If you live in the world today (and if you are reading this, I should imagine you do) and especially in Africa, the question of submission is very much at the fore in any male/female engagements. Certain ‘liberals’ pride themselves on conceding that yes, man and woman are equal and that in the workplace and almost any place, they must be treated exactly the same, given the same opportunities. The problem usually arises once we come on the home turf. There, you would be hard pressed to find people who accept that men and women are exactly equal. Their arguments usually arise from the fact that in any setting, there must be a head – there cannot be two heads. I agree. To an extent.
My problem is the automatic headship that is bestowed on the man. I disagree. Completely.
Now, let us use an analogy that we are all familiar with. School. For those of us who went to school here, in primary, we had a class captain/prefect and an assistant. It was never automatically the entitlement of either the boy or the girl to be class captain and the other assistant. I remember that I was class prefect throughout almost all my schooling years. Most times, a boy was my assistant. For (gender) balance I suppose, it was always boy and girl. So one term, I could be class prefect and depending on how I performed, the next time, I might find myself being the assistant. When it came to the school prefects, we had male and female prefects and their assistants for different aspects, like we would have male sanitary prefect and his assistant and female sanitary prefect and her assistant. Then we would have the overall prefects. Everyone understood that both the head boy and the head girl were exactly equal.
It was the same in university. We had class and course reps, only this time, they could be male or female, nobody really cared, but then again, it was never assumed that one sex was automatically the class or course rep. In NYSC camp however, I was deputy leader of my platoon (it was purely vanity and immediately after I proved I could, I lost interest). But, I was told that even that position was reserved for males. In the end, everyone came to me for direction – the same people who told me I could not be platoon leader, because biology. In fact, the platoon master refused to work with the male platoon leader at all. Then in my CD group, the editorial board, I was going to run for editor but I was told that the Group Mistress (yes mistress) rejected offhand a female editor. She claimed that she does not work well with females (I’m still reeling as I write this). They told me I could be assistant editor. I rejected it.
Now the point I am trying to make so laboriously is to state that headship should not be assumed. And it wasn’t when we were still very young and unsullied by ignorance spewing from the mouths of adults.
Last weekend, we needed to put oil in our generator. I asked my (male) flatmate if he knew how. He said he didn’t and he really couldn’t be bothered. I needed to work so I went across and asked my neighbour and friend, another guy to help me figure it out. Together, we did, me tilting it and holding it steady (my arms shaking) while he turned the oil. Countless times, I have tried to see a scenario where if it were a show of strength or skill, my male flatmate would win. I can’t. And yet, tomorrow, he would marry some girl who chances are;
-she would hold down and job and contribute to the family, perhaps as much as he would (and if she can but doesn’t that’s up to her)
-she would hold down the home front
-she would have decision making down to an art
-she would ensure the doors were locked and her family safe
In fact, if she chose to, she would do very near anything he is able and/or inclined to do. But she would be expected to submit to him, because biology. Because some ancient book where a donkey spoke says so. Yes.
Now, I have said this before and I say it again. While every home is unique and everybody can choose how they live their lives and what they can accept, there are those of us who will not accept this, and while I continue to argue that women who think like this are products of society itself, I say in the same breath that women do not want to be equal.
-because the door is too heavy, she needs the man to hold it open
-because the chair is heavy too, she needs him to pull it out
-because her education, equal to his counts for nothing and she needs providing for
-because she is simple, weak and needs protecting
-because on a bus, the man needs to sit near the door, he having sharper reflexes and all
All things she can do herself if she so chose.
It is fine if you want to play damsel in distress. But I beg you, would you please let those who are fine doing for themselves alone? Honest, I don’t need you to walk ‘outside’ when we take a stroll because a car can come to jam me and you will stop it with your hand. Chances are I am swifter. By all means, accept all these perks for which in exchange, you trade your individualism, but would you kindly leave other women who do not require them alone?
Notes; Do not take this to mean I do not enjoy romantic gestures, but chivalry? I think not. Give and take is the language I understand.
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