LETTER : Manipulation isn't power

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IN THE article "Behind the myth of Islamic marriage" (21 May) Tim McGirk presents the viewpoint of a Western woman who moved to Pakistan in order to marry. According to the report, she views Pakistan as a matriarchy on the grounds that, "Pakistani women are very adept at manipulating their husbands".

Manipulation is generally understood as the exertion of influence by indirect means rather than by asserting one's right to overt authority. A woman who resorts to manipulation may succeed in achieving her ends, but in so doing she unwittingly reveals the true nature of her powerlessness. She has colluded in a culturally-based assumption that her man has more right to make decisions and to direct proceedings than she has. Only subordinates have a need to manipulate. Bosses, or those in authority, do not manipulate. They direct and are heeded.

The purpose of this letter is not to attack any particular culture but to highlight misconceptions which arise cross- culturally in assessing the status of women.

If black people were seen to be exerting themselves through manipulation in a predominantly white culture, would that be considered a sign of equality and progress?

A J Snape

Croydon, Surrey