Recently a very good friend from Nigeria asked for 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 response? 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], 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.
You may hate labels, you may not like the identity politics, and you are probably disgusted by the disposition of feminists because 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 one needs 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.
Recently the age-long 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; aren’t there more important things to talk about than cooking?
To think that perhaps the conversation on who does the cooking is less important than FGM is to completely misunderstand everything entirely. I’d say to trivialize the discourse that much is to demonstrate the heights of ignorance. The conversation on cooking is just a symbolic representation of the larger discourse on; who sleeps on top, who fixes the bulb, who works at the office, who washes what and essentially gender roles. There’s wisdom in having a more orderly system; division of labour, because each knows what to do nothing is left undone. But I guess the question would be; how exactly does the vagina make for a better indicator of how much salt is enough for the stew or what exactly is the bearer of the penis’ aversion towards preparing Banku? It would appear that the strongest authority yet to be properly interrogated but vested with enormous powers to confer these roles would be our Gods and through their religions.
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 it is understandable 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 feminists of whatever 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. Again it was Eve that was deceived by the devil, probably because she was weak, the result is as we are told the pain and anguish we all have to endure on earth. What rights have we not therefore, to vent our spleen on women for the rest of our lives?
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 tits, 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?
Who else has not been taught to revere the holy books without question for they were either divinely sent unto man or inspired by God? How then would feminists especially the kind that object to the idea of male superiority and gender roles altogether apart from aggressively rejecting the divinity of the scriptural provisions or boycotting them entirely? There’s beauty in wokeness, the flamboyance in taking on tiny ignorant patriarchs on social media is hardly inspiring in the face of the weekly return to church on Sunday or the mosque daily only to praise Him and say with all your heart that His word is just, final and true. In this progressively evolving discourse on flipping the narrative, a sad reality has emerged. It is that, especially in Africa the courage to rebel against indigenous cultural practices where they are at odds with feminist expectations seems readily available and almost too convenient. Sadly one cannot say same of our beloved religions of middle eastern descent.
Power and authority have almost certainly become commodities only those with deeper pockets can afford, and sadly in the case of women even when one 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? When capitalism placed different values on individual contributions, it didn’t happen by chance. But 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 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; ‘’Hunnay you know I like it with an extra salt’’. Put economic value on domestic work and men will have LinkedIn profile marketing their panty washing skills.
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 a competition. There’s disregard for whatever peculiar conditions that guided their lives because an imitation of theirs only serves patriarchal interests. The period when economic contributions were largely dependent on physicality is far gone. To perpetually delineate responsibilities on gender lines such that the least paying roles become the preserve of women isn’t only injustice to them, it is an unintelligent system to practise.
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, social media 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.
Nonetheless the progress is assuring however minimal except that with softy, selectively confrontational, and sometimes religious apologetic feminists on one hand and the unrepentant patriarchs with their brittle egotistic masculinity on the other, all we can do is to be cautiously optimistic.
Abdul Karim Ibrahim is an award winning debater, a journalist and a social commentator.
He's moderated and participated in major national and international debates, public discussions and youth development programs notably; BBC Ebola Debate in Ghana in 2015, African Youth Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Pan African Universities debate Championship in South Africa etc. He's also a recipient of the Global Centre for Transformational Leadership award in 2011 for his leadership and ideas.
He hopes to promote discourse and shape official responses through social commentary.