It is painfully obvious that I am a feminist. Painfully because it has become so that it is not possible to have any other conversation other than my feminism. Somedays it peeves me. Some days, I say, “Wake Up and Smell the Patriarchy People”! This I tell to myself and those that are blissfully in denial. It is everywhere you turn, it is in everything you do, it is written all over the thing that drives our day to day. Literally, it is all over our money.
Let’s take a look at a woman’s life, her home. Each home, whether we like it or not, is designed based on gender. The living room is a man’s realm; the kitchen belongs to the woman. Everything else outside the door belongs to men. You may ask, to what end? To ensure that the oldest and most powerful male in the home gains the best of the homely comforts, of course! Who sits in the best seat in the home? Who has his name on the door, regardless of who put the money down for it? Who gets the choicest morsel of food? The patriarch.
Basic nutritional biases are based on gender. Chickens are a rare food item in Ethiopia, where we only kill a chicken to make the delicious ‘doro wot’ (Chicken sauce) on special occasions. Traditionally, the breast meat, the most nutritionally rich piece of the chicken goes to the man of the house. Not to the pregnant woman; not to the sick child or the toddler but to the man of the house. Which is probably why for a good portion of my childhood, I only tasted chicken breast from my father’s plate.
I once asked my mother why I have my father’s name. She simply stated because that is our culture, everyone does it. Since we do not have surnames in Ethiopia, the embedded patriarchy of the inclusion of the father’s and paternal grandfather’s name brands the children as their father’s. My daughter’s identity was no longer tied to mine as soon as we got her birth certificate. I was just the manufacturing plant; so she carries her father’s name. Soon enough, I will not even exist as part of her identity and her grandchildren may never know my name. Wake up and smell the patriarchy mommy!
Ask yourself, why on earth are we fighting over a statue for Empress Taitu Betul, the only woman in contemporary Ethiopian history, that has succeeded in politics and ruled beside her husband as co-regent in anything but name! This same woman led an army against the Italian invasion and masterminded the victory of Adwa. No matter which class you are; no matter what ethnic group or religious belief, whatever passport you carry, I think it is time for you to wake up and smell the patriarchy.
Ask yourself, why are there so few women in African politics? Ethiopian politics has become engaging for the first time in over a decade, but where are all the women? Did the Tanzanian president just say that women using birth control are too lazy to feed their kids? Was he the same man that said pregnant teenagers cannot go back to school? I keep asking, where are all the women?
Patriarchy is a system of rule that benefits certain men, older, than others. As with any other system of oppression, it does not offer benefits to all that confirm, it is like- “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” Yes, there has been injustice in the past but women have been sidelined, instrumentalized and denied their voice for longer. Look into history, our justice system and basic economic gains in just the last century. Often, women are sidelined, becoming enablers at best, catalysts to the political systems and processes or passive observers, sitting silently by. Look at your day to day rituals, our funerals, weddings and places of worship. Keep asking yourself, Where are all the women?