Sex And Love Around The World - Spoof Edition With Christiane Amanpour, Moesha And The Three Wise Me
Christiane Amanpour: Good evening viewers around the world, in the past few weeks there has been a backlash on an interview I conducted for my programme, 'Sex and love around the world.' In this particular episode, I interviewed a Ghanaian lady who is in an intimate relationship with a married man. She indicated that her relationship with the man was a win-win one: She offers love and affection in exchange for money and other basic needs of life.
She went on to indicate that, her choice was influenced by the hardship women in Ghana face economically, and that without the support of a man, it is basically impossible for a woman to survive in Ghana. Her position made Ghanaians livid and totally angry. The hatred and angst exhibited towards this woman was palpable. Obviously, it is either Ghanaians do not want to admit the truth of their social reality or the lady might have over generalized her personal issues.
As we know, Side Chicism, as some in Ghana may call it, is a fledging social phenomenon in that country, which has, in many ways, crept out of the shadows to be a main social para-marital arrangement in a deeply conservative and religious country where polygamy is outlawed. So I do not come across as a presumptuous person and ignorant of some of these cultural nuances that makes a society go gaga on a phenomenon that is real in their midst, I decide to dedicate today’s show to addressing the issue of Moesha – the Ghanaian Lady whose interview sparked a backlash - through the three main sociological perspectives, namely Functionalism, Conflict Theory and Symbolic Interactionism.
I have on the show tonight three distinguished gentlemen whose contributions to modern day sociology have been enormous, and most importantly, being the main protagonists of these theories or perspectives. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Professors Emile Durkheim to address the issue from a functionalist perspective, Karl Marx, to address the issue from a Conflict Theorist perspective and George Herbert Mead to take it from a Symbolic interactionist perspective.
Gentlemen, you are welcome.
I will start with you Professor Durkheim, How does society see Moesha and the countless Ghanaian women who, according to this young lady, have had to have a batter system of love for money? But before you answer, let me read something I picked online so that our viewers will understand the basic tenet of functionalism and also understand your position better.
“…The functionalist perspective is based largely on the works of Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim,
Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. According to functionalism, society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. For example, each of the social institutions contributes important functions for society: Family provides a context for reproducing, nurturing, and socializing children; education offers a way to transmit a society’s skills, knowledge, and culture to its youth; politics provides a means of governing members of society; economics provides for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; and religion provides moral guidance and an outlet for worship of a higher power.
The functionalist perspective emphasizes the interconnectedness of society by focusing on how each part influences and is influenced by other parts. For example, the increase in single parent and dual-earner families has contributed to the number of children who are failing in school because parents have become less available to supervise their children’s homework. As a result of changes in technology, colleges are offering more technical programs, and many adults are returning to school to learn new skills that are required in the workplace. The increasing number of women in the workforce has contributed to the formulation of policies against sexual harassment and job discrimination.
Functionalists use the terms functional and dysfunctional to describe the effects of social elements on society. Elements of society are functional if they contribute to social stability and dysfunctional if they disrupt social stability. Some aspects of society can be both functional and dysfunctional. For example, crime is dysfunctional in that it is associated with physical violence loss of property, and fear. But according to Durkheim and other functionalists, crime is also functional for society because it leads to heightened awareness of shared moral bonds and increased social cohesion.
Sociologists have identified two types of functions: manifest and latent (Merton 1968). Manifest functions are consequences that are intended and commonly recognized. Latent functions are consequences that are unintended and often hidden. For example, the manifest function of education is to transmit knowledge and skills to society’s youth. But public elementary schools also serve as babysitters for employed parents, and colleges offer a place for young adults to meet potential mates. The baby-sitting and mate-selection functions are not the intended or commonly recognized functions of education; hence they are latent functions…”
Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2007. Understanding Social Problems, 5th edition
Now, Professor Durkheim, is Moesha a social aberration?
Emile Durkheim: Thank you Christiane, Good evening to your viewers. No. Moesha is not a social aberration. As your introductory write up said, we believe society is made up of various parts all working together to ensure that society moves on in harmony. Everything that exists serves a function in the complex whole. If something loses it function, it dies out over time, because it ceases to be functional. If I can borrow an example you used earlier, Crime for instance is seem as a social dysfunction because it is associated with violence, loss of life and property and fear, but it is functional in a way because it leads to a closer bond, heightened awareness of one’s environment and a deeper need for one’s neighbor.
Without this dysfunctional element of society, a particular group of people would live a life that is individualistic, without attention to one’s environment and no sense of bond and dependency. In this sense crime is functional for the above social experience to be realized.
Another example is prostitution. Is it a social aberration? Some may say yes, and I know My Colleague Professor Marx may have a different opinion on that, but think of the social stability prostitution brings.
