Women Are not Inferior to Men; they are Partners
Women Are not Inferior to Men; they are Partners. When I was invited to be a presenter at the recently concluded World Refugee Day Awards, a United Nations event organised by key agencies in Ireland, little did I know the event will generate the kind of debate that it did.
The controversy generated in the media, amid reports that a nominee was stripped of his award at the Awards ceremony in Dublin because he would not shake hands with the female presenter on account of his beliefs, is indeed symptomatic of the increasing need to be clear as a society what is accepted modes of public conduct in a multicultural liberal democracy.
As the female presenter in the category in question, I was inundated with calls from several media houses, print and electronic, to ascertain what actually happened. The truth of the matter was that the decision to present a particular nominee with an award was entirely at the discretion of the judging panel, which was independent of the organizers and award presenters. Like every other presenter, I was merely called upon to acknowledge the nominees and then present the award to the successful person(s). I was not a member of the judging panel neither was I privy to the criteria used to determine successful candidates.
In my opinion, this controversy clearly highlights the importance of living in a liberal multicultural democracy, where the basic fundamentals of equality and human rights are placed side by side and the need to accommodate diverse value regimes. It is healthy that we debate these issues, but I am convinced that where there is no consensus, we’re on the side of universal fundamental freedoms. As a person, I believe respect for cultural, ethnic and religious diversity needs not negate nor contradict the core principles and values of Irish society particularly in the public sphere.
Since this issue has become a major topic of discussion in the last while, I have spoken to many Muslim friends who have confirmed that shaking hands with members of the opposite sex has no consensus. Indeed I have shaken hands with many Muslims of the opposite sex both at home in Nigeria and here in Ireland so we should not allow the interpretation of personal beliefs as tenets of a professed religion.
Personally, I will not succumb to the notion, even for one second, that women are inferior to men or that I was inferior to any man. From a biblical perspective, God made men and women to be biologically different, but equal nonetheless. Our roles are different with different responsibilities, but each one is vital to the whole.
God created man and woman to be partners. Through women, God brought forth kings, leaders, prophets, pastors, etc. While some schools of thought do teach that women are inferior, the Bible says that God made both of the same flesh. Both male and female reflect His image. Without either sex, we could not fully understand the nature of God. If I may ask, humanly speaking, would women exist without men and vice versa?
While I am not trying to preach here, there is no mention of spiritual gifts or salvation being different for men and women. God uses women in the ministry just as much as He uses men. Therefore, in God’s eyes, men and women are equal in importance and calling.
Leadership, or headship, does not necessarily assume superiority. It is just a role. A husband and wife team is simply that: a team, after all they say two good heads are better than one. They are both vital to the health of the family but one has to be the head. God chose man to be the provider and protector and woman to be the comforter and nurturer. Both roles are equally important and complementary.
Although some modern feminist groups cause women to resent their role and to see it as subservient, I believe in a partnership approach, where men and women work hand in hand for the betterment of the entire society. I have no wish to become like a man (biologically we are different and I am happy with that) but to be seen as his equal in progress. If I may ask, if a man who believes he should not shake hands with a woman was at a job interview and a female employer extended her hand for a hand shake with him, would he refuse it? If he did, would he be given the job? Would he not expect to conform to the employer’s terms of employment? Just thinking aloud.
The Irish people owe us respect first as human beings and then in terms of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, but to set this whole matter in as clear a light as possible, it will be necessary to clear our ideas from all that is muddled and confused, by separating the fictitious from the real, the obscure from the evident, the false from the true, supposition from matter of fact, seeming from entities, practice from principle, belief from knowledge, doubt from certainty, interest and prejudice from justice and sound judgment. To this end, therefore, we must examine what the core values of the Irish people are particularly when socializing in a public space. These we must respect at all times. It’s not weakness, but obligations and responsibility. That much we owe the Irish people after all integration is a two-way street.
- This article appeared in print on Xclusive Magazine Ireland. Ms Attoh is now the Secretary, Etsako East Local Government of Edo State