Book review: SHE: The Feminine Enigma


Author – Kwaku Edem Damanka

Reviewer – Fidel Tetteh

‘SHE’, by Kwaku Edem Damanka, is a book written for this time and season by a person from a generation where women are sexualised, objectified and commodified. In SHE, the writer critically examines concepts and topical issues at the centre of gender activism, development and scholarship.

The book, for instance, tackles the subject of womanhood, sex and gender, gender roles and inequality, marriage and leadership, oppressive theology, liberation theology, hegemonic masculinity and transformative feminism, inclusion, and gender responsive ideals. The views expressed in this book by the writer are not only from biological, cultural, sociological and political perspectives, but also from a standpoint of biblical theology.

The book questions many faulty belief systems, stereotypes and negative Christian teachings about male supremacy and domination and the subservience of the female specie of the human race. This faulty foundational Christian teachings regarding gender norms, often taken from the story of Adam and Eve, according to the writer, have led to “limiting beliefs” among many believers – and non-believers – where the man is seen as superior to the woman rather than the woman as another vessel separated from the man and has equal authority and power corresponding to the man.

The writer used the Hebrew and Greek etymologies for words such as “help-meet” and “head” in both old and new testaments of the Bible, respectively, to explain the avoidable error.

In one of my favourite chapters, “Dissenting View on Male Authority and Leadership – Apostle Paul a Misogynist?”, Edem did justice to many erroneous interpretations of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on how men and women ought to behave in marriage and relationships, Church, at home and in the community.

The writer explained the influence of context at the time of Paul’s writings on his teachings about marriage, gender relations and norms as well as gender hierarchies. I have never heard or read any detailed teachings on Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthians on matters such as the book addressed in the way it did. Citing theologians and quoting from Bible commentaries authenticate the arguments Edem raised in this chapter. What revelation!

Another insightful and captivating discussions to discover in SHE is in chapter one, under the sub-theme ‘Unjust Reference for Ego Tripping & Indiscretion’. The writer asserts that women play complementary and not supplementary roles in their relationships with men; thus, men and women are equal and of the same shoot but different in terms of their roles.

Therefore, women and men are created to co-govern and not one serving the other. As controversial as this may sound, the writer provided sound biblical and historical justification for his arguments.

Additionally, the book controversially argues that women are not made for marriage nor marriages made for women but rather, marriage is another way by which men and women can co-exist and express their divine purpose as co-equals. It goes on to explain that whether married or unmarried, the woman is whole and complete. This is important for singles to note, especially women who believe that what makes them women or complete as humans is marriage. Wow! Indeed, SHE is insightful and a captivating read!

With 15 engaging chapters and over 400 pages of pure wisdom, SHE is a courageous attempt to expose historical, anthropological, sociological and biblical truths about women, their roles in life, and their influence as leaders. Yet, the writing style of the author makes the book appear smaller in volume to the mind.

My personal experience with the book confirms the above. I used four days to read 11 chapters. As a critical reader, that says a lot about the intriguing content and the author’s writing style.

Moreover, the book meets several criteria for effective writing and communication. Firstly, the writer used the element of clarity effectively to present his thoughts. Information presented in each chapter is specific with single meaning. Simple words are mainly used; and where complex terms or statements are made, the writer explained them with supporting sentences. Additionally, the writer shows a good organisation of thoughts by conveying his ideas logically and in ways the reader can relate to.

Secondly, unlike many books on complex or sensitive subjects such as can be found in SHE, the writer uses conciseness superbly. He eliminates redundancy in ways that prevent reader-fatigue and reading difficulties. Statements are straightforward and expressions are exact without winding analogies, backgrounders and irrelevant examples. This approach makes reading easier and faster.

Another writing technique adopted by the writer is concreteness. The scholarly approach to this literature means that it is research-driven. Like all researched papers, the writer presented facts, study findings and verifiable Bible verses to solidify his points, leaving little or no room for gaps in the presentation of his arguments. Moreover, the credibility of the writer and the authority he wielded over the topics he discusses in the book makes his views very persuasive.

The fourth is coherence or the logical flow of ideas shared in the book. In fact, although SHE alluded to many biblical truths, it can stand on its own logically. The writer starts and ends every chapter with thought-provoking logical questions, leaving readers to engage with their own minds before consuming the main content. This makes each chapter and every page of the book interactive and rationally appealing.

In terms of completeness, the writer shares every detail about his topics or themes the reader presumably needs to know. Like any other book or literature, however, there are gaps in knowledge that may be found in SHE and this provides readers a great opportunity for further research.