Christiane Amanpour: Can you throw more light on that?
Emile Durkheim: Sure. Think of a man who is of age, has sexual needs but lacks the resources to marry and start a stable family or even be in a committed relationship.
Christiane Amanpour: He visits a brothel to meet his sexual needs without having to do it through a bonding relationship.
Emile Durkheim: Exactly Christiane. He may even be financially sound and may have everything he needs to settle, but his job may make him unfit to be in a committed relationship because of the hectic schedule. He does resort to this service to meet his sexual needs without burdening any woman or children in a committed relationship.
When it comes to Moesha, and all the countless Side chics, there is a social function to it. First, we need not assume the young woman went after the married man and laid out a woow proposition of how sex with her, in exchange for financial gains will make him an angel. We need to understand the man’s peculiar needs at the time of contracting this arrangement. How functional has Moesha been to him? How old is this man? How old is his wife? How healthy is his wife? How sexually stimulating is his wife? If there are any dysfunctions in any of these, the natural consequence would be a divorce, or worse, an unhappy man in an unhappy marriage.
So Moesha comes along and says to him, or he says to himself, Why not be with this woman, get all the gratification a man wants in a woman, but he is not getting at home. At least he goes to her, and from there goes home a happy man. She, by implication would have prevented this man from going home angry, cranky and upset about the fact that he is not getting enough sex, or in the variety he wants.
Moesha on the other hand also finds this man functional. She is a young woman, and I presume has a high taste for the finer things of life. She is thinking that men of such needs are the ones best suited for her. She gives the man what he needs and she walk away with what she needs. By virtue of this arrangement, she is not an armed Robber or a scammer or a prostitute. She sees herself as an integral part of the smooth functioning of many families.
So the Moeshas of Ghana, help families there to thrive and prevent chaotic break ups and family discontinuity. They serve as a stop gap measure, so that unhappy men can keep their marriages while finding temporal solace elsewhere, instead of divorcing and remarrying, which status, religious affiliation and family interconnections may not make easy to attain.
Christiane Amanpour: So, you are saying, that Moesha and the likes of her are essential to social stability in a society where they function.
Emile Durkheim: That’s correct. It will be at a cost to both parties; rent, goodies and vacation trips, all on the man, and on Moesha, being with a man you cannot have as your own, the impossibility of being with another man during this period, and having to endure whatever sexual state this man is in, in order to get your needs met. But once they both agree to bear the cost, the wheels grind smoothly and social equilibrium is enforced. The man is happy, Moesha is also happy and most likely the family of this man we do not know.
Christiane Amanpour: Professor Marx, I have seen you making notes and tapping your feet. I know you see this differently, and you want to make your point. But before that, let me read something from the same source I read from on the functionalist perspective.
“…The functionalist perspective views society as composed of different parts working together. In contrast, the conflict perspective views society as composed of different groups and interest competing for power and resources. The conflict perspective explains various aspects of our social world by looking at which groups have power and benefit from a particular social arrangement. For example, feminist theory argues that we live in a patriarchal society—a hierarchical system of organization controlled by men. Although there are many varieties of feminist theory, most would hold that feminism “demands that existing economic, political, and social structures be changed” (Weir and Faulkner 2004, p.xii).
The origins of the conflict perspective can be traced to the classic works of Karl Marx. Marx suggested that all societies go through stages of economic development. As societies evolve from agricultural to industrial, concern over meeting survival needs is replaced by concern over making a profit, the hallmark of a capitalist system. Industrialization leads to the development of two classes of people: the bourgeoisie, or the owners of the means of production (e.g., factories, farms, businesses); and the proletariat, or the workers who earn wages.
The division of society into two broad classes of people—the “haves” and the “havenots”—is beneficial to the owners of the means of production. The workers, who may earn only subsistence wages, are denied access to the many resources available to the wealthy owners.
According to Marx, the bourgeoisie use their power to control the institutions of society to their advantage. For example, Marx suggested that religion serves as an “opiate of the masses” in that it soothes the distress and suffering associated with the working-class lifestyle and focuses the workers’ attention on spirituality, God, and the afterlife rather than on such worldly concerns as living conditions. In essence, religion diverts the workers so that they concentrate on being rewarded in heaven for living a moral life rather than on questioning their exploitation…”
“Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2007. Understanding Social Problems, 5th edition”
Do you see, Professor Marx, a class struggle in this issue at hand?
Karl Marx: Of course, Christiane, is it not obvious? This BIG MAN as referred to in the situation, is using his power and resources to exploit a young girl who is part of a system that inherently disadvantages women. I want to believe the underlying issue here is economic empowerment and elevation from rugs to a place of decency that a woman needs to be. It is not about sex. Sex is the necessary tool to realizing this dream by the woman.
