Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

"Why can't a woman woman...?"

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

It seems that American companies have taken Professor Higgins' (in My Fair Lady) lament, "why can't a woman be more like a man?" seriously and have spent a lot of time ensuring that in the office, at least, she becomes a pretty good approximation of one, writes Ms Penny Perrick in the Monday Page column of The Times of June 10, 1985.

"The trouble starts when the woman within comes to the surface" as Ms Rennie Fritchie, a woman widely experienced in training women managers who is currently on a fellowship visit to the United States of America found out. She was told that pregnancy in personnel terms was regarded "as a sickness rather than a natural happening". The logic in the American approach is that for the good of the organisation all those working for it are perceived as men (until they prove otherwise by getting pregnant). For a man to have a baby is not a natural happening, ergo getting pregnant is a pretty sick thing to do"
A national seminar of Burkinabe women has taken place in Ouagadougou on the practice of female circumcision, still practised by a large majority of all ethnic groups in the country. The seminar criticised this ancient practice and said it was done "to diminish the sexual desire of the female", "to ensure the woman's fidelity' and "to oppose her emancipation". The participants called for the complete abolition of this practice..." (West Africa, June 10, 1985)
"Despite two decades of freedom from the restrictions of unwanted pregnancy, women have failed to make in-roads into the establishment", lamented Dr Lesley Ann Sutherland in a letter to The Sunday Times of June 9, 1985 "There are only a handful of women MP's, and fewer female judges and a paltry 11 per cent of consultants in the medical profession are women. Elsewhere women are losing out.

"In teaching, the trend to co-education has resulted in more headmasters and few headmistresses and more male heads of department and fewer female...

"Could it be that most women when confronted with the new freedoms, have grasped only the immediately obvious opportunity, that of indiscriminate sex and multiple orgasm?"
… The three foregoing stories picked at random from the USA, Britain and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) doubtless give the impression that all is not well in the women's fight against all forms of socio-economic injustice in a male-dominated world. Ever since the suffragettes caused a big stir with their protest to draw attention to what they considered to be unfair treatment meted out to the fairer sex - the right to vote attempts to bring the dream of equality nearer appeared to be foundering.

Then, of course, the few articulate women who have been holding the banner of equality high, shouting from the roof-tops and, generally, making themselves a nuisance in the view of male chauvinists cannot easily grasp the reason why all women do not join the struggle to emancipate them. Is it possible that some women do not share the view that they are enslaved by their menfolk? Do African women have the same problems as western women and has western-type of education been responsible for the current agitation?

As an African male with firm views on the place of women in the society (not exactly chauvinistic) I cannot help recalling an incident in Ghana nearly a decade ago which made some ladies in the country see red.

A Nigerian woman journalist, Bisi Bamigbetan published an article in the Ghana's Government-owned mass circulation paper, the "Daily Graphic" entitled "One-Man, one wife is unAfrican" in which she successfully proved, in the view of many male readers, that monogamy is a western concept which Africans have adopted because it suits the purposes of women.

A lively debate ensued in the national media during which single and married women as well as polygamous men attacked and defended Bisi's thesis. Then as suddenly as it had started we heard no more of her. It was much later when the adrenalin of Ghanaian women had subsided to the normal level did we hear that after careful deliberation, The Ghana National Council for Women came to an unequivocal conclusion that Bisi Bamigbetan was bad medicine for Ghanaian womanhood (and probably Nigeria, too). She was quietly persuaded to leave the country. The irony in the situation was that the Council for Women thought it had solved the problem of polygamy or at worse, let the sleeping dog lie. But as every African woman knows the sleeping dog is very much awake and producing puppies all over the place!

The following vox populi sampling on women's liberation should be taken for what it's worth.

John McArthur self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig: I am all for a woman staying home and raising children; that's what God meant her to be. All these bra-burning, orgasm seeking, and publicity courting feminists don't impress me at all. The last time we relaxed our grip on things look at what happened to Britain - a woman is our Prime Minister! She claims she has put the 'Great' back into Britain but if you ask me she hasn't done any such thing she has only succeeded in putting millions of men out of work!

Sarah Gibbs, feminist: I believe that women of the world deserve a better treat than hitherto accorded them by their men folk. We've made some progress since the second world war but it is not big enough... Apart from the purely cerebral or intellectual field where women have gained some grounds, we are yet to make any impact in the sports world, for instance. Why women haven't taken to boxing, weight-lifting and body- building I don't know... Yes, the society we live in is still male dominated and we've got to devote our total energies to fight against discrimination of all forms … multiple orgasm? I have nothing against it. . .

Serwa Akoto, archetypal African woman: Equality with men? Why should women look for equality with men from whose rib the Almighty God created us? Men were created to be the dominant partners while we women play it soft. They work hard and bring in the money to look after us. Like animals in the jungle, they are supposed to fight like hard to protect their families which most of them do. In the final analysis we women live longer than men according to statistics, so why should I, or for that matter, any woman disturb the status quo with the equality nonsense? Why can't a woman just be a woman?

talking drums 1985-06-17 campaign against death penalty in Ghana