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Being feminist doesn’t mean we hate men

By Judith Mwobobia | April 27th 2021

One day long ago, the father of psychoanalysis would write a paper stating that women had what was called “penis envy”. Sigmund Freud would explain that women, or rather “people assigned female at birth” developed deep feelings of envy when they realised that they hadn’t been born with the precious organ, but rather a shrunken form (the clitoris). And this, he would say, was what led women to spend their lives seeking to possess the one thing they weren’t born with and why marriage was a great achievement to the fairer sex because it meant that they now owned the coveted organ. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first educated definition of feminism by a man. That definition satisfied many at that time, but even among sheep, there is always a rebel. Enter Karen Horney. Now, Horney who is considered the mother of modern feminism wasn’t your typical 20th-century woman. She was a trained doctor who passionately studied Sigmund’s work. So fascinated she was that she had taken some classes in psychoanalysis. But when the “penis envy” paper came out, she would take to task her hero. And she would carry out studies just to back up her theory. She knew that one couldn’t go up against an institution without some background work. Eventually, she came up with a new theory; the “womb envy”, she called it.

Her theory explained that it really wasn’t that women wanted so much to be men, but that men in fact felt inferior to women because they couldn’t nurture or birth life. That they recognised what power women held and thus borrowing heavily from the 15th law of power, ‘Crush thy enemy’, they sought to crush the women’s spirit.

“When one begins, as I did, to analyse men after a fairly long experience of analysing women, one receives a most surprising impression of the intensity of this envy of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, as well as of breasts and of the act of suckling,” she wrote.

Well, you may have an inkling of how this story ends. The paper earned her some serious opposition, and for her troubles, Horney was kicked out of the Psychoanalytic Institute. But not one to take defeat easily, she went ahead and founded her own institute.

With the murky history of feminism, it is little wonder then that when the word ‘feminism’ comes up in everyday conversations, it is usually in a negative connotation. It evokes an image of a man-hating, bra-burning woman ready to obliterate all men into nothingness. In fact, ask any man if they are feminist, and I can assure you that 96 per cent of the time, you will be drawn into a long-winded story of how women want to be men. Then two per cent will simply say yes and the remaining two per cent will say, “I am not a feminist but…” Before asking for your definition of the word ‘feminist’ as though there are 500 versions of it. But in case you were also confused, this is the definition. 

A feminist is someone who believes that men and women should get equal rights and opportunities. That is all. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you hate men. The right word for that is misandry. Anyone with an intense dislike for men is called a misandrist. Being a feminist does not mean that you do not want men to succeed or lead; it simply means that you want women to have an equal right to lead and succeed too. And yes, men can and should be feminists. If you aren’t a feminist, you are simply a sexist. You believe that women can’t take on some roles or responsibilities because they are, well, women. And if you truly believe that a woman is an inferior being, I would like to ask you one question; why is it that say KCSE or KCPE questions aren’t crafted differently for both genders? Shouldn’t men have tougher exams if they are intellectually superior?

Again, I know that we are biologically different, but our differences don’t make any gender superior to the other. The differences are why we all need each other; and why we need to treat one another as equals. We complement each other. And to the women, I say that if you intend to be a member of the marriage institution, your life will be easier and happier if you marry a feminist. That’s because he will appreciate your smarts and won’t think that your highest potential is reached when you are barefoot and pregnant.

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