It is now clear that Kenya’s Parliament is finding it difficult to address the ‘two thirds’ gender rule to comply with the constitutional requirements on representation. Simply put, the Constitution is ahead of us and we are unable to catch up. We just have to fulfill the constitutional requirements within the stipulated time frame.
The dilemma exhibited in handling this matter says a lot about gender relations in our society. I have always attempted to expunge the wrong assumption held by many activists that men are the natural oppressors of women. This, I have always noted, is just but misinformed propaganda. Our parliamentarians are products of a patriarchal system. Patriarchy as an ideology that informs our socialisation discourses is responsible for the reluctance to move with the Constitution.
To understand what is happening, we have to study discourses, myths and rituals that project psychological realities. They call for study, as they are products of the unconscious and mysterious masculine mind. Gleaned from a close range, they reveal the inner frame of the male being, especially in regard to his fear of the woman, which would otherwise be inaccessible to us.
Myths mirror the unconscious operation of the human male. The most common myth in the world, which we all know, is the Jewish myth of creation involving Adam and Eve. The Adam and Eve story is too fascinating to be believed by a curious thinker.
In this myth, we are told that Yawheh created woman as an afterthought because Adam could not find a suitable ‘helpmate’ among the animals. Yahweh decided to mould her from one of Adam’s ribs. That is almost ridiculous. If you know anything about human anatomy, then you know that a single rib is superfluous, almost unneeded. The removal of one has very little effect on the health or muscular function of an individual. Had Yahweh fashioned woman out of man’s genitals, the lung, ear, heart or the right hand, our view of her value would be enormous. The myth is simply saying that Yahweh made her from an inconsequential rib. Surely, that is a score for the creator of a myth who, there is no doubt, is male.
By using Adam’s inconsequential rib as a raw material for woman, the myth maker makes us believe that Yahweh designed a woman to be inferior. We can deduce from this familiar story that a woman’s function in life was to support a man.
We are told the story of the forbidden fruit, which further diminishes the woman’s place in society. The couple is placed in the Garden of Eden by Yahweh to enjoy its delights with one condition: They should not eat from the fruit of knowledge. The serpent enters the stage, cast as a villain, but actually the only character in this masterpiece who speaks the truth. The serpent tells Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The serpent assures her that the fruit would open her eyes to know good and evil.
Yahweh pretends not to know what has transpired. Adam is confronted first for breach of discipline. Adam blames the woman. Eve claims that the serpent had beguiled her. Yahweh curses the serpent to crawl on its belly the rest of its life. Now, in every culture, the snake was one of the goddesses most potent power symbol. In African traditional religions, it is associated with fertility. So Yahweh’s first disciplinary act was to sever this connection. This limited the powers of the female even further. Its shape makes the snake a strong phallic symbol.
Listen to Yahweh pronounce Eve’s punishment: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow, thou shall bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” That is the climax of the myth maker. Eve’s lot and that of all women thereafter was to suffer pain, and possible death, in child bearing and irrevocably lost her freedom to life.
Lastly, Yahweh sentences Adam to hard labour in order to eat and finally die. The message of the myth is clear: Because of Eve’s curiosity, humans would know pain, hardship, suffering and death. The woman hitherto associated with life was to blame for death. To the myth maker, female curiosity is the greatest sin. Herein lies the root of the domestication of women.
Other myths followed the male’s discovery that he could win against death by siring a child to whom he could give his name. This made urgent his need to ascertain a newborn was the result of his copulation efforts. The male’s heavy-handed solution was to demand virginity in his bride and absolute chastity in his wife thereafter. There followed a number of myths to ensure this was adhered to. But even more virulent was man’s realisation that a woman’s capability to perform sexually was unlimited; the ritual of female genital mutilation followed.
Egara Kabaji is a professor of Literary Communication and the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Planning, Research and Innovation) at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST).