roles that they have to do. As men, we also need to critically evaluate how we look at gender roles within the home and how if we assist in other duties in the home, women could get out of the poverty cycle.

Men need to take up more caring roles within the family in order to reduce the burden of care on women. Showing one's family love, care and assisting in the home does not mean "takapfuhwirwa" (we were fed love portions). We need to confront these notions and taboos that actually make us subjects of a history that we cannot prove.

When we gather in bars, taverns, churches, mosques and any other spaces that we find ourselves in as men, we need to discuss how we can better our relations with women and children. Ending violence against women is our responsibility not just during Sixteen Days of Activism. The struggle for ending violence and promoting progressive forms of masculity should be for 365 days of the year.

Leo Wamwanduka is a gender activist and Director of Envision Zimbabwe Women's Trust. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service series for the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

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