The world is skewed in favor of the man. Men are privileged even from birth with some communities placing a higher value on a male birth over a female one. It’s a sad world where a child’s life can end before it begins, for the simple mistake of being the wrong ‘gender’. Patriarchy favors men at home, at work and even by infrastructure design.
I recently had a conversation with a lady I know to be quite the hard worker. She has 3 children all under 10 years old and a sister she’s supporting through college. She literally does manual labor 6 days a week and goes home to do her motherly and wifely duties. What struck me most during our conversation is her understanding of her role as a woman.
She tells me that when she had just given birth to any of her children, she refused to get anyone to help her because of fear of another woman coming to do a coup d’etat in her marriage. Her husband would leave her some money to look for someone to help out with the cleaning, but she would rather pocket the money and do the work herself. As she put it, “unawacha mtu aje afanye kazi zako nyumbani kidogo unapata mko wawili” You let someone help you with your housework and before you know it you have a co-wife.
She tells me a woman should be meek, a woman has no business being stubborn, speaking up about anything in a home. A good woman should make sure her house is always clean and make sure hot food is waiting for her husband when he gets home. A good woman should never question her husband. These, to her, are the qualities of a good woman.
In many homes in Kenya this is the norm. A woman who works (by work I also include being a housewife) just as hard as the husband, has to break their back just to be considered good enough. She’ll wake up before the break of dawn to prepare her husband and kids for work and school respectively. Then get to preparing her own self for what will be a day demanding productivity. In the evening, make sure a hot meal is ready for her family, help the kids with their homework and set the tone of preparation for the next morning and still be expected to perform her conjugal duties lest her man steps out.
There’s also a special breed of men who categorically state that they did not get married so that they cannot eat food cooked by the domestic manager or have their clothes cleaned by the domestic manager. They demand that their wives should attend to these duties personally regardless of how tired and squeezed for time they may be. The laughable part is that these same men will be caught with their pants down with the same domestic managers.
Women are being beaten by their significant others in the name of discipline and our inferiority role has been so deeply ingrained that we believe we deserved it. Some cultures even go as far as teaching women that if they are not beaten, they are not loved. What kind of system not only makes it ok for you to be beaten senseless but teaches you to demand it?
You go through all these at home and still get discriminated against at work. Women are sexually objectified at work, paid less for doing the same or more than their colleague and silenced/ignored when they voice opinions and ideas only for the same to be stolen by a man who doesn’t even take the time to edit the wordings. If you stand your ground, refuse to be pushed aside and speak your mind, your career may very well be sabotaged. A woman should not be that ill-mannered. Same behavior for a man is taken as “leadership” characteristic.
It’s time though. It has always been time. It’s time that more and more women accept to be ill-mannered, to refuse to be treated as donkeys either at home or work. To stand up and demand each and everything that we truly deserve. To be given respect for all that we put into the world. It’s time to demand to occupy our place in society. There are enough of us on this planet to shake up change if we join hands.
To each and every woman, Happy International women’s day. To all the men out there, take it upon yourselves to give women the same opportunities accorded to you.