Tuesday, November 13, 2018

On the Origins of Gender Balance

Credit: OpenStreetmap
Dilma Roussef, one of the few women presidents.

Gender balance should promote women all over the world. Women, though very few in political and decision making instances, are making a huge step to hinder gender imbalance.

Worldwide, some people would admit that the relationship between men and women is top-heavy and even biased. Others wonder if gender balance is not a western invention and culture. I believe hindering women’s rights is individual’s commitment not to consider women as human beings. This situation has been existent in the world for ages, it is not particular to a given community.

There exist too many debates on gender balance throughout the world. This is often referred to as gender equality. We note today that in some countries consensus exists that equalities of opportunities, such as jobs, education, etc between men and women are possible, which, in fact promotes national or social sustainable development. Thus, some women of courage are struggling to get promoted and so they show that they can work better in political and decision making instances.

But where does the misinterpretation of gender balance come from? It is believed that there is a general consideration that is held in various debates. Does it mean that the parity between men and women remains an African culture or an invention from western countries? In one of my classes, I asked students to discuss this issues, the points were hot and controversial. The moment when I asked girl students if they were expecting to marry men who could cook for them and the boys to marry women who could do the same, students (both sex) seemed to be annoyed. At the time when the girls stated that a cooking husband is the ideal man every woman dreams of but who does not practically exist, there was no boy who confirmed that he had been planning to cook for the woman they will marry. Girls were ready to accept that ‘cooking partly our domestic occupation’ and the boys stated that ‘ no true man can cook because this is not our culture’.

This, in fact, depicts how both male and female students reasoned in thinking that the practice is not really African but maybe western. Does it sound an erroneous view if a man cooks and invites his wife to dine with him? As a matter of fact, the truth is that the origin of this belongs to no specific society, whether western or otherwise. History has taught us that women are always unequal to men. As an example, from the remote human starting in foraging communities, agrarian, horticultural, industrial, consumer and today information society, there has never existed true equality between men and women. Men have always put themselves on the top of the ladder and so women occupy its bottom. Who puts some up and others down, is there any rule to follow that women have never succeeded? No, none but throughout all the societies of the world, primitively, women have always been treated as inferior to men. If we even go through all the greatest civilisations and the popular forms of democracies like Athens, women have never been treated as equal to men and they have never been involved into great instances of making decisions. Based on history, among all western countries, majority of women did not use to cast their voices in votes or join remunerable activities and this lasted centuries until in later last century. The truth is that equality between men and women is a recent modern phenomenon that you and me experience around us in different contexts.

In order to be more specific, the observable fact is that this emerged as a result of some main forces working in a tandem. First, we find that during both World Wide Wars, that is WW1 and WW2, because of hardship of the fighting, men felt the need, if not obliged, to spend long periods on battle field. Those men had been employed by some industries. As they have gone to war, they left gaps in their jobs. This actually caused a lot of losses in those industries. Indeed, this situation motivated those industries to employ women and girls for manufacturing weapons and other necessary tools and products needed by the war. Second, industrialisation itself increased its demands for manpower. As most men had gone to war and that women were around, companies were obliged to seek for these women to replace the men who are in war. But these women were paid something, less compared to men, provided they produce something. In Western Europe, the years 1960 and 1970 were marked by waves of troubles and mass protests against some vices including inequality at all levels. Third, another valuable element is mass access to education. This made women to become more involved and more competitive in the job market. And fourth, positive action was also somehow influential. Since this was much considered by states such as Sweden and other countries that favoured women to join sites of power like in politics where they had formally been excluded before, one could see a flow of women seeking jobs.

As known, war is violence itself. This impels that war is formally primitive and naturally brutal. Sometimes, it leads to unexpected positive consequences. This is what somehow explains the reason why in some post war societies, women tend to join political and other high public offices than in societies that have not. This is presently through the above evidence that depicts why there is nothing uniquely cultural about equality between men and women in Western societies. Male dominance has been universal and it not unique to any race or geographical location. In fact, it has origins and in and remains a consequence of raw power men welded due to their physical strength rather than any verifiable intellectual power.

The most well known individual to clarify this issue is Carole Pateman. She built her thoughts on the theory that while modern society was born through the signing of the celebrated social contract where men agreed to give up some of their freedoms to a sovereign to protect their collective wellbeing, the man’s original contract was straight directed toward the sexual one. The ensuring modern state that was eventually created through the social contract systematically excluded women from dynamic involvement and pleasure in liberty.

In the mind of Pateman therefore, the number of women in politics and in important posts remain unsatisfactory. Believing that women are few or missing in politics or elsewhere depicts that they are still excluded in their original freedom and liberty that are implied in the social contract on which the modern state is based and remain in subjection under the sexual contract.

In that sense, only the state can civilise both men and women. It will, in fact educate man how to accept or at least accommodate women as equals, but this is not always easy for him. They would accept to do so, but practically it is not the case. Women should also be educated on how to handle this situation nonviolently. Actually, this situation often pushes women who are clever to claim for their rights. Today, these women are grouped in different women’s movements in order to make their voice heard.

Society needs to balance genders because it needs them both for sustainable development. One side will not better work and successfully achieve if the other is discarded. The origins of gender balance should not hinder society to promote women but rather be a way to propel them as no good society will protect destructive values but rather constructive ones.

About the Writer

MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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