The International Declaration of Women’s Day this month, March 8 to be exact, purports to enshrine the essence and importance of womanhood, of the gentler sex. That there ought to be such a celebration, especially given the absence of its counterpart “Man’s Day” is an admission of the yet underdog status of women in the world of mankind. Such a reminder of the import of women, or rather the lack of its recognition, tends to elicit the question that has almost always been at the back of our adult minds if not at the tips of our tongues – are man and woman, or if you may, woman and man, different but equal?
This classic, timeless gender question brings with it a host of related riddles on Homosapien’s psycho-physiological profile and origins. Is man greater than woman? Or is it that woman is really superior to man? Who came first, woman or man?
But is there really a superior sex? Scientific advancements have made it obvious that males and females are designed to complement each other’s differences, to fill in their respective strong and weak points. Hormonal changes account for men’s greater physical power on the other, women’s genetic build-up aside from the obvious maternal capacity, has endowed females with increased resistance to cardiovascular diseases. Governed more by the brain’s left hemisphere, women also tend to be more proficient at languages while men in general do better in numerical problems which are the concern of the right side of the brain.
To think that man is superior to the woman by virtue of brute power is like saying that the lion specie is above that of the humans. What is true is that throughout the ages, male brute power has restricted the relational and sexual arena of the woman — unlike the polygamous man — not because of her physical “weakness” but rather, her inherent procreative advantage. Owing to what sociologists term as “paternal insecurity” whereby pre-21st century man had no way of knowing for certain whether the child of his partner has indeed been fathered by him, man had devised societal laws and norms to ensure the woman’s guarded fidelity. Two of the extreme and abominable examples are the “chastity belts” made to be worn by women in early Europe and FGM or female genital mutilation that persists today among some African tribes.
Central to the issue of gender superiority is the question of which of the sexes came first into the world.
Not a few religious and mythological literature share similar stories of creation whereby the first woman and man sprang forth at the same or similar source or shells. Islam which, rightly or wrongly projects a chauvinist countenance, tells of how the first man and woman came from the same soul. Even the Philippine legend of “Malakas at Maganda” narrates how the first woman and man emerged into this world from a split bamboo.
The Judaic-Christian tradition however presents a definitely masculine bias in its account of the genesis of the primordial man and woman. Unlike the story of the Great Deluge which has not-so-dissimilar recordings in almost all major ancient cultures and religions, Christianity included, the Bible’s story of Creation tells of Eve as having been formed from the ribs and flesh of Adam. Mainly on the premise that Adam was the first to be created and that Eve only cam from the “bone of (the first man’s) bone, flesh of (the first man’s) flesh”, the Christian faithful has philosophized on the superiority of man over woman.
If having been formed first, the modified “chicken or egg” riddle, should be a criterion for judging which is the superior gender, then modern scientific findings should provide an unexpected twist to this classic gender debate.
Quite recently, certain studies released during the last decade have given rise to the theory that during fetal development, regardless of whether the fetus will ultimately become a baby girl or boy, the human brain has to undergo the initial state of being “female” in character. To the ordinary laywoman and laymen, such presents a scientific plausibility of the basic and requisite importance of the human femaleness and, needless to say, should therefore easily counter any doctrine or belief to the contrary.
Archeology has now verified the existence of Amazon cultures — what ancient Greek writers have long written of — in European lands. The unearthed remains and artifacts of these amazing ancient societies proved that at some points and period, traditional role playing has been reversed and had showcased woman power and prowess with no small success. To a limited extent, this is now being replicated by modern armies of countries that have opened the doors of military training to women.
In his flawed supposition of male superiority, man for so long has trampled upon the rights and undermined the abilities of women. If the developments during the past decades are to form a gauge of the growing world recognition of women’s rights and abilities, the trend then seems to be in an upward swing in terms of how more women in more countries are thrusted to positions of authority.
Women’s Day is a call for sensible and moral minds, whether female or male, to work at further balancing the practice of gender justice. As the Chinese say, “the woman holds half the sky”. Persecute then the women and half the world is encumbered.