Where I come from, the woman is traditionally considered to be much less than a man in every ramification. So if a man were to be outsmarted by a woman, they would make fun of the man that he had been outdone by a mere woman, ‘obinrin binrin’! To them, a woman was less than a man in every way. Growing up, my father brought his daughters up without any consciousness of gender discrimination. We were a family of five daughters and one son; and even though I cannot recall ever being told that we were equal to a man, we were just treated as equal. We were educated to the highest levels and were encouraged to pursue professions that we wanted.
It was therefore such a surprise to grow up and find that Society expected me to accept my lot as being less equal! Even in the church, and especially in the church, women are treated as being less, based on the Bible verse among others, that states that women are the weaker vessel (1Pet.3:7), although it is misunderstood. Another one is the verse that asks the woman to submit (Eph.5:22). Many have interpreted this to mean submission to all men, and not just her husband.
I do not support feminism, nor do I believe that women need to fight for their rights specifically. I would rather each person worked out their own realities individually. For me, it is not so much about gender, as there will always be differences in our achievements, not due to gender but due to the internal make up of each person, the opportunities we have in life and the ability to push for success. So you find a woman who is doing better than the average woman, and you also find a man doing better than the average man. What does it matter? Women will always be different than men. After all, we are physically and emotionally different, and we serve different purposes on the earth. Before you say it, I know that nowadays, those gender differences are under attack, such that some men are women, some women are men and some claim to be neither men nor women. This is the world we live in today.
In my opinion, we need both men and women in this world. That was why God deemed it fit to create a woman after the man had been created. If we were to admit, we actually complement each other. Life is a lot more interesting when both genders are allowed to thrive and each brings their strengths and weaknesses into the mix.
One thing is clear: being an African woman most likely guarantees that you will be demeaned, maltreated, considered less and be less appreciated and more prone to abuse than other women and other human beings in the world. It is the combination of two factors that individually qualify you for discrimination: being a woman first of all, then being an African. Like the saying goes, ‘It’s a man’s world’. Secondly, in almost all African traditions, the woman is considered to be less than the man, and that is putting it very mildly.
Like a prominent Nigerian actress said recently, women have been silenced for many years in the African society. Women have been told to keep quiet when their husbands beat them, when a man abuses them, when they are violated, cheated upon, maltreated by men who are parents, brothers, relations and strangers. When a woman spoke up, she was shamed. Society always found a way to make it her fault that she was maltreated. The first question to her would be ‘What did you do to deserve it?’ It is generally assumed it is her fault. So questions are asked: ‘What did you do?’, ‘Where were you?, ‘What were you doing there?’, and ‘What were you wearing?’ and so on. And to worsen the situation, there is hardly ever any steps taken to prosecute the guilty man involved. Somehow, the woman becomes the guilty party and the man is considered the victim!
Which brings to my memory the actions of Jesus when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Him. After stating that the person who had no sins should throw the first stone, Jesus waited to see who would attack the woman. One by one they left, out of a guilty conscience and the woman was alone with Jesus. He told her then that He did not condemn her and that she could go but should sin no more (John 8: 3-11).
We know that Jesus did not approve of her sin. However, the incident pointed out that her accusers were also sinners, although they felt so self-righteous because their own sins were hidden. Jesus recognized that the culture and tradition had discriminated against the woman, as she was the only one accused. If indeed she was caught in the very act of adultery, where was the man she was caught with? He had been shielded and she, disgraced.
Although this one article will not solve the gender issues, it merely points to the fact that there is an issue and women, for a long time, have held the short end of the stick. It is thus pleasing to see that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Things are looking up for women. In Africa, as well as other parts of the world, women are getting appointed into positions that used to be strictly for men: directors of major companies, presidents, prime ministers, managing directors of banks and global IT companies etc.
In addition, the abuse of women is getting global attention and is being rejected as unacceptable behavior. This is thus empowering women to come out with their stories and experiences, exposing abusive treatment from men, even prominent men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Recent reports like these have given birth to the #MeToo movement worldwide, where women are encouraged to expose sexual harassment and sexual assault, hitherto hidden.
It is indeed, a new day!