Bias, Feminism and a Cup of Coffee
(Caveat: The following piece is the opinion of one well-meaning woman. Please refrain from starting online wars on its account.)
I often wonder about bias, all forms of it. It occurs to me that we cannot totally escape it in our society. As long as there are differences, bias will persist. It is a fact of life, a facet of diversity. People who are fixated on these differences will find bias in everything. I remember once hearing someone ask why we do not wear our Nigerian traditional attire to work everyday. She was quite indignant about the whole thing, angrily demanding why we had to consign our own culture to just one day of the working week. I had to remind her that the corporate world is not necessarily traditionally Nigerian, and that nobody tells the farmers, smiths, hunters and the like what to wear, therefore, when in Rome, etc., and anyone who cannot cope in Rome should remember that Rome is not a prison.
Am I saying that bias is mostly all in our heads? Not exactly, bias is real and can be harmful to lives, property and the psyche and well being of people.
However, humans have a tendency to take everything to the extreme, and none more so than women who always imagine themselves to be at the wrong end of the gender bias. The early feminists – the bluestockings, the suffragettes and women like them – all fought for legitimate causes. The former proved that women could be intellectual as well as men and were not there just to look wan and dainty. The suffragettes fought for political causes, for the right to vote and be voted for. True feminists have, over time and until this day, fought against inequalities that carry serious consequences, such as education for the girl child and discriminatory wages. We can all agree that these are reasonable demands.
What is sauce for the goose and all that. Unfortunately, in these present times, we have often found women publicly fighting all sorts of imaginary wars in the name of feminism. Some women are so touchy about the subject that they can spin almost anything to become a gender divide issue. Cars. Mobile phones. Culinary skills. Hair. Religion. Sex. Books. Music. Anything under the sun. A man makes a remark about a car looking feminine; these women go up in arms. Someone, a comment that a movie is a chick-flick begins a stormy argument. “Who told you such-and-such is for just women? Your statement is sexist.” As if we don’t have enough actual fights to battle out in today’s world.There is definitely a gender bias, and it swings both ways. The women, for all our loud cries of equality, still hold men to the old values. We subconsciously expect them to be the providers and protectors. We expect them to be tough and ‘manly’ (the clue is in the word). And we are not wrong to; that is their fundamental role. Why are we not ready to hold up our own end? The one thing these extreme feminists need to realize is that WE ARE NOT THE SAME. Are we equal? Certainly. Are we the same? Absolutely not! As long as the elemental difference of the presence or absence of a uterus remains, this difference and its accompanying defining roles will.
The way I see things, both sexes have roles to play, roles dictated by gender. There is a certain synergy that stems from this division of labour, as long as fundamental rights are available to all. Let us use this analogy of the handkerchief and the strainer that I have come up with (it may not be the cleverest, and I admit to not being the brightest bulb).Now, a strainer serves the primary purpose of separating solid from liquid. A hankerchief was created for blotting eyes, brows and noses, which is a lot of work. The hankerchief can serve as a strainer, and even be more effective. However, if one hankerchief is used to strain and wipe and blot and has to suffer many washings, it becomes worn out very quickly. When women struggle to be both genders at once, I doubt they realize what they’re trying to sign up for.
I am not slamming feminists here. I admire their grit and vision. My problem is with those ones who can vote, live where they want, marry who they like, get as much of an education as they want, work in whatever industry they choose, receive the proper wage they earn and yet find life so dissatisfying that they must gripe over imaginary slights and tasteless PMS jokes and its ilk. I would like to remind them that there are still women in our world who do not have any liberties whatsoever and their feminist energies are better redirected to correcting that, not arguing about relatively inconsequential matters such as whether one should take one’s husband’s name or not. We must learn to put these things in perspective and not seek the shadow of persecution under every carelessly innocent comment or action.