New word huh? Probably isn’t if you have been following the conversation on feminism. But if you have not, remember that saying about the story glorifying the hunter so long as the lion is not the one saying it? Good! Bring it down a knot and split the word into two: man and splain. But together, they mean a man explaining. Essentially, mansplainning connotes the idea of men speaking authoritatively on issues related to women. Whether the issue has to be entirely related to the female gender is of debate but a good example of mansplainning is when an all-male panel is called to speak on menstruation.
In writing this, I am risking a charge of mansplainning. Why should a man be speaking on an issue that has to do with feminism? Perfunctorily, it does sound valid. The feminist movement should not be coopted by a man. But does the conversation on gender roles not affect men too? If we are going to be reordering family life as we currently know it, should men not be invited to the table of conversation?
I believe mansplainning is real and men should limit their voices in (some) female spaces, especially those that are entirely related to women only. The problem of course has to do with the determination of which spaces are no-go areas for men. Conversations on gender roles however do not fall within these no-go areas. Yet still, our voices should not be authoritative in these conversations. At best, they should be conversational!
PEPPER DEM MINISTRIES (PDM)
There is virtually never a day on “Ghana Facebook” that comes to an end without the PDM influencing some conversation on Facebook. Out of nowhere, the group popped up on our timelines last year like a pimple on a teenager’s face. And like that pimple, they irk a lot of people. But the PDM is more than a pimple that would just not go. They are a group of self-identifying feminists whose stated goal is to #FlipTheNarratives that have dominated gender conversations all these years.
On any given Monday morning, you could wake up to a sarcastically crafted message querying why “men of today flaunt their six packs in gym selfies” and how that is indicative of their poor upbringing or why the sexuality of women is policed. For most people on Facebook, that sounds ridiculous. Arguing on the back of two hour lectures they had in a sociology class, they wonder what kind of feminism these girls want! “Should they not be fighting for the closure of the Gambaga witch camp?” and other strands of this rhetorical question always gets thrown into the conversation in an attempt to deflate the type of feminism the PDM advocates for
WHY THE PDM IS WINNING THE CONVERSATION
“It is not in the place of the oppressor to tell the oppressed how to resist his (her) oppression). I cannot put a finger to the person this quote is attributed to (my faint memory tells me it is Frantz Fanon) but it accurately captures the current debate on feminism in Ghana.
At its core, feminism is the “radical” idea that women should be given access to the same choices men have been privileged with all these years. The manifestation of feminism is different depending on what “wave” you are currently on or which country you find yourself in. For instance, it will seem logical that Saudi Feminists will not be asking to “free the nipple”. For starters, they will want to have the right to drive, go places without a male guardian or choose whether or not they want to wear the burqa. But at the end of the day, it is women who have the say as to what manifestation of feminism they will want to pursue but it will always boil down to wanting to have access to the same choices men have.
In pursuing their understanding of feminism, the PDM continues to be successful in getting a conversation on the topic to dominate social media day in day out. Regardless of the news headline, a gender slant is always read into it and a discussion generated around the topic.
Even if a single policy is not enacted that seeks to right some of the wrongs done by patriarchy, the PDM have essentially won whatever battle it is they have been fighting. Today, patriarchy, privilege, feminism, and a host of other words related to the subject of gender is bandied around repeatedly. The success of the PDM lies in the consciousness they have awoken in some people. Even their detractors do agree to some finer details of the subjects they raise. It might be provocative but it does succeed in getting us talking.
Again, we will have to determine a couple of things to see whether they are right in their provocative approach. Are women oppressed in society? Even if the oppression is not as severe as you will find in other places, does there still exist some levels of oppression? If yes, then whatever means they choose seem valid so long as it is not violent. In that regard, the PDM becomes more than a zit on an adolescent’s face. They become little engine that could. The engine that ensured heightened the consciousness of the Ghanaian public on gender related issues. Maybe the conversation gets muddied with insults due to a lack of appreciation of the sarcasm the message tends to come with, but even some parts of muddy waters are still transparent enough.
THE ECONOMICS OF COOKING
When you think about it, there was never any dissatisfaction amongst women who were spending their lives as mothers/caregivers in pre-colonial all the way to pre-Industrialized Ghana. Of course this is not a statement based on anthropological findings. It is at best, intuitive.
In pre-colonial Ghana for instance, farming, hunting and other activities deemed as masculine were not as commercialized (that is even if they were commercialized) as they are today. With an increase in sophistication of an economy comes the valuation of all activities. Unfortunately (probably deliberately), capitalism never put monetary value on the services offered by stay at home moms. Giving birth was not given a monetary value, taking care of the home was not and neither was cooking.
Even when cooking was valued outside of the home, there was disparity between the cooking done by men and that done by women. Cooks, most of whom are women are not paid as much as chefs, most of whom are men. It is this same act of cooking that has been the subject of another fierce debate between the feminists and the rest of society they term as misogynists and patriarch princesses.
The PDM claim that was never the case but somehow, a post by one of their members was widely construed as saying that women who cook are slaves. There is probably no need in exploring that statement further since it has been denied but there still is a need to address the question of who needs to do the cooking?
The best answers seems to be WHOEVER IS HUNGRY. After all, it is your stomach that is grumbling and not that of your spouse. But economics provides a better answer. Cooking should be done by the one with the better cooking skills. After all, if you ask me to cook, I will end up chopping up the yam in slices which will be economically imprudent. I am horrible at cooking and yes I do happen to be a man whose privilege meant he did not have to be in the kitchen. But he also had his own fair share of the chores.
The answer to the question really lies in who is the better cook and social conditioning coincidentally means that tends to be the woman. But it is not always the case. There are some men who are better cooks than women. It is very true that cooking skills does not come pre-packaged in a vagina. So if you wife does not know how to cook and you the husband are the better cook and she the wife brings in more money to the family than you do, then maybe you should be the one doing the cooking. Or maybe it is none of our business and the two of you should decide that question at the nuclear level?
OUT CAME THE SUGAR DEM MINISTRIES
Today, we woke up to the polar opposite of the PDM. The convener of this group, Sugar Dem Ministries said they will cook for us, bed us and lick us if we sugar dem. As women with their full agency intact, you cannot fault them for their choosing. To do otherwise is downright an act of fascism!
Torn between being peppered and being sugared, the choice might seem pretty clear. But whatever choice you make, you should be thankful that as a man you are privileged enough to be spoilt with choices in whatever space you find yourself and probably realize that it is this seemingly radical idea of being free to choose that the PDM is clamoring for.