The Herald (Harare)

5 July 2011

Africa: Women Power, Does It Affect African Leadership?

opinion

This is Part 1 of the cover story of the July 2011, New African edition. "Behind every successful man is a woman" goes the old saying. If this is true, as it seems it is, what impact have the African First ladies had on their husbands, who are generally said to have mismanaged Africa in the post-independence era? Or are they mere "flowers" decorating State Houses.

Do African First ladies have any impact on their husbands? If yes, what has their impact been over the last 50 years of African independence? If no, are the First Ladies a breed apart from women in general the world over, who routinely use their God-given feminine to get what they want?

For millennia, men, having deceived themselves that they are the "stronger sex" (going by their physical strength), have described women as the "weaker sex". But by the time you finish reading this piece, you would be a very courageous man indeed (if you are a man) to still live in the illusion that women are the weaker sex.

The recent fall of the 62-year-old Dominique Strauss Khan (DSK), the powerful managing director (he has since resigned) of the powerful International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the feet of a 32-year-old woman from Guinea Conakry (a "chambermaid", brought to the fore the power that women have over men and this is irrespective of the man's station in life!

DSK was a giant of the global financial world. When he spoke, markets shook, and nations (especially those in Africa) paid attention! The organisation he headed could make or unmake any African country of its choice as it regularly did in the past. When the IMF spoke, Africa listened. And yet, the leader of this powerful organisation just collapsed like ninepins before the power of a woman. That nature has invested in a 32-year-old chambermaid" from Guinea

"Is this not proof that although men claim to be the stronger sex", they are still at the mercy of the so-called weaker sex", in effect, who is the stronger sex-men or woman?

"Extrapolated to cover the big" men who govern (or have governed) Africa in the post independence era, who are said to have largely run the continent into the ground, how has this feminine power worked on them and their performance in the office?

Have they ever suffered from the DSK syndrome - i.e. falling to pieces at the feet of womanpower? If yes how has it affected their psychological wellbeing and, by extension, the way they govern? If no, have they not been real men? For the real man tastes the power of woman at some point in his natural life. It is part of the growing up process. To gauge how this works, one needs no to any further than James Baldwin, the African-American writer, who said "Money it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did."

Here, Baldwin was talking more about men than women. In Britain, there is general belief that men think about sex every two minutes. That makes it 30 minutes every hour, and 72 times every 24-hour period. If you multiply that by one week of 7 days, you get 504 times, which makes it a tidy 60 480 times a year. In that context, Baldwin's philosophy becomes even more dire for men. The relevant question

"What do men do if they don't have it?" Baldwin says they think of "nothing else." And if that man happens to be a head of state or the managing director of the IMF, what impact does this have on his state of mind, his performance in office, and on the country or the organisation he runs as a whole?

In that context, what has happened to DSK and by extension the power that a woman has over men is a serious subject that needs to be looked at seriously. As Chinweizu, the Nigerian writer and social commentator says in his book, The Anatomy of female Power, published in 1990: Female power exists; it hangs over every man like ubiquitous shadow. Indeed, the life cycle of man, from cradle to grave, may be divided into three phases, each of which is defined by the form of female power which dominates him: mother power, bride power, and wife power . . . We must remember the saying the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."

Chimweizu continues: Marriage is the central institution of female power-not-political parties, parliaments, armies, business enterprises, bureaucracies, etc. The nest or family home, where a woman is both mother and wife is the seat of female power-not barracks, factories, offices or other such places where large numbers pf persons gather together. In making marriage its central institution, female power has chosen the organisational form most suited to nature and its needs."

To fully grasp the depth of this power, and how destructive it can be if misapplied, it is important to draw lessons from other authorities. For billions of Christians in Africa and across the world, the stories of Adam and Eve, and Samson and Delilah, are familiar ones. The Bible sets the scene in Genesis chapters (1 to 3). After creating man, God, the Bible records, took a long hard look at him and said (Gen. 2:18,24): "It is not good for a man to live alone, We will make him a helpmate . . . Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh."

