As we grow up in our different homes and communities, we are trained to run this that activity. With this stereotyped mentalities, we find it just right and needless changing. But in total sincerity we need to change some of these assumptions, as we consider the other side of the story.
I lived the first 19 years of my lived within the hills and Valleys of Lebialem. My dad came just as work could permit. This left us spending a greater portion of our life with our mom. This made me experience so much she did, which in many occasions is considered masculine. For example
1) The man is the “bread winner of the family: I saw in her a woman who gave in all her efforts. She did multiple rapid income generating activities, just do her children don’t go hungry. She met other needs without looking up all the times at the traditional male figure. Then I knew providing for the household was not entirely a masculine responsibility, but women do this do.
2) A woman should be soft: I saw in her a woman who worked so hard on the farms. She did clear the farms in the rains, even in days that seemed like it rained cats and dogs. This was same on the very sunny days, which came with some earth scorching heat. Then I knew working extremely hard wasn’t a man’s thing.
3) A man should walk in a way, look strong and beards: I had this friend who told me I fear your mother. I asked him why, and he said she doesn’t walk like a woman should. With this funny look, he added ” and she even has some beards around her chin “. It was funny he was talking about my mother here, but we laughed over this at the time. At least we reasoned the same because we probably had the same social construction process. By now, I learnt that society has simply defined what they should classify as masculine, and what should be feminine. Beards around the chin or a walking style does not make a female become male, but community does. And it’s not right.
4) Men must exercise strength: she was, and is still a very powerful woman. I remember this day after harvesting plantain from one of our farms, a neighbour could not imagine she’s the one who did. I heard this man say this to her ” you just cut the stalk of that plantain like a man “. They both laughed over this. But I kept wondering why he said this. When he left, I asked my mom why he said that. Her response was shocking to me. She told me culturally it is believed that men are powerful and will give at most two cuts to bring down the stalk of a plantain. A thing she did at just one cut. At that age, it wasn’t funny to me. But the lesson leant is the fact that, it’s just an assumption that only men have to exhibit strength in their actions.
5) A married woman with kids should look after her kids and not taking education as an option: my mom gave birth to 4 of us. I remember I was in the primary school when my mom started with a vocational training school. She switched to a technical school, went to the high school, then to the professional school. Many castigated her. Many criticised her. Many tried to discourage her. Some in their gossips questioned if she was to look after kids or go to school. They even concluded that she can’t succeed. When i think about her and her take to go back to school, I respect her. Her move made other men in the neighbourhood to send their wives to school. Many women around her started taking the initiatives to get literate. This to me is amazing.
During my four years in in the university while studying Women and Gender Studies with a second major in Sociology and Anthropology, my thinking gradually changed. I could understand the community in which I grew up. I found the gaps and the need to bridge them. I didn’t see things same as at first.
It so happened that everything that was said left me with an image of this woman who seemed to have been so different despite her level of education at the time. I hope her moves serve as a booster to all who will read this piece.
A good number of stereotyped tend to kill the possibility of most women and girls from living up till their fullest potentials.