With August being women’s month, a few days ago I posted a question on Facebook to solicit people’s views regarding women’s roles and position in society and whether or not the biblical instruction for wives to submit to their husbands has been understood properly. I also asked about gender roles and whether or not there are roles reserved for women and those reserved for men.
As a young dad who is raising a boy and a girl I need to know if a child’s gender determines his/her role in society and how I should prepare the child for that role. Do I raise my daughter with the idea that one day she will be someone’s wife and therefore should be oriented now to the idea of giving deference to men? Should children be given gender specific toys where boys play with cars and girls with dolls?
What about colours? Is it necessary for a baby boy to be marked with a blue colour and a baby girl with a pink one? I remember one day walking into a jewellery store that also does ear piercings. I came to look at watches and there was also a mother who brought a 2 year old girl to have her ears pierced. My daughter is also 2 years and what happened in that store traumatised me. I vowed to myself not to put my daughter through the experience of having her little ears forcibly perforated unless it is something that she also consents to.
In a country like South Africa the questions I am posing are very important. Ours is one of the most dangerous places for women to live in. When I told a member of my congregation who stays in the same suburb I stay in the route I take when jogging she responded by saying she can’t bring herself to run alone along that route. The route is along the beach area and therefore should be enjoyed by everyone but this young lady is prevented by fear from enjoying it. It is not the fear of dogs that are not on a leash that concerns her but the fear of violent and misogynistic men. She fears being a victim of sexual attack and therefore being part of the over 140 cases of rape that are reported every day in SA — about 6 women an hour. It is not known for sure how many more cases go unreported and the reasons for the underreporting are due to many factors. Either the victim thinks it is her fault or she has no confidence in the efficacy of our legal system.
The question now is why are SA men so violent against women and children? Is society to blame for the type of men we are raising? What about culture? Does culture play a role in giving men the idea that they have a right over women’s bodies? Does the Christian faith or the interpretation of some biblical texts entrench the idea of men’s superiority over women? I sometimes wonder how my life would be if I was a woman in a world that is governed by patriarchy and stereotypical thinking about my gender.
In the Bible we are told that there is neither male nor female but we are all one in Christ. As Christians what are we doing to make this envisioned existence a reality? With debates about the ordination of women still going on, I suppose we still have a long way to go. In some patriarchal societies a girl child is deemed to be a burden and inferior to a boy and this sometimes leads to infanticide or the killing of female infants.
The problem is that there is no anecdotal evidence to back the claim of girls supposed inferiority to boys. This means that if women have inferior roles today it is because society has assigned them to those roles. So for me instead of the grandstanding speeches and vain platitudes that are showered upon women this month I prefer that we deal with our country’s discriminatory tendencies towards women. To do this effectively we must start at how we raise the girl child.