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Lyn Laubscher

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June 2016

New roles for all

The new role of women

The unconsidered impact of female empowerment

As a child, there were clearly defined rules and roles

The men went out to work and provided for the family, as they had for centuries, whilst the women took care of their home, children and husbands.  Breadwinner status gave men certain responsibilities in terms of ensuring the financial wellbeing of their family and together with that came authority.  Breadwinners determined what they would pay for, so the one who paid the bills ‘knew what was best‘ and resisting that meant risking losing their financial support.

Roles changed

Role hierarchy was implanted into our psyche.  We learned, observed and collated, as fact, what our roles would be based upon the society of our youth.  When it suddenly changed, it caught us all off guard and we suddenly found ourselves in unchartered territory, leaving us uncertain of how to deal with all the issues it created.

Women began contributing towards the rent and other expenses giving them a more meaningful say, resulting in a shift of responsibility, and with it a sharing of the accompanying authority.

As women became co-breadwinners, they also gained nearly equal legal rights in society,
and so they naturally expected the same consideration at home, resulting in many a family quandary.  
Women who were not granted that consideration, now also had the means of escaping the relationship that was not fulfilling their needs, rocketing divorce rates and dividing family units.

‘…you have a veritable army of warriors at your beck and call, for goodness sake!
I don’t feel you need me anymore and I am not sure…what role…what purpose…I am supposed to play in a relationship like that,’ Jacques confessed.

– Birthplace of the Sun

The heroic couple in the novel each have to face their own fears, uncertainties and insecurities, as they grapple with a rapid role change thrust upon their budding relationship.  But, they also need to have the courage and trust in one another to share their feelings, for without full disclosure they could not hope to grow stronger together.  Will they both have what it takes to go there?

Going there takes enormous courage

To the outsider it may appear as though Jacques is weak but, in fact, it takes a heroically strong person to reveal their true feelings.  It takes a person who is incredibly confident within themselves and who does not rely on others opinions for self-validation.  A person needs to be superbly secure to risk losing everything, as they recognize the value in a strong relationship that will endure over time.  Someone like that, will not want to waste time hanging onto the illusions of a relationship that cannot last.  Finally, it takes that much courage to make every relationship work and everyone who has gone there is incredibly heroic.

The solution may not be the same for everyone and, though challenging, that’s okay

Individuals need to find a personal solution that works for them, whilst society addresses the consequences, how to avoid the potential fallout implications, and how to find a working solution to support the issue.

Any solution should first be openly and honestly discussed before being freely agreed to by equals.  It should be flexible enough to change over time, as each couple adapts to the updated circumstances in their relationship, and it therefore requires constant revisiting and work to succeed.

The x-ology of answers

Seeking answers only youth’s seek, I majored in Psychology looking for that one-size-fits-all insight into the human psyche and was left personally disappointed.  My unfairly high expectations remained, not too surprisingly, unmet.  The strings of universal theories, which became law until they were disproven, left more questions than answers.  I, being the contrary being that I am – the curious ‘Divergent’ – did not seem to ‘fit’ into any of the box options presented.

Over time, however, I’ve come to a new perspective…Not everything can have a single universal solution and that to seek one is often naïveté, especially with regards to humanity.  Aged wisdom (if I may be so bold, facing the big 5-0) has taught that questions are often as important as answers, for they lead to unforeseen treasures through exploration of the concepts themselves.

The later study of EcoMetrics (based upon Ecology) completed the picture, in the validation that I was not the only odd-ball out there and that we are all unique and process differently, which is actually a beautiful thing to be celebrated.  Further, it revealed that evolution is alive in us all.  Who we were last year, or ten years ago, is seldom the person we are today for we are constantly changing and adapting.  But, we do also have an area of consistency at our core – an area which some would argue is our inherent being, which I like to think of as our soul attributes.

Ecology requires us to learn from our past experiences, to prioritize our needs according to our current circumstances, and to draw on all our talents (learned and inherent) to become who we are today.  It taught that we can and do choose to change, as we roll with life’s punches and kisses.

Psychology highlighted the power of questioning, even as Ecology highlighted the celebration of diversity.

Challenged

Men who opt to embrace the new social reality, have other challenges to deal with beyond the struggle to also find a new role for themselves.  They have to deal with the perception, from their unaccepting peers, that they are somehow weak and hen-pecked for seeing reason.  The fact that this route usually shows strength of character, confidence in their manhood and foresight, may become lost beneath the weight of judgement.

Whereas, men who resist the change will find their relationship partner choice greatly reduced and, with time, even their career opportunities as organizations move towards full equality.

