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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Columnist: Abdul Karim Ibrahim

Half-baked feminism and fragile masculinity - Talk of a perfect fit

Recently a very good friend from Nigeria asked my my opinion on an interesting piece he authored. It was a carefully argued piece, on the question of whether Jesus Christ was a feminist.

In his opinion, he thought based on some incidents in the Bible, the good preacher was.

Well I disagreed. My answer? He wasn’t. "You clearly could not be born 2000 years ago in the Middle East and be feminist [in the sense of what it is]"; I said, not even as the only son of God. I am clear in my mind Jesus preached equality, he probably respected women as much as he did men or even more but he wasn’t a feminist. What I told Temple Egemasi is that Jesus was just a good guy.

So yes you may hate labels, you may not like the identity politics, you are probably disgusted by the disposition of feminists, they irk you so badly. It is okay to disagree and to refuse the label. But you know what, it is not an excuse to be stupid too. All you need to do is be a reasonable human being and you will make yourself proud.

Feminism may mean a whole lot of things but it is never a replacement for the word "equality". It is only a movement that aspires to the point of it. It stands to reason therefore that one can be in favour of equality of all kind [including gender] and not necessarily be feminist.

In the past few days the question of who does the cooking hit Ghana’s Facebook. We have heard a lot of things; from well it is just cooking so what’s the big deal to these feminists will destabilize our society. Worst of it all is; aren’t there more important things to talk about than cooking?

So how about we start from what the most important things look like. To think that perhaps the conversation on who does the cooking is less important than FGM is to completely misunderstand everything entirely. If I hadn’t pledged to be nice, I’d say to trivialize the discourse that much is to demonstrate the heights of stupidity but I’d refrain.

This conversation on cooking is just a symbolic representation of the larger discourse on; who fixes the bulb, who sleeps on top, who works at the office, who washes what and essentially gender roles. There’s wisdom in having a more orderly system; division of labour, so that each knows what to do and so that none is left undone. But how exactly does the vagina make for a better "measurer" of how much Maggi cube is enough for the stew? What exactly is the bearer of the penis’ aversion to preparing banku? Perhaps the strongest authority yet to be properly interrogated but confers these roles would be our G(g)ods and their vessels of religion.

It was in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that it was said; Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. And even when Peter admonished men in 1 Peter 3:7 to do similarly, he was quick to add; show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

So I can understand why if you’re a Christian for instance, you would have a problem thinking of this any differently. And the sheer lacklustre or perhaps hypocrisy of the feminists of whatever typhoon wave, to, with all the defiance they can muster oppose every other institution but their patriarchal gods and religions is hardly admiring.

The reality in my opinion is that, the fight against male dominance, and oppression of women would largely be unsuccessful if an institution as strong as religion is not taken on with the most force. For thousands of years, the role of women as divinely commanded and written beautifully in the scriptures has been primarily to keep the home, to regard the man as the head and be a support. Eve was nothing more than a toy for Adam, of course a toy whose owner was admonished to show love but no less a toy because she was an afterthought, an element only created to keep the man company. Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’’.

This is the narrative that has been perpetuated for centuries and so it so turned out also that when the Lord our God needed a child he found wisdom in only having a son. And it was Eve that was deceived by the devil, probably because she was weak, the result is the pain and anguish we all had to endure on earth.

This is the level of demonization attributed to the female identity. And while there may exist a few other texts that preach respect for women, the fact remains that these other horrible sentiments also found their way in the Holy Books. The examples abound in very many other faiths as Mohammed was no girl, Moses without boobs, Abraham a proud patriarch and the rest you know better.

Clearly in all these, it is demonstrated the seeming superiority of the male and the overwhelming favour of God upon them. So if it is not too uncomfortable, may we begin to resist these stories altogether because of the clear toxicity and prejudice? Or if we cannot or must not because indeed it is what it is, shall we not therefore leave these religions for the men for whom they seem to favour or are made for? With the sort of reverence for our gods and the books they either sent or inspired, our belief that they are divine and without blemish, how do feminists especially the kind that reject the idea of male superiority and gender roles, reconcile these very contrasting viewpoints? There’s beauty in wokeness, the flamboyance in taking on tiny ignorant patriarchs on Facebook is hardly inspiring as in the face of returning to church on Sunday only to praise Him and say with all your heart that His word is just, final and true.

But if you are not constrained by your faith and you have the courage to question it beyond what you have been fed, like you have done with the Dagbani culture, corporate chauvinism and other such narratives, you’d be stronger in your rejection of all toxics without any exceptions.

Away from that, what our society is today is the consequences of our past actions deliberately or not. When capitalism placed different values on individual contributions, it didn’t happen by chance. Being the CEO of Ecobank is not more demanding than raising a child in Konongo Zongo or having to wash everyone else’s clothes all the time. It certainly isn’t more difficult than being made to sit home all the time as others go and come and even when you go and come too, it certainly isn’t more difficult than having to return to the fire while the other fellow rests on the couch as he passes silly commentary like; ‘’3yaa ma gyeene nkom’’ to wit ‘’I like it with more onions’’.

Power and authority have almost certainly become commodities only those with deeper pockets can afford, and sadly in the case of the woman even when she has more money, she’s still referred to 1 Peter 3:5-6. The years of staying home doing work that is unpaid, means a forfeiture of any power to be heard because clearly if he buys everything including your sanitary pads, how the hell do you talk back at him?

For some reason men seem to care so much about the stability of the family. We are quick to refer everyone else to how long the marriages of our forebears lasted as if we are in an olympics of ‘How Long Did You Last’ sport. There’s disregard for whatever peculiar conditions that guided their lives because an imitation of theirs serves our interest more. By default we are regarded as smarter, stronger, leaders or whatever virtue we so deem important. Guess who loses all that if the women rebel? One would have thought that if men were so interested in the stability of the home, they would make the necessary sacrifices as women have all these years and say; ‘’well honey since you don’t want to cook anymore, and we love you and we still have to eat, don’t worry we’ll cook for us’’. Voila, problem solved, stability maintained and they live happily ever after. But of course they won’t!

There’s the need to have this conversation today and it is a journey so tortuous and long but a step at a time. Today in Ghana, Facebook is awash with all manner of contributions; very accommodating even of the silliest people alive but it is good. If only we would see the wisdom in renegotiating these roles because the other party doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. It is what reasonable people do but a lot of us aren’t reasonable.
So I can understand why you want to stop cooking and be in the office too.

Clearly men with power have shown how unreasonable they can be. It is why they’re Da-ddy and like being so, because when it comes to their relationship with you, they’d rather just like the Fantes say, Daw na Diw (I cannot be responsible for how you interpret that).