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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Honourable Kuol Manyang Juuk and the New Breed of Sexist Young Men


If you don’t know who is who in a crowd then generalize them in good faith and you’ll soon know who is who. Bad advice but it works! So I’ll lump up the majority of South Sudanese young men as sexist unless they distinguish themselves otherwise.
I know each and every society has its normative and traditional parameters used by its people. It’s obviously remarkable that every society considers its cultural tenets central to its way of life, and to some extent, free of error.

This is of course a fallacy for any given human social construct is always fraught with mistakes. However, societies that face criticisms given the inhumanity of some of their cultural practices take refuge in cultural relativism. And this has led to resistance to change by some cultures.
Luckily, the world has grown to a point in which unacceptable human practices are getting challenged as revolutionized means of communication have opened up closed societies in ways never seen before. Societies are no longer closed and therefore can’t oppress some members of their societies without such injustice being heard.

Sexists, Racists, Dictators, embezzlers, religious bigots… are exposed and bashed on regular basis.
This doesn’t mean injustice and harmful cultural and social practices aren’t taking place. They still take place in the cover of darkness. Sexist, enslavers, racists, immoral capitalists, war-mongers, rapists…still exist. What’s comforting is that the above perpetrators know the contemporary societies don’t approve of their practices.

The famed James Dewey Watson, the Noble Prize winning co-discover of DNA double helix, fell from grace for his racist remarks and was shunned by the scientific community; and the American beloved comedian, Bill Cosby, is now falling from grace for the way he treated women.
Among the sad practices that still haunt us today is men’s attitude toward women. This is an attitude that exist in almost all human societies. Even seemingly progressive societies like western countries still have a lot to do when it comes to women rights. Women are still paid less than men, they face domestic violence, have hard times when they vie for elected offices, have difficulty moving up corporate ladders… etc. However, western societies have done relatively better than other societies.

Even young, educated men in some societies such as South Sudan still think stereotyping women is acceptable because “it’s part of our culture.” These young men think talking about rights of women is a ‘western’ concept. What a pathetic state of mind! Women rights are human rights applicable to all societies. When did it become a western idea that women shouldn’t be compared to cowardly men? Women in the west didn’t always have the same rights they have now so calling respect for women a western concept is to miss the point. Everyone human society progresses not retrogress and some norms of 100 years ago aren’t even mentionable now. The word ‘Negro’ was an acceptable reference to African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s but mentioning it now is almost an anathema. About 200 years ago Africans were sold like sheep.
Societies change. And it’s the acceptable change that’s welcome.

 And it’s bizarre for an educated man to think that saying a cowardly man is a women isn’t insulting to women. It might have been okay for African men to insult their women 50 – 100 years ago but to say it’s cultural to use analogies that denigrate women now is a scary state of mind.
The recent remarks by South Sudan's defense minister, Kuol Manyang, comparing cowardly men with women can be understood or excused in the context of the society he grew up in. It shouldn’t be condoned, however. It has no place in the current society Kuol lives in. And what is even appalling is how educated, young South Sudanese believe such sexist, inflammatory remarks are ‘not a problem.’ We all know the context in which Kuol uttered the statement but it’s really mindless to say that we can condone such a statement because it was uttered by Kuol Manyang, a government official. We can say Kuol only wanted to raise the morale of his soldiers and scare other ‘men’ to join the army. But did Kuol Manyang have to make fun of women to make a point?

With such an attitude, I believe girls and women in South Sudan should sharpen their spears because the upcoming breed of young leaders is full of mindless, robotic sexists, who wouldn’t hesitate to endorse sexism in the name of culture and Afrocenticity.
This makes me wonder how such a breed of leaders would be able to take issues like rape and women rights seriously. Is it the support of leaders that has completely blinded some of our able-minded young men and that they’d change if the issue of support ceases to be a problem? Or is this the actual state of affairs in South Sudan?

To respect women is not to simply love or marry them or to say they are good mothers and sisters. Respecting women is to guarantee their rightful place in any society. So we have a bunch of young men who believe that women are simply weak and cowardly. How do you look your wife or girlfriend in the eye and believe mocking analogies are okay? Why do we get angry when Europeans or Euro-Americans make fun of us? Why do we call ‘white’ people racists when they use analogies such as ‘Africans are monkeys’ or Africans are inferior? And some ‘white’ people have been raised and cultured to believe Africans and people of African descent aren’t even human beings! They actually believe this to be true. Should we condone this attitude towards us because it’s part of some ‘white’ people cultural upbringing?

It’s up to young girls and women to know that the coming generation of leaders has among them sexists of the unpalatable breed. They’ll marry you but be ready to put you under the bus! And unless young girls and women become vigilant to safeguard their rightful place as boys’ equals and challenge archaic-minded and sexist people, they’ll have themselves to blame.
And prominent leaders and heroes of our liberation struggle like Kuol Manyang Juuk should be the frontrunners in the fight for girls’ rights. The use of analogies that denigrate women in our contemporary society is unforgiveable. Hon. Kuol has women colleagues in the government and the use of such analogies not only disrespects them, it also sends a wrong message to boys about how they should treat girls and women; and that expressions that compare women with disgraced men is okay.  Kuol needs to apologize to women to set a good example for young men and boys.