(A late entry)
[Whereupon the conclusion is reached on 9 May by the writer (with you reading it on the 12th) that the gods are, in fact, not to blame]
A traditional title just won’t cut it—not today. I did try my hands on a few. Thank God I didn’t go with this fleeting thought “The Great Womb Man”—so silly. But you do know where I am going with this already, don’t you?
“Father’s—We Get No Respect!”
Men just can’t catch a break, can they? Just look at all the stress the modern father goes through—I, for one, as a kid, was said to summon my mother when I was hungry, and my father when I needed wiping after visiting the john. Classic delegation. These and many more of such parental roles, are now, thankfully, being undertaken by fathers worldwide—and even right here in modern Ghana. They are bathing kids, sending them off to school. My father who insists washing is his hobby, has done his fair share of washing—my school uniforms, socks, etc. in the past. He, insisting that sweeping is another hobby of his, continues to do his fair share of sweeping. The modern father is a 360 degrees effective parent. Yet sadly, they are often given the treatment of the fathers of old.
Father’s Day stands no chance with its counterpart, Mother’s Day; International Men’s Day is a hoary joke standing next to International Women’s Day. Most times the world simply forgets. Father’s Day comes and goes, and it is like those 24 hours never happened. Men cannot catch a break, can they?
Men indeed cannot catch a break—it is same (and even worse) for women, actually. All this talk of denying men their flowers sound woefully similar to the tale of the woman, does it not?
Ladies and gentlemen, we have, right here and now, on our hands once again, the tired playwright mentioned last week. The human experience is like a playwright writing the same stories over and over again—’the world is like a play written by an exhausted playwright—they themselves Sisyphus… Writing the same stories over and over again, but with different characters—that seems to be humankind’s reality’. To have one’s great work go underappreciated, unappreciated, and most times, never even getting the chance to show what one is made of—that has been the woman’s (historic and modern) reality.
But we can spend a lifetime bemoaning history—it doesn’t change anything. All we can do is to take lessons from it and make sure we do not repeat our missteps.
‘Antiquity’ Does Not Fully Describe It
We cannot give an absolute recollection of humankind’s existence since time began. But for those generations of people who left written records of their existence we have an inkling as to how life for them was. With certain archeological evidence, we can piece together a narrative of human existence—as far back as some millions of years ago.
From the Stone Age, through to the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Classical Era, the Middle Ages, all the way to our Modern Era; empires have risen and fallen—the Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Persian Empire, the Byzantine Empire. Economic, socioeconomic, sociopolitical realities have accompanied these differing eras, in differing shapes and forms. There were the mundanest of manual and subsistence periods of the Stone Age through to the Iron Age—spanning a period between 2.5 million B.C. to 600 B.C. Then came the philosophical awakening of Classical antiquity where the foundations of democracy, mathematics, poetry, etc. were laid in Ancient Greece; and the development of the political arm of the human ecosystem, the legal system, architecture that awed as far back then, and still does now, the spread and consequent establishment of Christianity—all happened in Ancient Rome. The further establishment of knowledge and the application thereof, and the emergence of Islam in the Persian Empire, to the replication of ideologies established in Ancient Greece in the Byzantine Empire.
The invention of the printing press came in the late Middle Ages. A consequent spread of ideologies ensued—the wealth of human knowledge harnessed the centuries upon centuries prior, found wings, and spread far and wide. Human knowledge was on an upward trajectory—rising from the period dubbed the Dark Ages which saw a plunge in the repository of human knowledge owing to the fall of the Roman Empire. Human resilience spurred a rebuilding—a restoration of the wealth of knowledge it had accumulated eras prior. The church—the Catholic church rose to prominence during this era. Human resilience was yet again called to action with the emergence of the Black Plague. It was around this same time that the European set sail—and the African/Black woes began.
