WFAC-surveyWFAC Survey journey to nollect and gather information from young people; school dropouts, university students and graduates across the nation (Buea in particular). Photo: WFAC Cameroon

Cameroon: Exploring Men's Attitudes to Feminism

By Ngwentah Berlyne Ngwalem
WFAC Contributor on Feminism, Masculinity and Contemporary Narratives on Gender and Women's rights with focus on Cameroon

If you move around asking Cameroonians what feminism is all about, you will hardly get the right answer.

I have realized many Cameroonians, particularly young illiterates [and literates] have never come across that word. Each time I mention the word to people I am not familiar with, their actions make me understand that they are either hearing the word for the first time or have heard it in passing and have not stored it in their minds because it does not have any meaning to them.

When they are told about the basics of feminism, they waste no time to criticize the feminist ideology of women and men being equal undergrounds – that it is against the will of God. We must acknowledge the fact that our society is a little bit behind in terms of knowledge and understanding of feminism, women's rights and human rights.

Most men will agree women are important, but will argue they are important for "the purpose of men".

Men feel like women already have what they need to have; most of them go to school, work and earn some money to support their families. However, some men feel like women do not deserve to achieve anything that will instill in them a feeling of fulfillment and importance because they believe women will not dance to their tune. Other men neglect or do not understand the aspect of psychological oppression and its impact.

Now let's ask ourselves this question: "Is the problem of female marginalization a thing of the body or the mind?"

It is through this question that we will successfully trace the problem, address it, change minds and social attitudes. It is through this question that we will know how to go about telling men feminism is important and be able to explain how important it is to empower women.

Our people should be informed about the benefits of women taking part in decision-making, choosing what they are good at and be allowed the opportunity to do it, etc.

Society should be made to understand that women are humans who are different from men, but deserve the same rights and opportunities as men because it does not only benefit women when a woman's full potentials are recognized and utilized, it benefits the entire country.

Remember, humans like to be in a position of power. Sharing power might be a very big problem to a lot of men because they benefit 99% from that but refuse to see that a lot more is lost from not wanting to share that power.

They fail to see that others suffer from a system created by them.

Educating men on the negative effects of patriarchy to men, women and our society (any society) will help them see the importance of feminism. It is important to ask the following questions:

Do they know that there are some groups of people who are being treated unjustly because they look different?

Do they deserve it?

Do they care about the people in their lives who are being oppressed simply because they are different?

What if they were placed in the position of those marginalized groups of people, how would they have reacted?

Do they think any adjustments should or could be made to better situations?

Some men have the belief that feminism is a tool used to rob them of their born privileges.

They just do not understand how wanting to have equal rights as men is not a tactic used by women to compete with men and eventually dominate them. Society should be made to understand that everyone deserves a chance at happiness and that no one was/is ever born a privileged gender and should therefore have more rights and freedom than others.

They have to be taught that these are societal constructs that bring about nothing but pain and misery to our society and our lives. Try to find out how they feel when half the population of a country is being harassed, beaten, raped, killed and subjected to unbelievable suffering by others, but nothing is done about it simply because they look different.

Freedom is never negotiated; it is fought for.

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This piece is part of #WFAC's regular contributions on feminism discourses and gender issues from Cameroonian young women's perspectives. Here at #WFAC, our advocacy doesn't just limit at making oral statements, we believe in the power of writing, documenting and sharing of thoughts for social [common] good.