“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women.” – The Holy Quran 4:35
The other day, I was scandalised when panelists in a television discussion sought to create the impression that gender equality also means gender sameness.
Before I am accused of being a male chauvinist pig, let me hasten to assure everybody that I strongly and unreservedly believe in the equality of the sexes.
As I have had occasion to state, God blessed me and my late wife with five children – three girls and two boys.
By the grace of God, and thanks to the enlightened educational policies of governments of Ghana, my wife and I were never forced into a situation where we had to decide which of our children would go to school, and which of them would have to stay at home and help maintain the family.
All five of them went to school all the way to the university: the University of Ghana, Legon; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi and the University of Cape Coast. By their education, all of them have become useful to themselves, the family and the nation.
Having established my credentials as an enlightened believer in the equality of the sexes, no one can convince me that men and women are the same.
Let me lay emphasis on the point that I do not ignore the anatomical and physiological similarities. But, I also want to lay stress on the point that God, in His infinite wisdom, did not intend that men and women will ever be the same.
Till the end of time, the normal male will always be physically stronger than the normal female. In sports, for example, can sports historians tell us how many times women have run faster, jumped higher and thrown the javelin, the shot putt, the discuss, and the hammer further than men?
In the sport of boxing, a male boxer can always beat a female boxer of the same weight. No wonder that in sports, men and women do not compete together in the same event. They compete separately.
The mistake many men make is to see this male brute physical characteristic as evidence of male superiority over the female, and act or talk as if the female is inferior.
It is true that when it comes to the use of brute force, the man will always win. In fact, it is no news if a man beats a woman in a physical fight, while the man becomes an object of ridicule if he is beaten by a woman in a physical fight.
Physically, a woman may not be as strong as a man. However, women have strengths in other areas which men cannot match. I have always wondered at the mental and nervous strengths and resilience which a woman can exhibit in certain situations. Take pregnancy.
For nine months, a woman carries in her womb a partly foreign body, partly foreign because it is made up of her egg and a man’s sperm.
It will never be known by the male what the pregnant woman goes through: the ever-present nauseas in many cases; the morning sickness; the unbelievable craving for normally inedible substances, the real danger of possible spontaneous abortion that could lead to the loss of the baby, etc.
For some women, the nausea can be so bad that they have to carry a small container into which they spit constantly.
When delivery is due, the excruciating pains of labour can be so intense that many first-timers reportedly swear not to have any more children. Yet they go on to have any number up to nine or ten more. I ask again, can men match women in this department?
Delivery does not end the woman’s labour. For the next nine more months or even more, the woman has to bond herself to the baby.
She feeds it, bathes it, washes its clothes, including the urine and faeces-sodden diapers. A woman may have to contend with the hell raised by a baby that cries almost all night.
A mother is prepared to use her mouth to suck out the mucus from the nose of her baby so that it can breathe freely. She is prepared to deny herself food so that the child can eat.
The baby’s first teacher is the mother. Where does she get all the wisdom which she imparts to the child? I ask once more, where does a mother get the kind of strength and energy with which she attends to the child? Can men match that strength and energy?
Yes, men will always be physically stronger, but women can counter that with their own different kind of strength and energy. We should not underestimate women.
Another mistake made is to see the emotional break down of women as a major weakness. Is it actually a sign of weakness when a woman emotionally breaks down in tears and loud wailing when confronted with an emotional situation? No.
Men in a similar situation may not break down in tears. That does not make men superior beings. It merely makes them different from women. That is why women are more emotionally attached to what they love, such as children, husband, and friends.
I believe that God intended women to have physically more delicate, finely-chiselled bodies than those of men. That is the reason why women are generally more attractive than men so much that even a woman who resembles her very ugly father will still have finer, softer features than her father. God made them so and, consequently, there is no use for women to develop their bodies to a level where they resemble men, just to prove the useless point that they are the same as men.
I have heard the argument that society has changed; that more and more women are working to help maintain the home and that, therefore, husbands and wives should share equally the responsibilities in the running of the home.
They say the men should also wash clothes, take turns to cook and wash utensils, feed the baby, etc.
Strangely, I have not heard women saying that the electricity, water, telephone bills and school fees and medical prescriptions should also be shared, likewise fuel and the maintenance of the car.
When the political parties reduced registration fees for women, I did not hear the women express anger at the discrimination. Some women are even talking of affirmative action, including, for example, creating special vacancies in Parliament and lowering entry grades for admission to educational institutions.
Our women cannot have their cake and eat it. They should allow us, the men, to take charge even as they welcome such chivalrous gestures as opening car doors for them, getting up for them to sit down, paying their fare, and giving them gifts to mark certain occasions.
Men and women will always be equal, but different. We will also always complement each other. It is impious to obliterate the differences.