I like the patient purgation of Sundays. I know I’m probably the only one, but I enjoy how restful it can be, the feeling of the day seeming like an in-between, bringing with it the end of something while foretelling the start of another.
To slimfit the peace, this past week, was church. Blessed church. I sat there in the hallowed halls listening to the pastor preach about marriage, about “The Winning Family.”
It goes without saying that in a Nigerian Pentecostal church, the winning family is always described as one where everyone is aware of their respective roles – where the man is the head and the woman is the neck. The woman is always to submit to her husband, honour and serve him. The man is to, well…whatever.
And that’s all fine, you know. Whatever floats people’s boats.
Anyway, in church that day was the pastor talking about man, how the woman is his helpmeet, how she was made from his ribs to be his companion, an afterthought, and how women need to respect that. My woke-sirens went haywire, but I soon got over it, moved on.
The message came rushing back when I saw a tweet, something about God creating animals male and female, but somehow forgot after he created man, somehow forgot until he noticed Adam’s loneliness, that was when he thought, Oh yeah, true. I should totally create a helpmeet for this guy. I should create a female. And I’ll do it from his ribs, too!
In the replies to the tweet were the standard format misogyny, bundled, as if a two-in-one special, along with accusations of blasphemy. A woman was created to assist a man. Keep God out of your mouth. How dare you say that? Women were created as companions to men. Women should know their place. Yada yada yada.
When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie described Jesus, because of his actions as stated in the bible, as someone who treated men and women equally, the responses were identical.
Another tweet comes to mind, one where a Muslim girl tweeted about feminism being unnecessary in Islam because men and women are equal in the sight of Allah. A friend of mine, characteristically sarcastic, quoted the tweet with something like, Yeah, except women just need permission from men before they can step out of their homes. I expected the girl to get it. I thought it was quite clear what my friend was saying – that women and men are not equal in Islam and feminism is indeed necessary. Instead, the girl replied, saying, Yes, women need to get permission from their brothers or spouses before they can leave their homes.
The point here is just how much misogyny, through religion, has become a part of our everyday lives, a norm that is deemed disrespectful and blasphemous to challenge.
No, I’m not saying religion is the reason for misogyny in our society. Our world is one where different civilizations have always found reasons to keep the woman subdued. In pre-colonial Yoruba, marriage rites and the bride price, even just ways in which women were referred to – Solape omo Akanni who after marriage became Solape aya Remilekun – showed how much we viewed them as property.
What I’m saying is that we have learned to interpret religion in ways that help perpetuate misogyny.
Nary a Nigerian home that isn’t religious. You see the stickers on doors to apartments, car bumpers, everywhere. I am a Redeemer. Peace Be Unto You. Chosen Family. Islam is the True Religion. I am a Winner. Everywhere.
Jesus did speak to women and treat them in a way that showed he viewed them as equal beings. This, in a time when women had barely any rights. It was to women Jesus first appeared when he rose from the dead (John 20:11-18). He was said to have loved Martha and Mary just as he loved Lazarus (John 11:5).
Prophet Muhammad, too, said the “buried girls” – a custom back them was to bury baby girls alive in times of scarcity – would rise up from the grave on Judgement Day and ask what crimes they committed (Surah al-Takweer, Verses 8-9). He told fathers that if they raised their daughters well and did not prefer their male sons to them, they would be granted paradise.
And these were times and in cultures where women scarcely had any rights, where even to live was not a right but a privilege, something that could be taken away from you whenever. These things were revolutionary.
But let’s say both Jesus and Prophet Muhammad didn’t see women as equal beings, let’s say I’m only nitpicking the Holy Books and they too were misogynistic, is that enough reason for us to continue to be so? Because, if we look at it, too many other things exist in those times, in those two books, that we have done away with because it is inconsistent with our times.
The question is: shouldn’t the ill-treatment of women be one of those things?
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