That one sentence, "it is not good for a man to live alone", is pregnant with meaning. In its simplest sense, it is an admission by God that to be complete or a whole man must leave with a woman-because he needs a help mate. To do what? To help him make meaningful-for him and for her; to achieve their life purpose.

"According to the Bible after creating man and woman, God charged them (Genesis 1: 28) to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it . . . "

To carry this mandate. man and woman need one another, else there would be no procreation and replenish the earth. For procreation to be possible, and because it is a woman who will carry the baby for nine months in her womb, God invested her with more inner power than the man. Sadly the man, he was imbued with a higher level of testosterone which, as the popular belief in Britain goes, makes him think of sex every two minutes.

This, infect, means he becomes a slave to the need and to the provider of the need-which happens to be woman.

"And as every slave has a master, and every master has power over his or her slave, the man becomes the weaker sex" in this context, that explains why a 32 year old chambermaid from Guinea can have power over a 62-year-old managing director of the IMF.

Perhaps DSK, and alleged ladies may not be a good example-some men, like him, are naturally prone to the need and whatever they get home is not enough to make them behave properly. But unless men recognise their powerless in the context of this need and find ways to cope with that powerless, they will forever deceive themselves that they are stronger sex, when they are not.

This is amply demonstrated in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve (Gen 3: 1-24). It is recorded that when Eve fell to the charms of the Serpent and ate the fruit that God had expressly ordered then not to eat, for they would surely die if they did, she gave some to Adam, the stronger sex, and he gobbled it up as if there was no tomorrow.

And when God, now angry, asked Adam why they had disobeyed his order not to eat the forbidden fruit, his answer was classic: The woman you gave to me, gave me the fruit, and I ate it."(Gen 3; 12). Adam was supposed to be the "stronger sex", yet Eve the "weaker sex", had the power to turn his head and make him eat the forbidden fruit.

Fast forwarded to the story of Samson and Delilah. The Bible records in Judges chapters 13 to 16 that Samson was a strong man that God wanted to use to liberate the Israelite from the Philistines, who had ruled over them for 40 years.

An angel had foretold his birth, and his extra ordinary strength resided in his long hair. The day he cut his hair, his strength would vanish. His wife, a Philistine beauty, betrayed him to her people even as the seven-day marriage feast was still on.

His second wife, Delilah, also a Philistine, was even worse. She accepted a blood price of 1 100 pieces of silver to beauty Samson to the Philistine establishment who wanted to kill him. The Philistines wanted to know the source of Samson's extra-ordinary strength, and they asked Delilah to use her female power to tease it out of him. They told her (Judges 16:5): "Entice him and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him and afflict him. And we will give you, every one of us,1 100 pieces of silver."

The Bible says Delilah used every trick to get Samson and when after three attempts he still would not give her the right information, she turned on the full beam of her "woman power".

"How can you not say you love me", Delilah went into seductive mode. You have mocked me these three times and you have not told me the source of your great strength."

The Bible records that for weeks and weeks, Delilah pressed him "daily with her words", and urged him, so that his soul vexed unto death". That is the old way of saying she nagged him to death! In the end, womanpower triumphed. Samson crumbled. He gave Delilah what she wanted. The Bible says: "He told her all his heart, and said unto her, there hath a razor upon my head, for I have a Nazarite unto God from my mothers womb.If I be shaven my strength will go from me an d I shall be weak like any other man."

Delilah went quickly to her people: Come up this once, for he showed me all his heart, she told the Philistines who brought her money they had promised. And wait for this (womanpower at full blast): "And she mad him sleep upon her knees (Judges16: 19); and she called for a man, and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him . . .

