Attaining Gender Equality: The Way Forward

Opinion

Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish and achieve political, economic, personal and social equality of sexes. This include seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those of men.

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The struggle for the emancipation of women from masculine subjugation has been a hard and complex fight albeit quite successful but there is more to be done. The import of writing this piece is to determine if the fight has been fair and to what extent can this be achieved.

To begin with, it is pertinent to address the meaning of Feminism which has gained popularity and given the 21st century woman a sense of inclusion. However, like with every theory and movement, feminism has been largely misunderstood especially among citizens of developing nations which ironically are the biggest victim of gender discrimination.

Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish and achieve political, economic, personal and social equality of sexes. This include seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those of men.

The import of this movement is that men shouldn’t be privileged over women in the grand scheme of things on the basis of gender. In developed countries like ours, while local and international bodies, person’s of influence and laws are battling to give women equal opportunities to go to school, equal opportunity in politics, equal status and pay at work place among others with their male counterparts, locals have largely shifted the discuss to the home over who is to carry out domestic duties such as washing the crockery and raising kids. I’ll come to that later but let it be noted that the prevailing import of this movement is to give everyone equal opportunity and a fair shot at life.

Gender discrimination could largely be blamed on gender roles. Historically, both culture and religion has defined roles for men and women. It must be understood that gender role is totally cultural expectant. It is what sociality expects of each gender.

Growing up, it started with basic things such as expecting girls to answer certain names and boys to answer certain names, painting the rooms blue for boys and pink for girls, buying toys cars and planes for boys and buying barbie for girls, expecting boys to do the energy sapping jobs and girls to do the mild ones. Examples abound such as boys going to the farm while ladies do the cooking, boys hunting in the bush while ladies look after the baby siblings. Ladies are trained to be emotional and guys to be good of emotion as society saw emotional men as weak. This was basically because, our forefathers were into agriculture.

Before the turn of the millennium, men were expected to govern their home and with a strong arm to keep their home in order and thus men were raised to struggle and besuccessful. Women on the other hand were raised to be motherly and good to meet the standard of the men. Masculinity culture expect men to be assertive, ambitious and competitive, to strive for material success and to respect whatever is big, strong and fast.

An excerpt from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart says it all. Chapter 2 Page 11.

“Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper and so did his little children.”

Naturally, chances of success were tilted in favour of men. So domestic abuse was rampant as women were seen as properties and their right bought over the legally termed bride price. Worse is that their bodies were seen as gift for men who naturally felt entitled to it. It was not uncommon for folks to tell their female kids to maintain their virginity so that a man would appreciate them. Also, the kind of sexual satisfaction they got was determined by society. Plausible to say that the satisfaction of the man was the end point of it all afterall, “he is the man”. To every extent, their sex life was determined by society.

With the introduction of education to unbalance the status quo, men were still the first to be sent to school while women were expected to be home makers. As such, society has already defined the domesticated duties to women. Having been subjugated to the power of manhood, both gender saw women as second rated gender and men as overlords.

Going further, as civilization announced it appearance, women began to be inducted and quickly into the men dominated sphere and they have done well. This being a result of the fact that the era isn’t run on physical strength but on mental capacity and being man isn’t a show of strength. Women were sent to school and they competed for jobs with men. However, despite these, women are still largely uneducated the world over and fights are on going to send the girl child to school because the battle between religion and culture and the battle of both against civilization is still holding us back. Women are made to earn less than their male counterparts in corporate space, some roles are assigned to them that overtime has been generally presumed to be meant for women. Example receptionists and Secretary. In sport, men earn more than their colleagues in the same competition. In politics, women are not given equal opportunities like the men because men are “the head”. Little things like these are the basis on which norms are formed.

That brings me to the debate on headship. Like everything else, the foundation is the problem. In primary school, irrespective of who is the most intelligent or leadership inclined, a guy is always the class captain while a lady is assistant and this continued all the way to secondary school. Psychologically, women have been assumed to be assistant to men. Hench, it is very unnatural to make them assistant all their lives and all of a sudden, they are vying for political seats. Where did that come from? Society pushes them back to “the other room.”

This is a new century where women are already breaking the glass ceiling. We must teach the girl child that she too can lead and make decisions for herself and more importantly give them the opportunity to do so.

As for being the head. The basic problem here isn’t about headship but the perception of headship. Being the head should give you total sense of responsibility and not sense of entitlement. If you want the mantle of headship, you should act it financially, emotionally, spiritually and not just with sex and food. This sense of entitlement has led to the infamous quote “Because I am a man” as excuse for not doing many things. Marriage is like a movie, there is a best actor in a leading role and there is best actor in a supporting role and this is not with respect to gender. Watching the Oscar awards, it is frequently observed that the lead role actor in a movie would win an award and the supporting role actor doesn’t. Other times, the supporting role actor wins and the leading role actor doesn’t. This goes to show that whether as a leader or a supporter, what matters most is that you do your job to the best of your ability. This should apply in human relationship and marriage.

Gender Equality.

The end point of all this is to see to gender equality. Gender equality is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender including economic participation and decision-making and the state of valuing different behaviours, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.

Gender Equality doesn’t choose to place men above women or women above men. The growth of Feminism has led to Misandry – (hatred for, contempt for and prejudice against men) which is not the goal of Feminism.

UNICEF says gender equality “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.

