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16/07/2018 10:56 SAST | Updated 16/07/2018 10:57 SAST

OPINION: Feminism And Its Inconsistencies Are Confusing To Men

'The gist of the man's complaint is that he never knows when he will be interacting with the "traditional woman" or the "independent woman". '

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The issue of gender equality may have brought the concerns of women to the fore, but it has also caused tremendous confusion between the sexes. A burning issue is whether the attempts to bring parity between men and women are managing to balance the scales of equity.

Is the goal to swop one form of superiority for another? Does feminism intend to incite a coup against masculinity? If so, do women desire to lord it over men in much the same way that men have done over women since antiquity? As a vocal proponent of gender equality, I will not hesitate to shoot down any form of patriarchy and male superiority. I will not tolerate the disadvantage or disempowerment that the average woman has to contend with.

Only a minority of women have the guts to stand up to oppressive men and denounce what they perceive to be savage behaviour on their part. They do this for their subjective protection, and also to contribute to a paradigm shift which benefits even those who are without a voice. As a point of departure, I acknowledge the necessity to fight for the underdog. However, I also highlight the need to employ effective strategies in doing so.

I have engaged many men on matters of gender equality and have come across a recurring sentiment among them. They recognise the need for transformation in how the sexes co-exist, but they are often highly confused by the approach of women. For instance, within a dating or married couple context, they note that the woman expects them to be a "gentleman".

This normally means paying for their leisure and living expenses, opening doors for them, performing DIY functions in the home, attending to malfunctioning cars or equipment, physically protecting them from danger, being a shoulder to literally cry on, and complimenting them on their appearance. While many of the men I spoke to have no qualms about fulfilling all those tasks.

They often profess that they were socialised to fulfil this role. The confusion sets in when they interact with the so-called "independent woman". This independent woman is normally gainfully employed, has some assets and could very well do without a man in the practical sense. The reality though, is that she often still has a desire and need for a male partner with whom to share her life. So she avails herself for a relationship.

The world is becoming increasingly secular, culture-neutral and individualistic. From this background, it is no wonder that the most basic element of humanity – the relationship between a woman and man – has become destabilised.

Soon enough, the couple is at loggerheads because the woman rejects all notions and manifestations of patriarchy. She challenges her partner at every turn and when they reach a deadlock, she labels him as domineering and may even threaten to leave him. All the while she is enjoying the benefits of him being the perfect gentleman.

He, on the other hand, finds himself involved with a part-time feminist. The gist of the man's complaint is that he never knows when he will be interacting with the "traditional woman" or the "independent woman". It feels very much like a Jekyll and Hyde relationship. How the couple deals with these inconsistencies vary. Some may negotiate and compromise to reach synchronicity and harmony, while others buckle under the pressure of uncertainty.

Where men appear to be embattled is with the minority of women who have evolved to the point of taking on typically male characteristics. They are outspoken, aggressive, ambitious and basically "in charge". Some of these women are considered driven and ruthless in their professional context and they bring those same characteristics home with them.

The man feels like nothing more than a subordinate accountable to their superior. Should this man not comply with his key performance indicators (KPI's), he is hauled off to a disciplinary meeting. He will either be let off with a warning or could be fired after accumulating three warnings. The man's fundamental failure to perform has its roots in key performance areas (KPA's) that were not defined and agreed upon to begin with.

The same men I spoke to complained about the contagious transfer of male-demeaning attitudes among women. Groups of female friends and associates are believed to be in cahoots about how men should be "put in their place". An otherwise decent man will suffer as collateral damage when one of the women in the group is cheated on, beaten or dumped.

His partner will then adopt a defensive stance against him because she has received a fresh dose of "men are trash". But this same woman expects a man who will fulfil all the functions I mentioned but somehow combine that with subjugation under matriarchy.

The change of gender relations is necessary and inevitable, but what is still within our control is how that change is defined and navigated.

We live in an age where role categories have become blurred. Women are increasingly economically active. They are assuming leadership roles in societal institutions. The biological clocks of women can be set to postpone childbirth and rearing.

The world is becoming increasingly secular, culture-neutral and individualistic. From this background, it is no wonder that the most basic element of humanity — the relationship between a woman and man — has become destabilised.

The change of gender relations is necessary and inevitable, but what is still within our control is how that change is defined and navigated. As with any transition, there will be upheaval, inconsistencies and confusion. Rather than have men lamenting the good old days when "women knew their place" or women determined to "put men in their place", we should recognise that the real enemy is social constructions that no longer serve the current needs of their people.

Feminists have the responsibility to construct a consistent ideology that can be bought into by any reasonable person. This will root out the irrational patriarchs who should be the appropriate targets of "men are trash", while embracing the many men out there who are in fact feminists at heart.

Not all men approve of the subjugation of women, so let the feminists give them clear key performance indicators to which they can adhere, in their solidarity with women.