Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. On August 16, 2017, we published an interview. Here, we talk about gender roles.
I asked Dr. Igwe about the designated roles from the Abrahamic traditions, which he corrected to the supernatural traditions. Why the expansion in the terminology? The intention was to extend into the Abrahamic “codifications” and the traditional pre-colonial traditions in the area known now as Nigeria.
This point extends to the whole of the African continent’s diaspora. He notes the supernatural definitions for the supported qualities of the masculine and the feminine, of the femaleness and the maleness of a particular individual.
Igwe stated, “In fact, traditional masculinity and femininity are embedded in indigenous religions that predate Abrahamic religious traditions in Africa. What we have in contemporary Africa is a situation where the faiths of Christianity and Islam only reinforce pre-existing religious and traditional notions of masculinity and femininity.”
Now, as Igwe founded an entire movement in humanism, the next natural query would follow into the humanistic. He had some interesting views on the traditional gender roles and the humanist perspective on this.
“A humanist perspective is the same with the traditional viewpoint in the sense that they are all human creations and constructions. They are all attempts by humans to define, designate and assign roles and duties,” Igwe explained, “Humanist and non-humanist ideas of manliness and womanliness are devices to make sense of human associations and interactions. But the humanist perspective is different because it is a product of critical evaluation, not of revelation or blind faith.”
This makes the supernatural elements in the traditional gender roles overlaid on biological sex differentiations less relevant. Because they do not become considerations. The humanistic perspective on the masculine and feminine, according to Igwe, becomes non-dogmatic.
Gender roles subject to challenge and critical questions. He considers the perception of a male and a female as something informed by human rights, reason, and science, which means non-conformist (to tradition) and non-orthodox (to the Abrahamic religions, for an example).
Igwe concluded, “Like traditional masculinity and femininity, humanist masculinity takes cognizance of the outlined duties and responsibilities. However, the humanist idea of manliness and womanliness is not cast in stone. The qualities and functions are subject to revision and rejection in the light of knowledge and individual freedom.”
Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He is among the most prominent African non-religious people from the African continent. When he speaks, many people listen in a serious way. He holds a Ph.D. from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. We have talked or I have written on Dr. Igwe here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
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