"And the Philistines took him and put his eyes, and brought him to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind imprison"(Judges 16:21) In the end, a blind Samson, having been turned into an object of sport, got his revenge when his hair had grown back, by bringing the whole house literally down, killing himself and 3 000 Philistine men and women who had gathered in an amphitheatre to watch him entertain them.

So what did Delilah have that Samson wanted that made him loose his hair, and head, in the way he did? Most men will tell you that it is not food; these days men can cook for themselves. It is not housekeeping either,for men can do that too. Companionship is a good pull,but men can get this elsewhere,among themselves.

Though the three needs above - food, housekeeping, and companionship - are very important to men, they need more than that by nature. The Bible says Delilah "made made (Samson) sleep upon her knees". That is where the catch is. According to the 10 men I interviewed for this piece, off all the things that a man needs to survive, the most important to him, which incidentally he cannot provide by himself, is sex. It is the one need that he can not (or the vast the vast majority of men cannot) satisfy via any other means than women!

And as Baldwin shows, the man cannot think of anything else if he does not have it. Throughout history, the lack of sexual relationship has been proven to disturb the mental equilibrium of men more than any other human need whatever their status in life! Some of them go berserk, in fact.

It is also been proven that the majority of the most brutal men in history, such as Henry Morton Stanley and his boss, King Leopold II of Belgium, were men who found themselves to be inadequate in the sex department.

In his book, King Leopold's Ghost the America writer, traces the basis of the brutalities that Stanley committed against the poor Africans who came across his path as he explored the interior of the continent, to his inability to have sexual relations with women. Even when he married, Stanley could still not consummate his married because he strongly believed "that sex was for beasts" and he could not see himself stooping so low.

Although the records show that Stanley wrote love letters to at least three women, he himself confessed disparingly in 1886: "The fact is, I cant talk to women." As Hochschild reports in his book, Stanley eventually married the eccentric high society portrait painter, Dorothy Tennant on 12 July, 1890 in a lavish wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, attended by the good and great of Britain, including Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Yet, as Hochschild shows, Stanley's "great fear of women" prevented him from consummating his marriage. After his honeymoon, Stanley wrote in his diary: "I do not regard it wifely, to procure these pleasures, at the cost of making me feel like a monkey in a cage."

To which his biographer, Frank McLynn adds: "Stanley's fear of women was so great that when he was finally called upon to satisfy a wife, (he) in effect broke down and confessed that he considered sex for the beasts."

According to Hochschild: "Whether this influence is right or wrong, the inhibitions that caused Stanley so much pain are a reminder that the explorers and soldiers who carried out the European seizure of Africa were often not the bold, bluff, hardy men of legend, but restless, unhappy, driven men, in flight from something in their past or in themselves. The economic explanations of imperial expansion the search for raw materials, labour and markets are all valid, but there was psychological fuel as well."

Here, Stanley had a common link with his boss, King Leopold II. Hochschild tells how the "loveless marriage" of Leopold's parents affected the young prince. "If Leopold wanted to see his father, he had to apply for an audience." The cold atmosphere in which he grew up haunted him in later life. He became an "ungainly, haughty young man whom his first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England, thought 'very odd' and in the habit of 'saying disagreeable things to people'," Hochschild recounts.

When he married, Leopold and his wife Marie Henriette, "like many young couples of the day . . . apparently found sex a frightening mystery." Queen Victoria became their sexeducator. The British monarch and her husband, Prince Albert, gave Leopold and his wife (who visited regularly from Brussels) tips about how to get on with the job. When he married, Leopold and his wife Marie Henriette became pregnant, an excited Leopold wrote to Prince Albert thanking him for "the wise and practical advise you gave me . . . (It) has now borne fruit."

When Leopold finally ascended the throne in 1865, his undying desire was to own colonies. He tried everything under the sun to get a colony to no avail, including buying the Phillipines from Spain, buying lakes in the Nile and draining them out, or trying to lease territory on the island of Formosa (now Taiwan).

To be Continued.

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