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Opinions of Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard

Ken Agyapong’s comment on one woman doesn't demean all women

By Bernard Asubonteng

Too often, many of us don’t want to or can’t distinguish between perception and reality; so, a sizable bunch of us tends to concede quickly to the general notion that perception is synonymous with reality. Although it is well settled that there is clear-cut distance between the two preceding concepts, nonetheless a considerable number of people takes the fancy to swim in the shallow waters of selective rendition of realities of life. Psychologists may describe this phenomenon as “perceptual biases.” For want of time, let’s limit this conversation to the biased responses from the seemingly “latter-days” champions of women rights in today’s Ghanaian sociopolitical morass.

It is amazing to see a long list of some empty-headed Ghanaian politicians, the coward Ghana Bar Association, the clergy, and especially those who view themselves as women rights “saints” coming out swinging ferociously at the MP for Assin North Mr. Ken Agyapong for making what they regard as sexist and demeaning comment toward the current Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei. For the self-imposed women rights moralists in Ghana, it looks like any damning question raised about one Ghanaian woman constitutes sweeping condemnation of all women in the country. Regrettably, it appears the ongoing debate about Mr. Kennedy Agyapong’s distasteful but fair game comment on the EC is already assigned all-inclusive women-hating markers.

It may be grotesque in its urban familiarity, yet Mr. Ken Agyapong’s allegation isn’t in any way geared toward all smart Ghanaian women. The searing remark the Assin North MP made is specifically directed at the Ghanaian-tax-payer-funded Electoral Commissioner’s competence. It does not imply that the creative and hard-working women hustling daily under the scorching sun at the Makola Market sell their bodies before securing their respective stores from Accra municipal officials.

Keep in mind the Electoral Commission per se is politically-charged and highly sensitive government position, and before accepting the job, whoever takes it—whether male or female—is probably briefed extensively regarding sometimes the unrealistic expectations of many Ghanaians. It is doubtful Ms. Charlotte Osei is unaware of the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of her current responsibilities as the EC. Far from providing cover for the MP’s undiplomatic comment about the EC, those Ghanaians spitting fire indiscriminately at Mr. Ken Agyapong in the name of sexism and women rights are rather coming across as cynics and opportunists. How many times do they come in defense of other Ghanaian women sexually and verbally attacked every day, even by their own husbands, boyfriends, and others?

The paradox in this context can’t be overlooked. When does a verbal attack leveled against one male public official rub off on all male officials everywhere? Nevertheless, when it comes to the EC, it becomes entirely a different ball game. Consider this: Contemporary societies, including Ghana, in cacophonic unison talk about equal rights, due process, and justice for all without regard to race, sex, national origin, creed, religion, and the so-called gender. But in the same vein, whenever some men comment on the acumen of an individual female in top-ranking position, people begin to conjure the “women card” and spin it to make it seem as if all women are under verbal assault.

The result is that it has almost become a norm for many women rights champions—genuine and fake ones alike—to start reminding us about ingrained misogynistic tendencies societies we have been exposed to in the past up till now. This “victimhood perception” makes it tricky and more often difficult to even raise any legitimate question about some influential women’s misconducts in decision-making positions irrespective of the situation.

As indicated earlier, many of these scenarios coalesce with perceptual biases. Individuals who easily give in to perceptual biases in view of any unfolding event or information analysis always end up drawing far less optimal conclusions because of their already distorted thought processes. Saying that women have been demeaned as a group in the past, so uttering demeaning comment about a particular woman demeans all women is a self-defeatist, stereotypical thinking premised on preconceived bias on the part of Ghana’s women rights apologists. On its face, the manner of the comment’s delivery by Mr. Ken Agyapong appears tasteless; but, it doesn’t mean some folks have to jump into hasty generalizations. After all, we don’t know whether or not the MP has solid evidence to back up his claim about the EC.

In fact, perceptual biases predispose us to interpret every event or data that does not conform to our prejudicial mindset with suspicion and condemnations. Perceptual biases thrive on our propensity to twist coinciding realities into a one causative story. Thus, since Mr. Kennedy Agyapong is one of the influential men in the so-called male-dominant Ghanaian society, his comment about the female Electoral Commissioner’s competence naturally makes him a women hater, who thinks all females can’t perform complex task without men’s inputs or favors.

The foregoing line of thinking and ignorant shouts of lawsuit would not do anything to help move substantive Ghanaian women issues forward. The threats of court action noises coming from some of the officials of the ruling government serve as escape routes for the NDC’s mismanagement of the country’s economy, including the Ford Expedition truck bribery expose involving President Mahama. One wonders if Ms. Charlotte Osei happens to be one of the poor women living with an abusive husband in the rural area in Ghana will still attract the same attention and nationwide sympathy from the all-over-the-place clergy, irrelevant Gender Ministry head Nana Oye Lithur, the low-performing Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh, the confused GBA, and the like. Please, let the true women rights champions in Ghana stand up because many of us know them!

The writer is based in Georgia, USA. He can be reached at: b.asubonteng@gmail.com