Trump’s reluctance to accept the legitimacy of his potential defeat in the 2016 U.S. presidential election reminds me of Mugabe. It reminds me of what Mugabe did when he said, “The people have spoken,” and that he would accept the will of the people in the 1999 constitutional referendum. In that vote the proposed constitution that he backed was defeated. What he did after that was the opposite of his statement. After that vote the Zimbabwean economy went into freefall; people suffered widespread violence, and massive numbers of citizens fled the country. Mugabe could not accept defeat. He had the kind of power to exact retribution and undo the will of the people. He had the power that Trump wishes that he had.
That first constitutional convention saw the beginning of what some call “the women’s movement” in Zimbabwe. I write about this in my book and about why some other people see a movement toward women’s emancipation dating back to the liberation struggle. For decades there have been women’s groups in Zimbabwe dealing with topics such as access to land, religious beliefs and practices, and women’s rights. During the 1999 constitutional convention women from the ruling and opposition parties came together with women in civic, religious, and other non-governmental organizations to address the woman question. This coalition could not agree on whether or not to vote “yes” to support the government’s proposed constitution or “no” against it. Leaders in the women’s movement advised women to “vote wisely.” After the vote, after the government lost, I heard women say that they were singled out for retribution because they had not come out in favor of the government’s “yes” vote.
It is not true that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Such blows can be devastating, can be an awful setback. But women in Zimbabwe have continued to organize, to found new groups, to express themselves as mothers and citizens
This is what happened in the last presidential debate in the 2016 election in the United States: www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/politics/presidential-debate-takeaways/
Hearing Donald Trump chide Hillary Clinton with “Such a Nasty Woman,” brought back some unpleasant memories for me. One was about growing up in Virginia and the other about a debate that I participated in in Zimbabwe.
“Nasty” means not nice. It is not nice to point out a man’s shortcomings; it is not nice speak up; it is not nice to want more. Too many of us choke on niceness. My mother wore herself down being nice, attending to of ailing relatives who cared little for her. But she made fun of me with the phrase “nice/nasty,” telling me that my attempt at good manners did not outweigh my sloppiness. Telling me that I needed to be neater with my sanitary pads. We lived in a cold-water house: we could heat the water in the tank through a wood stove in the kitchen. And I was supposed to wrap the napkin in tissue, walk it from the bathroom through the living room and make a fire in the stove to burn it. That seemed like a walk of shame to me so instead I hid the napkins in my bedroom. Nasty. Maybe it’s no coincidence that memories of menstruation come up when the term “nasty woman” is bandied about. Many feminist scholars who argue against “anatomy is destiny,” still say that we have to come to grips with the moral weight of leaky bodies. See Elizabeth Gross http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=21041
In Zimbabwe, more than 30 years ago, I took the affirmative side in a debate, arguing that feminism was the force for progress in the world today. Against me was the editor of a national newspaper, a witty man, who knew how to play to the crowd. People were laughing at the awful things he said about women. I couldn't find the perfect put-down. I got hot and flustered, with great emotion, I said, “This is serious.” Fortunately, I pulled myself together to make a rebuttal about how equal rights for women contributed to the well-being of society in general. I also argued for the emancipation of women from the patriarchal family, which lost me some potential supporters. Nonetheless, my side won the debate in a voice vote, but the jokes at women’s expense still sting.
Have things changed? Almost 20 years ago, the following exchange appeared in The Herald, in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. In it, wives and girlfriends archly and creatively developed the metaphor that men are dogs, each group making special claims to the affection and loyalty of married men.
Using a different metaphor, then Vice President of Zimbabwe, Joice Mujuru, had this to say about her recently deceased husband: "If you have a bull in your kraal [corral], you cannot instruct it which cow to service or which not to service." See the story here.
I have edited the letters from The Herald for brevity: these are their words.
Understanding Girlfriend 1: It is so sad that you so-called married women claim that your husbands are snatched away from you by girlfriends. … Didn’t your aunts advise you that keeping quiet is the best solution?…. Have you ever asked yourself why [your husband has a girlfriend]? If you do not feed dogs, they will definitely go and look for food somewhere else.
Loyal Wife 1: What amazing pets dogs are! They are loyal, obedient, loving, responsible and to some extent, submissive and ravenous. But no matter how well you feed dogs they will still go and scrounge in the rubbish bins. It’s in their nature.
Understanding Girlfriend 2: A dog is a dog no matter the breed or pedigree and it is a proven fact that these apparently loyal dogs have been known to breed with all sorts that tickle their fancy.
Loyal Wife 2: Our husbands pass you by like service stations. You are not there to stay. … The reason they go to girlfriends is maybe to run away from solving problems at home. But they come back anyway…. They keep you in the dark corners where you belong (as pretty as you are) while he takes me to meet important members of his family to which he does not take you…. Where is Monica today? Hillary and Bill Clinton are still together.
Loyal Wife 3: To be proud to be a mistress shows that you were not brought up properly by your parents. They have the same loose morals as you…. Our aunts are enlightened. They are aware of the dangers of promiscuity. Your aunt has a great deal to do.… It is people like you spreading AIDS and breaking up families.
Bitter Wife: You should fix your husband by going after his money or his pride. Spend his money so that he has nothing left to spend on girlfriends or give him a taste of his own medicine and see how he enjoys having a competitor. Do not be soft on these men.
Happy Ex-Wife: I am glad that married women publicly admitted that they stayed with dogs, their husbands. That is why I never want to own one again after having tried every trick for 15 years. Most women stay in those bitter marriages for the letters MRS and the fear of society.… Leave him and get on with your life if he is not worth it. Using protection and feeding just one stray dog in a while is no big deal. Left the dog to protect myself.