bubudi wrote (bolding mine):
in africa, the division of roles of men and women are very clear cut, even more so than in the west. you don't hear women complaining about it. i guess that means it's tolerated and accepted in african societies. however, just because it's tolerated doesn't mean women are happy with it.
Don't you think this is related to the fact that these are developing countries that don't yet have universal compulsory public education for kids, as in the West? I think you would see a *lot* more discourse on this - and protest, likely - from African women *if* they were able to get this level of literacy and education. (Not to say that African boys don't need these things - they do!!!)
From what I've heard (from women who have lived for extended periods of time in Africa), there are a LOT of problems ... from domestic abuse to control of the lives of girls and women by men (husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers and other male relatives) that's extremely harmful. (again, I'm *not* saying that all African men do this - that would be false - but MANY do, simply because they can.)
There are a lot of things about African cultures (in general) that I wish we in the West would take to heart: a sense of community is one of them. A willingness to face hardship with grace is another, and a "can do" attitude goes along with that. I am amazed by what little I know about the creativity of people who live without "all mod cons" and are forced to improvise and create solutions for all kinds of practical situations/problems that would never occur to most of us Westerners. (There's a marvelous blog about this, the title of which escapes me right now, but I'll post the link when I do remember it...)
I don't think Western culture is necessarily better, and i do think a lot of us Westerners are seriously deluded in our assumptions of de facto cultural superiority. We're not at all humble II'm including myself here) and we have so much
to learn from people in other cultures. (not just Africans.) But I find myself in a quandary here: in accepting that I need to learn, that I can benefit from the ways others live and view the world - does that mean that I have to embrace the not-so-good parts of those cultures? I personally think not.
the same cannot be said in africa, where women do not have time for hobbies, are doing most of the work (either at home or in the market place or in many cases on the fields), can't have male friends, usually have their marriages arranged, often have no say about sharing their husband with other women (either polygamy or mistresses), are inflicted with genital cutting against their will, frequently fear their husband's hand if things don't go his way, and due to the more intense stigmas and pressure to be a virgin before marriage, would feel totally harshly judged and marginalised if they became victims of sexual assault (with complete reason).
Exactly, b. And there are other things as well - for example, in a very upfront interview on Aropop.org, Kandia Kouyate discusses the violence she endured from her father and one of his wives (not her mother) due to her wanting to be a jelimuso. She was beaten repeatedly for this over a long period of time... (I suppose their intentions were partly good, since they wanted her to finish school, but their methods certainly leave a lot to be desired.)
And there are situations in which African women lose any say or control over their childrens'' lives, care and welfare. I personally know of a Togolese woman (friend of friends) who almost had her kids - all of them (4 or 5) taken from her upon her husband's untimely death. (It's local custom - her husband's family made a very unusual decision, though and renounced all rights to the kids. But... I don't know anything that's transpired since then - 10 years ago - and they might very well have taken them, or tried to.)
I had a Nigerian colleague in D.C. whose now ex-husband kidnapped their children and took them back to Nigeria. She had had no contact with those kids for years when I knew her, because when she tried to write to them or see them, she received death threats. She wasn't even able to get news of them... (This was many years ago and i don't know if they were ever reunited.) What her ex did was definitely tolerated, but that sure as hell doesn't mean it was right!
Multiply these situations thousands of times over (and add in what bubudi mentioned) and ... well. Life is hard for most all Africans, but especially tough for girls and women, in general.
there is also the question of women who don't want to be mothers, or aren't attracted to men. they seem to be so very rare in africa. or perhaps they just don't have a say in the matter...
You know what? These women aren't so rare at all - they have, as you say, little-zero choice in the matter.
As for lesbians and gay men, you do know that there's a big push in Uganda right now (aided and abetted by some Americans!) to make homosexuality/lesbianism a capital crime?! If this law is passed people who associate
with gay men and lesbians in ANY capacity (as friends, business associates, etc.) would be subject to prison terms, as they would be viewed as aiding and abetting sexual deviance. Rwanda isn't far behind on this, either... and the crimes against LGBT people in Africa (including rape and murder) are legion. That's why the anti-homosexual wing of the Anglican Church (here and in the UK) has garnered such intense support from the clerical hierarchy in African countries, even to the point of US churches coming under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Nigeria and other African countries.
There was also a recent piece in the NYT about a gay Senegalese musician who now lives in NY. he fled the country (and was lucky to be able to do so) after receiving death threats as well as going through numerous physical assaults. per him - and other sources in Senegal - many people in that country are picked up and imprisoned for looking
gay. (Whatever that means; I can see how this could be an ultra-convenient way of ruining people who are business or romantic rivals, etc. etc. etc., regardless of their sexual orientation.)