Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm a Lazy Blogger. Must Be Because I'm a Woman.

You may have noticed that I haven't updated my blog in a while.


I just spent this weekend at another PCV's site doing a Life Skills training with her students at the FET college. They were an incredible group of kids, and I had a blast doing it.
Arlean set the training up and was looking to have sessions from 7am to 10pm. I talked her out of this plan, using the excuse that "the kids wont be able to absorb the information," when in reality I just plum didn't want to facilitate that much.
What we ended up doing was pretty perfect.
We started out with HIV information- the same we did at my high school. Then we focused on communication, decision-making, goals, and then on gender issues.

The gender roles session was ... interesting.
I found myself getting a little worked up at one point when one of the males said something to the effect of, "while men and women are 50/50 in the eyes of the law, we all know that men are still better than women." I lost it a little bit, which was very unprofessional of me! I challenged him by saying, "you think you're better than me? You just said you're better than me. Look me in the eye and tell me you're better than me."
I said it with a laugh, but I was definitely far more aggressive than I would have liked to have been. He avoided meeting my eyes and kind of stammered, "not ... right now ..."

I felt bad, I was a bit of a bully. But like hell I am going to take that kind of disrespect from a kid!

Later, another young man stood up and said a piece about how wrong it is that a man could go and claim he is better than his mother just because of his gender, even after she birthed him and raised him. How anyone who claims that they are better than anyone is better than no one. His comments were met with applause from the group.

One thing that I have noticed that has been met with great resistance every time we do a gender session, is whether or not women can dig graves. This has been resisted by both men and women. No one here has ever seen women participate in grave digging during the funerals, so many people can't even fathom that a woman could do such a thing. I was once told that, "women can dig a hole, but not a grave."
It took quite a while to convince the group this time around that women are physically capable of digging a grave (though it may take longer than a man- unless you're my mom who could probably outdig plenty of dudes.) One young man said, "if a woman can dig the foundation of a house, why can't she dig a grave?"
Eventually, most came around to accept that it is physically possible for women to do such a thing, though they weren't likely to see it happen or encourage it. That's fine, whatever!
The point was to demonstrate what culture tends to dictate. What culture tells us we can and can't do on account of our gender. It's clear that these gender roles are in a great transition right now.

At one point in the gender discussion, I compared the oppression of black people to the oppression of women. That seemed to make an impression. Clearly the oppression of black people was wrong, and white people said much of the same crap that many males say about women. "They're inferior in this capacity or that capacity," "they can't do this or that as well as we can," "blub blub blub, blah blah blah, I'm full of crap in this way or in that way."

Anyway. I guess my point was that the session was pretty interesting.

I bring all this up, mostly because I find myself becoming more and more a feminist. Some of it is sparked by pure outrage at the oppression that women here suffer- the constant physical threat, the way that men will often grab women on the street as means of "flirting," the all too often abandonment of women once they're impregnated.

I find that I often have to fight my own mind. It can be so easy to blame males, to be angry and hate men for all the crap that they pull. It can be hard to remember that they're suffering, too. They're also being oppressed by the same roles and expectations that lead them to oppress others.
And then, of course, there are some incredible men here. Sometimes at our soccer games, some of my teammates will bring their children along. They'll tickle them, teach them how to kick the ball, give them love and attention. Little else here makes me happier than seeing a dad spending time with his child.

I don't really know where I'm going with this entry, I just felt like I had to post one since it's been so long.

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