By Clay Wilson
When all else fails, blame the woman. There's nothing new about this strategy: Men have been relying on it since the Garden of Eden.
But if one can blame a woman wearing pants, that makes the argument even stronger.
Or so, reportedly, thinks Swaziland's King Mswati III. For those who might not know (I'll admit I was one of them until Monday), Swaziland is a country of about 1.1 million people in southeastern Africa.
According to an article in Reuters' "Oddly Enough" section on the Internet, Swaziland's king thinks the world's troubles are caused by women wearing pants.
"The Bible says curse be unto a woman who wears pants ?," Reuters quoted the king as saying. "That is why the world is in such a state today."
While the world itself is certainly in trouble, Swaziland obviously has problems of its own. Encyclopaedia Britannica says the country has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world about 30 percent. Reuters calls the country "impoverished."
The Times of Swaziland reported that 20,000 Swazis recently gathered in the national cattle byre (apparently a huge corral) to hear the king announce that he has dissolved parliament pending upcoming elections. He also urged aspiring politicians not to resort to ritual murder in order to win (no kidding look it up at www.times.co.sz).
But Mswati said in a state radio sermon that it's women wearing pants that are the real problem.
The biblical authority Mswati was ostensibly citing for his pronouncement on trouser-wearing women was from the Old Testament. In fact, he appears to have a decided preference for that particular portion of the Bible.
Reuters reported that he is married to nine women, with a wedding in the works to a 10th and a recent engagement to an 11th.
I'm no Bible scholar, but I can think of a few New Testament passages that seem to frown upon this sort of thing.
Furthermore, what the verse Mswati must have been thinking of says is, "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this" (Deut. 22:5).
But clearly, what is "men's clothing" and "women's clothing" is dictated by cultural standards. As more moderate voices noted in the religious debates of my youth (some of my family were of the old-time Baptist persuasion), "men's clothing" in Bible days consisted of robes not considered the most masculine attire nowadays.
And whatever one thinks about this issue, to blame society's ills on women wearing pants is patently ludicrous.
Fortunately, some of Swaziland's common folk seem to have realized this. In a fine example of finding voices on both sides of an issue, Reuters quotes a female resident of the capital thusly:
"The king says I am the cause of the world's problems Never mind terrorism, government corruption, poverty and disease, it's me and my pants. I reject that."
To her sentiment I can only respond, "Amen, sister."
Clay Wilson is the education and public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.