Are men so insecure that they live in fear of fellow persons who happen to be women? A statement carried by the Daily Monitor in its magazine section this weekend has triggered rather worrying comments by (mostly) men on Internet-based social networks.
The statement, under the headline: “ Headache of the elite woman,” said: “Today’s more educated woman makes the men wish for the semi-illiterate one from the old days who was more submissive and tolerant.”
This kind of statement reflects a pathological insecurity that makes many men live in fear of the intellectually able, free, and economically liberated women.
As if to affirm this morbid fear of free women, a Ugandan Anglican clergyman wrote on Facebook: “Some educated women are very complacent, proud, conceited and think too much education or better pay cheques than those of men make them superior and arrogant.
Women must keep humble, gender sensitised, especially in a gender-hype era of women emancipation and acknowledge that she keeps a woman no matter what.”
Another supporter of such anti-women prejudice reached for the favourite Bible verse of the unreformed male chauvinists to support his view. Ephesians 5:22-23 says; “ Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church, his body and is himself its saviour.”
Most who like to use this to further an agenda of female oppression usually stop here. The trouble, of course, is that in the same Chapter the Apostle Paul goes on to tell husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
If one is a Christian and genuinely loves Christ; and if one must love ones’ wife as one loves oneself, then the question of repression, injustice and social-cultural oppression against one’s wife should not arise.
Which brings us to last week’s disappointing passage of Kenya’s new Marriage Bill that signaled a reversal of that country’s clock of progress. Whereas the Bill has many good provisions meant to simplify and clarify the legal aspects of a marital union and its offspring, it strengthens polygamy, undermining the gains that society has made in the struggle to liberate women.
The attitude of some of the male parliamentarians who spoke on record reveals a prejudice and distortion of generations that still consider women to be chattel, inferior beings created to serve men’s sexual and gourmand needs and to produce children.
Mohammed Junet, the 36-year-old MP for Suna East in Nyanza, said: “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way and a third wife… this is Africa.”
Junet’s Africa continues to be held back by its self-inflicted denial of the enormous intellectual and entrepreneurial resource held by half of our continent’s population.
That many women support the practice of polygamy is no excuse for its perpetuation. Millions of women have been socialised to accept their fate, just like millions of slaves had been raised to believe that their place was in the cotton fields, not in the boardrooms of America.
Many women have devoted their lives to the struggle to change the Africa of Mr Junet and to create an environment of equality, of shared dignity, mutual respect and social, political and economic justice.
Although they have made significant strides, the obstacles that remain are rather daunting. For example, Kenya’s Marriage Bill and the chauvinistic voices that seek to keep women in the kitchen and gardens, or at least economically disempowered chattel, remind us that the struggle is still in its infancy.
As human beings, especially as African men who have females who are very close to us, we need to stand and be counted on the side of those who seek human rights for all, not just for men.
Men need to come aboard the ship that sails towards a bright morning of equality for all people, the essential ingredient for a free and prosperous nation. We cannot afford to be silent supporters of the women’s struggle for freedom and justice. We must speak and be heard.
As Dante said: “ The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” There can be no neutrality in the struggle for the liberation of African women.
After all they are our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sisters and our friends. They are us. We are them. We are the World – both halves of it, neither one dispensable. Both sides – male and female – equal and vital children of the same God.