It was with great interest, that I read an article in The Chronicle of April 28, 2008. The writer deliberated, with astounding success, on the issue, whether women need any affirmative action. I was agitated, not for a fight, mind you, but I felt nobody would punish me if I used the same column, in the same daily, (The Chronicle), to throw in a word or two, (my opinion), on the issue.
The late Christian Barnard, the Pioneer South African Heart-transplant Surgeon, who left this world some twelve years ago, wrote in his memoir, “Mein Zweites Leben,” that he studied, (learned), as a medical student, only with female students. He was more comfortable discussing any topic with them. He was more at ease amidst ladies.
One would like to leave it a debatable end, as to whether he became so smart in his adult life, as a Surgeon, because, he preferred to learn with the opposite sex, and in the process, had better chances of acquiring excellence, on all his stints.
Those who are religiously inclined, and believe in the Biblical version of creation in relation to the Garden of Eden, which establishes that, “God created the woman, by removing a rib from the man…, after He, (God), had realised it was not good for the man to be alone.” Try to use this holy script, to try and establish that, “the woman is weaker than her male counterpart, such that she is of lesser importance, she is not as capable, and you could go on, and on, and on.
The story in Genesis established, for most of mankind, the compromised position of the female in society. Or, it might be more appropriate to say that, many are inclined to see it along that line. The Quran has such a protective “didactic” for the woman, which goes as far as to denounce a woman who goes into such a civic activity as politics, and a good example is the life of the late Benazir Bhutto, (1954-2007), who was assassinated in Pakistan, on Dec. 27, 2007. The women in Islam, whose bid towards “liberation” she had always stood for, were ironically, equally part of the apparatus to denounce her. She was non-Islamic, they proclaimed, She did things, which in Islam, were a prerogative for men. She was Prime Minister of Pakistan twice. Think of biology. The woman is XX, as against XY for men. A lot more could be talked about, concerning biology, which makes the two sexes so distinct from each other. Women bear children, but men only contribute in the initial stages - in the making. The whole hormonal fabrication, which the endocrine system contributes in the making, could be talked about by the Obstetrician/Gynecologist, and the Geneticist, in the details you may want.
Even though medical science should be in position to sustain the entire process of gestation in a man too, it should stay natural, and a woman's biological prerogative - to bear the offspring. But, when we talk of affirmative action, we all agree, the epicenter is intellect, not any longer something that has anything to do with, “sexology.”
In anatomy, the average woman has a brain, which weighs roughly 250gm less than that of an average man. But, the man's brain, which weighs 1.5kg, stays with an anatomic advantage only. Its performance, more often than not, doesn't necessarily reflect the weight advantage.
In some parts of our Globe, cultural norms, or the rejection of the same by one sex, may have gotten certain practices so established, such that, it seems we were created with them, prima facie.
For example, a man found to be exchanging blows with women, especially in the open, would have exposed himself to such public ridicule. A Nigerian villager found an easier exit out of shame, in committing suicide. He fought with a woman. Exceptions are tacitly accepted, if the fight took place between a woman and her spouse, where frequently the women are observed to win.
Whereas in the animal world, males are “created” with more physical aesthetics than in the female, in the species of the Homo sapiens, the woman has all the advantages, when it comes to looks. It is such that, when a man happens to have a pretty face, with body contours more rounded to be eye-catching, he may be talked of as having feminine features, and that does not translate into a compliment.
It is not good for a man to be seen to feature less virile. The reverse is also true.
Since the last four decades, and in global politics, a couple of ladies have appeared on the world scene, who have vied, inch for inch, with men, and when they have grabbed power, have shown the men where it lies, and would not readily give it away. Golda Meir was Jewish, and when she migrated to Israel, worked up her way to become Prime Minister, who won battles against her Arab adversaries in the Middle East. When the time came to talk about peace, she did so gracefully, from a back bench.
Indira Gandhi, daughter to India's first Prime Minister, Jawarah Nehru, had indirectly been groomed to be a leader too, and when the chance showed its head, she did not miss it. She is believed to have been a very effective and bold Prime Minister. She died in Office, from an assassin's bullet. If you made mention of an Iron Lady at anytime, after she appeared on the political scene, everybody knew you were talking of Margaret Thatcher, the lady who crossed the confines of Chemistry to Latin, and then into politics.
She did not readily relinquish power. We must end the count with Benazir Bhutto, who narrowly missed becoming Prime Minister of her country, Pakistan, for the third time, but had to pay the ultimate price instead. The lady I should have mentioned first, (being a Ghanaian), should have been Nana Yaa Asantewaah (1839-1935), who from Ejisu near Kumasi, in 1900 AD challenged the British Crown from the barrel of the gun, and almost won in capturing the Governor. Having failed in her bid to retrieve Nana Prempeh I, she was herself captured and banished from the Gold Coast at the age of 65, and she died on the Seychelles Island, 31 years later.
It is not only in politics, nor in recent times, that women have performed well. In 1903, Madam Marie Curie, (Marie Sklodowska), her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel, jointly received the Nobel Prize for Physics, for their work on Radioactivity. Again, in 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry, on her work on Radioactivity, and the discovery of the radioactive element called Polonium, in honor of her native country, Poland. She was the first person, to have received the Nobel Prize twice. Her daughter, Irene, working together with her husband, Jean Fredrick Joliot, shared the Nobel Prize for their work in natural radioactivity, in 1935. Madam Curie's death in 1934, of Leukemia, was blamed possibly on Radiation effect.
So, wherein lies the justification, of even talk loud of affirmative action, for women? With the question, however, I still don't have an answer, why women are not as interested in politics as men are. Having lived in Germany for a reasonably long time, where as many as 30% of taxi drivers are women, I have not come across one lady functioning as a taxi driver here in our Republic, (except for a few during the 1st Republic). Not in Kumasi, not in Accra. Anybody with a different observation? Do societies have to come extra to empower women into any sector? And we need to mention that the world isn't entirely liberated, in what women may be allowed to do, and not allowed to do. Religious taboos are falling, only at a sluggish pace. Women live, on the average, longer than men. They may be biologically “more robust.”
The Nuclear Physicist, Enrico Fermi, (1901-1954), also supposedly dying of radiation effects succumbed in a shorter period of time. The former Soviet Union, which opened the doors to non-elitist populations, saw as many as 60% of women taking to medicine. The subject of women taking the society by storm is only slowly being embraced, even by women themselves, but “affirmative action,” who says?
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