If he indeed is a big man, why not use his economic influence to elevate this woman without demanding for sex in return? Why must sex feature on this equation? A big man who has enough to lavish on a young lady, may probably be a head of a corporation, a political appointee or a business man who has access to factors of production and many other forms of resources. Would it not have been instructive to employ this woman, or set her up and empower her to lift other women out of the rut of economic disenfranchisement? No. he did not.
What he is doing, is exploitation perpetrated by the hard-to-shake unfair social hierarchy reinforced by layers of patriarchy and misogyny. He is using his resources to manipulate a girl who cannot help herself. This girl has been reduced to a commodity that he buys at will. In this sense, the girl will never be his equal or better than him. He, in deeper analysis, may give her all the luxuries of life, but he controls the source, as opposed to teaching her how to make her own money, grow her wealth and control the source.
Moesha, on the other hand, is not being functional as Professor Durkheim may want us to believe. She is part of the disadvantaged proletariats who are using what they have – their body, energy, intellect, bedroom superior game - to get what they want from the patriarchy – basically money, shelter and decent livelihood. So there is a classic case of a class struggle, where the system is built in a way that favours the men who built and control it, to the eternal disadvantage of women.
Christiane Amanpour: Let me play the devil’s advocate here, Professor Marx, I was honestly shocked to know that Moesha was doing what she was doing for economic gain, leading to my now famous Holy Cow cuss. I was thinking she would get a vocation, work harder and do all she can to upgrade and better herself so she does not continue being at the beck and call of the system. You will admit not all women at the top, both in Ghana and anywhere in world, are sleeping around to get ahead in life. Many of us are working hard for this. And when we get there, we do all we can to help others out.
In fact, a hashtag protest was started in Ghana #AmanpourDidNotSeeHer. This was to throw light all the women doing amazing things for themselves, and not living off the largesse of men. Much as the hashtag was misguided, since this programme was not about women in general, but the love and sexual lives of random people in the world, it is also important we don’t miss a critical reality that many women all over the world are doing all they can to rise above the prejudices and the constraints of this system you feel is not fair to women. Can you comment on this?
Karl Marx: Christiane, I have done extensive studies about this country Ghana. Small, fun loving, boisterous and sexually perverse if I may add. It is a reality many in that country will not admit. But they have quite a sexual culture that grossly contradicts their conservativeness, religiosity and claims of sanctimony. Ask the average Ghanaian woman about their daily sexual harassment by men. Ask around how many of them lose business and employment opportunities in a day due to their unwillingness to compromise their fidelity. Ask how many of them have been unfaithful to their spouses just to get a business deal sealed or an employment opportunity.
This is a country men in high positions get away with sexual misdemeanors without a hint of social repercussions. This is a country where its religious leaders, get away with horrible affairs and people defend them; leaders who are supposed to be giving moral guidance to them. But see how Moesha was skinned alive? Even women in this country reinforce the patriarchy that subjugate them. And is that not amazing? Because if a woman is seen to be resisting the system, she becomes a target of grave consequences. Versions of scriptures have been highlighted as a guiding principle for male dominance because it fits perfectly into their cultural narratives.
Are you aware that there is a general perception that women in Ghana only get up there after granting the patriarchy sexual favours?
Christiane Amanpour: Do you believe that?
Karl Marx: It is not for me to believe or doubt; if it was not happening, and for once I will agree with Professor Durkheim, such a thought would not exist.
Christiane Amanpour: So this is your classic evidence that for as long as the system in Ghana, and in many parts of the world, does not favour women, sex in exchange for access will continue to exist, and it is not because it is functional, but rather evidence of a class struggle between men who control resources and women who have to give their bodies to have access to these resources.
Karl Marx: Generally that is the idea. And the Moeshas of the world are only evidence of the lack of equitable distribution of wealth in the capitalist establishment, where those who have are not restrained but keep having, and keep building infrastructures that perpetuate their leadership, whilst those who do not have keep living a life of poverty, with no dream of respite. And until the patriarchy is brought down by the restructuring of the current social hierarchy, making it possible and easy for women to have equal opportunity to own wealth, resources and factors of production, more of this Moesha experience will be churned out. For the system, promoted by my colleague Professor Durkheim, her predicament is functional; I call it class exploitation!
Christiane Amanpour: Thank you. Professor Mead, what we have looked at, so far, is the Macro social perspective on this subject of Side Chicism. Your school of thought looks at the Micro Sociology of it; individual choices and how one interprets them. Let me read something from the same article I have read from earlier.
