The problem with society:
A woman’s role in society changes greatly once she marries since she becomes a possession with little or no rights in her husband’s family (Yes, even in the so called “modern” marriages). In fact, the husband’s mother and sisters have much more of an influence over him than his own wife (Article: Mothers-in-law and the cycle of Abuse). If the wife resents this lack of control or respect within her marriage, the family may threatens to send her packing.
Our societies have conditioned us to see and accept women in this subservient roles. The few women who chose to assert their roles as equal partners in marriages are quickly castigated as wayward individuals who seek to destabilize the system and they are to be checked. They have to overcome pressures from their in-laws, society, friends and even their own families to conform. The story of a certain type of crabs come to mind. If one wayward crab chooses to stray too far from the group, the rest of the colony will decapitate and tear it to bits until it dies. (Article: Custodians of the African Culture) Sometimes this is what happens to the spirit of the African woman who decides she wants to have a voice in her marriage. She is pressured to the point where she is striped of her self-esteem and her will is to be broken. She cannot be an individual, she follows where her husband goes, she is defined by his success, his whims and needs. We often hear the term “Behind every successful man is a woman? What happens if a women wants to be successful pursuing her own dreams, will she have her man championing her cause and standing firmly behind her as well? I don’t understand why as an intelligent, articulate woman, my ambitions and dreams should take a backseat to that of my equally intelligent male counterpart. In a marriage, if one of the pair has to give up a job, that responsibility by default falls to the woman. If one of the two has to give up religion it’s usually the woman who has to pledge allegiance to her husbands’. Same goes for culture in mixed marriages. These things are structured such that the woman’s needs, identity and success always comes secondary to the mans’. Who says “it’s a woman’s world“? My position on relationship has always been compromise for the common good of all involved, not favoring one gender or the other.
I don’t like labels, so I don’t want to be called a feminist. I actually have problems with some of the issues that fall under the general umbrella of feminism. A more appropriate term I choose for myself is a wo/man-ist, a term inclusive of both men and women (Article: Women who abuse men, The judicial system, Feminism vs. Wo/man-ism). The same way I don’t advocate male dominance is the same way I’m opposed to female dominance which is sometimes what I‘ve seen in some aspect of the feminist movement. I believe in fairness for all. I prefer myself in a relationship with another as partners who may from time to time play a dominant role in one area of the relationship or the other because of our respective abilities, but will seek balance of power and respect for all involved. Power in relationships should be dynamic. It should not be the preserve of one gender. And generally, it’s men who do not want to share power.
Do I hate men? Absolutely not. I grew up in a family of five males, my mom and I being the only females, with a father who loves and respects his wife as she does him – as equally partners. I also can’t boast of a female best friend, as most of my close buddies are male. So, no, I don’t hate men. And when appropriate, I side with them. What I hate is the attitude of the subset of African men who feel they have to put a woman in her place: beneath them. These are the men who equate the “willy” hanging between their legs with a brain. (Seriously guys, it is not an extra brain, and it doesn’t make you smarter than women). For some, the erroneous assumption that their “willy” counts as a brain, makes it the only one they use. Go figure!.
Do I think the majority of women are saints? Hardly. The downfall of a lot of men have been gotten in the hands of women. But to think men have ruled the world for so long simply because of brute force and physical strength, and that women have been so docile for so long befuddles me. African women have allowed men who are most times less perceptive in matters of life than they are call the shots. Why they have bought into this farce is an age-old question that will probably not be resolved in my own time or in this medium, but it’s certainly time for African women to lay claim to their respect and honor in our societies and especially within their marriages. Remember, “Well behaved women never make history.”
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Folasayo, a multi-talented and self-taught artist, has the ability to express her creativity in several genres like the visual arts, drama, writing, and in almost any creative endeavor. She is the author of Conversations With The Soul At 3:00am, a collection of love poems and art photography ( Home of African Concepts, 2000) and the British Council/ANA award winning play The Woman with a Past (Heinemann books, 1989).