Male Chauvinism means belief in inherent superiority of men over women to the extent that hatred of the female folks is evident. It is important here to state that sanctioning rules of conduct, etiquette peculiar to men which when adhered earn them the tag of “gentlemen", and for women, “ladies" do not necessarily translate to male chauvinism. It is also fair to note that demarcation of expectations and responsibilities separating men and women exists in all cultures and civilisations. The message of Islam that formed the bedrock of Muslim social systems categorically suggests that a pre requisite of living a good life lies in being accommodative towards women and seeing them as human beings. So even while many cases of unfavourable social values exist against women in various strands of Muslim social systems, male chauvinism in its real connotation is hardly found.

Male Chauvinism is not a social phenomenon that underlies the existence of some social construct. It may be so, say, in pre Islamic era where the Arabians used to bury their female children alive. But in modern societies Male Chauvinism is largely a psychological phenomenon that identifies specific individuals with the practice of extreme hateful and discriminatory dispositions against women.

One other less loaded term is Sexism, though similar to chauvinism, it is mostly related to the disposition that tends to discriminate against women on the social stream. Thus it is easy to say that it is Sexism of men against women that is the problem of Feminism.

Virginia Woolf is a British 20th century creative writer who developed most of the philosophical concepts that give modern Feminism some legitimacy. Among Muslim communities there is a shared disdain towards Feminism. When in the years past Aisha Wadood a female Islamic scholar led a Friday prayer, one of the most piercing critiques written by the Egyptian/British Muslim Writer/Journalist, Yasmin Mogahed, was launched. The article attracted responses from advocates of Feminism around the world as it really touched on certain fundamentals with a lace of factual statistics rooted in the impossibility of harmony of Feminism with natural human design and attributes.

Encarta dictionary simply defines Feminism as “a belief in the need to secure rights and opportunities for women equal to those of men, or a commitment to securing these". Henry Makow an American social critic in his very popular essay, Burka vs Bikini, early last decade commented that "Feminism deceives women to believe femininity has resulted in "oppression" and they should adopt male behaviour instead". While Yasmin Mogahed in her critical essay, A Woman Reflection on Leading Prayer, submitted, "But as western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left but men. As a result the western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man."

What is recurring in all the quotes above is the association of Feminism with the quest for achieving sameness with men.It might be said that there are Feminist movements that identify class, ideology and context as the key determinants of their struggle, but their perception has not come to terms with the post modern theory of cultural relativity as what is evident is even in other contexts, ideologies and classes Feminism seeks sameness between men and women. In that, Muslim women are encouraged to become like men in Islam. That is why there are calls to re-interpret the Qur'an and give women and men equal share of inheritance. That is why there is an effort to legitimise the idea of women leading Friday prayers as in the case of Aisha Wadood in 2005.

Ideally if context, ideology and class matter most to the Feminists and in terms of post modern conception of cultural relativity, quest for rights and liberties of women must consider their socio-cultural realities. And since it doesn't as examples abound, it can then be conveniently concluded that no quest for right and liberty that does not crave for sameness between men and women that can go under the tag of Feminism. In this we are right to say that in as much as what women in Northern Nigeria and we their supporters, dash out, are all what we want changed in the socio-cultural setting, then we are not Feminists even if we claim we are.

This brings me to the argument in post modern thought that there is futility in using labels to tag people or practice as the discussion about Dismantling Male Chauvinism in Northern Nigeria by Indigenous Feminists leaves us with no Feminists among us that are indigenous, that is, if the outlined issues are truly their only issues. Even if there is the male chauvinism that should be dismantled, it is not found in a social clime but rather in a psychological condition that needs more the attention of a psychiatrist not a social activist!

 

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Artice title: MALE CHAUVINISM, SEXISM AND FEMINISM IN NORTHERN NIGERIA