Womanhood was no more celebrated than when auntie Maxine put it down during her #blackgirlsrock speech. We all know Maxine Walters for her no holds barred approach to fighting social injustice and no doubt many of us have been reclaiming our time; but reclaiming (or better still CLAIMING) our time as woman means more than gaining a few extra minutes in the day. We need to claim balance; we need to claim our narrative and I believe we need to include men in supporting us to claim our rights. It may sound like a paradox because MEN seem to be the cause of our inequalities but in our everyday interactions with men we know that many of them want to help us in our fight for equality.
I’m really interested to know what could happen if women engaged more freely with men; inviting them to have open dialogue about some of the struggles we face. So I thought I’d get the ball rolling and hold a little discussion with some of my church brothers. I started by asking them, what does womanhood mean?
Womanhood means maturity, its partnership, its love. When we think of womanhood, we think of everything that we are not as men; therefore womanhood is complementary to manhood. Women know thing about the world that men don’t; a woman who is mature can teach us about our manhood in a way that nothing or no one else can.
Our discussion went on for much longer than expected, so I’m giving you key highlights guys. I’ll definitely be hosting another chat, but next time I’ll film it for you diamondboxers. Anyway back to the discussion.
Is womanhood something that you see around you?
Ohhh yes, all the time! We see it in our mothers, wives, sisters and even work colleagues – To be honest we get to see womanhood in all the females around us; I guess that we’re lucky in that sense. I mean look at what we’re doing today, we’re here holding a discussion about womanhood and that’s quite significant. We see womanhood every day in popular culture through things like #blackgirlsrock and individuals like Maxine Walters. Modern culture presents us with opportunities to be part of the celebration of womanhood. That said, there are still places were womanhood isn’t easily seen; in places like leadership, women are often challenged for accreting their ideas or having an opinion that may go against malestream views.
Talking to these men, was a real eye opener; growing into my womanhood involved an acute awareness of two things. Firstly, women have to compete that much harder to be heard and secondly, we seem to be challenging inequality with minimal participation from men. I have several opinions about why this might be happening but I think the real feminists wouldn’t be happy with what I have to say, so I’ll keep these views to myself. However I was interested to see if my brothers thought that there was a lack of participation on their part.
Here’s what they said.
When it comes to challenging inequality, womanhood can be expressed in an antagonistic way to manhood and possibly this is where the issue of a lack of male involvement comes from. We need a paradigm shift which changes the way we teach boys and girls about their responsibilities for each other. We need to start teaching younger generations that men and women don’t have to compete with each other. We must recognise and promote the interdependency of men and women, instead of talking about the independence or dependence of one or the other. There is an exchange of mutually beneficial POWER that happens when men and women come together. This interdependency needs to be recognised and celebrated more in order to address the issue of lack of male involvement.
At this point of the discussion one of the guys expressed that a lot of the times, womenhood can conflict with manhood (the rest of the men hummed in approval). He was passionate about women achieving equality but felt that due to the oppression women suffer; womanhood can sometimes be expressed via a power struggle with manhood. I quote…‘its ok women to let your man have the final word sometimes.’ (I can hear the cheers from the men folk).
As our discussion continued what became apparent was the need for women and men to improve the way we speak about / to each other. There was a clear desire amongst these men to support women (which was seen as an essential part of their manhood); however there was uncertainty as to how they could do this without threating women’s independence.
I’ve been labelled as an independent woman and for some part this is true; however my independence does not mean being independent of men and I think this was the sum of our discussion. There essentially has to be a relearning of the language men and women use when trying to understand and support each other. There is so much power in interdependency and we need to adapt a narrative that facilities more talk about US and WE, rather than THEM and US.
“Each generation must assume the responsibility of securing their manhood, their womanhood, the definition of their being on earth that in the final analysis is nationhood.”
– John Henrik Clarke