University politics is a big deal. Some overzealous and ambitious students take it seriously. Even positions as basic as class representatives are jostled for in the most chaotic manners. But the big shots start with departmental elections, the top slot being the presidential post, and then the faculty elections and the SUG elections.
So when last Monday, the ban on election campaigns was lifted in the departments, aspirants went into full throttle, speaking to friends, allies, cartels, cliques, and everyone who cared to listen about their ambitions and the manifestos they had for the department.
In my department, the two most important positions are those of the President and Director of Socials (DOS). All was going well as we learned of the electoral hopefuls – until one final aspirant emerged for the post of the President.
Now, the past president of the department was a girl, a fierce one, Ruth. She was very popular and she knew her onions. She made very positive impacts in the department before she left. Her successor, the outgoing president, is also female – Ijeoma. So it would seem that two ladies had served back-to-back as president of the departmental student association. And what would soon become clear to me was that a major chunk of the testosterone in the department was beginning to feel threatened and overshadowed.
So when Victoria declared her ambition for the post of the President by purchasing the form in the last hour, there was instant frenzy and uproar. Boys agitated, arguing that a girl could not be their president a third time around. They lamented about how it was their turn. Apparently, their rationale is that the office of the President is rotational based on gender.
The outgoing DOS, Stanley, started a movement that he termed ‘gender-campaigning for the guys’. He’d walk up to you and proceed – and fail, I might add – to give you the reasons why Victoria shouldn’t be president. I’m sorry, did I say ‘reasons’? No. He didn’t have that many reasons to give other than she is a girl! Sigh! The chauvinistic, misogynistic bastard, that one is.
See, I can understand it if you say that the outgoing president didn’t really perform well and that you are not sure if you should vote in a woman based on that. This reason would very foolish. But it’d come off a heck of a lot better than saying that the post of the President should be strictly for guys, while the ladies should be relegated to the VP positions. As the cocky, dick-wielding son of Adam that you is na.
The two guys who’d be Victoria’s opponents were rocked and running scared by Victoria’s emergence into the race – and with good reason too. It was instantly apparent that she could easily floor them in a free and fair election. Firstly, her CGPA is eons away from that, which is a very important criterium. Nobody wants an olodo for a president. Secondly, she’d already served as exco and delivered as the Director for Welfare. Thirdly, she’s a popular darling and departmental sweetheart. There was no debating the fact that the votes would surge in for her. Believe me when I tell you that she’d easily get 60% of the total votes.
The guys know this. They know they cannot beat her easily. So they have resorted to bullying, that is, after their first attempt to convince her to withdraw from the race failed. She turned them down with a smile, even after they promised her an automatic VP ticket.
You see, it’s incredible the lengths that guys will go to bring an ambitious woman down, one who they perceive to be a threat to their own selfish interests. Maybe the guys have good intentions for the office of the president, but bringing someone else down, especially based on nothing but her gender, just to achieve that questions those good intentions.
Patriarchy as it is has been handed down over generations. It is an unconscious learning we internalize through the process of socialization. The man feels entitled to apex positions in society and feel threatened when the woman reaches for those positions. And patriarchy doesn’t just work by bestowing the man with his entitlement; it also works by subjugating the woman. Women have been socialized to see their positions in society as second place, always behind or below the man.
Gender inequality is a reality that stares us right in the face. I look forward to the time when generations will see one another as equals with not bias or preference or segregation arising from their genders. Until we break boundaries and tear down social constructs that favor one sex over the other, inequality of genders will continue to be a social bane in developing countries.
We need more feminists. People who do not believe that men are born with a special gift of leadership; a gift that has eluded the female folk since time immemorial. More people that believe in the ability and capability of woman to be just as effective and efficient as most of them have shown to be when chances arose.
Leadership is not a male trait. It is not solely entrenched in the DNA of male child, just as much as a homemaking gene has not been found to be entrenched in the female child’s DNA. Until a leadership-carrying gene has been found solely in the Y chromosome of men, till then, let leadership be an open platform where equal opportunities are given to all and sundry.
Written by Somadina