Let’s Not Be Apologists and Enablers

Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash

In the fight against patriarchy and toxic masculine culture (TMC), women can sometimes stand in the way. This kind of women falls under the ‘apologist’ or the ‘enabler’, or perhaps both categories. As a woman, how do you know if you are in any of these categories? Let’s find out by looking at the two scenarios below:

Scenario 1

A woman disclosed online her sexual harassment incident while she was walking from her car to the university. Do you:

a) Offer your sympathy and solidarity to her

b) Look at her profile picture, disapprove what she wears, and then tells her she might want to consider dressing more appropriately

If you choose to do B, congratulations, you’re officially an apologist for TMC. You probably think all sexual harassment would not happen if women dressed modestly, or if she is a Muslim, wears a headscarf. By doing so, men can curb their desire and refrain from committing sins. Oh, my fellow sisters, I wish you’re right, but sadly you’re wrong. Stop excusing men from being responsible for their behaviour or actions.

Dressing modestly or wearing a headscarf does not give you immunity from sexual harassment or sexual violence. A few rape-murder cases come into mind; like the Noor Suzaily Mukhtar’s case. If you are still not convinced, feel free to head over to this site and go through its ‘Rape and Sexual Harassment Victims’ Attire online exhibition. This showcase, which was inspired by similar exhibits elsewhere, is set up to dispel the myth that a victim’s attire is the contributing factor to rape and sexual harassments.

Go read and weep, and stop being an apologist for the toxic behaviour of men. Do not let men objectify women. They need to learn to treat women as equals and respect our needs and rights to live safely in this world without being policed or judged on what we wear, or how we act.

Next time a woman tells you she was harassed, don’t look at her clothing and tell her she needs to dress modestly. Instead, choose option A. If you hear a man says she deserved it based on her attire, feel free to punch him in the face. I’m kidding, I can’t promote violence; just give him an earful. If he is your boyfriend and refuses to listen, please do yourself a favour and ditch that guy. You deserve better.

Scenario 2

One day, your husband decides to assist with the housework and taking care of the children, so you can have a rest and do your own personal things too. Do you:

a) Go on social media and start praising him to the skies saying how lucky you are to have a husband like him. He is such a hero!

b) Privately thank your husband and praise him for finally pulling his weight in the marriage

If you choose to do A, please spare us this nonsense. Nothing of that sort is worth praising a man for, especially publicly. You’re merely enabling patriarchy. Lavishing praise for everyone to see just sends the wrong message. It makes men extraordinary for doing something ordinary. Helping around the house and with the kids is not exactly rocket science. These are things that husbands need to do too, but unfortunately, patriarchy, excuse them from doing so.

Some mothers raised their sons by exempting them from partaking in any household activities or child-rearing. We can’t change the past, but we could always change the future. Tell your husbands to pull their weight. Raise your children in an environment without any gender division of labour. So, choose B because he has realised a marriage needs to build on equality and that as a wife, you are still an individual with needs and wants.

When a woman gets married, she is not only a wife or a mother. Those are only roles she has taken up, adding up to the roles of a daughter, granddaughter, niece, aunt or grandmother that she might already, or will have. Fundamentally, she is still an individual with a name, with needs and wants, with dreams and aspirations. Do not let anyone confine you to your role.

I did not write this to shame women for being in any of these categories. We are sometimes in one not by choice, but due to our lack of awareness and knowledge. Patriarchy is entrenched in our society to the extent it allows for the normalisation of toxic masculinity. Not all men are bad either. Like some women, they too lack awareness and knowledge. If some men are willing to look beyond their privilege, be open-minded and get informed, they can become powerful allies in creating a just society for both genders.

Thus women, do note that becoming apologists and enablers would not help men realise their privilege in this culture. It merely strengthens them. So, fight together with us, not against us. We all deserve to live in a just and equal world, regardless of our gender.

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A South East Asian musings on the political and socio-cultural issues of the 21st century.

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Jasmine Johan

Jasmine Johan

A South East Asian musings on the political and socio-cultural issues of the 21st century.

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