GREY MUTTER lance fred­er­icks The baa nana brigade

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

IT AL­WAYS puts a smirk on my face when a grand­mother in­sists on be­ing called Nana by the new grand­child, and then re­quests a kiss from the baby.

Baby lan­guage is not so­phis­ti­cated so “kiss” is of­ten sub­sti­tuted with the eas­ier to pro­nounce “baa”. And for a grown woman to re­peat the phrase: “Baa Nana … Baa Nana …” is hi­lar­i­ous.

It could have been be­hav­iour such as this that prompted Saudi Ara­bian Sheikh Saad Al-Hi­jri, in his re­cent lec­ture on “the evils of women driv­ing”, to sug­gest that women are a dan­ger on the roads be­cause women only have half a brain to be­gin with, but when they go out shop­ping they “end up with only a quar­ter”.

As can be ex­pected, there was a huge out­cry, and the cleric has since been reined in.

And though Saudi Ara­bia has long been crit­i­cised for the treat­ment of the king­dom’s fe­male pop­u­la­tion, we can re­lax. In an ap­par­ent move to rec­tify this the gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished a “girl’s coun­cil” … con­sist­ing solely of “men who know bet­ter”.

Now, as we sit here on our high horses point­ing a fin­ger of con­dem­na­tion at a coun­try or a sheikh or an ide­ol­ogy, men ev­ery­where can ask them­selves if they have not bought into that same mind­set … and women can ques­tion whether they also have em­braced this be­lief that they are in­fe­rior.

Be­cause of hor­mones, body struc­ture and mus­cle mass, men are gen­er­ally phys­i­cally stronger than women … I say “gen­er­ally” be­cause I re­mem­ber be­ing beaten up by girls dur­ing karate classes a few decades ago. But for now, let us go along with the idea that men are gen­er­ally phys­i­cally stronger than women.

So if we were to imagine a so­ci­ety with­out laws and bound­aries, this means that the weak would be at the mercy of the strong.

Men would be free to dom­i­nate, ma­nip­u­late and abuse the weaker sex; how­ever, they would also be free to up­lift, serve and help them … it would all de­pend on the man’s mind­set – how he be­lieves power should be wielded. What both­ers me is that we are liv­ing in a so­ci­ety that has laws, bound­aries and an ap­par­ently glow­ing con­sti­tu­tion and hu­man rights char­ter, and yet women in our free coun­try are still be­ing mis­treated, abused, even de­hu­man­ised.

The si­lence around this form of ter­ror­ism is alarm­ing. All around our coun­try women are fair prey to any man who needs to grat­ify his de­sire for dom­i­na­tion. Girls in dor­mi­to­ries at uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges and board­ing schools are tar­gets of mo­lesta­tion and sex­ual abuse; and be­ing far away from their fam­i­lies and their sup­port sys­tems where can they go for jus­tice? When the first ques­tion you are asked when re­port­ing a sex­ual as­sault can be, “What were you wear­ing at the time?” … a girl may be duped into be­liev­ing that she was ‘ask­ing for it’.

Sadly, it’s not only strangers that harm the ‘weaker sex’. Jeal­ous boyfriends, de­mand­ing hus­bands, cru­elty on an unimag­in­able scale is the daily lot of women all over our free rain­bow na­tion. It is mon­strous when a woman is abused by one who is sup­posed to pro­tect her.

And abuse can take many forms … ridi­cul­ing or be­rat­ing a woman, speaking about her flaws to your gos­sip-lov­ing pals, de­priv­ing her of re­sources when she, in your opin­ion, ‘mis­be­haves’, nag­ging and com­plain­ing about her ‘stu­pid­ity’ in­stead of en­gag­ing with her in a one-on-one dis­cus­sion … this list is prob­a­bly end­less.

Men should also be wary of another dan­ger to which they are ex­pos­ing the ‘weaker’ sex … the dan­ger of over-pro­tec­tion and over-serv­ing. What I mean is that some­times the stronger man does ev­ery­thing for his wife, and over time crip­ples her, be­cause she never re­alises that she has amaz­ing strength, abil­i­ties and potential trapped in­side a per­ceived weak ex­te­rior.

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