Does submission really mean slavery?

by Priscilla Taiwo

Many thoughts flashed through my mind when I saw the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD): “Embrace Equity“. It seemed like a calling further and beyond my fight for gender equality. It seemed more right and just.

Back to my thoughts, I remembered as a little girl, I was young and quite sheltered but open to the opportunities that the world would give me. As I grew older, I found that while the opportunities did exist, it wasn’t as simple as I had assumed.

“Man of the House”

In my culture, whenever an elder person came to visit, my father would call us all to greet the visitor. As a Yoruba girl, I was to kneel down and my brother was to prostrate in front of the elder. Often I was glad that I didn’t have to sprawl on the ground in the name of “greeting”. That’s not the point though! I would then hear the visitor say approvingly, “Man of the House” as he patted my brother’s head. Then he would turn to my father and say, “You are truly a man for having a son”. I’d always cringe and mask my feelings, but these experiences led me to question my worth.

As a girl child, was I in any way LESS than my brother?

Then I would watch my mother serve our meals. Again, male family members get two pieces of meat and for us girls, it would be one or none at all. Mummy would dote on her only son and refer to him as “My boy!” Whenever casual conversations came up at home on how women should submit to their husbands, I would agree but quickly chip in that men are to love their wives regardless (of any submission)… and that is a great responsibility too!

Women gathered in the cool of the evening to gist. A woman who had only female children was not considered a mother yet. But how? She carried a child for nine months, delivered of the baby, breastfed the child, and you say she is less of a mother because of the gender of that child? Although I was young, I wasn’t at all satisfied with these narratives and observations.

Reasons and Justifications

The more I questioned, it seemed as if there were more justifications than answers. There were religious reasons, there were defences of African traditions and family cultures, there were personal explanations and societal arguments. “Men are providers, and women are homemakers” was one that emphasised the fact that a woman’s role could not transcend that of her family. She had to ensure that her family came first, even before her own needs. Quite a good thought, but why make it sound like women were mere slaves with no personal identity? Did submission mean slavery? If so, I would be content to journey through life single.

As I grew up, I realised that just as there were certain expectations of me as a girl, my male counterparts had their own issues to content with. For example, I watched my brother and his friends strive to prove their ‘strength’ to the world. They couldn’t afford to be weak or admit that they needed help. Doing so and showing their real selves would mean a rejection of their manhood.

And here I am stuck, because this form of injustice applies to both genders. And this brings us back to the IWD 2023 call for us all to embrace equity – to stand for fairness and justice, regardless of gender, religion, education, background and tribe.

IWD 2023 event

I would like to live in a world where…

·        there is no distinction between feminine and masculine careers, and anyone can realise their dream of building themselves in any field.

·        we don’t have to disguise any traits that are seen as weaknesses or that reveal our humanity.

·        a man can simply admit that he needs a hug and a cry.

·        a woman can share her dreams with her father or partner, and he replies with, “I believe in you“.

·        gender roles are flexible enough to adapt to changes.

This would be… HUMAN RIGHTS at its peak!

Will you join us to start these conversations? Then I invite you specially to our forthcoming event on “Ensuring Equitable Practices for Women and Youths in African Societies” on *Saturday 4th March.

Book your place through this link and I look forward to seeing you there!

*Please carefully check the event start time for your own time zone.

Priscilla Taiwo is a writer, personal development enthusiast and Communications Intern at AFFIRM Consulting, Training and Coaching.

The featured image from pict rider is the silhouette of a row of men and women holding hands in solidarity and support of gender equity.