The Disembodied Part—the Disembodied Sex
But nowhere in this recollection of history—from philosophy to religion, art to science, politics to mathematics, law to industry, the rise and fall of empires—were the inputs of the millions and millions of female brains given their due. Spectacular brains that would have shone brightly were they given room—never were they taken into consideration. What a loss! Maybe Socrates, in conversations with his wife, Xanthippe, this woman’s whose argumentative spirit he found sexy (he was quoted to have said)—maybe he borrowed her ideologies from time to time in his philosophical conversations with his contemporaries. Who knows?
What a loss the world has suffered. The knowledge the world has painstakingly accumulated throughout these many, many centuries, are a testament to the many more of such knowledge we could have accumulated had we, from as far back as the Prehistoric era, given credence to these other brains created by the Good Lord—that of the woman’s.
But I daresay, there is ample reason for this fatal flaw of the historic mankind. The ideology of the leading male and the subservient female may just find cogent reasons in these early periods recalled here; but in this modern era, with our particular economic, socio-economic, socio-political realities—we have not an ounce of excuse to hold on to these old ideologies.
I am one of those people who, from time-to-time, attempt creating Ghana in a utopian light—so I am going to say this: the levelheaded Ghanaian needs no convincing of this fact: for the world to progress, equal importance must be given to these two—just two—sexes in existence. The female. The male.
Muscles Over Mind
At the risk of dismissing the whole of humanity as a lump of money-grabbing, greedy people who have since time began, pinned their essence on money, I must say, the very crust of human existence has been survival. This was true of the prehistoric human; it remains true of the modern individual. Our very survival and the sociological realities we create for ourselves—realities that morph into culture with the passing of time, have been dependent and dictated by means. Be this means paper—the social construct called money, be it an exchange of goods for goods of the barter ages, humankind has created an ecosystem dictated by their strive at means.
And it is in that sense, as one sifts through history, that one finds explanations for certain archaic historic societal constructs—explanations that have nothing to do with: “But that is how God made things; and as you know, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever…’”
From 2.5 million B.C. to 3000 B.C., when the early humans of the Stone Age depended on stones as principal tools for existence; to the Bronze Age, when humankind evolved into mining metals—smelting metals, principally bronze and the utilisation thereof; to the Iron Age when further advancements were seen—and bronze became second to iron… The production of tools, weapons all lent enormous help to the subsistent nature of human existence during this very early period. To eat, one had to literally plough the land—hard, physical labour was the only way to survive. Society found men excelling at this hard, physical labour; women they had their own physical labour to contend with—quite literally, labouring to birth and nature children.
Humankind, during its most primal, have had its men at the forefront. That is not a slight against the male’s mental ability—but rather, a nod at his physical prowess. Strength comes in many forms—the woman’s strength lies in the soul; the man’s, in his body. I shouldn’t have said this—it’s utter nonsense, these statements. Strength comes in many forms—the woman’s strength lies in the soul; the man’s, in his body—there is some musicality to it, but such statements are, at the end of the day, complete nonsense, I daresay, stupid. Perhaps, it is these generalisations, sometimes born out of a ‘true’ or harmless place, that morph into unnecessary stereotypes—so that if you are met with a woman physically stronger than you are, you are ostracised as being womanly, and she, manly. ‘Ostracised’—as though these two respective sexes, standing on their own, are insults, laughable.
Mind over Muscles
This era recounted lasted approximately 3.4 million years. Humankind was set in their ways. So centuries later, when the Classical period kickstarted, and human existence moved from mainly muscle-based, to mind-based—when we moved from living hand-to-mouth to mind-to-mouth, and the mind, evidently being equal in both the male and female, ascended to the top of human existence, as it is the very top of our physical form—the female brain was bizarrely disregarded. Her muscles had been purportedly weaker than the man’s during the early ages, her mind had to be weaker than the male’s during the Classical period—these historic men guessed wrong. Evidently—this modern era serving as evidence—they did guess wrong.
