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Born Female = A Disadvantage! Really?

04 Feb

About a week ago, I heard the most shocking thing ever and what made it worse, was the fact that it came from someone I respect greatly. It was during a teaching. He had deviated a bit and was talking about how certain social facts of one’s life could define the course of their lives. I couldn’t have agreed more until he said ‘being born a woman is a disadvantage’!

When I heard this, my first reaction was, as you would assume; you said what!!!! Who says something like that? Of course that isn’t true and even if it was, you don’t say it out loud, especially not coming from a man! I felt so offended that I wanted to shout out; hey, wait! Haven’t you heard of all the women in the world who are doing so great? All the women who can contend, withstand and even win the men in their respective professions? Haven’t you heard about Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Sonia Gandhi, Angela Merkel, Dilma Rousseff, Christine Lagarde, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Knowles, Geun-hye Park, to mention just a few? These are women whose names ring a bell wherever and whenever. They are not just among the Forbes world 100 most powerful women; they are in a fact among the 100 most powerful people. Let’s bring it back home a bit; there is Ngozi Iweala Okonji (Great woman, both within and outside Nigeria) and Chimamanda Adichie (Again, globally known and appreciated for her works in and out of literature). How then can someone say that being born a woman is a disadvantage? And so, I ranted and raved in my head.

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After I had finally exhausted myself doing just that, I started really thinking about it. Trying my best to put sentiments aside, dissect it as much as I could and see if I could find any truth to it. I debated for a couple of days. I kept reminding myself of all these women and more, who are world pacesetters; who define and control trends; and who control the economies of nations. I told myself, these are women who have succeeded despite all odds. And then, it dawned on me; they succeeded ‘despite all odds’.

By design (I was going to say ‘societal design’, but didn’t want to be too controversial), the place of a woman has been predefined as a care-giver and taker. She is viewed as the weaker sex and it automatically means that there are places, professions, achievements that she isn’t presumably designed for. Although, we can argue and say that the world has become more flexible and receptive towards professional women. The truth remains that women have to try twice as hard to achieve power and fame in what is still described as a “man’s world” by most.

It is almost like the world in its quest of accepting women to places of power and fame, have become sort of patronizing. You find a Forbes list for ‘powerful women’ but none for men. To me, that is like saying that the presence of powerful men is a given. In sports, professional lawn tennis for example, women play best of threes while men play best of fives. It seems like no matter how hard women try, they are most often than not, playing second-fiddle even when they are leading.

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However, the fact is that for every one woman you find in place of power, there are at least 10 equivalent men doing same powerful things. One can argue that the biology of life and societal demands, already gives the man a fairer chance of ruling as against the woman. The primary role of a woman as viewed by society (modern or not), is still within the family unit (after all she is the one who will have to carry and nurse the child, if there is one). So to be more than just a care-giver (a wife and a mother), she would have to work harder. She would have to learn how to juggle what is her primary responsibility and anything else she chooses to be. We can even go a step further and say that present day society now demands that a woman be all these and more. You are expected to be a mother, a wife and still have an independent career (One wonders why we still need animated superheroes when they truly live among us). And when she decides she isn’t superhuman and chooses power over either a husband or kids or even both, she is branded negatively and if I dare say, especially by women.

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Again, bringing it back home, although the societal role of a woman has become more flexible and there are a lot of women in places of position and power; a woman is still largely appreciated by her looks, maternal instincts and care-giving abilities. A woman (again by societal references) still needs a man in her life to be truly respected. There are different expressions for unmarried women having a bad day that generally suggest the lack of a man in her life still defines her (at less, in the eyes of people). The ultimate question is still ‘how well does she complement the man?’ I remember years ago someone said to me that a woman’s life doesn’t really begin until she gets married. He wasn’t being rude (even though I was offended), but was just pointing out the fact that a woman’s independent decisions and priorities more or less takes the back seat when she gets married and even worse (or better, depending on perspective), when she starts having children. Take for example, Victoria Beckham (whom I greatly respect, so no criticism intended). She has relocated at less twice due to of her husband’s career. At a point, she lived in Los Angeles with her husband and four kids, but ran her business out of London; this to me, is really ‘juggling glass balls’ (as she herself puts it). She has described herself as a ‘mother, wife, and designer’ and I am pretty sure they come in that order. However, she has made a great success out of career (Hence my respect) but it has been against all odds.

