In Nature’s scheme of things, male and female are complementary to each other. This fact is observable in animal world where there is no conflict between male and female and they serve Nature’s purpose of propagation and preservation of species. In the context of propagation, the role of the female is much more important than the male.
The male is only instrumental in procreation in a superficial way, participating in conjugation for seeding; whereas the role of the female is much more significant and complex. She participates in the entire creative process of the Nature in formation and development of the species; added to that her role in nurturing the new born is equally pivotal for the preservation of the species. Therefore, the biological construction of male and female is seminally very different to suit their role models.
It is Nature’s implied doctrine that the best shall proliferate for evolution of species to higher and higher levels in evolutionary ladder. As a matter of fact, there is undefined mental magnetism which both male and female share in equal degree in their attraction towards the opposite sex— invariably, every male is attracted towards the beauty, youthfulness and attractive disposition of the female, and similarly the female’s attraction is towards the masculine attribute of the male.
Uncannily and unconsciously, this magnetism works conflicting with the disorder created by any superimposition. Let me clarify here that in human male and female the entropy is the society and the social norms superimposed upon the members in contradiction to the purposive instinct endowed by Nature.
Now the question arises that within this harmonious procreative law of Nature, how does the dysfunctional discord in male and female equation set in? What are the causes leading to the degeneration of women’s right to dignity and equality all over the world?
To my understanding, there is a significant historical perspective to this subjugation of women in the society. Gender inequality has perverted historical reasons. Women, in different degrees, have been victims of this all over the world. This ceaseless violence has not stopped till today, though we are boastful of our material and technological advancement. The strong hold of patriarchal mind set is yet to loosen its hold on human society. In the ancient agrarian societies men and women lived in harmony with distinct division of labour.
The recent archaeological discoveries in Europe stretch back the antiquity of such societies to 7000 BC as against our earlier understanding at 4000 BC. It is an intriguing fact that suddenly world witnessed the emergence of many new models of civilizations emerging almost contemporaneously at various parts of the world with marginal differences in their antiquity.
Some such old civilizations are: Egyptian, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Indus Valley civilization, to name a few. Interestingly, all these civilizations worshiped feminine power and the fertility cult associated with it. The Nature was personified as feminine and worshiped as Mother Earth–Gaia.
Then came the invaders; those who became instrumental in demolishing these peaceful civilizations and ushering in violence in the society as the means of survival. The typical example is the advent of the Aryans– a pastoral and nomadic people. Till date the debate about their origin has not been settled, but the supposedly magical superiority of these people, despite their enormous contribution to antiquity, are necessarily to be accused of having ushered in violence into early human societies. These people were warriors and their engagement in war and territorial expansion established the patriarchal model of societies, consequently women lost their position to male warriors. At this early stage of civilization, the woman’s body was also treated like man’s territorial right for exploitation, drawing mental imagery of violence and subjugation of the weak in war and territorial expansion. Men carry these collective memories of superiority for thousands of years, from their god like glories in war and strife; which subconsciously deter them from accepting women as their equals, though, in many respect women are undeniably superior to men.
These war mongering ancient tribes—Aryans and others, established a social order with underlying violence—in other words physical might is right—as the mainstay of survival. Ironically, this idea penetrated so deep into the social order that despite some pioneering efforts by social reformers, religious preachers, spiritual leaders, this mind set could not be obliterated. And in post-mediaeval period this expression reached its culmination in Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” and Karl Marx’s “dialectical materialism” and “class struggle”—modelled after the implicit dynamics of violence as the cornerstone of the societal existence. Women, obviously, lost out in this race of violence. A few centuries before Darwin and Marx, even the great thinkers and writers like Francis Bacon and Shakespeare were vocal about the inferiority of women.
It may appear a little presumptuous; but undeniably men are biologically more unsecured than the females for a very complex psychological reason—as paternity is a sheer introduction as against the certainty attached to maternity. This makes men more unsecured, suspicious and jealous in their sexual behaviour; though apparently it appears otherwise in a male dominated society awarding more sexual freedom to men over women. It is interesting to observe that since ancient time chastity of woman has been overemphasised almost in all societies, which stems unambiguously from man’s perceived sexual insecurity or more significantly (individual) irrelevance, which I have described towards the end of this article.
