Where’s a woman’s place?

Female doctor1

Bongiwe Nkomazana
FROM observing the way our female elders behave and listening to them narrate how they have lived their lives, it is clear what the roles of a woman were to them and that their place was at home and their platform to thrive and flourish was the kitchen. They take particular pride in being homemakers and were content with being just that. I am not sure if I have already told you about this occurrence before but I will retell it anyway.

I was in a kombi to work one morning and two elderly women were talking about how this young couple was having problems already and they somehow came to the conclusion that it was the young wife’s fault because she was not wifely or womanly enough.

The trip to work is pretty long so all of us got the tea from how she did not clean her house properly all the way to how she fails to pack lunch for her husband when he goes to work. You could tell how strongly these elderly ladies felt about what a woman should do and where her place in the home general is.

Times have changed and people’s mindsets and behaviours have evolved. With this change, do we still maintain that a woman’s place is limited to domestic issues or are we saying something else?

Like a true feminist, I strongly believe that a woman should not be put in a box, a box in this case, being a kitchen or a house and told to remain there. At the same time, as a true African and flawed Christian, I appreciate the roles of a woman and a man in the traditional setting and I have often failed to imagine a scenario where women completely let go of the kitchen and/or house.

However, to be honest, nothing infuriates me like a man declaring what a woman should and should not do, where she should go and should not go, what she should look like, what she should say and not say. I guess my feminism pulls through more in this round.

cooking woman

I was having a conversation with my workmates and one of them started telling us about how her married brother, based at their rural home, will do what are considered women’s chores like laundry, fetching water from the local borehole, drawing the designs on the huts in their homestead and cutting grass to thatch their roofs etc, while the wife sells produce at the market.

I admit we all laughed our lungs out because the conversation took off from an angle of ridiculing this man for not being masculine enough and it didn’t help that the storyteller went to town with the hilarious hyperbolic imitations. However, when I thought about it later, I realised that there was actually more to admire about this man like the bravery in his determination to be involved in the running of his household that meant defying the norms.

I would sign up for and appreciate a husband who can reason within himself and realise that his wife is busy with a source of income for the home so the least he can do as her life partner is to help with whatever else he needs to help with. I mean who knows what their game plan is as a couple?

Talking about couples and game plans, I think modern day women especially those who fall under the millennial demographic, have a difficult time defining their roles in their relationships which means that “their place” becomes very vague.

Certain things are expected of them by friends, family and the society. A husband’s family will never be pleased to see their son prepare dinner for the family or sweep the carpets just like how the wife’s family will find no amusement in their son-in-law failing to provide a certain lifestyle for his family.

As a person observing from outside, may I be granted permission to just throw in my two cents of advice. All relationships that we single people comment on and criticise so unforgivingly have different dynamics plus we just talk about you because we can and we have the time.

Yes, you are a woman living in a big wide world and you represent a lot of groups of people but you are also just but one woman. All you can do is to define your place as an individual.

Please note that when women demand to be allowed to be more than just housekeepers, we are not by any means saying we will not be housekeepers. All women dream of owning a home and doing it up and I think for most of us nurturing that environment and all the people living in it comes naturally and we enjoy giving that love.

What we are really saying is that there is more to us than just submission, planning meals and blowing noses.

My parents will be married 29 years this November. Neither one of them is domesticated and despite their arguments about my dad’s outfits and whom we the children took after when we mess up, they are happily married. They both have worked and achieved most of what they wanted to achieve without my dad confining my mum to a kitchen.

If anything, my dad has reaped the benefits of allowing my mum to be whatever she wanted to be and their joint happiness has led to a good quality life.

Moral of the story . . . choose your place dear woman. Let nobody hand it to you lest you find yourself imprisoned.

Some women are born to be mothers and they will say that their purpose in life is to raise their kids and when they are done with that, they can die in peace. That is their place.

Other women were destined to preach the Gospel and others to impart knowledge to children and so the altar and the classroom, respectively, are their places. The moment you realise your purpose and work towards it, you reserve “your place”.

To the rest of the world that is on a rampage to try and hold women down in the name of “her place” please, repeat after me… A. WOMAN’S. PLACE. IS.

WHEREVER. SHE. WANTS. IT. TO. BE.

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  • Rider~

    Are you married yourself?