Women - the default

14 February 2020
Author   Magreth Nunuhe
Growing up in the village in the 70s, I always wondered why male children were being revered and privileged while female children were merely seen as a ‘by-product’ of some accident that was not supposed to have happened.
I have always had questions as to why girls were so ‘unwanted’ while boys were appreciated, praised and pampered for everything they did in the home. Perhaps it was because boys did the more highly regarded chores such as going deep into the forest to find cattle, branding the cattle, fencing kraals and homesteads, cutting trees, fixing the tank that distributed water to the village residents, slaughtering animals, hunting, etc.
Women and girls’ chores such as cooking, cleaning, milking cows, nurturing and looking after the young and old, nursing the sick, planting food, making clothes, going into the forest to look for wild fruits and vegetables, building houses from cow manure and more were somehow considered as mundane or ‘easy’ tasks.
But as I grew older, I came to the understanding that the main reasons why boys were more appreciated was because boys did not leave their homes when they got married and did not have to change their surnames either, while on the other hand, a girl would part with her family for another and in the process also give up her surname. The surname was (and still is) the common denominator that gave identity, roots, legacy and pride to a family.
I also grew up around my six aunts who were at the time still single, but when they bore children, the fathers’ families would normally take the children to their homes to raise - especially if they were boys, because a boy was considered a ‘goldmine’. I remember how one of my aunts who had seven daughters and no son was scoffed at and looked down on for having girls “that would just bring a lot of children and contribute to poverty in the home”.
Fast forward that to the present; the same rhetoric still manifests itself in how women are viewed as simply a means to an end in many parts of the world. This is not only in villages where one could perhaps attribute such thinking to ignorance or non-exposure. Many educated men and some who have travelled the world and lived in other cultures still view women solely through the lens of instrumentalism (i.e. a means to an end), a default.
While partly the blame can be put on culture, it becomes repugnant when an enlightened individual behaves as though everything they have learned through their upbringing is cast in stone and cannot be changed. Bias, prejudice, bigotry and all other forms of discriminatory attitudes/practices that are harmful and detrimental to others' well-being can be unlearned.
American Muslim minister and political activist, The Honourable Louis Farrakhan, questioned in one of his many teachings how a woman (as is in the Bible) “can bring you your Saviour (Jesus), but she can’t represent him? She can give him birth, but she can’t preach?” He said men “use women and you level them to a position where you can control them. But you don’t understand, when you oppress a woman, you oppress a nation.”
He is indeed right. We cannot have a society where women are denigrated, unappreciated, underrated and undervalued. Misogynists and patriarchists view as default women’s contributions to the continuation and survival of the human species, which starts with conception, the incubation of an embryo in the womb, up to full development and nurturing of a human being during their most vulnerable.  Men, on the other hand, are regarded as the standard who are recognised for their every contribution.
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes once opined that humans are selfish by nature and are willing to hurt each other if they think it will help themselves.  In this case I am talking about how selfish men through the ideologies of patriarchy and misogyny have held women back.
These ideologies are imbedded in supremacy and control over other humans merely because they are of a different sex.  I juxtapose male supremacy and racism - especially white supremacy (which takes credit for all inventions while blacks are just, as in the case of women, an instrument or a means to an end). The same rhetoric applied by white supremacists is also applied by male supremacists and chauvinists - taking credit for the advancement of the human race and seeing women only as a default.

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