Superwoman: juggling glass balls

Bottom line, I am a woman; I am career-minded but would also want to have a family someday. This apparently means that for me to be both, to achieve both and leave my name on the sands of time, I would have to beat all odds which obviously, are twice that of a man’s.

So yes, although being a woman has its high points; when you really think about it, it can also be said that being born as one is a disadvantage.

Having said that, I still say, I love being a woman and wouldn’t trade it for anything (on the good days)

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11 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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11 responses to “Born Female = A Disadvantage! Really?

  1. Onome Gbrika

    February 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    This blog just re-enforces what i experienced within the last one year.I remember studying feminism at school and arguing passionately and tirelessly about how a woman is not pegged down by the society but by her own dictates. Now I’m in the society and not cocooned in my theoretical classroom world and it still baffles me about how dead wrong I was.Truly its a man’s world.

     
  2. Seun

    February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am

    i’m a man and a feminist – i.e. root for equality of the genders – so no disrespect is intended with this comment. i’ll like to say to you: get on with it! I’m now tired of reading articles like this when we now know that society is changing and women today have more opportunities for a chance to greatness than ever before in the history of humans. Yes, it’s been a long journey from where we use to be, and we should continue to enlighten peoples that still live in the ice age to change their attitudes, etc; but I think the best witness – yes, the loudest statements – will be the stories of more women making exploits! So I say again to my lady-friends, get on with it! we need YOUR example for the next generation.

     
    • journalofacomplexmind

      February 5, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      @ Seun, thanks for the comment. Comments and debates like this are always welcome.

      Let me start by saying that it is commendable that you can call yourself a feminist. Unfortunately, not all men or even women can. As a result, articles like this are necessary in shaping the thought pattern of people that the women who have to ‘get on with it’ will have to face and deal with in the process. Whether you agreed or not, the fact still remains that at this age and this time, woman, professionals or not, still have a lot of predefined responsibilities on the home front (not to undermine that of the man). It is almost like the world says, ‘if you insist, be all you can on the professional front, just as long as you can manage it with your primary responsibilities”. So pardon me, if it is still discussed and I believe it should still be discussed. It is not enough to open professional doors to women, when behind close doors all they (women) do is juggle their professional responsibilities with every other predefined responsibilities they supposedly have.

      Being a feminist isn’t all about saying ‘oh I believe in the equality of genders’, it is also being open to the discussions and debates that are raised in promoting this equality, rights and predefined expectations of both sexes. It is being able to accept that even though we have come far, there is still a lot to be done and the truth is once and if we get there, it makes the life and expectations of the man, all that easier too.

       
  3. Lex

    February 6, 2014 at 1:29 am

    It is no contest that women are necks controlling the heads. There are powerful inside and outside. They are “multi-able ” !

     
    • journalofacomplexmind

      February 6, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Ha! That’s just the kind of thinking that makes this ‘balls juggling’ idea so effective. The belief that woman are born with a special tool for multitasking.

      I am not saying women are not good at multitasking but if you ask me, it is an attribute born out of societal necessity than anything else.

       
    • journalofacomplexmind

      February 6, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Read it right the first time *winks*

       
  4. Lex

    February 6, 2014 at 1:31 am

    * They ( not There) are powerful I meant

     
  5. lunartsd

    February 6, 2014 at 5:42 am

    I’m yet to find a society on earth, populated by humans, where all members are treated equally and are entitled to the same opportunities. This discussion is a subset of a much bigger one that has existed since the very first civilisations began, and will likely remain till the very last one comes to an end. To quote George Orwell in animal farm:

    “All animals are equal; but some animals are more equal than others.”

