The President-feminists verbal fights over the past weeks have somehow drawn attention to the sometimes abhorred gender movement, albeit in a laughably inconsequential and unconstructive manner that leaves some of us wondering what really is going on.
Just in case you have forgotten, it all started with President Joyce Banda expressing her opinion about gender equality vis as vis the role women have to play in families, and why she felt that married women should critically analyse counsel from divorced gender activists instead of swallowing their advice blindly.
I don’t know if the President’s opinion was a direct attack on divorced gender activists, but her few words did not sit well with some divorced feminists, triggering an exaggerated battle that seems to be losing direction with every passing day.
After the President’s remarks, two renowned feminists—Seodi White and Jessie Kabwila—hit at her, condemning her for rubbishing divorcees and advancing a misguided argument against gender activists. This was before a gender conference somewhere in Mangochi was apparently also turned into a battle ground of feminism ideas in light of how women ought to cast their vote in the coming election.
Without trying to say who is right or wrong, these fights, which I must say smell horrible of personal egos rather than public interest, are a product of overreactions that are doing a disservice to the women agenda in this country.
Very few cases of gender-based violence have received attention like the divorced feminists matter has. While cases of the voiceless such as defiled girls, raped women and abused men and children are pathetically ignored, few women whose voices are already heard; the few who are already empowered, continue to consume media space and airtime with a trivial misunderstanding that could have long been resolved had it not been for the offshoots of the snowballing overreactions.
And now it seems the government machinery has been entangled in it with principal secretary for education Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo—who happens to be the President’s sister—accused of attacking the activists for stating that they would not cast their vote for a woman simply because she is a woman—as if one or two votes would seriously tilt the election result. While Mtila-Oponyo denies the allegation, there is no denying that the small fight has been exaggerated further, and it’s only a matter of time before it perhaps takes another form.
The real motive behind all this wrestling in not as clear, but what is apparent is that the fighters have lost sight of the forest for the trees. No wonder there is too much wordiness, too much emotion and anger, but very little substance in the ‘me’ arguments, that leave very little or no substance at all for the womenfolk who look up to the female leaders for direction.
Why should 14 million Malawians put up with weeks of long-drawn-out emotional outbursts about who is happily married or divorced? Please, give us a break!