It is always encouraging reading news reports of women raising up the most treacherous ladder of power – which is usually fraught with seemingly insurmountable challenges, and much resistance from those opposed to the threat to previously entrenched patriarchal cultures and traditions.
As such, I was highly impressed learning of the rousing successes of women in the city of Kwekwe – whereby, two successive females have sat on the mayoral seat, whilst another being the town clerk, amongst others occupying top management posts.
This is truly impressive and commendable.
Nonetheless, as I see these success stories, I can not help but worry whether this apparent focus towards the attainment of senior positions within both public and private institutions – as the epitome of female empowerment – will not inevitably lead to what I like calling the “Black police chief phenomenon”?
I am not sure if there is a more recognizable proper term for this – but, I decided to coin this phrase for the purposes of this discourse.
There was a time in Hollywood filmmaking when the main characters, in “cops and robbers” productions, where predominantly cast as White police chiefs (I recall “Hawaii Five-O”) – whilst, Blacks (or, other so-called “people of color”) were assigned to minor roles as ordinary police officers, who were portrayed as mere sidekicks and gofers.
I remember an outcry over such a set-up – which was clearly unfair and unequal, since it gave only White actors prominence (as the macho action men) – as opposed to their Black counterparts, who appeared nothing more than obedient brainless minions.
As it turned out, overtime the script was changed – supposedly, in order to overturn this lopsided narrative.
We began to watch Black actors being featured as police chiefs – with White colleagues now portrayed as junior officers.
Yet, there was catch!
The police chiefs’ parts in these Hollywood films were no longer these action-packed crime-busting main characters – but, some office-restricted pot-bellied guys, whose only meaningful part appeared to bellow commands, which were usually rigid and “according to the book” – however, willfully disobeyed by the White junior cops, whose rebelliousness was the key to their crime-solving lovability.
Soon, it became apparent that, the script had been turned on its head – resulting in Black actors getting those “police chief” roles they had always clamored for, but minus the glitz and glamor – whilst, the real action was now in the hands of the White junior officers.
That is why I decided to call this the “Black police chief phenomenon”!
And, this is a real danger for women today, if they lose focus on what it truly means to hold real power in society – but, paying too much attention to landing top positions in both the public and private spheres of life.
They may just find themselves holding on to high-sounding titles, yet having no real significant power and authority at all.
There is need for our ladies to pay more attention to attaining real influence – whereby, even when one is not the “top dog” in the organization or community, they, nonetheless, carry with them so much influence, such that even those with the senior positions listen and obey.
By this I do not mean borrowed influence – either by association or marriage to a powerful individual – but, influence cultivated by the woman, in her own right.
For example, we have witnessed how individuals as Hopewell Chin’ono, or Alex Magaisa hold so much sway and phenomenal influence over opposition leaders – whilst, at the same time, giving the ruling elite sleepless nights – yet, they do not speak from any position of power within an established organization or entity.
That is real power!
Therefore, as we continue observing the “Women’s Month” of March – we need to encourage our daughters and other girl-children that real “women’s power” is derived not necessarily from high positions within organizations – but amassing influence for themselves, even without a fancy title to their names.
Indeed, we do need to see more women occupying those top positions – and, hope I will even live to see a female head of state and government in Zimbabwe – but, let the focus be in what truly constitutes “real power”.
With such “real power” women can move mountains, and be unstoppable.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org