Ordinarily it would not have mattered who took control of the home in marriage or in man-woman relationship. What would have been important and paramount was to have someone take charge so that the home would not collapse. But the Bible and the Qur'an, two great holy books inspired by God and written by men put it across that men should be the head and women, purportedly created from a rib plucked from a man's body should be subservient to them. This thought was actually the prompter for my article on the origins of the King James Version of the Bible which shows clearly that 47 people authored the Holy Book. 47, all of them male!
Women in the Middle East, the cradle of three of world's most popular religions, and in Europe where these religions first assumed prominence, especially Christianity in the hands of the Greeks and Romans and Islam as the colonising religion in Spain were initially subjected to this claim. Luckily, industrial revolution changed most of the age-old prejudices and the emergence and spread of girl-child education opened up the women to their potentials and possibilities.
In traditional African societies and the agrarian Asia women helped largely on the farms and plantations as harvesters and marketers of farm produce. In most cases such women were not paid any wages. What they got in exchange was the care and protection offered by their male partners and overlords!
Things have since changed and with women joining the educated and elite work-force, the traditional roles of women have been greatly altered with women becoming more relevant, more visible and more assertive.
Clichés like 'fundamental human rights', 'equal rights', 'feminism' and some unpronounceable jargons have pushed women to the front row and they have vowed to remain there.
The emerging trend now is for women, not only claiming equal rights, but independent rights, and stretched further to leadership rights. If a man can be leader in a home, what on earth precludes a woman's claim to that role? Such is the prevalent thinking, although not sloganeered or drummed up.
But come to think of it? What is wrong in a woman taking charge if the man in the home is a weakling or a laidback? The important thing is to have a home working efficiently, providing all needed facilities as well as thoughtful decisions when such matter most.
There are also differentials in social class. If a woman finds herself married to a partner from a socially inferior class there may be a tendency for the woman to live and behave her class while the husband from back waters may have to struggle to catch up or adjust. And when his adjustments do not make the grade, he is left with being himself and accepting, if he must, the reality of his social class and circumstance.
There are also women who are by far more and better educated than their spouses. And it invariably shows in the mien and comportment in the home regardless of whether the man or the woman wants to accept or live in denial. It is usually most embarrassing when the woman's old colleagues either in college or the university pay a visit and their gist and conversations bring up nostalgia about their tertiary education days and the husband is completely lost in their conversation. He either excuses himself out of the living room or buries his head in bottles of beer!
Should it be rubbed in? Should the madam of the house who probably owns the house and pays all the school fees and probably in addition brings food unto the table rub it in at the least provocation?
Experts in marriage counselling may have a lot to say on the growing phenomenon and why we are having a lot of unmarried marriageable women roaming churches and super markets in search of likely husbands-to-be. Social class differences may also be responsible for a lot of marriages breaking up. When you hear of irreconcilable differences- a euphemism for covering up dirty linen in the closet- differentials in social class may have a key role to play.
It may be okay to exhibit the nuances of inequalities and the masterly role of the wife in the house, but when such exhibitions protrude beyond the four walls of the home there lays the obvious problem. Wives who go out and treat their husbands like house servants do stretch their 'superiority' to the limit.
It is absurd for the 'woman-boss' at home to extend the bossiness to social gatherings where her husband would be left chewing his gum while the wife engages in endless chats with several other men who obviously appear more polished, better situated and perhaps more charismatic than their own spouses.
The most irritating is the situation in a political setting. There are wives who advertise their superiority in relation to their politician husbands who may even be holding political office. There are First Ladies who are by far more vocal, more visible, and unfortunately more cantankerous than their husbands!
This column is not permitted to cite instances of a particular First Lady who always relegates her husband to the second class even at official engagements, where constitutionally she is not even expected to show her face. Even as an unrepentant defender of equal rights and women rights, this writer still insists that a woman must always respect her boundaries.
There must be a boundary. There must be well articulated, well defined boundaries at the onset of marriage. A husband must know that it is out of his boundary to be counting the pieces of meat in the pot. A wife must know that it is well beyond her boundary to be eavesdropping on the conversation between her husband and his mother. It is certainly not the business of a self respecting husband to be searching the inner pockets of his wife's bag. What is he looking for?
Boundaries, political office holders must set boundaries for their husbands or wives. If you are not the one voted into office, why must you parade yourself as the office holder? Even if the husband climbed into his top post by yielding his wife to be climbed on, that is a private matter, as private as the act itself, between the husband and the wife used as the ladder. The public is not interested and should not be dragged into the story of engaged bottom power. The same applies to a man married to a female public office holder. The husband is not the governor or the chairperson of council or the Prime Minister. The wife is. The man should therefore respect himself, accept his circumstance and play the second fiddle in the public.