    Every society has a “food chain” and disadvantages generally increase towards the bottom of this food chain. I guess it comes from the timeless rule that “only the strong survive.” The best advantages are seized by those with the most power, leaving the weaker members of the society to scramble for the leftovers. We see it happen everyday, all around us. People getting trampled upon, simply because they don’t have the “power” to fight back. It’s not just women who can be at a disadvantage; this also applies to the poor, the disabled, immigrants, minorities in terms of race, religion etc, the list goes on and on.

    There will always be a pyramidal structure in every society, and in every age, with the most powerful aristocrats on top, and all others following in their “rightful” place, all the way down to the homeless vagrants on the streets.

    I realise I’m starting to write an epistle here so I’ll just end with a quick thought: using our country as a focal point, who do you think is more disadvantaged, the daughter of a senator or the son of a carpenter?

     
    • journalofacomplexmind

      February 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Thanks Lunartsd for the comment. I can always trust you to keep it real.

      I find it interesting (Trying not to say offended) that you put being female in the same list as being poor, disabled etc. If anything it emphasizes the fact the being born female CAN be viewed as a disadvantage.

      Finally to your question, it isn’t a black or white answer because there are a lot of other factors to consider before one can answer that question e.g the personality and potentials of both individuals. I know of carpenter’s sons who have gone on to be great people in the society and changed the course of life for their generations. Likewise, I know there are a number of senator’s daughters who see themselves as nothing more than a wife and mother (not saying that is a bad thing). I think the question should be more on the fact that whether she is a senator’s daughter/ wife or not, isn’t she still most likely to ‘juggle glass balls’ if she decides to have a professional career independent of her ‘primary responsibilities’?

      All her money may have accorded her is a handful of maids/nannies to help the process. But it would still be viewed as her primary responsibility to co-ordinate and deal with the maids/nannies.

      Okay, I am writing an epistle too, so I should stop here.

       
      • lunartsd

        February 14, 2014 at 4:59 am

        You don’t need to worry about writing epistles… we already expect that from you!

        I chose not to take a standpoint on whether being a woman was a disadvantage or not. I merely posited some realities of every society. The fact that you would possibly be offended by having women listed together with the poor, disabled etc proves my point about the way every society is stratified. What’s wrong with being poor or disabled? Aren’t all men equal after all? Whether black, white, rich, poor, whole or crippled. Only in the eyes of God, I guess.

        If you think about it, everyone is born with one disadvantage or another, especially when compared to someone else who does not share the same disadvantages. Here’s a truth no one can deny: being born in a country without steady power supply is a great disadvantage, whether you’re a man, woman, rich, poor, disabled, whatever!

        I agree with you that many people have risen from the very bottom of society and worked their way to the top. But you must agree with me that these are the exceptions and not the rule. And if you have to be an exception to succeed, then you must have been born with a disadvantage that you had to overcome in order to succeed.

        But look on the bright side: being born female has it’s advantages too! Especially today, the feast of Saint Valentine. Maybe not all, but many women all over the world will get special gifts today from the men who appreciate how special they are (though some will have ulterior motives). So, on this note, happy Valentine’s day to you and to all the women all over the world. May you be reminded of your true value today, and always!

         
  6. Ormainy

    February 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Oh well,even in these improved times, women still find it difficult to excel. Female CEOs are still earning less than their male counterparts. The recently concluded DAVOS world economic forum had a very poor percentage of women represented. We’re fighting and trying to break through the barriers but it’s still a man’s world. Very few people would give a young woman in business the time of day, we have to work super hard to get whatever we get even in our homes! But yeah, we can’t be moaning about the disadvantages all the time, we keep fighting till it’s history… Then we win! And create a better world for our daughters in the future.

     

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