Woman also face battles but with other choices and challenges:

  1. Toughen up and fight: Where they’re the new kids on the block, and do not fully understand the rules of engagement in a world still run by men, where the constant fighting leaves some less feminine and more militaristic (a little scary in fact). They are so set to fight that they may even battle to know when and how to stop fighting and pick their battles for a more balanced view;
  2. Overwhelmed:  Others are not fully ready to deal with the new burdens, challenges and responsibilities, and some may even long for the return of a-man-in-charge to save them from the constant decision burden at home at least, which would explain some of the success of ‘Fifty shades of grey’ and similar;
  3. Rework the rules:  Choosing the more co-operative route to find a new way that will work, requires maturity on both sides in order to compromise for ultimate win-win success.
  4. Status quo: Reject feminine power, choosing to ignore the change and to keep things as they were.

Any of the above have their merits and their challenges, and it is up to the individual to decide what will work best for them after considering all the consequences.  Everyone has the right to decide freely on the route they would choose to follow, as long as it is done without fear or pressure.

Respect

Once made, a decision must be respected and clearly followed, as there is very little room for fence sitting in the name of convenience.

A case in point…I know a lady in her mid thirties who is married with two young children.  She and her two boys recently left her husband, once she realized that he was not going to change.  He’d beaten her, taken numerous amours on the side threatening her with them and he’d used her salary to pay their bills.  When they’d first separated he would aggressively confront her insisting that she pay the money he needed to have his criminal record squashed because she had caused it by reporting his abuse to the authorities.  The fact that squashing a criminal record is even possible, moral or should be permitted at all…I will not get into here.  Though fearful, she’d stood her ground and he eventually changed tack becoming more conjoling and wanting to move in with her to save money, insisting that he loved her.  Despite that, he still refused to own up and acknowledge his wrongdoings to his family, who had falsely blamed and ostracized her for the breakup.  He still wouldn’t take responsibility, as deep down he still believed that the man ‘owns’ his family and that he was within his rights to do as he pleased with them.  The issue is that this traditional man was fence sitting.  He wanted her equal money and support but he refused to be honest, change his ways and grant her the accompanying equal rights and respect.  The result was that she learned to stand up for and insist upon them for herself.

Any relationship will disintegrate under the pressures of life’s challenges if it is not built on a solid foundation of hard work, mutual respect and honesty.

Awareness of the issues, discussion and a genuine willingness to find an answer will lead to their own solutions.  It may not be the solution that one came into it expecting but that’s also good, for then it was arrived at without forcing a pre-set position.  The only rule is that it be handled in such a way as to find that win-win resolution for everyone involved.

The fact is…it is not easy for anyone to solve but the rewards of a job well done will lead to a life well blessed.

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Female Empowerment…a novel focus

Regina 2b

‘Birthplace of the Sun’ subtly explores the social impact of increasingly powerful women and the constant updating of gender roles.  Gone is the need for chest beating alfa males, except in certain scenarios such as protecting loved ones from marauding spiders and hijackers.  There can be no doubt that the traditional role of men has been challenged, as they are no longer the sole breadwinner and thus undisputed ruler of the family group.

Globally, men face the challenge of their updated role in society without any real reference, as their roles are so radically different from those of previous generations and the majority of their role models.  South African men are only now truly beginning this journey, and at a much accelerated pace.

Thanks to B-BBEE, South African women are now being offered jobs that their men are not and this is dramatically hastening their role evolution.  Imagine the shock to the psyche of a man whose general society is still mostly incredibly patriarchal in nature but who now has to deal with a woman demanding equal consideration.  Whilst legislation has ensured women are empowered, it has neither fully considered the impact this has on their personal relationships and their role in a still mostly traditional society; nor has it offered methods of resolving conflicts that will result from it, and, it has also not encouraged the difficult conversations around resolving it either.

This, if not specifically addressed by each individual couple, may lead to undesirable scenarios, such as:

  1. Domestic conflict and violence, as men try to regain control of what was lost;
  2. Discontent and divorce, as partners give up trying to find solutions;
  3. Feelings of no longer being valued leading to inferiority concerns;
  4. Increased substance abuse and eating disorders to seek comfort elsewhere;  and,
  5. Even the search for various fantasy, pseudo or actual escapes as individuals go into denial.

All have become very real problems, and though, I’m not suggesting that this issue is the sole cause…it should, at least, be considered a large contributing factor.

Both sexes need to come together to find optimal ways of working and living together, which respects both their uniquely individual needs.  There is a huge need to have support and discussion mechanisms in place where couples can explore the issues in a safe space.

‘Birthplace of the Sun’ was always going to be more than a romantic adventure, which sought to raise awareness of its central location ‘Inzalo Y’langa’.  It was also to become a platform from which to raise important social issues…To sound the warning bell that modern relationships are doomed, unless both parties are prepared to have the difficult conversations.

Of particular importance is the new role of women in society and its impact on all role players, unless addressed in a sensible manner.  It is hoped that this work will encourage debate and discussion, both within society and between individual couples, to find a newly workable and comfortable solution to better address the issue.

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