By Rosanna Emenusiobi
Feminism! Women empowerment! Women liberation! Equality! Sex and Gender! Women's rights! Women's Autonomy or freedom! Women's health! Women's reproductive choice! Women's sexual choice! Gender mainstreaming! Transgender! Lesbianism! The list could go on and on. The common denominator in these labels or categories is the status of women in the modern world. A closer look at these and similar words reveals that none of them describes who women really are; rather they emphasise what women have or what women have to offer. This is regrettably how women are seen today. We are women and feminine at that! So, what is so awful about just being a woman? Absolutely nothing! Women are powerful and magnificent. They are intelligent and wonderful. Beautiful and mysterious. Small wonder they drive men to distraction. In this edition and subsequent ones, we will be discussing femininity vis-à-vis the present-day misconception of womanhood and the denial of femininity that is currently wrecking relationships, families, and our society. How do we remain feminine as God designed it? We are going back to the basics – as it was in the beginning! I got the inspiration to write this article from Michelle McKinney Hammond, a well-known black American author and singer, who “focuses on improving love-driven relationships.” Her book, The Power of Being a Woman: Embracing the Triumph of the Feminine Spirit, is a masterpiece.
In this article, I am chiefly influenced by the ideas espoused in this book, sometimes using her ideas verbatim. Another great author on proper understanding of women issues is Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whose work, also is influential in this article.
So, women, let us go!
1. “In the beginning…”
So, God set to work creating Eve from Adam. He admired His handiwork and saw that “it was very good”. She was fearfully and wonderfully made. As Matthew Henry rightly says, “If man is the head, she (woman) is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was double-refined, one remove further from the earth … The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam, not made out of his head to rule over him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, hut out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved”.
Remember, a crown is won on the head; a crown is beautifully made and overtly decorated with precious stones and ornaments. Does not this sound wonderful? A woman (crown) on the head (man)? Think about it! Little wonder women exercise enormous influence in the life of men. This did not cause any friction between Adam and Eve. Adam was the protector while Eve was the nurturer; each used their gifts with happiness and joy, without even knowing that they were naked. And so it was until that old serpent surfaced and everything changed.
The serpent was slick and calculating. He knew God's plan for man and it did not sit well with him. He had to cause a breach in Adam and Eve's relationship with God. They would never attain the status he himself had so deeply longed for. The serpent knew something else. He knew never to underestimate the power and influence of woman. He knew the effect she had on man. This is why she became his target. Just one look from her could sink ships. One sound of praise could cause him to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Thus, an Igbo maxim says, nwoke nwanyi n'afuru opi n'awu aja (a man dancing to the tune of a flute blown by a woman could jump over the fence in jubilation). The serpent knew that one disparaging comment from the woman would incapacitate the man better than a collusion with a vehicle.
Consequently, he thought the woman was definitely the best way to defeat the man and foil God's plan. He succeeded. Adam and eve believed the lie, took their lives into their own hands, ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and lost their “God-like” status.
Failure was a weight that Adam could not bear. It emasculated him in the presence of Eve.
And because he submitted to the woman's hand that held the fruit, he would now have to struggle for her respect and submission for the rest of his days. Although the serpent was also cursed, he was satisfied that the first phase of his mission had been accomplished. Now he always would have the woman as an open door to get at the man, using her power of influence, her charms, her tongue, and her body to penetrate the man's exterior. And he would use the man against the woman to cast blame and inflict authority rather than inspire submission. These factors once put in place, would guarantee unending friction between the two genders for generations to come, and may even destroy the family as God had planned it. But the truth of the matter is, our origin as male and female is much closer than we could imagine. Man and woman are part of each other with visible and invisible differences. They were made to benefit, not be at odds with one another. Understanding and celebrating these differences instead of blaming and bashing is the first step we must take in rediscovering our femininity.
