As the title of this post suggests, a woman’s lot in life has not been a happy one but one of disadvantage and inequality. Why is this so?
There are three possible explanations for the discrimination that women have endured for such a very long time.
The first is of course the story of Adam and Eve. Are women considered lesser beings than men because God created Adam first? Or is it because God created Eve using one of Adam’s ribs? Is it because Eve was the first ever sinner and led Adam into sin? Are women being punished for the sins of Eve?
The second possible explanation is also written in the Bible which states, in part, that a woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submission and are not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man.
Here, we need to remember that the reasons briefly outlined above were written my men which, in my view, casts a dark shadow of doubt about man’s interpretation of God’s intentions for the role of women.
The third possibility appears to have nothing to do with God or creation as described to us in the Bible.
About 150 years ago genetics was discovered. Since then, our knowledge of genetics (DNA) has increased, and we now know that about 98% of human DNA are the same as those of Chimpanzees. This means Chimpanzees are our closest relative on Planet Earth. How this came to pass is a mystery. The origins of the other 2% of our DNA also remains a mystery.
Also, when we look at how we humans exploit each other, exploit the flora, fauna and marine life on Planet Earth, I sometimes wonder if the 2% difference in our genes made us human or turned us from Chimps into chumps? But that’s a different story.
What we need to do is try to understand why women have been disadvantaged for such a very long time.
When we examine how humans and Chimpanzees live, we can see similar social and anti-social behavior patterns.
Chimpanzees are social animals who live together in groups. Groups of Chimpanzees are led by a dominant (Alpha) male. The dominant (Alpha) male is the strongest of the group and must fight and beat all would be rivals to retain his dominant position.
Humans also live together in Groups led by a dominant male, Chief, King etc. The difference here is the position of the dominant male became hereditary and handed down from father to son. In society today, the dominant male (President, Prime Minister etc.) is usually chosen (elected) by a group of their peers.
Unfortunately, Chimpanzees and humans are also very territorial and will fight to the death to defend their own territory. And yet, will persistently invade the territory of other groups to increase their own territory and food supply.
This has always been a major problem for human beings and we appear to be no closer to finding a solution for our territorial aggression.
What this indicates is the dominant (Alpha) male gene that is embedded in male Chimpanzees is also embedded in all male humans. Perhaps this dominance is reflected in the way a man will protect his female partner while, at the same time, subjugate her. Is this where the problem lies? If this is so, we need to find a way to remedy this without appearing to attack the fragile ego of the human male and his built-in desire to be ‘dominant.’ A difficult task indeed.
Looking back on those early human groups, it is clear the main roles of males were hunter and protector while women had multiple domestic roles.
But the most important role of women has always been childbirth and child rearing upon which the growth and survival of the group depended. Giving birth in such a primitive and hostile environment would have been a very daunting and dangerous undertaking and I suspect the mortality rate among pregnant women would have been high.
Here, we need to remind ourselves that men only plant the seed. It is women who create new life inside their wombs and bring that new life into the world. Even God decided to use a human (mortal) woman to bring his son Jesus into the world. Also, Jesus may have been able to perform miracles and resurrect Lazarus from the dead, but he could not create the miracle of new life. Only a woman can do this.
The way I see it, this makes women superior to men. But women do not wish to be superior, all they have ever asked for is equality and respect.
By the early Middle Ages, discrimination against women had become institutionalized by Church and State. This was a time when women were subjugated and deemed to be personal property similar to goods and chattels and had no say in the running of their own lives. How demeaning that must have been.
This subjugation of women reached unspeakable levels in the late Middle Ages, when women became the victims of witch hunts. Hundreds of women were arrested tortured and then burnt at the stake for being witches and heretics. Their only crime was being a woman. How un-Christian, cruel and demeaning that was.
Also, from the beginning, it was always a woman’s lot to stand by and watch as their husbands and sons marched off to fight man’s incessant territorial armed conflicts not knowing if they would ever see their loved ones alive again. How utterly distressing that must have been.
But the two major armed territorial conflicts of the 20th century changed that completely. As millions of men marched off to fight those territorial armed conflicts, it was women who worked the farms. It was women who worked the factories. It was women who kept their country’s economy afloat and kept the war machine supplied.
So, the victories won belonged to those courageous and resilient women just as much as they belonged to the courageous fighting men on the front line.
Yet, when the guns fell silent, women were expected to walk meekly back into their domestic cages. How utterly demeaning that must have been.
Now let us look at the last bastion of male domination – politics.
Here we need to remember, the current electoral system and party politics were well established long before women fought for and won the right to vote and the right to become members of parliament. It has now been more than a century since women won these rights, but politics are still dominated by men. Currently, in Western Democracies, about 80% of sitting MPs are men.
How can we claim to be democratic when half the population is so under-represented in our parliaments?
How can we continue to justify any form of discrimination against women in a modern society where the roles of women are just as flexible, important and as valuable as those of men?
In 1981, an international bill of rights for women was instituted by the United Nations for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Once again, the UN proved itself to be a ‘paper tiger.’
So, from our early beginnings to today’s modern society, discrimination against women is still with us. How sad is that. The question I ask is this, throughout human history, have the roles of women been of any less value than those of the men? I do not believe so.
Women may not have the stature or physical strength of men, but what they do have is an incredible inner strength that has given them the resilience and courage to cope with the lot in life a male dominated society has imposed upon them. And yet, they still love us and have our children. What more do women need to do to gain equality and respect?
Is it not time to recognize that equality and respect are so much more than basic human rights? Equality and respect give us our dignity, self-respect and our worthiness as a human being.
As a man, I cannot imagine what life on Planet Earth would be like without these delightful, loving, caring, affectionate and oft precocious beings we call women.
Try to imagine the utter chaos that would prevail if women, in their fight to win equality and respect, withdrew their labour, withdrew their purchasing power and withdrew their favour and affection.
It will be a sad day indeed if half the population need to resort to such actions to receive what the other half take for granted.
Think about it.