Friday, July 15, 2011

Gender Roles, where do you stand?

Despite my best intentions, inadvertently the underlying theme of my blog seems to be feminism. That was not my intention for this blog, but it is a big part of who I am and what I believe. I am the one in workshops and meetings that requests a change of language to use the world “chairperson” instead of “chairman”, I am the one who asks “well what do the women think or what is the woman’s role?” I see women everyday NOT standing up for them to be treated better or to receive the respect they deserve. I get excited about meeting independent, strong, outspoken Zambian women who break the mold. Just as I get excited about meeting Zambian men that break the mold as well. It is these people that will revolutionize the social mentality in Zambia, and it is these types of people that will revolutionize the world to make it a more equal place, at least in the gender aspect, maybe not in the hierarchies of society.
Ba Monica, my neighbor and an amazing woman. She is outspoken, assertive, and independent.
Because of afore mentioned thoughts, I got really upset when I saw Madmen. While living in our little bubble called America we have no idea what type of pop culture is exported to other countries. For instance WWF (the wrestling thing not the wildlife fund) is huge here, ever heard of John Cena? Dolly Parton, Don Williams, Michael Jackson, 50cent, Jay-Z are some of the most popular artists in the Villages and small towns up country. People know Chuck Norris and Walker Texas Ranger here. I have watched Jersey Shore here, it is on the extended satellite package, so the people who can afford such a luxury see Americans as Snooky and the Incident, REALLY? So when I saw Madmen, I got upset because that series could be exported into other cultures where women are treated like that and that show could reinforce that behavior because there are other successful, developed and wealthy nations who treat their women the same way. The danger lies in the chance that the cultural context (the American Culture) is not completely understood in a foreign culture and that this is a take on life 50 years ago. Plus it is a major assumption by society that we have really come so far and that women are treated so much better and more equally within society? Have we? I’m not so sure, here is why:
These are the neighbor ladies from my village, traditional gender roles put the responsibility of food preparation on women.
I am really into fish, a lot of Americans think this is strange, eccentric and it becomes really difficult for people to understand so they write it off as just another eccentricity of Jocelyn. Fish are a boy’s thing, why would a girl be so into fish in a non-marine biology, dolphin loving sort of way. Don’t get me wrong dolphins are great.
Emasculating is a word used in everyday language; it is not some archaic word our ancestors once used. The very nature of the word places the blame of the behavior not on the man but on the other person. Definition: Deprive (a man) of his male role or identity ( No word exists to describe the explicit humiliation of a woman, isn’t this odd? There is a way to describe a woman as masculine or butch and a man as effeminate (unmanly) or feminine. But there is no way to express that an outside party has deprived a woman of her female role or identity, unless there is and I just don’t know it. In Zambia this would refer to her sexuality and she would be termed “damaged”. Anyway this was a conversation amongst my friends here, I can’t remember what we concluded (maybe they can remind me).
This is Ba Thomas, my neighbor from the village. Generally men don't sweep around the house but Ba Thomas broke out of the gender roles sometimes and helped his wife with the sweeping and taking care of the children, as well as his general male responsibilities of farming, building, making bricks, building structures around the compound.
When I started writing last night I was going to write about my efforts at regaining my femininity, I wore high heels to work for the first time in my life. Meaning I wore high heels for more than 2-3 hours for the VERY first time in my life. As I was writing about this I felt silly and wanted to write about something that has much more meaning to me. Not that being feminine isn’t important to me (I shave my legs, wear make, fix my hair, and wear dresses), I just needed something more passionate and empowering. Sorry gentlemen, but if you aren’t a son, brother, father, or uncle this isn’t important to you. Just as it should be important to women to help define new gender roles for both men and women so that we don’t have confused and befuddled generations of men and women trying to interact with each other to no avail. With the change of women’s roles in society so must there be a change to men’s roles come.  

The next generation. Right now boys and girls are seated together, I hope this remains the case as they grow up. But traditionally men and women don't sit together.
I would love to hear where you stand on this subject. All views and opinions shall be respected.


  1. Oh, lady. You know I'm like the world's biggest feminist, right? It's really interesting to read your perspective from another country, especially in regard to Mad Men. I love that show and I feel like it really brings a lot of our sexism and racism to light in a way that people feel comfortable confronting. When I read commentary about the show online or talk to people about the plot, we can recognize how fucked up things were back then, even though it was so pretty on the surface. And we can also discuss the far women have come in some areas, and how little progress we've made in others. It's a nuanced show with a lot of opportunities for discussion and debate, and I love that.

    But oh! I didn't think about how other cultures might interpret the show or what effect that would have on their own understanding of gender and equality. That is a fascinating and disturbing point you've brought up. I still love the show, but I'm not sure how far our responsibility goes. Do we give up the good the show is doing in America because it's doing harm elsewhere? I don't know. That's a tough question.

    As for me, I believe in equality, following my dreams, achieving my goals and working hard to help other women do the same. Relationships come second to that. Luckily I have found a man who understands and respects that (for the most part). I am sure you will, too!

  2. LeeAnne BlackwoodJuly 16, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Interesting blog. However I may not have explained myself thoroughly when I made the comment about "finding a man". When I was married to your dad he was very good at doing "pink" jobs as well as "blue" jobs. I found that it was something that improved the marriage and relationship. It was also liberating. But when it came to watching you and Matthew he would say he was "babysitting". That term really would set me off. A father doesn't "babysit" his own children! That is an absurd belief and your dad isn't the only man to use that term.

    As for my comment about "finding a man". That comment has more to do with having patience with those we live with, ie, a flat mate, boyfried or husband. I looked up the word patience in Webster but I didn't like the first definition. Patience: endurance of pain or provacation without complaint. The second definition was much better; "the power to wait calmly" and the third defination; "perseverance". Patience is a human trait that is extremely important to be able to cohabitate with another human being, no matter what the relationship is. Men try our patience all the time as well as women try a man's patience. But it is learning to live with each other in harmony and accepting the things that person does or having patience to deal with them. There are all different ways in dealing with a situation. And I believe that patience is a healthy way to deal with your flat mate, husband or live in boy friend. Men in general want a women who is patient, kind, loving, tender and caring. Those are the traits of a mother and "he" can be seeing you as the mother of his children or someone he will spend the rest of his life with. And no one wants to life with a "hard" person who doesn't have patience and get's upset about stuff all the time.

    As I agree with gener equality I also believe it is a woman who brings her tenderness into a relationshp with a man. It is a woman who is a mother and tends to be the nurterur in the family. A woman can be the "main bread winner", but she can also be feminine, kind, loving, tending and patient. I believe that a woman can strive to be all that she can and still have the feminine traits that make her a lady too.