The great writer Sylvia Plath, describing her own personal trouble in one of her thematic expressions, captured in a dramatic and vivid form the dilemma of a modern-day woman.
She wrote: “From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professorbeyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.”
She continued: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet”
Sadly, this all-time consuming concern ended in her own suicide after failing to effect a workable synthesis.
Though Plath wrote over half a century ago, her concern still remains the dilemma of today’s woman who society has chained to an existence not of her own making.
Consciously or perhaps unconsciously, a woman’s societal role has always been reduced to wifehood and motherhood. The prevailing customs and traditions of the society have been designed to guarantee her fulfillment of these roles and no others.
But preponderantly, the urban African society is on the crest of awakening with self-conscious feminist pride, women economic liberation and emancipation from the chains of an androcentric society.
The “new woman” — a colloquialism describing the changed life style of the woman who is a young, educated, upper and middle class woman as well as the organization woman — is boiling with energy to stalk her own course of life aiming for the stratosphere.
She possesses a strong individual personality and self-confidence. She might want to be a mother but also wants to be a human being with interests and accomplishments in other areas.
She may also choose to keep her maiden name in her work life because to her professional identity is separate from her identity as a wife and mother, and the name difference accentuates this separation of roles.
She is pricking at the society’s conscience that work society regards as a crucial means of self-identification and satisfaction should also be accorded to her.
Satisfying work has always been the means by which men achieve personal happiness and recognition in the society; the “new woman” is also asking for the same experience in order to achieve selfhood.
This “new woman” who is becoming economically independent is also asserting her right to complete individual independence, leading to the male-centred society asking the question, “Who will marry the empowered women of today?”
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle defended slavery illustrating that the vice is not actually bad, because there are people set by nature to be slaves. These people differ from the ordinary in the same way as the body differs from the soul and are therefore meant to be ruled.
The male-dominant society seems to heavily borrow from the Aristotlean line of thinking by placing restriction that denies women their essential individual autonomy to achieve their purpose and destiny.
ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES
But in a succinct view, Pearl Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1938), in her 1941 work answered the male-centred society, saying that when society educates women it must accept all the consequences. The aim of education is to let a woman out of the home and man into it, the home needs a man and the world outside needs women.
In the prism of equality, the woman representative seats in Kenya ought to be abolished and the one-third gender rule implemented within a gender inclusive structure.
Positive leadership is not confined to one gender and any law that segregates the personality of humanity is unjust even in its inherent quest to establishing justice.
In the sporting world, due to some unchangeable differences between men and women, the two cohorts compete separately. But there exist no immutable differences apart from differences of biological anatomy.
Recognizing the dyadic struggle of women and black reform movements in American history, the memorable moment being in 1939 when US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt issued a well-publicized resignation from the DAR after it refused to let the black singer Marian Anderson use Constitution Hall.
Giving women a separate political race, as is the case for woman representatives, is analogous to the black race in Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisana — the famous States of racial injustice and oppression having their own black political seats in the various legislative houses in a rallying call for political equality.
It is such preferences that stamp disenfranchised minorities with a false badge of inferiority and cause them to develop dependencies, as well as adopt an attitude that they are entitled to special preference and not human preference — weakening the principles of equality.
INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-DETERMINATION
The call for the society to re-evaluate its image of women and accord them all the equality there is in the world is simply a moral sense of their belonging to the human race and not to a ladies’ aid society to the human race.
Martin Luther King Jr, chastising the moderate whites who approved equal rights for the black race but at the same time criticized the Negro movements as rushing towards the future when their equality is bound to fall in place when the time eventually comes, said “lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”.
So as the feminists of today develop the future, it is also my very hope that in the telescope of life, society will consider my aggressively intelligent daughter as desirable as her aggressively intelligent brother because independence and self-determination in both sexes are highly valuable qualities.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION