Sunday, September 10, 2006

Old Versus New

Over the last few months, I have read a few articles about Japan's succession debate. Should the law be changed to allow a female ascend to the throne? To many people, I'm sure, the fact that we are still debating whether a woman is as qualified to lead as a man would be quite ludicrous especially in this day and age. To people who are from or who live in societies with strong, conservative cultures, this will be nothing new. We are used to hearing any variation of that old chestnut: Well, that's the tradition, or Tradition says that you have to ....... and tradition is tradition, or Tradition cannot be changed.

The older of the princes in the Royal Family, Crown Prince Naruhito, and his wife Princess Masako have one daughter. The younger Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko, until the birth of their son this week, had two daughters. The problem according to conservatives is what would have happened had the Emperor passed away and neither of his sons left make heirs. In all this, I felt especially bad for the Princesses Masako and Kiko, that they should go through such mental anguish for something that is largely out of your hands. Princess Masako, it has been reported, has been particularly affected by this custom, as well as the rigidity of Imperial Household.

Of course, not all women who live in countries where traditional customs are still strongly upheld are subject to this kind of treatment (it would be too simplistic to say that). However, in these kinds of societies, there is usually a very strong pull between the old and the new; the traditional way of doing things versus a more modern outlook. In Nigeria, though women are legally entitled to attend school and to work, many still have to balance these with the traditional roles of parenting and managing a household. Nigeria is a country in flux, and as such, there will always be friction between how things used to be and the direction that modernity (aka the Western world) dictates that things move (examples being more equitable distribution of parenting and house-work, as well as of work opportunities).

Okay, an off-topic addendum here: I have to say that sometimes I tire of writing about the same topics - fond as I am of talking about women and women's development issues. I wonder how it is that academics and activists do not develop 'cause fatigue'. Academics have to keep up their research of their speciality area and activists have to keep their cause in the spotlight order to push for change. Then when change starts to happen they have to keep reminding people of the issues, lest they forget and things slide back to the old status quo. I feel that if you are not introducing a new spin on a topic, then maybe it's best to let things rest for a while. But at the same time, talking about issues sometimes helps you discover and develop new viewpoints.


Everchange said...

but you don't always talk about "women's issues."

"Cause fatigue" is hilarious. I know exactly what you mean. I've discovered that I want to enjoy life to the fullest. I don't think I'm activist-material anymore. While I want to engage in activism on a personal (and to some extent career/academic) level, it can't be something I think of myself whenever I look in the mirror. I don't want to see "Activist," I want to see Me.

Ultimately you have to find what is right for you. I'm starting to realise those things about myself and it is so freeing! So when next I face the powerful and courageous activist committed to a life-long struggle against (insert social system), I can admire him/her while being secure in knowing that I have my own unique path, I know what brings me peace.

ayoke said...

What is tradition that it cannot be changed? Most things we call traditions are mere social constructs that only came into being at some point in time anyway. Thus, they can be changed. Only fundamental difference between men and women is the physiological difference (and the implications of that - e.g. pregnancy). All other so-called differences are usually social constructs.

I folled the Chrysanthemum throne succession issue closely and like you, I especially felt bad for Princess Masako. Here's somebody who was a career diplomat stuck in a palace and not allowed to travel all in the bid to produce a male heir. The debate about changing the male-only succession should still go on as it will take a lot of pressure off future generations.

Ore said...

LOL, Everchange! Yes, I know I don't always talk about women's issues, but sometimes it feels like it. I know what you meant in your blogging break post. At one point I wouldn't have thought much about blogging about whatever I wanted, but now that I know that I have readers, I do. I really should not care, afterall it's my blog.

Ayoke, I agree that traditions are socially constructed. Most people don't seem to remember this and it seems unbelievable to me sometimes that we are still expected to adhere slavishly to customs, whose origins people might not remember or which might no longer be relevant for today's world.

Although I hope that the debates go on, I'm almost sure that it will be put on the backburner.

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Ore said...

Hi UnNaked Soul,
Thanks for the compliments. Checked out your blog and I like what you are doing. I guess in the true spirit of blogging, I should really be writing this at your blog, huh?