There’s the phrase that goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This according to English grammar would be a paradox because it is as though the statement contradicts itself. However, after careful analysis, it does make sense and holds some truth. It holds even more truth in the society I find myself living in today.
My name is Zondiwe Manganye and no, no one hates me and no one should be bothered by the meaning behind my name. Maybe that should be the whole point of a name, having people not mind it because it is just a word and its definition doesn’t define the name holder.
Moving on, I was born and raised in Freedom Park, a developing township in Soweto. I was raised by a single mother, while my father was parenting his other children. So it’s only natural for me to have zero expectations from men while having some wire of independence embedded in me.
My ‘aha’ moment goes back to when I was 18 years old, lawfully an adult. A guy I was dating, Themba, decided that we should go out and have lunch at South Gate mall. Our chosen eatery was Spur. When we got to the restaurant, he pulled out his chair and sat down and I was gobsmacked by his lack of manners. After fixing my face back to its normal state, I pulled out my chair and sat down. All the while, he sat smiling as if boys at 21 years old are not taught to pull out chairs for their girlfriends.
After we had taken our lunch, he casually said, “That’ll be R100 from you baby,” and without being able to contain myself, I lashed out, “Are you insane? How dare you take me out and expect me to settle a part of the bill?” To which he responded quite unmoved, “Hawu, didn’t we both eat the food? Why would you assume that the bill is supposed to be settled by me?”
Fuming with anger and confusion, I gathered the crumpled up notes I had reserved for a rainy days and crumpled them even more by violently smashing them on the table, storming out of the restaurant and leaving him with his jaw on the floor.
Needless to say, I broke up with him that very day. That date made me realise that although I thought myself independent, I still wanted to keep the parts of the patriarchy that benefited me. This came after careful interrogation of the incident, which actually showed me that he had done no wrong and had treated me how you should treat someone you consider yourself equal to. Especially if that someone considers themselves as independent too.
More than anything, the incident revealed to me that as females (and males) we may be quick to point out the shortcomings of patriarchy: in terms of demeaning women and putting them at the bottom of the progress ladder and in many areas of life. But we also turn a blind eye to the fact that patriarchy also gives women a sense of entitlement and benefits from our male counterparts, especially the ones we are close to.
In saying this, I fully acknowledge that this has been a social construct and not the works of women. Although much has changed in terms of women being ‘allowed’ and able to build themselves lives outside men, what has stayed the same is that most of us still want to be treated the same way you would treat someone you deem unfit to open the door for themselves, to pull out a chair for themselves and even settle their own bill, under the disguise of “respect”.
Patriarchy again, has been the base at which most men are mistreated and abused but are expected to suck it up because men should not whine about gender injustices. This comes after having read many social media posts in which women randomly threw a tantrum by slapping or shouting at a man in public and still not have the incident regarded as demeaning and abusive. Because abuse has been broadly confined to being abuse if a woman is at the receiving end.
What that date showed me is the fact that patriarchy and its effects are not only disadvantageous to women but men as well. Plus if I want to regard myself as independent then I should undertake alternative train of thoughts.
Tell us: What are your thoughts on the patriarchy?