“…In the late 18th century, Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman was taken from the Eastern Cape of South Africa to Europe. Why? She had unusual anatomical features including well-prominent buttocks (steatopygia). She was taken for exhibition in a freak show from thence onwards.
Today the freaks are back! And whether they’re called Miley, Nicki, or Kim, one thing remains: history hasn’t changed much.
So much noise has been made concerning feminism and gender equality. But what do we get? The same liberal women have given themselves back to the endorsement of the male folk.
In the ’70s and ’80s, the African dance, Mapouka, of Central Africa, was termed [as] sexist since it was a dance of a female twisting her posterior features to the cheers of a male-dominant audience. Today, twerking in the US has gone viral — a retouch of the Mapouka dance.
Sarah Baartman may not have been rich as the modern-day types, but they all still feed the growing male appetite for dominance. Break the Internet or not, your freedom has been sown into popularity based on the same men you accuse of marginal treatment.”
Conventional Male and Female
At a point in our lives, we realised we were male or female, or rather, we were told our different sexes. And as life would go on, our actions would seem to go along different lines. Such has been the case since man was known to exist. But because my last sentence uses “man” for the whole of the human race, some persons may feel uneasy — we shall discuss about this also.
The issue of male/female difference isn’t something abstract in any way. Even our languages have masculine and feminine components: from the nouns to specific attributes (e.g Father Time, Mother Earth). However, the differentiation of the sexes is not a human invention but rather something of as-it-was-in-the-beginning. There is, however, some belief that the role of the sexes is only a stereotype craftily invented to make some persons more equal than others.
Advocacy for Feminism
There is a warped ideology of the male being a virile, masculine beast ready to pounce upon any woman in order to satisfy his amorous desires. Although much of the feminism movement has evolved into well defined objectives, there is still a lot of rebound hate and grievance. No doubt, there has been a female relegation in many societies and cultures for so long, but never would this warrant a radical outrage against their fellow humans. Feminism is as old as the early 19th century when the word was coined. By the late 19th century, it was already a well known concept in many parts of Europe.
In her hit TED talk of 2013, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaks about the need for all people to become feminists. She talks about her evolution in being a “happy feminist”, “a happy African feminist”, a “happy African feminist who does not hate men”, “a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes to wear lip gloss and high heels for herself and not for men.” I agree on many points talked about, but there was a little misunderstanding somewhere: “For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group” — I believe she was referring to the female folk. But there was never a worldwide consensus to “exclude and oppress women” — where were all the women at the time of meeting? Male will be male, female will be female; there has always been a differentiation. And when she talks about the world hating women, I wonder what happened to all the heroines of various cultures immortalised. Although there have been extremes of female marginalisation, her attempt to make it seem like a trend of global endorsement is a tame way of inciting guilt in every man, and making them foci where all the blame can be ascribed to.
I was also captivated by Emma Watson’s talk at the HeForShe Campaign at the UN in September 2014. The Harry Potter girl was quick to admit that feminism was about human equality rather than just the interests of women. But yet again, there was a misunderstanding I spotted: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” For Emma, submission becomes a sign of weakness which requires exploitation by male aggressive dominance. Although forced marriages still occur, never like our time have women been empowered to seek their own life partners; yet there is a rise in divorce rates — and let me assume that the men were always aggressive needing the marriage to be annulled by divorce.
To a large extent, there is a gap in communication where the male “virility” is tagged as arrogance while the female “gentleness” is tagged as timidity. Of course there is disparity in temperaments — some are talkative, others are quieter; therefore, to make a general statement towards any gender would give room for unfair and biased judgement. We need to look at each human in the context of their immediate environment and surrounding to appreciate (or criticise) their specific roles — this is the origin of the erroneous concept of equality.
The Misnomer Called “Equality”
We always talk of human equality as though it was a simple arithmetic sum. Let me emphasise this again: male will be male, female will be female. Even in the face of equal social, economic, political, and cultural rights, their core human roles differ. Why? Because they were not made the same. For the fact that a woman has achieved any sort of academic, social or cultural accomplishment, she doesn’t equate to being a man: she is still a woman.
Strict equality would mean that men be no more gentlemen because chivalry would equate to sympathising with a “feeble female”. Strict equality would equate to the same work treatment given to workers whether one is pregnant and the other isn’t. Strict equality would equate to a husband and wife struggling for relevance, with children having to decide who to pay allegiance to. If feminists really wanted strict equality, why are they not comfortable that “man” be used as a general term for all humans? Why do they always insist on “man or woman”?
Many women are aggrieved when they hear that a woman’s place is the kitchen. But I’d say yes! A woman’s place is the kitchen — but not only the kitchen. The reason why children would be closer to mothers is largely due to the kitchen. It is also the reason why wives can make the home either blissful or unbearable for their spouses. But the mistake will be to look at this role as that of a maid who is trampled upon and oppressed. The sanity of a family depends on the dictates of a good wife and mother. If we ever neglect this fact, then family only becomes a contract of a man and woman who produce children when they want to, with little or nothing to add to the society.
The notion of women being “weaker vessels” is often fought with resistance. But let’s be factual: are women not more fragile? Weaker vessels indicate the physical aspect and not their intellectual ability. And instead of seeing this as a point for men to exploit them, it is a strong call for the male folk to love and treat women with respect. “Fragile” and “care” go hand in hand — this is necessary in the love that should exist within spouses and families. Why do we expect men to be chivalrous if not because women are more fragile? This will again point to the fact that feminism as a movement always has different camps because equality will always bring up controversy and conflict of ideas. We shall examine some of them.
Should Women Share the Blame?
2014 was unofficially declared as the Year of the Bum due to a massive revolution of women seeking to express their bodily assets. But there was once a time when such exhibitions were seen as dehumanizing to such women. What these women are really seeking for is relevance sought through the exploitation of the male sexual appetite. This is where controversy starts: one group of feminists say that pornography and commercial sex trafficking render women as tools for exploitation; another group claims that it is a way of womanly expression of sexuality. In reality, what are the aims of pornography and the likes? Is it not a means of expressing what is not obtainable in the real world? — a fantasy land for exploitation. But because these are industries for huge capital investment, some persons may begin to beg the question of exploitation. Yet I wonder how many women grew up hoping to be porn stars or prostitutes as their dream profession.
In the same vein, women who claim to be the same as men are often the first to put to scorn any man deemed as effeminate (cissy), yet a tomboy is often seen as bold and confident. Then I begin to wonder if women see anything wrong with their feminine nature.
The use of such “bottom power” by women will only leave room for mediocrity, where women feel that their power lies in the expression of sexuality. On the reverse side, we should never try to use the emancipation of women’s rights as a form of self-pity where political and social responsibilities are allocated based on gender. When women complain of lack of adequate representation in government, I wonder if we should show some pity to elect more women into offices even if they are not qualified. This will only aggravate the erroneous opinion that women are inferior species. It is only when there is respect for each other in the context of their gender, that we can fully realise equity in human rights acceptable by all.
Luke O. Ogar