by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 June 2006)
A miracle happened this week. On Monday, the Episcopal Church elected a woman to lead its denomination. Thirty years after the Episcopal Church first allowed women to become priests, it has now become the first denomination in the Anglican Communion worldwide to have a woman serve as its leader.
I have said before that I would love to see the day when a woman is chosen to be the Pope of the Catholic Church, but I will settle for these smaller victories in the meantime. According to a June 19 article from the Washington Post, the Episcopal Church has about 2.3 million members, so Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will certainly have her work cut out for her.
It is through significant steps such as this that women will one day be on equal footing in every social, political and religious aspect of life. My hope is that my daughters will see that day.
I have been questioned as to whether I have something against the male population. This is a fair question and I suppose in all honesty my response would have to be an emphatic no – and an emphatic yes.
On the one hand, I have no problem with any man who is secure enough to acknowledge that women are intelligent and capable leaders. I am not talking about the shallow lip service doled out in complicity to avoid a tongue-lashing; I am talking about those men who truly believe women are equal to men.
It is tough enough to be a strong woman who speaks her mind in this patriarchal society. Since we refuse to curtsy to archaic sexism or to be the slave of any man who demands our submission, we are often viewed as arrogant or overbearing.
Likewise, those same men who incessantly attempt to put a woman like me in "my place" regard men who believe in the equity of women as hen-pecked or weak. In reality, these open-minded men are the most enlightened of their gender. Far from being weak, it takes a very strong man to stand up and tell those cavemen they are wrong.
I cannot count the times Paul has emphatically told a caveman type that I have a mind of my own and the right to speak my mind as I see fit. In my estimation, he and those like him are by far the strong men and the cavemen types are the ones who are weak since they need to control a woman to make themselves feel important.
Supportive men who value gender equity do not need to offer any excuse for encouraging women to take their rightful place in society because the future development of their gender is on their shoulders. I have absolutely no problem with this type of men at all and hold each one of them in very high esteem.
On the other hand, I have serious issues with misogynistic cavemen who think of women as property and treat them worse than a stray dog. For me, these men are easily identified because they will ALWAYS try to put a strong willed woman like me in my place. They think it is their job to cut strong women down a few notches and feel they are doing the world a favour by forcing yet one more woman to submit to the will of a man.
Without fail, they show their hand every time and I watch in amusement as they play their cavemen games. These men come in so many packages. There are the ones who play the typical patriarchal role and feel they must take care of their wives – as if the woman could not find a way to live if he were not around.
And there are the ones who expect their women to view them as the king of the castle, but are unwilling to give the castle's queen the same respect. The most pathetic ones are those who beat, torture and kill women.
However, make no mistake about it, every single one of these cavemen share the same mentality, it is just that some try to be a kind "ruler" while others push this ideology to its logical end. Regardless of which method they choose to employ, all of these cavemen have the same desire to control women.
This is the type of men with whom I have a problem. These men will condemn the Episcopal Church for electing a woman as its leader. They will talk about how women are not fit to lead in the church and there will undoubtedly be a crack down in religious sectors worldwide lest their women get such lofty notions of leadership as well.
To which I must bluntly ask why anyone would have a problem with a woman leading a religious denomination. It makes just as much sense as putting a man in that position and while I'm sure there are gobs of qualified men to lead the various denominations in the world, it doesn't look like they have been doing such a great job for the last few thousands of years all by themselves.
I look forward to the day when appointments to leadership positions are not overshadowed by the gender question. It will be nice to see qualified candidates considered for high level positions solely based on their professional qualifications and abilities without someone saying, "But she's a woman."
Since women have given birth and successfully raised billions of productive citizens for the world, I think they are more than qualified to take on other roles – like leading a denomination.