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06.09.2014 Feature Article

Deconstructing the Weaker Sex Stereotype

Deconstructing the Weaker Sex Stereotype
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Over the past century, the position of women in human affairs has received lots of attention. There has been a delineation into several camps and several groups, each with different ideologies. No matter which camp one belongs, it seems that the point of convergence remains the belief that women are different. I use different here both in its pejorative and of course in its edifying form. While some see women as deserving of equal (or semi equal) status with men, most see the woman as an appendage of man hence she should be subservient and controlled. Whichever way one panders to, all sides in one way or the other denigrate women. For, what more is denigrating than when women ask for special treatments through hand-outs? I will not delve into this issue here as I have already given it special attention in another essay.

What I focus on in this work is to probe and indeed ask questions as it concerns an age old belief. This belief is that women are the weaker sex. When a belief like this becomes solidified it runs the risk of becoming stereotypical and stereotypes are often not questioned. They are swallowed hook, line and sinker and passed on from generation to generation. But I seek to deconstruct this stereotype of women as the weaker sex by offering a few insight.

First, I believe that the idea of women as the weaker sex stemmed from the physiology of women. The woman's physiology mostly in contrast to the man's sturdier one, means that from the physical point of view, the woman is supposed to be physically stronger. I used 'supposed' because there have been instances of women who are far stronger(physically) than men. An apprehension of the fact that this conception of the woman as weaker using physiology possibly rang true in an era when physicality was very essential in handling the affairs of man is necessary if one is to understand that this notion is dated and thus due for serious review. This is especially so considering that in the present world, physical strength amounts to so little when handling human affairs.

While one can argue the physical angle and try to point out its staleness(and therefore irrelevance in determining who is weaker or stronger),the most important thing is to really ask; how is the woman weaker? Indeed, I have wearied myself trying to find an answer to that. For indeed, women wield so much power which show how strong they are. Helen of Troy is a typical example. It was she who caused the ten year Trojan war. She did not have to have the strong arms of Achilles, or the bravery of Hector. Her power was in her, and with it, she became the apple of discord that led to the death of many men. Or have we forgotten Delilah and what she brought on the mighty Samson? What about Abigail, who with her wisdom wielded enough power to stop King David from destroying her people? Have we forgotten Esther and how she saved the Israelites? What about Judge Deborah? These examples clearly point to the strength of women and the power they wield, most times over men.

Historical as my examples are, one cannot deny that even in our present day society, there are numerous examples of women who have shown more than enough strength to influence major actions in the affairs of men. In fact as much strength as the strongest of men and of course more strength than average men. Women, who behind the scenes wield enormous control over the men who rule over us. All around me, I see no proof of the woman's weakness. I see no weakness in a woman conceiving and carrying a baby(sometimes babies) for 36-41 weeks and then going through the pains of labour. I see no weakness in a woman spending sleepless nights tending to her young ones while also catering for the needs of her husband, his family, and the society at large. I see no weakness in those strong women who sometimes are their families' breadwinners. No weakness in those women whom, in all facets of life can stand toe to toe with men, and beat them squarely on a level playing field. So before we stereotypically apportion the weaker sex tag to women, we need to re-evaluate.

A few days ago, while I was thinking about this essay, a friend of mine coincidentally raised a question that he heard from somewhere. It was a reference to the Biblical request made by God the father to the Godhead. God the father did say; 'let us make him a helper'. The New International Version of the Bible renders it thus:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.

I will make A HELPER suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18.

Capitalization is not in the original)

So the question, according to my friend is; 'between the helper and the helped, who is stronger?'

Women are probably not 'stronger' than men, but I also firmly believe that men are not stronger than women. In anycase, it is not a black or white thing. There are some gray areas to this notion. What I do however advocate for is the continuous complementary relationship between both sexes. The belief of women being the weaker sex remains to me, a completely unsubstantiated one and thus should be discarded as it lacks validation.

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