“…Both the functionalist and the conflict perspectives are concerned with how broad aspects of society, such as institutions and large social groups, influence the social world. This level of sociological analysis is called macro sociology: It looks at the big picture of society and suggests how social problems are affected at the institutional level. Micro sociology, another level of sociological analysis, is concerned with the social psychological dynamics of individuals interacting in small groups. Symbolic interactionism reflects the micro-sociological perspective, and was largely influenced by the work of early sociologists and philosophers, such as George Simmel, Charles Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and Erving Goffman. Symbolic interactionism emphasizes that human behavior is influenced by definitions and meanings that are created and maintained through symbolic interaction with others.
Sociologist W.I. Thomas (1966) emphasized the importance of definitions and meanings in social behavior and its consequences. He suggested that humans respond to their definition of a situation rather than to the objective situation itself. Hence Thomas noted that situations that we define as real become real in their consequences.
Symbolic interactionism also suggests that our identity or sense of self is shaped by social interaction. We develop our self-concept by observing how others interact with us a label us. By observing how others view us, we see a reflection ourselves that Cooley calls the “looking glass self.”…”
“Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2007. Understanding Social Problems, 5th edition”
Christiane Amanpour: Professor Mead, so your school of thought basically says, do not blame the system, whether Moesha is a functional part of it or she is someone in a violent class war. You are saying that, she is making personal choices based on her personal world view. Is that correct?
George Mead: Totally Christiane; you have put it succinctly. I disagree with both professors Durkheim and Marx for creating the impression that this poor girl, and the many like her, is a victim of a social structure they are unable to detach themselves from. In the question of finding a functional means of surviving, she could have opted for the myriads of scenarios available to her. She could have fallen on her talent, education, family connection, brains or anything that was available to her to make money like many women in Ghana are doing. These are choices she had control over, but she simply chose the best that appealed to her.
I do not personally see her in a class struggle. She is not the only Ghanaian woman struggling to rise up. I appreciate that women are in existential struggle to be empowered, however, the choice of route to empowerment is not cast in stone for all women, otherwise, they will all be doing the same thing to get empowered. In this scenario, Moesha chose to have a sexual relationship with a married man in exchange for what she needs including financial benefits.
Another woman struggling to make ends meet, may choose sell in traffic to raise the needed capital to start a bigger business that will be self-sustaining in the long haul. Another may choose to depend on her parents and family connections. Yet another woman may choose to pick up weapons and be a highway robber. Ultimately, the choice of a lifestyle to alleviate one’s poverty is not a decision anyone makes for anyone. People make these choices based on the meaning they attach to the choices and how they interpret them.
Every woman in Ghana is faced with the same set of circumstances. It will be preposterous to say that, because of those circumstances, all Ghanaian women are having sex with men, and worse, men with marital commitments, to get ahead in society. It’s ludicrous.
Christiane Amanpour: So will you deny the fact that men demand sex to give women employment?
George Mead: No I will not deny that fact. But I will deny the fact that demand is the same as access. He demands it, but one woman will walk to the next employer than grant sex. Another will grant sex and get the job. Another will grant sex and not get the job, move to the next employer, with the experience she has had, still grant sex and possibly still not get the job. Ultimately these are choices. The system may throw its demands at you, how you respond is never cast in stone but a personal decision based on how you interact with the situation before you.
Moesha, in our discourse of her, may get it wrong. Feminists feel she is a victim of the patriarchal system manned by men. Men, in their misogyny feel she is just a part of the various components that keeps the system running. In two different interviews, with yours being the second, this young woman discussed her sexual life with glee, without an iota of regrets, hurt or a call for help. Does she look like Professor Marx’s Class Victim? Does she look like Professor Durkheim necessary social component? I say no. She is making life choices. She is comfortable with her own choices and that is how we need to see it.
Moesha is an adult, alert, lucid and well oriented in time and space, making personal decisions that has nothing to do with the system. Many women are in the same system she refers to, who have opted to react to the exigencies of the system in ways that are markedly different from how Moesha has reacted. She thus cannot become the standard response to the Ghanaian situation, neither can she be the flagship of a women’s revolution. If you asked the average Ghanaian woman, whether or not they would make her their Revolutionary Icon in their bid to overthrowing the system, many would say no.
Christiane Amanpour: Why?
George Mead: Because they do not identify with her choice of a path to economic emancipation as the best and the only way. Which explains the Hashtag, #AmanpourDidNotSeeHer. Moesha’s experience is a personal individual choice, albeit its widespread nature in Ghana
Christiane Amanpour: Thank you Professors Emile Durkheim of the Functionalist Sociological school of thought, Karl Marx Of the Conflict Sociological School of thought and George Mead of the Symbolic Interactionist sociological school of thought.
Ladies and gentlemen, where do you belong? Where would you place the Side Chic in this? Let us keep the debate going till we meet again. This has been me, Christiane Amanpour, for Sex and Love around the world, the Spoof Edition.
This is a conversation that never took please. I repeat, it never took please.