2. Men and Women Are Different
It is regrettable that modern woman has lost her hallowed position by trying to assimilate male categories of power, success, authority, and so on. It is time to take off the boxing gloves and allow God to redistribute His first commission to us – man and woman both in power because of their status as complementary partners. Women lost it when they failed to recognise their own unique power. Rather, they got locked into a power struggle that never existed from God's vantage point - a struggle brought about by the jargons and “isms” enumerated above. However, God's view of power is different from our ideas of power. For instance, he says that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:4). Meekness is actually strength under control, strength that keeps its cool and does not show out. As women, what does this say to us? Meekness is not powerlessness, inferiority, weakness, timidity, submission, etc. Women, in their meekness, are not powerless to live out their God-given difference. Understanding this is pivotal to effecting change in our families and in our world.
The secret is hidden within our femininity, the unique gifts of our womanhood, the precious treasure so many of us have lost along the way heavily influenced by the so-called “women liberation” or “empowerment.”
3. Femininity versus Feminism
When we lose ourselves as women and begin forcing ourselves to develop muscles we are not designed to have, our internal and relational system suffer. While man's greatest joy comes from achievement, a woman's greatest joy comes from her faithfulness to her femininity. The “feminist movement” is not about empowering women to be feminine; it uses masculine tactics to achieve its agenda. Feminism – which is anything but feminine – does not stand for femininity, which is where a woman's true power lies. Although it pursues some causes that most of us would consider honourable, it masks an agenda that is far more sinister than the masses or even some of the movement's leaders could believe. “Feminism” does us more harm than good. Any time a power struggle takes place between ng for abortion rights are not interested in ever having children, anyway. I find this very disturbing. And do you really want to do everything that men do in the name of liberation? It must be said that “feminist movement” is out of control. Its charisma and passion for defending the rights of women have distracted us from noticing the fractions it is causing in the basic, everyday exchanges between men and women.
The “feminist” notion of woman power as a rejection of femininity, of child-rearing, of loving a man, and of maintaining a home both for physical and emotional comforts has robbed women of choice and satisfaction. It is therefore, pertinent to emphasise that understanding the “feminist speak” and distancing ourselves from it, is a sure path to rediscovering our femininity.
4. Where the True Power and Responsibility of Being a Woman Lie
The true power of women lies in the niceness of the feminine touch. The immediate gratification and material gain, a bizarre notion of equality of the sexes and power, are the ugly bye-product of a feminist-centered culture that has devalued what is truly meaningful: sacrifice, commitment, obligation, loyalty. Having emotional independence, money, possessions, and position at the expense of emotional interdependence and obligations to one's family do not make a woman more powerful. Actually, it is a great and sad loss for women. We women need to take our power back from the ugly and seemingly invisible forces that pushed us back from what is ultimately meaningful and use that power to transform our men, our families, and our lives. That, of course, does not mean we cannot have careers, jobs, hobbies, and other outside challenges. It does mean that we must not forget how we are the core thread in the tapestry of the family unit.
The ultimate power of women is their unique qualities: intuition, compassion, nurturance, sensitivity, sensuality, bonding, and nesting. Women throughout the ages have been the ones to center men (the emotional safety and warmth of home and hearth, acceptance of him), give men purpose (providing for and protecting wife, children, and home), control male aggressive and promiscuous urges (the civilising impact of responsibility to family and children). Women are also the one who ultimately create the atmosphere in the home.
Knowing that our womanly love has such power, makes us feel so good to be women. It is also true that the woman have the power to set the tone in the house. It is very sad that we have been indoctrinated to see these as subservience rather than power. Subjugation? Oppression? Loss of identity? NO! It's WOMAN POWER.
When women abdicate their feminine power and marginalise and dismiss their husbands as oppressors and male chauvinists, their men retreat from their marital obligations. When adverse is the case, men express the joy and pride that comes from taking care of a wife and children; providing and protecting them, being leaders, heroes, role models to their children, lovers of their wives. You see, we women have the power to make the difference. All power is a burden – all power comes with responsibility.
(to be continued)