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Africanwomenculture: Gender and Theology (GENDER)


Gender in current parlance signifies the power relation between masculine and feminine. The gender ideology presupposes that the masculine encompasses the female, or takes priority in relation to the female and is entitled to expect subordination and submissiveness and self-abasement of the female. The gender ideology is not limited to biology. It is also social and appears in relations among men as among women and among nations. It functions, as a pecking order colonies were females in relations to the colonizing nations. Men slaves are females in relations to women in the master's household. White women are gendered males in relation to black women, a realization that was among the reasons for a specific women's theology in the USA named womanist by black women of the USA. Let me illustrate this with a story.

The Circle planned a Pan-African Conference for its members in 1996. When word got out, several non-Circle members asked if they could come. The answer was, "no" for the Circle was created to enable African women to say their own word. We had worked in a process over seven years and were meeting to decide on what the future should be. We did not need spectators.

A British woman wrote asked whether she could come and deliver a paper on the conference, which was "Transforming Power - African Women in Religion and Culture", I, as the organizer of the conference wrote to say she could not come, as it was not an open forum. I arrived at Methodist Guesthouse in Nairobi to find her already installed and with a chalkboard at the front desk welcoming the Circle members. It is a nasty story. She imposed herself on the meeting, interviewed the women, collected their papers, ignored all my protests and out of the meeting got what she needed to get her PhD thesis completed and also published. She is gendered masculine, with power to act, the Circle is gendered female, to be used or ignored.

I confronted her with the disrespect she had shown in ignoring the fact that she was told she was not welcome. She had assumed being British that a Ghanaian woman is a colonial subject who should work to raise funds to bring African women together to facilitate her research. She had the power of money on her side; she could get to Nairobi without a ticket from conference funds. She could pay for her stay of the Methodist Guesthouse, there were other guests there but they did not get crash our conference. She was white and many were the black people conditioned to give in to the whims of white people. She had power and I was powerless to prevent her from doing what she had planned to do. She was gendered male and I was gendered female in this instance. She is entitled to my labour and does not have to listen to me or respect my feelings and views. Such is the phenomenon of gender that we are looking at. Though gender refers to hierarchy associated with roles based on biological sex, it transcends it. In this paper however it is gender as male superiority, patriarchy, androcentrism and kyriocentrism. This offering is about the hegemony of men and androcentrism in African theology. Gender relates to the patriarchal phenomenon that structures relationships in hierarchies and pyramids.

When women's voices were heard on how women experienced life, words like sexism, sexist, patriarchy, androcentric, misogyny, feminist, feminism, androcracy on the tongues of women begun to jar men's ears and to make "the good women nervous". As women began to narrate and to substantiate how language, tradition, culture, religion, legal codes, household arrangements stifle their humanity, the word began to go round "women are their own worst enemies".

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