A Quote by Chinua Achebe on women, oppression, religion, myth, and human rights

The original oppression of Woman was based on crude denigration.  She caused Man to fall, so she became a scapegoat.  No, not a scapegoat which might be blameless but a culprit richly deserving of whatever suffering Man chose thereafter to heap on her.  That is Woman in the Book of Genesis.  Out here, our ancestors, without the benefit of hearing about the Old Testament, made the very same story differing only in local color.  At first the Sky was very close to the Earth.  But every evening Woman cut off a piece of the Sky to put in her soup pot, or in another version, she repeatedly banged the top end of her pestle carelessly against the Sky whenever she pounded millet or, as in yet another rendering - so prodigious is Man’s inventiveness, she wiped her kitchen hands in the Sky’s face.  Whatever the detail of Woman’s provocation, the Sky moved away in anger, and God with it.

Well, that kind of candid chauvinism might be ok for the rugged taste of the Old Testament.  The New Testament required a more enlightened, more refined, more loving even, strategy - ostensibly that is.  So the idea cam to Man to turn his spouse into the very Mother of God, to pick her up from right under his foot where she’d been since Creation and carry her reverently to a nice, corner pedestal.  Up there, her feet completely off the ground, she will be just as irrelevant to the practical decisions of running the world as she was in her bad old days.  The only difference is that now Man will suffer no guilt feelings; he can sit back and congratulate himself on his generosity and gentle manliness.

Meanwhile, our ancestors out here, unaware of the New Testament, were working out independently a parallel subterfuge of their own.  Nneka, they said.  Mother is supreme.  Let us keep her in reserve until the ultimate crisis arrives and the waist is broken and hung over the fire, and the palm bears its fruit at the tail of its leaf.  Then, as the world crashes around Man’s ears, Woman in her supremacy will descend and sweep the shards together.

The women are, of course, the biggest single group of oppressed people in the world and, if we are to believe the Book of Genesis, the very oldest.

Chinua Achebe (1930 -)

Source: Anthills of the Savannah, Pages: 97-99

Contributed by: hellaD