The question asks for a distinction between Gender Agenda and Women’s Agenda. It must first be noted that these two concepts cannot be the same, for the mere fact that they address two separate spheres of human existential reality. Gender is a learned process; hence one learns masculine or feminine behavior. Women’s Agenda however refers to that area of thought dealing with the female sex. Hence Gender Agenda and Women’s Agenda cannot be the same thing. If we look at a meaning for the word agenda, images and thoughts of a plan, an outline, a mission to be accomplished, quickly rush to the fore.
So obviously the Gender Agenda and Women’s Agenda cannot be the same, because both have different missions to be accomplished and concern two totally different arenas. Given the difference between the two main concepts, this paper will consider them, using history- i. e. our slave past and race- i. e. our social interactions with one another-as points of departure. The historical and racial considerations will be used to anchor the discussion, showing that Gender Agenda and Women’s Agenda are not the same. At first glance it may seem that the Gender Agenda has been conflated with women’s issues.
One of those reasons seems to be that men have always been assured their place in society. There seems to be in existence an unwritten script that holds consensus among both male and female, about the superiority of men in society. This script is surely unwritten because in comparison to the writings on Women’s Agenda, spearheaded most times by feminists, the writings on men seem to be few and far apart. And one cannot deny that conflict exists, else what would the feminists be so aptly defending in their publications?
Another sign of the unscripted dominance of men in society is that men seem to respond to the intellectual challenge, not via intellectual discourse, but by falling back on tradition. It is almost as if the men are saying “We do not see their issue for contention. This is the way it has always been. ” It is evident then that there is a battle between the sexes: the women’s side is fighting for a better way of life, while the men are fighting to preserve their rights. Therefore when it comes to the issue of Gender Agenda vs. Women’s Agenda, it may seem that we are talking about the same thing.
Women have been so underwritten in history, that even in an attempt to develop both sexes (via the Gender Agenda) more effort seems to be exerted on Women’s issues, because they have a lot of catching up to do. Policy makers may even help to perpetuate the idea of an unscripted version of male dominance. They may develop policies which focus on the broader Gender Agenda, but then say “Let us focus on the women’s side more. ” They say this even though the Gender Agenda connotes simultaneous equal development of men and women.
However, at the same time women are pushing forward their views in the overall Gender Agenda, while at the same time using the Women’s Agenda that they “own” to purport their ideas. Very soon the line becomes so blurred as to what really separates the Gender Agenda from the Women’s Agenda and they seem one and the same. Thus it may seem reasonable to say that the Gender Agenda and Women’s Agenda focus on the same issues-but they are not the same thing, since the Gender Agenda has an additional focus. In other words, the Woman’s Agenda is only a tributary of the Gender Agenda.
Let us now look at some historical issues that affect both men and women. From the introduction, history will be used in the context of the Caribbean slavery experience. Men and women, African men and women, were both hunted, captured, placed in shackles and loaded on ships en route to the Caribbean. Men and women both died on the coastlines from the same sicknesses and when brought to the Caribbean, did the same kind of labor. The harsh conditions that existed under slavery are all too well known-mutilation, suicide, infanticide, murder, genocide, maiming, branding etc. -conditions which both African male and female slaves faced.
So fast forward to emancipation, to independence to 43 years down the line and we see a disparity in the power relations between men and women in the Caribbean. Although men and women did the same kind of work, the slave masters viewed the males as stronger and more efficient. They were thought to be able to endure the harsh plantation conditions better and so were made to do more of the harsh work. Thus the men were seen as the main source of provision. This is not to say the women did not work in the fields as well, however, it was the man who rose to be “the provider,” the one whom the family could look to.
This was reinforced with the wife or baby-mother being domesticated i. e. doing the housework in addition to her usual work, either in the plantation Great House or in the field. Following slavery, the roles seemed to have been affirmed. The man was expected to be the provider and the woman was expected to look after the house and children. But women seemed to have become dissatisfied with their domesticated position and wanted to make their presence more felt in other spheres of society.
Therefore, whereas in the Caribbean women have been marginalized from areas such as politics, business, and the family, there is now an increase in women in these areas. The marginalization of women has been on the Caribbean Gender Agenda for a long time now, where the ideas of women’s liberation have seeped its way into the Caribbean. Other issues exist on the Caribbean’s Gender Agenda. For example male-female socialization which greatly impacts the way they think or relate to each other when they grow up.
Boys are usually given more leverage with the activities they can involve themselves in. hey also have more freedom in their social interactions. They are allowed to play football, while the girls clean and tidy house. Boys are allowed to sleep later than the girls and if the girls wake up late, they are seen as lazy. On the other hand “boys will be boys” is the statement most times used for them if they sleep late. According to the book “Why Man Stay So,” peer and street cultures increasingly influence adolescent male socialization. The attitudes they learn in the home are reinforced among their peers.
Moving on to the racial aspect of the question, Johnetta Cole links the racial divide with the historical legacy of slavery where she says “… the experience and legacy of slavery and the post-emancipation period gave rise to racially stratified societies in which color and class were tied. “(7) In the Caribbean she says “… lighter skin afforded more opportunities and these offspring of Africans and Europeans sometimes inherited land money from the masters. “(7) “Female de facto headship in the countries studied ranged from 29% in Guyana to 45% in Jamaica.
This reinforces previous research findings which suggest that the partnership with the children’s mother becomes vulnerable and his authority tenuous when a man cannot provide sufficiently for his children. “(26) Why Man Stay So ‘Tie the heifer, loose the bull’ is a traditional concept in Guyana, implying the protection and monitoring of daughters, while sons are allowed,, even encouraged to have more freedom and independence.
Elements of Tie the heifer loose the bull attitudes are apparent when examining most aspects of child rearing: ) Children are seen as insurance: boys keep the family name, they also protect and provide for the family. Girls are preferred first because they are easy to raise and will provide help in the home. b) Domestic chores commonly shared along gender lines is another issue. Boys are assigned outside ‘heavy’ work while girls do household and child care tasks. They interestingly note that when boys are given indoor tasks as washing clothes or dishes, it is only so they can care for themselves till they find a wife. (28-29)