On a global scale, achieving gender equality also requires eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, wartime sexual violence, and other oppression tactics.  UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) stated that, “despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They have less access to property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

Before now, ladies are shamed on their sexual decisions. A decision men were exalted for. As Atoke wrote in +234,”As a Nigerian woman, you’re raised to be a certain way. Be independent, but not so much that you scare a potential suitor away. Buy a car, but not a big intimidating one – a Kia Picanto would do nicely. No, don’t go thinking it’s okay to buy a monster truck like Infinity QX 56. Don’t say I did not warn you. Also be good in bed but don’t be tgat sexual goddess channelling all your Karma Sutra moves. Remember to turn off the kights, because intimacy is more acceptable when you’re doing it in the dark. A Nigerian woman is ideally to be prim and ready only for her husband. And when she is of age and about to be thrown into the abyss of Marriage, missionary is the only position she knows. Anything else raises suspicions and confirms that she is a woman of loose morals. Reverse cowgirl? Who taught her that? Where has she been? What has she been reading? And don’t you say Songs of Solomon.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking to graduates of Wellesley College said “My mother and I do not agree on many things regarding gender. There are certain things my mother believes a person should do, for the simple reason that said person ‘is a woman.’ Such as nod occasionally and smile even when smiling is the last thing one wants to do. Such as strategically give in to certain arguments, especially when arguing with a non-female. Such as get married and have children. I can think of fairly good reasons for doing any of these. But ‘because you are a woman’ is not one of them”.

As of 2017, gender equality is the fifth of seventeen sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

Success has been recorded in the fight for gender equality. In the United States, a wife’s legal subordination to her husband was fully ended by the case of Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S.455 (1981), a United States Supreme Courtcase in which the Court held a Louisiana Head and Master law, which gave sole control of marital property to the husband, unconstitutional. In Namibia the marital power of the husband was abolished in 1996 by the Married Persons Equality Act; in Botswana it was abolished in 2004 by the Abolition of Marital Power Act; and in Lesotho it was abolished in 2006 by the Married Persons Equality Act.

However, the war is not won yet as violence against a wife continues to be seen as legally acceptable in some countries; for instance in 2010, the United Arab Emirates Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. In Iraq husbands have a legal right to “punish” their wives.

These are familial examples but on a large scale, Saudi Arabia has finally legalize the right for women to drive cars, women are now allowed to votes in some Muslim countries, they are allowed to contest for political positions and education for the girl child is gathering pace. We are still a long way off but we are getting there.

We must understand that men are not inherently bad or evil. They are merely privileged. And privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.

We already know that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men. However, it isn’t perfect for the male gender too. Women are accustomed to think that men are comfortable in their position. Gender equality raises questions on the basis of equality such as

1) why are women paid alimony?

2) why do men have to do proposals?

3)why do men pay the bride price (not counting India)?

4)why are men allowed polygamy and women aren’t allowed polyandry?

5)why are there comfortable housewives but women aren’t okay with stay at home husbands?

6)why do divorce settlement favour Women?

7)why are women entitled to maternal leave but men aren’t (few countries like Sweden do it)?

8)why is financially responsibility solely at the feet of men?

9)will anarchy not be the order of the day over clash of superiority?

10) what will be the position of Androgynous (person with qualities of both male and female gender)?

11) what happens to ladies who choose to act like men (Tom boy), men who act like ladies (effeminate) and cross dressers?

Many questions are bound to exist and arise as the world evolve. If opportunities are equal and both genders are equal, why do these segregation still exist? Afterall they are gender roles created by society. Asking for equality and expecting men to do the same things they were doing before gender equality gained ground smacks of eating your cake and having it. It is the highest form of hypocrisy. Having attained the highest educational qualification and job like men, it is only right that everyone share in financial and domestic responsibilities – that is equality.

Michael Jackson succinctly sang in his song “Will You Be There”

But They Told Me

A Man Should Be Faithful

And Walk When Not Able

And Fight Till The End

But I’m Only Human

Women should understand that men are raised to live under unrealistic pressure. Gender equality is meant to bridge the gap between the neck choaking societal expections from men and the unprivileged position of women. Now with equal chances, both gender can strive together to work towards personal and collective excellence confidence.

I doubt if the fight for gender equality would ever be won seeing that men won’t drop their ego and women are willingly succumbing themselves to the whims of men. When you allow your self to be used as room compliment for male hotel guests or carry on bedwarmer for men during conference trips, getting married in a jobless state just to be under the financial umbrella of a man, seeing sex as something men take from you rather than what you do for personal and mutual satisfaction, or remain content with under privileged positions because you are a woman, allow men determine your career and personal fate or expect men to still make decision and cater for your financial needs despite having equal opportunities, then all hope is lost.

How you present yourself and how you are seen, will always affect decisions in the grand scheme of things. Perception is stronger than the truth.

The tomorrow we want can only happen when we begin to question norms, think independently and not be afraid to swim against the tide. In closing, I’ll leave you with an excerpt of Chimamanda Adichie’s speech.

“We can not always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort.

Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.

Write television shows in which female strength is not depicted as remarkable but merely normal.

Teach your students to see that vulnerability is a HUMAN rather than a FEMALE trait.

Commission magazine articles that teach men HOW TO KEEP A WOMAN HAPPY. Because there are already too many articles that tell women how to keep a man happy. And in media interviews make sure fathers are asked how they balance family and work. In this age of ‘parenting as guilt,’ please spread the guilt equally. Make fathers feel as bad as mothers. Make fathers share in the glory of guilt.

Hire more women where there are few. But remember that a woman you hire doesn’t have to be exceptionally good. Like a majority of the men who get hired, she just needs to be good enough”.

What is your perception of gender equality? To what extent should it be practiced? Are men being discriminated against too? What does feminism mean to you? Is gender role a blessing or a curse? Please feel free to express your thoughts in the comment section.

Peace, Love and Spaghetti ✌

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