23 June 2011

Runs the World

You know what, Beyoncé is right. After living in Dakar for three short weeks, I can attest that women run this place. Or perhaps to say that they keep this place running is more exact. My experience has been that the men here do very little without the support of their wives, daughters, and maids. Take my host family as an example: my host mother teaches at a school, raised three children (only two of which were hers) takes care of our house, makes meals for her son Papi and me, tends to elderly in the hospital, and puts up with my constant confusion. Papi, on the other hand, is jobless (which I will attribute to the economic situation in Senegal right now more than his motivation), sleeps away most of the day, can not cook (most men here don't cook as it is contrary to traditional gender roles), and mostly watches tv. Firstly, I know that Papi's current situation grates on him. But regardless of his circumstance, other students' expierences confirm that the men here expect the women to procure food and water (which, depending on your location, can be difficult), to nurture and educate the children, and to care for their needs while they sit and discuss. The man's place is often to be a spokesman of the family in societal/community affairs and to provide financial support, when possible. Currently though, financial support eludes many Senegalese, what with decreased interest in Senegal's main cash crop, peanuts (a product of French colonialism here) and the president's constricting hand on society and economy. As a result, the 60% unemployment in some parts of the country leave men without occupation and women to take up the slack. So, as the men amble about, the women silently bear the weight. And at times, like today, not so silently.

So, while I might have phrased it differently than,

"I work my 9 to 5, better cut my check,"

I think I can say that I know what Beyoncé's getting at. And I am for it.

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