I was once asked to sit on a panel for the Wits ABASA – Association of Black Accountants of South Africa – on the following topic and I felt I should share some of the points I spoke about on the night.
Women empowerment has become a prominent and relevant topic in society, and there are a number of reasons why men should be included in the discussion about the transformation of women. How do we break the cycle of unhealthy competition amongst women and foster a spirit of upliftment? How can we actively involve men in the pursuance of gender equality?
So as a man that has been drawn into the discussion, here’s my take on the subject.
“The first step towards overcoming anything is the ability to identify it, holding the belief that an enemy identified is an enemy half defeated. I feel that unhealthy competition amongst women is a result of:
1. Insecurity: the feeling that one’s position is threatened by others attributes gifts and possessions. This feeling of threat reveals itself in the form of envy and jealousy; as opposed to the feeling of admiration and appreciation that comes from being secured in who you are.
2. Scarcity mentality: there can be no good that can result from thinking in terms of scarcity. This kind of thinking creates small fighting rings where people have to compete for resources, friends, clothes, position, partners, love, or whatever they deem to be of value. The true meaning of success is the ability to get what one wants without violating the rights of others. No one has to lose for the other to win, we can all win. People who think in terms of scarcity seem to always find themselves violating the rights of others in one way or another.
3. Lack of self-love: Proper self-love, the type that comes from proper, constant personal development and hard work is essential for high quality human interaction.
The absence of self-love tends to show itself in the need for other’s approval, being secretly or outwardly envious of others successes, sabotaging others progress, wanting to exercise power over others, belittling those that are perceived as weaker, sucking up to those that may be in the position to help advance.
Cultivating self-love is a lifelong process that systematically eliminates or brings under control our negative qualities through personal development. By doing this we are able to not only bring to the negatives to the light, but also begin to transform ourselves into the best versions of ourselves.
Understanding unhealthy competition:
We are competitive beings, but without proper context, competition may leads us to behave as animals.
Men have been in competition for ages and it continues to be so. Men have been and still compete for power, land, resources, money and the women’s affection.
What is competition?
Competition is the desire to do better than it has been done before (breaking a record, a new invention, a medical procedure) or better than the next person (sports, business, politics) and has been the driving force behind civilization’s advancement. Like most things in life, competition requires context. That means it must have an environment, there must be rules, values and an end goal (a prize). Without proper rules competition inevitable becomes unhealthy.
Imagine a boxing fight, Mike Tyson vs Chris Rock? Both are competitive people but the context does not favour Chris in this example for the following reasons:
– Chris is not a boxer, he’s a comedian, so he doesn’t have the skill set to be competitive.
– Physically he is not a match to Mike.
– Chris wouldn’t voluntarily get into any ring with Mike, so if he was in that situation it would probably be involuntary.
This is what unhealthy competition looks like in general – Its context is disorganized.
When competition doesn’t have a context, the mind creates a context because it needs a context to function; and lacking a broader end goal it searches for a place to direct that energy. So one ends up finding things you don’t like about other people, demonizing them, and making them competition.
“I don’t like so and so cause they think…”
But so and so is your classmate, right? Yeah and I’m better than her at tax and I’m going to outperform her. … The seed has been planted, 10 years later you still can’t work together.
Fostering a spirit of upliftment…
Now we can see once the context is set, there’s an end goal, rules, values – the environment is clearly defined. You and so and so have an opportunity to team up – You both understand that in as much as you have to battle it out for good marks the context may be something bigger, like women empowerment, or black empowerment, or fighting poverty, or fighting inequality.
Nelson Mandela was very competitive, and he could box very well too. However, without a context to express his competitive nature he would have possibly been a bully. Context allowed him to work with other competitive men like Oliver Tambo and many more. Such is the case with women and competition – What is the game, what is the context, how do you play, what are the rules and values, what is the end goal? Once these questions are answered, competition automatically becomes healthy. Upliftment happens naturally because we all want to win… women are nurturers, by nature they are caring.
How do we actively involve men in the pursuance of gender equality?
1. Constantly inviting men to participate, and keep at it. Use repetition to drive consciousness and messaging.
2. Create platforms that will enable man to have a look at their beliefs and stereotypes, in a non-threatening way. When you can get someone to pull up their deeply held beliefs and take time to look at them, you have gone a long way towards helping them change that belief
3. Allow them to become stakeholders. When we have an interest in something we tend to go all out. As long as its woman’s thing, you won’t get the best out men.
4. Teach men how to treat you by being the change you want to see. History is filled with proof that people in general tend to respect people who stand firm in their beliefs. This is regardless of whether they share your beliefs or not. If your stance on gender equality is shaky, no one will take you seriously. Even other woman.
5. Minimise the polarisation of the topic. US vs Them. It must graduate to a we discussion.”
“I hope these pointers help with the discourse and in enabling us show love to women”
Name: Ntsikelelo Mzibomvu*
Twitter: @OnlyLelo @Ghetto_Geniuses