3ny3 ntokwa. It is not a fight—at least it is not supposed to be. When drawing attention to these societal flaws, we must do so knowing that it is not a fight. But mankind is stubborn, aren’t we? When we get stuck in our ways it is mighty hard to uproot us—so hard that most times the uprooting sure as hell feels like a fight.
It is Not a Fight
It is not a fight, for we are all complicit—if being one sex is a crime that closes certain windows of opportunities to one, then we are all complicit. One is never purely just one sex—unaffected by the plights of the other. A male is a complicit female for his mother, wife, sisters, aunties, and the females that surround him through blood or companionship. The female is a complicit male for all the males that hover around her—her husband and sons (talk about hovering!), her father, the males of her extended family, loved ones. When a woman, intending to fight a societal ill, utters statements such as ‘all men are evil’, ‘men are rapists’ she must do so knowing she has drawn a taint over her own sons—they will walk this earth branded with this stereotype. When a man, intending to assert a twisted reach for the patriarchy says something to the effect of, “Women belong in the kitchen only”, “Women talk too much.” He must do so knowing he has branded his own daughter for life—she can never reach her fullest potentials guided by her brains or talent, she can never contribute to society ideologically, share her opinions without being dismissed as a triviality—merely a mouthpiece that spews nonsense. The sexes, they diminish themselves when they diminish each other.
We cannot afford to wage a war on each other—especially looking at our particular history as Ghanaians. There is no need for bickering, all we need do is to evolve with the changing times, as our ancestors evolved in certain aspects of their sociological lives throughout these early centuries. Economic realities have determined sociological conditions since time began. It is not a fight. The world needs efforts for the sailing through—efforts are best when the two sexes, placed upon it, work hand-in-hand.
It was just around the late 19th century, that things began to change for women. That should tell us something about human ideologies and how unmovable they become when they become implanted. Since the records of history briefly recollected here, there have been two sexes—male, female. But it is only merely over a century ago, that one half of the equation started to be regarded as a partner in the journey towards world advancement. It is better late than never, is it not? Change has come to stay. A war might just be waged by both sexes working together, against the few bad nuts that fight this integration (philosophical war, that is.)
I say this a lot—because it’s true: in this globalised era of ours, a nation as young and small as ours cannot afford to relegate, in any way, shape or form, half of its population—its women, to the backseat, when the globalised era calls for an absolute involvement of nation’s human resource capital towards the attainment of economic and socioeconomic growth.
But I have been preaching to the choir this whole time, have I not? Here I go with the utopian Ghana narrative again with this example… Early 2019, before the pandemic hit, I, having devised a television programme to help lend a helping hand to the unfortunate schooling Ghanaian child, visited one village. The teachers at this rural school were to provide the names of two of their top students. They, all four male teachers, asked, “Are we to be guided by gender balance?” I was about telling them all about how we were attempting to resist the quota system, until he stopped me mid-sentence, “Oh! Our top ten students are all females—so we wanted to know if you were okay with both selections being ladies.”
The levelheaded Ghanaian needs no convincing on the brain prowess of the female. And by ‘levelheaded Ghanaian’, I do not mean the literate—heavens no! Even in the remotest of Ghanaian villages, the girl child’s brain has attained the recognition owing it. However, there remains pockets of certain archaic sociological ideologies that need further uprooting.
Black People Cannot Catch a Break, Can We?
As much as I love taking myself back through history, it irks me to see how under-represented we have been through it all. It irks me even more so now, seeing no particular change in our mentality, that will place us, in this modern era, in positions of influence—affecting the world around us, and the course of history.
It is a shame that much of the history recounted here has not even been ours. It is the White man’s, with his at-times partner-in-crime—the White Woman.
The way I am jumping from issues to issues in this piece, I might, if care is not taken, wrap up the article without even saying, ‘Happy Mother’s Day’—and especially to Hannah Nana Afra Aikins.
Yao Afra Yao
The writer is a writer. And this sentence is circular