From a very young age I have read about, but never quite understood, the fierce battle that men and women of all ethnic origins and ages wage on each other. Getting a tertiary education, giving birth to a son, and having to engage in hand to hand combat with the love of my life has given me a better perspective on the issue. Unlike the Battle of Armaggedon, this is a real war. The millions of homes, hopes and lives that have been destroyed bears testimony to this fact. It is also clear that behind every act of gender discrimination are the key issues of assets control, civic participation, and social exclusion. It is against this background that an analysis of the situation will be attempted.
In some parts of the world women are deprived of the chance to own property. This privilege is reserved for the male head of the household. Because this sort of discrimination is usually supported by state legislation, the women involved have to resort to a more subtle opposition. Hot blooded Jamaican women have never been afraid of publicly asserting their independence or their right to property and assets. This battle strategy has both positive and negative consequences since most men prefer women to be docile and obedient. As a result an increasing number of educated and wealthy women repel many potentially-compatible mates and attract to themselves men who are only after what they have to offer in terms of financial and status opportunities.
The home is usually the place where the fiercest battles are fought and won. Statistical evidence to this comes in the form of climbing divorce rates, escalating incidences of domestic disputes, increased cases of chronic depression, psychosomatic illnesses and a host of other social ills. The fact that the family is the basic unit of society and that it is rapidly being eroded by the constant pressure of gender conflict, mean that our society is in grave danger of disintegrating completely.
As a devout Christian, I have noted that some denominations refuse to ordain women to the pastoral ministry in spite of their obvious superiority in spiritual and organizational skills. Could this be discrimination by persons who believe in a God of equality? That this could be so is not surprising since the cultural practices of the Bible writers dictated that women should only be seen as obedient ‘helpers’ of men.
In the same way, women are discriminated against when they apply to civic positions of leadership. Only once in the history of Jamaica was there a female Head of State. I can vividly recall the many negative comments made by less capable men about her mood swings at particular times of the month, her lack of doctoral training, and her youthful exuberance. Some even made it appeared that only pot-bellied, senile men of learning could aspire to this important office. This however is part of the war effort that is wrecking the hopes of many women to ever be corporate managers as long as a man, any man, is available for the position.
But women do hit back hard. In bed they are masters – armed with the ability to control, break and destroy the ego and will of even the strongest of men. In public it is only a man that has lost all his senses that is immune to the charms and snares of an attractive woman who is bent on influencing him. Fortunately, women benefit more when men are influenced positively. Women also, have the task of rearing children. In doing this they have ample opportunity to inculcate in these impressionable minds ideas, values and attitudes that will motivate them to take their side in any domestic conflict. The advent of feminist movements all around the western world has also helped the cause of women the world over.
As a Christian married woman with a strong sense of civic pride, I believe I am doing my part to minimize conflicts that are gender related. I try to understand the differences that engender conflicts and in my interactions with my spouse and son I face issues squarely and resolve them before they start festering. I know my social rights and will aggressively defend them if I get the feeling that I am being discriminated against because of my gender. Most importantly, I have learnt to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness that has helped me to cope regardless of my daily challenges.
This battle of the sexes has been raging from time immemorial, and will continue to wreck our world unless the issues of discrimination, inequality, gender roles, and control of assets are dealt with effectively at both domestic and societal levels.