by Egoyibo Okoro
Julie Burchil, English Writer and Feminist once said, “A good part – and definitely the most fun part – of being a feminist is about frightening men.”
I have an account on Twitter and whenever I want to get all up in men’s business like tax, I go all feminist. The men never disappoint. Be it, in fear of change, or for fear of losing their entitled position as the Head, they rail and lash out at me; saying gender equality is “unnatural”, because Nature “made” the woman to be subservient to man. Balderdash!
I have read extensively on this issue, and nowhere in all the creation accounts – from Biblical accounts to Greek stories of human creation to Charles Darwin’s theory of human evolution – was woman said to be inferior to the man.
By Biblical accounts, when God created Adam and Eve, he made them one. Not one then half, but one as a whole, signifying equality.
He said – in reply to Adam’s pleased utterance that Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, “for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24.
So despite what the patriarchs say, men and women are equal. The subjugation of one sex over another, in the guise of abiding by “natural” gender roles, is unacceptable and wrong.
To understand gender inequality and its inherent dangers, let’s take a look at the meaning of gender inequality.
Gender inequality is the unequal treatment or discrimination of individuals based on their gender.
The problems with gender inequality stem primarily from traditional gender role playing. Girls do house chores; boys do not cook; boys construct and build; girls internally decorate and beautify.
In-as-much-as, I don’t want a career in building – I simply don’t have the inclination to inhale cement- there are loads of women out there who are fascinated by architecture and want a career in building. But, society says it is a man’s job. And, because, women have been conditioned to compromise, they give up and veer towards the socially accepted feminine careers like nursing and teaching.
Nobody has been able to actually pinpoint when patriarchal brain washing started, but studies have shown that in centuries AD amongst the Aztecs and Mayans, women were leaders of tribes, chief warriors, and gods. Not goddesses, mind you. They were called “gods” because then, the gods were all female.
How the shift in power happened is a story for another day. Suffice it to say, the physically stronger sex wrestled the power from the “weaker sex”.
Currently, in Nigeria, inequality exists even in the sacred institution of marriage, which (in my humble single woman’s opinion) benefits the man more than the woman. The man gets a 4-in-1 package: a cook, housekeeper, sex provider and child bearer. The woman, usually, gets neglect, which tries valiantly to overlook by letting loose her maternal instincts on her children; they become her world.
Society enjoins the woman to perform her legal conjugal duties, even if she is not in the mood. This is because society believes it is the right of the man to have unlimited “access” to his wife. As a result, if a man has sexual intercourse with his unwilling wife, it is not rape. For according to law, a man cannot rape his wife.
Also, the bride price custom does not help the course of women. An abusive husband will say to his wife, “I will not take any rubbish from you o! Not after, I paid your bride price.”
Like he bought her! Women are not chattels to be owned. They are partners to be adored and respected.
To achieve gender equality we have to eradicate social and cultural gender role playing. The kitchen is not the domain of the woman/girl child only. The success of chefs such as Miami’s Mathieu Godard is a case in point.
Fields such as Finance, Accountancy, Engineering and architecture are not relegated to the men folk. Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Minister of Education, Dr (Mrs.) Obiageli Ezekwesili and Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Diezani Madueke are good examples.
Also, women have to stop selling themselves short. Know your worth, girl! What the man can do, you can do, too. His brain might be physically bigger and his build more muscled than yours, but he is no more intelligent than you are. Venture into that career field you desire, work hard and leave your mark.
Not to sound judgmental but when women flutter their lashes, simper and act stupid to the man, in the name of being “feminine”, they reinforce the belief that women are silly creatures. And, who wants a silly creature in a position of leadership; as a Boss, Governor, or President? Frankly, no one. Not even my humble self.
In the words of Colette Dowling, in her bestselling book,”The Cinderella Complex”, (Published in 1982), “We have only one real shot at ‘liberation’, and that is to emancipate ourselves from within.”
Psychological and financial dependence on others are the bedrock upon which domestic violence thrive. The importance of a career or means of livelihood for the woman, single or married, cannot be overemphasized.
Hence, the battle for equal access to basic education for both sexes, per UNICEF’s Millennium Development Goals.
A battle, it seems, Northern Nigeria is rapidly losing, as some muslim men clamour, agitatedly, for the continuance of child marriage. A practice which robs the girl child of a shot at empowerment; a shot at independence; a shot at decision making; and, ultimately, a shot at liberation.
So, to emancipate ourselves from within, women have to stand together in solidarity. To support one another, in anyway we can; by educating, employing, and empowering the girl child.
Summarily, in order to achieve gender equality, women have to “work” for it. Not by giving an inch. Or through sexual favours. But by proving that what a man can do a woman can do, too.