The Romans, Greeks, Arabian tribes, Indians in the ancient world had laid down the cannons of chastity for women, failing which they were subjected to inhuman torture and even honour killings. Unfortunately, though reduced in number, honour killing is still prevalent in many regressive societies of the world. In India the “Sati” and child marriage were widely practised in Hindu tradition and even in recent times some groups glorify these traditions and resort to honour killings for deviant behaviour, despite stringent laws prohibiting these practices. In the tradition of “Sati” women were not even supposed to see the shadow of another man other than their husbands. On the death of her husband, the woman was thrown into the funeral pyre of her husband alive as a very pious ritual. The Hindus in India are neurotic about woman’s chastity till today, though many women have proven their calibre in all walks of society, yet the idea of “Sati” lingers on. There are certain rituals welded to religious ceremonies to impress upon the feminine folk about the value of chastity and acceptance of the husbands as the Lord of their lives for seven incarnations. From this perception of a patrilineal system many concomitant evils originated, the list of which can be very long indeed. Bride burning, sacrificing female child and in some section of educated modern society aborting female foetus on determination of sex is not very uncommon.
The most shocking discrimination against females in Hindu society was the tradition of “Devdasi”—literally meaning the servant of the God. The poor parents, mostly from low caste Hindus, in honour of the God, offered their daughters to the temples as a sacrosanct religious offering. These girls, on reaching their biological maturity for sexual intercourse were incessantly abused sexually by men. Strangely, in the name of God prostitution was encouraged in the temples. Many ancient Indian temples had podiums for dance where these “Devdasis” were required to perform erotic dances for amorous amusement of the male gentry. Even in present day India this practice is perpetuated in some parts—though illegally.
The story of the women in Islamic world is no better. Let me make an exception here that contrary to the popular belief about the discriminating Islamic law against women, the Quran is more protective and progressive in its tenet about the rights of the women. Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the Islamic tenets, and regression of the Islamic culture to the pre-Islamic Arabic tribal culture have resulted in fettering of women in all respect. Prophet Muhammad was very progressive in his outlook for the women’s right some fifteen centuries ago. Before the advent of Islam the conditions of women were deplorably pathetic in Arab society; they were treated like domesticated animals or at best as properties of their husbands. The role of the woman was to satisfy the oppressive lust of the man and to produce children—particularly male children to suit the warrior archetype. No doubt Prophet Muhammad made some positive changes in the condition of the women by instituting rights to property, inheritance, protection, education etc. But this did not give equal status to women to any considerable degree. The men still remained the protectors and the women were required to be devoutly obedient to their husbands, thereby making them slaves to their male overlords. For proliferation of the clan and to build protective forces for the tribe, men married many women at the same time to the agonising discrimination of women. After Prophet Muhammad the practices also relapsed to the pre-Islamic era. Even today the women under Islamic culture have very little semblance of equality with men.
Compared to the women in the Western world the atrocity against women in Islamic nations is disproportionately high. Even the right to life of woman is definable on the basis of her conduct and obedience to many archaic traditions.
In the Western world, the pre-Christian time was no better for the women in respect than in the other parts of the globe. As I have already mentioned, the Romans and the Greeks were extremely discriminatory about women like their Indian or Arabic counterparts. In ancient Rome and Greece, chastity of woman was equally emphasised for similar reason linked to assertion of biological paternity. The pre-Christian world also was decidedly patriarchal. Though, these two ancient civilizations are renowned for learning and intellectual activities, yet war and strife were not uncommon to their cultures, resultantly the proverbial warriors were dominant in the social milieu. The preponderance of male warriors had its emphasis on brawn and force. The men emerged as the protectors of the society.
