Chauvinism is not dead

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chau·vin·ism

noun \ˈshō-və-ˌni-zəm\

: an attitude that the members of your own sex are always better than those of the opposite sex

 

I was born into a very traditional tribe in Kenya. All I remember is growing up in an atmosphere of rules and “do’s and don’ts”. There was food that we could not eat although as a female we prepared. In my tribe, a man considered his wife as his first-born child. Hence, little respect was given to her. Her role is supposed to be seen and she is not supposed to be heard. A woman in my tribe can hardly voice her concerns.

With that said, it is to no surprise that my father was a polygamist. To date, I have no idea how many wives or concubines he has or has had. I also have no idea how many children he has fathered. All in all, I love him, but in all honesty, he could have and should have done better! My father was born into a monogamic home. My grandfather was a staunch catholic who did not embrace a lot of what our culture believed.  That being said, my father had a good example (from his father) he was taught good morals. He worked so hard and managed to study abroad. He had the opportunity to see the world in a different light.  My father however chose to come back to Kenya and embrace the backward tribal mentalities. He chose it because it was a path for him to be a “god”…to do whatever, and still be revered.

I grew up in an affluent home. We had access to good schools and anything we could possibly want… but there was a dichotomy. Indoors, we had preserved the traditional chauvinistic ideas that had been passed down from generation to generation. I remember that at 7 years old I was being groomed to become a wife. I would bring a basin with a jug of perfectly tempered water. I would wash my dad’s hands as I served him. I would be in the kitchen and not partake of what the men in the home spoke about. My brothers were forbidden to step into the kitchen as it was a “woman’s place”. My mother’s ideas were publicly ridiculed by my father. I shall not bore you with more examples; I assume you get the picture.

As I grew older and found a voice, my dad saw I was different. He knew of how ambitious I was and he jokingly called me a “bull dozer”. I did not bite my tongue when I noticed oppression or chauvinism. At times I would question my mother for losing her voice in her marriage and in our tradition.

Fast-forward and now I am 27 years old and traditionally married. My husband is from my tribe too. He was born and raised in America, so he is open-minded (Thank you Jesus!). However, I still get a lot of flak from members of our tribe. The other day I was accused of “sitting on my husband’s head.” In Swahili it means, “Kukalia kichwa cha mume wangu” I did not know how to accept that accusation. How could I be miles away from my tribal home and still experience judgment for being a strong African woman?  I work full-time and still come back home to be a mommy. I wear so many hats that I cannot begin to count. The members of my tribe through feel as if I am possibly too outspoken and too driven for a woman.

My husband’s aunt is close to sixty and I have seen the way she behaves around her husband. She is a warm, loving and funny lady. She cracks me up! However, when she is around her husband she is always 5 feet away and as quiet as a church mouse.

Personally, I know that these accusations may just be but the beginning. Once I begin my activism (Jesus! Take the wheel!) I know I will be quite the rabble-rouser. For those tribal “haters” (cliché isn’t it). I am here to stay. You can bury your head in your imaginary rule book. I live my life and I try to live a life that pleases God…not man. Sorry!

 

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