Breaking the gender romance: Critical view on gender norm and paradigm in development
And when he asked Ashanti male elders why he had been unaware of the important political role played by women, he was told: ‘The white man never asked us this; you have dealings with and recognize only the men; we supposed the European considered women of no account, and we know you do not recognize them as we have always done’ (Rattray, 1923, p. 84; cited by Peters, 1997, p. 135)
The above excerpt by an Ashanti male elder in Ghana gives an insight on how one’s own assumption about what is “normal” can influence others on how to interpret certain things. In this case, Europeans whose patriarchal system was embodied in their life experience may unconsciously have imposed men-centred views in their actions which the Ashanti elders thought as distinctive from their own actions. Later, Europeans brought the new norm with them after realising women should also be the part of the important political roles assuming Ashanti people, in this particular case, did not realise it yet. Not only does it show that people from patriarchal gender relations struggle to understand the matrilineal society, but it also points out the arrogant assumption that the society is more civilised when it considers “gender” seriously. Ironically, though, it was Europeans who changed the “gender” into men-centred society, in the case quoted above.
Continue reading The gender norm: Breaking the gender romance