It is generally believed that like Prophet Muhammad, Jesus was equally sympathetic to the cause of women. The scholars who subscribe to this view make reference to an issue of adultery resolved by Jesus in favour of a woman (Gospel of John) whose life was in danger. Even it is argued that there were many women in the inner circle of Jesus. Reverence for Virgin Mary in Catholic tradition is seen as reverence for women in general. However, in Palestine of those days the status of women was deplorably low and Jesus’ kindness for women was never received with any sympathy.
Christianity emerged from the strongly entrenched tradition of Judaism, which again was a staunch patriarchal society putting man in the position of authority; as a result, the advent of Christianity could not make any dent on the discriminatory practices against women. The male chauvinists interpreted Biblical tenets with emphasis on divine wish associated with male superiority. God first created Adam, and Eve was created out of the ribs of Adam; hence man is a creation of God and woman is a creation of man. Not being a direct creation of God woman is imperfect in the divine scheme of things. Further, in the Garden of Eden it was Eve who coaxed Adam to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge and was responsible for perpetrating the Original Sin and the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden. So the advancement of Christianity did not make any perceptible change to the position of women in society. There are many other verses in Bible which support the idea that women should be submissive to men, cover their head—a tradition strikingly similar to the Islamic tradition of ‘hijab’ and Hindu tradition of “pallu”—the effort to veil women from the sight of other men—a distinct male insecurity in the game of sexuality. Like other religions, Christianity also assigned the role of bearing children to their women for ridding themselves from the burden of the Original Sin.
No doubt that in the history of every religious and cultural groups some women had rose to the position of remarkable eminence in various walks of life. These stray instances are quoted by the orthodox analysts to deny discriminatory treatment meted out to women all over the recorded history.
The world witnessed the upsurge of feminist movements in the middle of the nineteenth century and gaining momentum in the early and later part of the twentieth century. However, its intensity and agendas varied from nation to nation, from cultural group to cultural group. The Governments of many countries passed legislations to provide political, social and legal equalities to women. Under the sway of this movement the US and Britain granted women’s suffrage rights in 1920s. The feminists struggled to address to issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, inequality in employment and remuneration etc. including changes in male centric vocabularies.
The impact of this movement is appreciably visible in the Western world, with gradually women outnumbering men in many fields. But the movements in Asia, Africa and Middle East have still remained woefully sluggish; women’s social position has not come up to any considerable level of equality with men. The atrocity on women is distressingly pronounced in these societies in various degrees. The inhuman act of mutilation of female genital, honour killing, gender bias at workplace, domestic violence, male authority in family circle etc are very much in presence across theses countries and cultures. In stark contrast to the feminist ideology in the West and other parts of the world, the feminist movements in the Islamic nations demand rights of women by appropriate interpretation of Quran and Islamic teachings, which in the opinion of the feminist leaders have been lopsided and male centric over the centuries; so the equality of women in the Islamic world has not evolved beyond Islamic personal law. Mysteriously, the voice of this movement is more subdued than radical in the Islamic world; may be because of certain rights enjoyed by women in Muslim societies since long—such as consent in marriage, divorce and remarriage, accumulate and administer personal property etc. From a different angle, the cause for this passive feminist movement can be ascribed to the rigidity of the social fabric where the voice of dissent is viewed mercilessly. To my mind, the latter is more plausible.
I am tempted to describe a futuristic idea that comes to my mind, particularly based on the success of the feminist movement in the Western world; and I am convinced that the countries, cultural and religious groups who are falling behind now will certainly match up to the success story of the Western world maybe a little later in time, and the dominance of women instead of equality will be a universal scenario.
A world order dominated by women and with the progress in science and technology men will be rendered useless by losing their position as protectors, bread earners and warriors—a complete marginalisation of masculine strength and brawn. Under the circumstances the women may not need men for their sexual satisfaction, which will be taken care of by artificial machines, maybe more effectively. As regards man’s role in procreation, the artificial insemination can be a viable alternative, which will further emancipate women in the arena of reproduction—no abortion, no compulsion, no unwanted pregnancy, no domestic violence, no overpopulation on earth. Through genetic modification the women can even have designer children of their choice, preferably female children—a complete feminine takeover.
Where will the men go? Will they be extinct owing to their redundancy?