Somewhere in Awka, Anambra state, the sun was relentlessly biting as we scampered to board a bus. The L-300 14-sitter-turned-18- sitter bus was almost full and ready to go, but for a little drama that ensued at the front seat. A stout middle-aged man and a woman of about same age were sweating it out on who was to seat at the rear, next to the door. The woman who was already seated was about to get down to give way for the man to get inside before she would occupy the extreme position. The man who was looking rather bewildered and obviously irritated, hesitated. He was supposed to sit at the rear. After all was he not the man, and she the woman? But the woman was not going to have ‘any of that shit’. That was archaic philosophy and unjust. What makes that position his right by virtue of his gender? ‘Are women not breadwinners in most families and most men now oriakus’-a hardcore feminist indeed. By the time the rest of the passengers joined in the quarrel turned argument, it was already a heated debate. Majority of the passengers who were females naturally took sides with their folk, while the few males in the bus could all but watch, somewhat with delight. Well, I spoke up. It was not about male chauvinism which truth be told had dominated the African past I argued; It was not even about taking sides with my folk. It was about fact. What fact? –that women are biologically, psychologically, and emotionally the weaker sex, and so required protection from the male folk. To illustrate, I proposed an occurrence which was wont to happen in a typical family setting: who goes to open the door at night when some stranger comes knocking? Naturally, the woman would expect the man to do that; the reason? He is the stronger gender.
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Well by the time I elucidated my point for a while, I observed there was quiet in the bus, notably from the female folk who had previously turned the affair into a rowdy session. They were obviously in concurrence with me. Every woman wants to be cared for, respected and protected by the opposite sex.
Back to our middle-aged fellows, the woman did not budge an inch. She stuck to what she believed was her rightful position being the first to board the bus. And so she remained in the controversial rear. The man, poor him had to settle for the position which he was convinced was culturally and customarily meant for the woman. You should see the look on his face: that of sadness, fury, rage. Things, he must be thinking, have changed for the worse in this modern era. Elders are no more respected nowadays; neither by their children nor by their wives
As I was about to rest my chin on my pillow, ready to snooze and staring right into the ceiling later in the day, I had a flashback on the activities of the day, and the bus episode quickly came back. It was when I took notice of the silence that quickly returned in the bus when I began to speak. Why would the ladies listen in agreement to my opinion despite the fact that I was not directly in support of their own opinion. It was definitely because I saw it from the point of view that was beneficial to them. To put it straight: A man deserved greater recognition and respect in matters that deal with sitting position in the bus so long as he sees the woman as one to be protected, loved and cared for. The man was the stronger gender granted, but his strength was to be for the benefit of the woman, and not for his personal aggrandizement.
I began to reflect on the entire feminist philosophy. What was a feminist actually fighting for or against? Was she fighting for the equality of all genders or against the marginalization of the female gender? Would she submit all that equality doctrine at the altar of a caring and protective male or would she even reject all that idea of protection as chauvinistically belittling?
An extreme feminist might challenge any perceived form of male dominance including patriarchal structuring of the society, but it is clear that feminism as a movement started in the nineteenth century in response to oppressive practices against the female folks all over the world, bothering on franchise, education, employment, cultures and customs, etc. since then it has seen varying levels of advancement in various societies, particularly in the west where it has advanced highest. Feminism might claim to be fighting against male chauvinism, and although the extreme feminist might as well root for gender equality, it is clear that most women are not after who should be the superior or inferior sex, rather, that their men should value, love, respect and protect them. There is no reason to argue for a gender equality that does not exist. In as much as each gender is unique and complementary to the other, it is not true that whatever a man can do, a woman can do, and vice versa. Our bus woman might have been an extreme feminist, she might have had some unpleasant experiences with men in the past that got her biased; she might have been displeased with the way in which the man demanded for what she thought was her position by right, and might have wanted to use the opportunity to send a message to whoever. Nonetheless she is more like an exception to the rule; most women would naturally play the second weaker fiddle so long as their men were ready to respectfully treat them as such.
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