I’ve always maintained that my sense of gender, and more so my advocacy for gender equality, didn’t develop in adulthood; the three amazing human beings (mum, Ada and Nne) with whom I spent the first 12 years of my life made me realize that advocacy for gender equality is every real man’s job. And so, I always had it from childhood. To say the least, they so loved me and did next to everything for me that I can only think so highly of them. The thought of going to school without Nne, my younger sister, for instance, made me sick; though quite younger, she was such an equal, and always suggested the next move with facility. Ada is 5 years older and always gave me a reason to put up a fight, and I never won any of those fights; I never lost either since mum always came to the rescue of her dearest son. And then mum was my angel; she loved me thoroughly as all I need do was ask – anything.
While I basked in the euphoria of an amazing childhood, one filled with lots of laughter and love, I didn’t know that as part of his morning prayer, the ‘ancient Jew’ (I’m not sure about now) thanks God that he wasn’t made a woman. There is no gainsaying that this is informed by the no-pride of place women were accorded in that society; a woman was essentially one of her husband’s possessions – ranked with his house, cattle, and stuffs. For them, too, a woman was religiously unclean in more ways than a man can ever be, especially during her monthly period and after childbirth. With all due respect to Jewish rich heritage, those inhumanities meted out to women were largely uncalled for. To call a spade a spade, it was squarely the case of social injustice. Too bad.
The Jews are not as guilty as traditional Africans in the inhuman treatment of women. For me, and for a good number of people, female genital mutilation, FGM, is the biggest social evil. What about sex slavery, what about underage marriage, what about honour killing, what about female-child molestation, what about rape? What about the fact that in some African societies it must always be the woman that killed her husband, and she’s made to swear in the most despicable way – like drink the bathwater of the corpse – that she didn’t do it? What about the fact that she gets to get nothing on the demise of her husband – if there’s no child to show for the marriage? What about the fact that there is a differential payment regime for men and woman – for equal work! These reasons are just enough to trigger and sustain the fight for gender equality.
Come to think of it, it really doesn’t make sense to think that there is anything so special about being a man – over and above being a woman. It just doesn’t make sense. Frankly, it really doesn’t. To say the least, a woman is as special as a man, and since everyone is special, it does us no good talking about it.
However, we must be sure to advocate for gender equality within the borders of social engineering; we must keep in mind the irreplaceability of gender roles. Given that no two different things can be equal in any respect, the ‘equality’ in ‘gender equality’ does not imply mathematical equality, such as expressed in 1+1=2. No, it speaks of social equality such as expressed in 1+1=1. To this effect, we must stop engaging the concept of gender equality wrongly. And one way of doing this is to always make recourse to social engineering.
By social engineering is meant the manner in which society is organized and run so as to stay up and running. One of these ways is the assignment of gender roles, reflected in the fact that men should be this and women should do that. You probably can already see that gender inequality was born here, where, like sharing a piece of cake to two people, one got a lion share and the other got both the left over and servitude. But remember that nobody assigned the woman the role of childbirth and uncommon intuition; nature also assigned gender roles, like who inseminates and who carries, delivers and breastfeeds the baby.
The reality of social engineering thus explained, one can already see that pursuing mathematical equality will put a knife on the things that held us together and we would have fallen apart before we knew it. With this, marriage degenerates into competition and the leadership hitherto supplied by the headship of manhood becomes threatened.
Why not we define gender equality in the following terms: the expunging of inhumanities meted out to women; the empowerment of women to explore the myriads of opportunities that colour our dawn to dusk; the respect and recognition of women in marriages by men and in-laws, wherein the man is only primus inter pares – first among equals; the socialization of the girlchild to aspire to the noblest aspirations possible without conceiving of any barrier whatsoever; to remind women that motherhood is as much a career that demands excellence as are the legal and medical practices; to remind women that no matter how much the man puts into the child’s upbringing, she must necessarily supply the lion share, having received so much in this regard from the Creator…
On the whole,