Thankfully, no one has called me bitter, angry, sex-starved, and ugly for expressing my opinions on feminism and women empowerment. I am yet to be slut-shamed or body-shamed for simply daring to speak for women. Were I to be unmarried, my views would not be slighted as the rantings of a frustrated single woman who must go find a husband. I can buy myself a car and any other property without anyone insinuating as to the source. My value is not in being married but in the pursuit of my dreams and ambitions. I am, by the mere accident of nature, born a man.
A teacher in my basic school gave what he thought was the meaning of WOMAN as “Woe-man” – a gloomy man, a distressed man, a man with a setback. And oh, wasn’t he right! Unlike her fellow, the lucky man, who becomes more admirable for having wealth and education, she gains wealth and advances in education at her own peril. With advancement in education, she gets to know her “rights” (as a human being) and becomes undesirable to many potential husbands who (because of their socialisation) would prefer a woman who shuts her mouth and only opens her legs. Wealth acquisition means less dependence on the whims of her husband. That also makes her less desirable. All through her life, she would have to prove her competence in double measure to merit anything while the fortunate man gets competence imputed to him freely. In addition, of course, she is taught, “behind every successful man stands a woman” who (herself) must not be successful.
The world has made progress towards the recognition of the (human) rights of women in some parts. Much more remains to be done to ensure that women live as full human beings deserving of dignity, fairness, and equal opportunity.
To #PressforProgress today, I have chosen to #Pepper the subject/doctrine of SUBMISSION, which is preached by pastors, demanded by men, and accommodated/endured/enforced by women.
Christians, historically, were a major support group for slavery, based on what was (thought to be) sound understanding and interpretation of the Bible. The Christian supporters of slavery relied on several biblical references to make their case. The Bible records Abraham holding slaves and accounts for the concept of buying slaves and setting them free after six years. Then, the Ten Commandments make mention of slaves as a ‘possession’ of another man that one should not covet. Remember, again, that Jesus never spoke against widespread slavery in the Roman world while he was in the flesh. The Apostle Paul also commanded slaves to obey their masters and he actually returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master. So yes, slavery was to be Biblically accepted, and godly. Don’t forget that many of the slave masters who brutally shipped our ancestors to the Americas were, in fact, Christians. Thankfully, most human beings today recognize the inhumanity of slavery and abhor it.
The Bible, its misunderstanding, and misinterpretation (innocent and intentional), has survived as the reference for many men who abuse and hegemonise their fellow men, women. Interestingly, even unbelieving men rely (wrongfully) on the Bible when it comes to their unfair dealings with women. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the lord” (Ephesians chapter 5, verse 22) is the arsenal of every man when dealing with a woman (unfairly). You see, I can understand the un-holiness of daring to open this “SUBMISSION” subject up for saner, even godlier, scrutiny and interpretation. Doing this goes to the core of established male privilege that we (men) have grown so accustomed to, and opens the minds of women to territories, which they have been socialized to forbid.
Submission has evolved over the years with some fundamental threads running through. There are women who have endured physical and emotional abuse, relying on the godliness of ‘Submission’, even to the peril of their lives. Many women have had to shelve their dreams and ambitions in the name of submitting to visionless men. Then, (even mothers) have socialized boys on this same ‘Submission’ doctrine to believe that inhumanity to their fellow man, once she agrees to be a wife, becomes right and Godly.
So, what exactly does it mean for a woman to submit to a man in a marriage (or relationship) with reference to Ephesians 5:22? Is a woman required to ‘submit’ her brain on the altar of marriage and not ‘challenge’ her husband, as many men would have it? Does submission require a woman to stop dreaming and pursuing her ambitions? Is a woman virtuous when she silently endures abuse, physical or emotional, in the name of submission? What was the context of Paul’s writings in the book of Ephesians generally? Was Paul laying an instruction of what should be, or was he merely advising Christians within the context of a culture that undervalued Women? Was Paul’s use of “submission” for women synonymous with his use of same for slaves? If the Apostle Paul were to write today, would he instruct slaves to submit to their masters (as the way to ensure societal harmony, which was his focus then)? Would he require women to “submit” today as a way to ensure harmony if he lived today? Did Paul actually direct reciprocal submission from both man and woman?
And then to the church, the church of God, I mean: would you continue to counsel young women to endure inhumanity from their husbands in the name of submission? Would you continue to teach young women to stay in toxic relationships and submitting to ungodly mem when it causes them to lose their souls? When will you start spending some time on raising godly men? Given that you have spent your whole time enforcing submission of women to men, when are you starting the journey to enforce godliness on the part of men?
FEMINISM, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, AND THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Two of my good friends have tried to sell me some crude, conspiratorial spiritual angles to the current wave of feminist activism blowing through Ghana, thanks to the bold efforts of the #Pepper Dem Ministries. According to these two guys, Feminism is “unleashed by the devil, to diminish the value of men, to promote lesbianism, and to destroy the world”. I would not be surprised that other crazy suggestions are spreading through our gullible social space. However, really, does the demand for equal opportunities for women diminish men in any way? Most right-thinking guys would answer NO, until they realise that advancing the full human rights of women may amount to shrinking some of the privileges they have grown so accustomed to. For example, a man is allowed to stay out late after work and watch soccer, network with friends, or make business deals (over drinks) while his wife runs home every day, 5pm on the dot (after doing a full day’s work like her husband), to take care of the home (children, meals, etc). Over time, the man builds strong relationships that influence his growth in society, business, politics, and any other endeavour he chooses to engage in. How about the woman? Does she also get to spend time after work watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” at a cool location with other women so she networks and builds strong social bonds?
Of course, there are obviously misdirected folks, men and women, who are irredeemably stuck with the belief that a woman must always negotiate on bended knees. Such are the folks who have, to date, struggled to appreciate that, the Pepper Dem Ministries are out to raise hot topics and challenge status quo and not to “pepper men”. If, however, “peppering” unfair narratives makes your eyes water (as a man), then so be it!
HOW MAY WE #PressforProgress TOGETHER?
We all have difficulties letting go of male privilege entirely. Then, there are those narratives and biases (often very passive) that we struggle to dispose of. Our commitment though, as men, is to continually #PressforProgress by treating women fairly, beginning with our wives (if you’re married), rolling back on some of the privileges we enjoy which limit women, standing up for the (human) rights of women wherever we find myself, and working for a fairer world where gender is not a barrier, as God intended it. Where do you stand, man?
By: Ben Ohemeng-Baah