HE said that any man who treats a woman in such manner was irresponsible. What I perceived from his response was that the man’s action wasn’t a problem of gender, it was mere irresponsibility and it should not be a basis for agitation by these rebellious feminists who attack men and try to switch roles. I could not help but disagree.
The real problem is society’s unwillingness to address the issue of gender inequality; we do not want to talk about gender inequality, we do not want to mention feminism, we do not mind giving it another name.
We could call the problems women encounter for being females another thing and the unfair treatment and attitude of men towards women irresponsible but we should not call it a problem of gender or gender inequality. I was tempted to accept that feminists were making a fuss out of this whole irresponsibility of ignorant men. Saying they were irresponsible was convenient. But if we just sit back and accept that this attitude is just another offshoot of irresponsibility then we wouldn’t be true to ourselves, we would be sweeping the dirt under the carpet.
On more than one occasion during my conversations with young, smart men, I have caught them casually saying ‘a man should be able to ‘control’ his woman.’ I have registered my dislike for this statement. I have a problem with the word “control” because if I were to turn around that statement to say, “a woman should be able to control her man’, my mother would be accused of not training me well. Is the word ‘control’ conscripted for the exclusive use of men? If those guys had rather said, “a man should be able to wield a reasonable amount of influence on his woman or a man should be able to make his woman listen to him”, that would have been appropriate for me.
Sometime ago, a female colleague slapped a male colleague who according to her insulted her father during an altercation. I strongly objected to her chosen method of defending her father’s honour on the grounds of office and professional ethics. There were so many diverse reactions by concerned citizens, many of whom shared my opinion but the opinion of a select few amused me. For them it wasn’t so much that she slapped a colleague but rather that she raised her hand on a “man.” That was what the commotion was about really.
Women have been looked down upon for centuries. Even more so, that the education of the female child is undervalued in some part of society. Women are also often regarded as incomplete without a man. This sort of reasoning is unfortunately common even among the females especially the married ones. A highly esteemed man whose invaluable lessons have been a lifeguard said these words to me in the middle of a marriage counsel: ‘A man is your covering.’ And a very considerate 20- year-old man advised me in these words, after letting me know that all my childhood friends were married, ‘Just pray about marriage o, If you reach 30years, no man would want to marry you again o.’ I was filled with indignation and my impulsive response was “did I tell you I am looking for a man to marry me?” What informed his social orientation? He apologised, saying he heard the advice from a pulpit.
My anger really wasn’t channeled at him. It was at the society. We are social beings and we internalise what we see and hear. I am not even up to 30 years and I hear people asking when I am going to settle down as if it’s a mandatory institution that I must pass through in life to be validated as a literate person like our educational system.
It seems that the order of life for a woman especially if she is fortunate to be well educated is to start a family. It therefore becomes alarming to see unmarried, educated women working and living independently. For concerned citizens, there must be something wrong. Has it not occurred to society that perhaps these young women aspire to build their career like most men their age and settle down later if they feel like it? Fortunately and contrary to the belief of religious fanatics, women were not created for men. Feminists amongst other things fight to change this misconceived orientation.
“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself and there I take my stand,” says Susan B. Anthony.
“Woman’s degradation is in man’s idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man,” according to Elizabeth Stanton.
Another section of the society believes that feminists do not have real problems. They believe feminists do not want the submissive role given to them by the Creator. In the religious circles we all know about the famous speech made by Paul and hence individuals feel that God did not create women to play leadership roles in the church. But a closer look into the Bible would reveal that God has used women powerfully in ministry. Take a look at Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Mary mother of Jesus, and Priscillia. Joyce Meyers puts this succinctly in her book, The Confident Woman, when she said,
“ When He (God) needed someone to save the Jews from the destruction that wicked Haman had planned for them, He called upon Esther (Est. 4:14). If God is against using women, why didn’t He call a man for this job? Deborah was a Prophetess and a Judge. As a Judge she made decisions on God’s behalf (Judge 4:5).”
It is generally accepted that the two genders are different in their biological characteristics. The men are physically stronger than women and as a result I wouldn’t expect the women to take on jobs that are physically challenging. Surprisingly, in some states in this country I have seen women do jobs that are physically challenging, actually, jobs that require bodies with the physical characteristics of men. By that I mean women on construction sites; carrying blocks and cements on their heads.
Even though we accept that men are physically stronger, I have often wondered why a woman who does the same office job as her husband is expected to be strong enough after they have both come back from the office in the evening, to routinely bathe the kids, do house chores, prepare meals, tuck the kids in bed, prepare them for school the next day while the husband takes a long nap because he is too tired. I guess I’ll have to wonder for eternity because I never get any answer besides “A woman makes the home. She is the mother of the house.” And this I find unsatisfactory.
Up until the 20th century, there was a medical condition called ‘female hysteria,’ some of the symptoms include loss of appetite, outbursts of negativity, excessive sexual desire and ‘a tendency to cause trouble.’ So imagine a female who isn’t eating, gets depressed, craves for sex (which is so normal and acceptable for men by the way) and clamours for a social change, would she be seen as having a tendency to cause trouble? Well, I guess the 21st century Feminist according to Freud’s psychoanalysis is mentally ill.
The problem of gender is real and I am simply asking society to not overlook and dismiss it as the irascible ranting of women who hate men but to acknowledge that there is a problem and endeavour to fix it by changing the existing prejudices and orientation. A good place to start is our educational system, the school and the home. Gender inequality is a product of wrong and misconceived orientation and not just the irresponsibility of random, ignorant men.
Finally, a word to those who by their character and works have shown to support or bring awareness to the feminism movement but for some reason have refused to claim or be identified with it. There really is no justification for being evasive or ‘sitting on the fence’ regarding this ‘sensitive subject,’ because you are either a feminist or a sexist.
• Mbunabo, a writer, lives in Port Harcourt (email@example.com.Twitter: @mbunabo J )
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