Furthermore, one quality I like about SHE is the use of the ‘correctness’ technique. Every page provides good grammatical foundation for readers who seek improvement in their writing and speaking skills. Proofreaders and editors of SHE must receive medals for their great contributions to the work.

Finally, the consideration given to a wide range of potential and diverse audiences make the book reader-friendly. The book was written for the reader indeed. This is not to say that SHE is a perfect book.

Narrowly, SHE has its own limitations with many questions unanswered. These limitations or gaps, however, are not weaknesses but strengths.

For instance, most of the arguments in the book championed by the writer are rooted in Judeo-Christian theology and philosophy. Therefore, a person who holds different sociological or religious views about the many issues raised in the book other than the Bible, may find most of the arguments difficult to accept, if not highly debatable. This gap, however, is not a weakness because the writer, as the early pages of the book show, questions his own Christian beliefs about the concepts of marriage, womanhood, gender, masculinity, creation as well as other theological teachings on gender he embraced in time past without questioning.

Stemming from the afore-mentioned, it is by the writer’s search for answers and the pure truth from actual biblical texts and narratives that his knowledge and understanding of topical issues of gender and women empowerment crystallise to form the masterpiece, SHE. And that’s not all.

Another gap that critical analyses of the book may expose is that although SHE provides in-depth knowledge and understanding about the subjects it addresses, the book does not say much about how the knowledge gained may be applied in real-life scenarios.

For instance, in the book, one may see a lot of the ‘whats’ – issues, subjects, scenarios, etc.; and the ‘whys’ – causes and effects; but few ‘hows’ – how-to apply knowledge practically in real-life situations. Notwithstanding the limitations highlighted in the book, the gaps identifiable in SHE are not weaknesses but strength.

For example, the writer, interrogates what he describes as “limiting beliefs” and attempts to provide answers to many avoided questions among Christians. He, however, could not have prescribed already-made solutions to all gender-based issues he discussed in the book because contexts vary and people’s lived-experiences are different from place to place and from time to time. He, nonetheless, provides a situational report driven by a year of research and personal discoveries, which serves as a blueprint for the navigation the pathway to sustainable solutions.

It is the responsibility of readers, therefore, to use this situational report (SHE) or book as a guide to identify gender needs or gaps and develop strategies and formulate policies at home, in the office, or within the larger society that are not just gender-sensitive and specific, but are also responsive and transformative. The book, thus, opens the eyes of readers to the theological, sociological and cognitive gaps in the conceptualisation of gender by many religious and corporate leaders. It also provides assistance to readers to migrate from gender negative and blind behaviours and norms to pursue actions aimed at completely releasing women into their rightful places in humanity.

In other words, gender and feminism ought not to be looked at as sociological concepts only, but also as an operational strategy consciously and deliberately planned and implemented to achieve the goal of liberation for women, equality, equity and access to equal opportunities available to men/boys by women/girls.

With regard to the aforementioned, the Damanka brings to the doorsteps of parents, business owners, the Church and policy-makers the awakening for gender-awareness. This awareness aims at planning for women – with the support of men – and developing gender-sensitive and responsive solutions at the workplace and in the home. The book, therefore, calls on leaders to be original, intentional, sensitive, systematic, responsive and transformative in their thinking.

Men, if you are reading this book, I encourage you to seek ways to explore the causes of gender inequalities and other gaps where you are and identify opportunities for sustainable change. Make deliberate efforts toward contributing to gender-based actions designed and implemented to eliminate the root causes of setbacks.

In the last chapter of SHE, Damanka, challenges women to reassert themselves and take their rightful places in God, in history, in life, in society, at the workplace, and right now. He spurs women on to live their life to fulfil their divine destiny or purpose, whether married or unmarried. Furthermore, this audacious masterpiece is a call for men, especially in patriarchal social systems, to relate with women from appropriate and informed perspectives; and charges them to use their roles in society as men to assist women to function in their complete capacities as co-equals, together championing the cause of humanity.

What makes this book unique, potentially a bestseller, and arguably unbiased is the fact that the writer is a man.

Thinking of a gift for the women in your life or your daughter this festive season? Here’s the perfect gift for all times. Get it today from TransforMe Bookshop Gh, Sabestian – 024 508 7728. Also available at EPP Book Services – Legon, Book Nook, and online at Amazon (paperback and kindle), Apple books, Barnes & Noble, Baker and Taylor, kobo, Palace Marketplace

Tel: +233555585890

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