What About the Men?

Michael Onsando
9 August ,2016

It feels like somewhere along the creation of metaphors the truth was lost.

Which is to say that the truth can be hidden in plain sight. What’s right in front of you may actually be what is happening. Occam, a philisohpist by nature but, I believe, a poet at heart, had a theory: when presented with a problem, the simplest solution is often the correct one.

So what, then, are the facts?

  1. That when everything starts it will take a while before it stops.
  2. That the problem, often, with ripples is that they create other ripples, and
  3. That speaking can only  be a problem for those that are yet to find a voice.

But, of course, the problem with voices is that they resonate. And a collection of voices echoing each other can often be heard as a thunderous blast. What began as a whisper bounces off other whispers. And those who are yet to find voices of their own echo pain that is not felt. For everyone must speak of pain, but how do you speak to something that you haven’t known?

Pilipili usioila, yakuwashianini?

Swahili Proverb

This, of course, presents another problem – is it then that one can only speak of pain that they have felt? Of their own pain? How does this speak to the pain of vulnerable communities? How do we navigate those who would not be heard, who would be lost in the sea of sound?

Amplify (verb): Cause to become more marked or intense.

The common cuckoo bird is a brooding parasite. As soon as it is ready to lay its eggs it finds a nest full of eggs, pushes an egg out and then lays a similar looking egg through a process known as mimicry. As soon as the egg hatches it methodically pushes any other eggs/birds out of the nest so that it can monopolise the food that is being provided. The cuckoo doesn’t join to share or to participate – the cuckoo joins to take and make it’s own – to appropriate.

This is why the distinction between amplification and appropriation is so important. To amplify is to point at a problem and say, this is a problem – these people are talking about their problem and we need to find a way to address it. To appropriate is to say that you too are subject to a pain that you are not. That you too are part of a struggle that has nothing to do with you.

Which begs the question – do struggles need to be inclusive? O,r is inclusion the beginning of the dilution of a struggle? The more loosely the frames attached to a struggle are defined – the harder it becomes to actually know what a struggle is about and address the issues within the struggle. Feminism, for example, becomes a struggle about how the patriarchy is oppressing women – everyone yes, but women in particular. So the question becomes where does the discussion to release men from the patriarchy sit?

Feminism, I think, has been a gift – and feminist philosophy has given us language and frames to grasp and struggle with a certain problem. To be able to read about sexism and point to certain pain points within the patriarchy. It’s a blessing to how we think critically about the world and an important tool towards the liberation of women. But, if the problem lies within the patriarchy and how it is set up then, as it has been said, it is up to the people within the patriarchy to find better structures.

But this can’t be an isolated effort, right? Just like any other structure and any other movement there must be an organization of sorts towards actually making it better – and I’m not talking about an NGO or a community project – I’m saying there must be a discussion about men and the patriarchy by men. And it needs to be actively organized.

Because if the patriarchy also hurts men – as we (and “not all men”) have said for a long time, then men must begin to vocalize the ways in which the patriarchy destroys them. Then there needs to be organized thought around it, and debate and analysis – this is the only way this structure, that we seem to have agreed is demanding more of us than it should – can begin to be deconstructed. To demand that feminism make room for men is to demand that an apple tree gives you guavas. No matter how dire the need for guavas, you might need a different tree.

Feminism is built on the backs of years of emotional labor and analysis by an entire movement.  It is built on people who have thought about what they felt and held it up against the larger scheme of things to truly understand where the pain is coming from. Then they gave it a language so that they could express it. And now it is being expressed and amplified, as it should.

There’s a problem and it needs to be fixed. That’s about it – but to demand that this space, designed to cater to women, make room for others is to lay your egg in another’s nest.

You want to understand how the patriarchy hurts men then look inside men, find the pain – analyse it and begin to talk about it. Find others and figure out how to stop it. But don’t think that sitting down and making fun of the people who have known what their pain is about will help you alleviate yours – it won’t.

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