Can you be a 360 rock star? 

I have a good friend here in Mali and she is a rock star. She was at the top of her class through grade school and wanted to try provide better means for her family (her words not mine). She studied management in university and can  speak English though not very quickly (yet!). She got as scooped up by various organizations right out of school and now has a great management job that she is kicking @$$ at. 

She’s getting married soon, and normally I am totally stoaked to celebrate someone’s marriages but I am twinging a bit by pangs of disappointment  (or anger, or sadness, or uncomfortableness- to be honest I haven’t put a finger on what emotion it is but it is not pure joy and has undertows of something gloomy). She is going to marry a guy who already has a wife; polygamy is legal in Mali and men can have up to four wives. She’s prepared to make a lot of sacrifices -ones I hope I never make. She is going to let him guide her major decisions – I worry he doesn’t have her best interest at heart. She’s going to move to his family’s home giving up her job, professional life and friends. She wants this married life to some extent to balance work and home (having done just that since starting grade school). 

The feminist in me is dying a bit. I want to rant about how badly the system is broken – how she doesn’t have to make compromises on her life. How her husband should be forced to follow her,  and help out at home so it can be easier for her. I want her to continue kicking ass and taking names. She’s an example of how to rebel against the norms and she does it without the system panicking or getting defensive. A silent, independent rebelion of my friend doing exactly what she wants when she wants. 

And now she’s following social norms – and I want her to fight, to continue running the race. but she’s giving up the baton handing it off for someone else  to pick up. I don’t know exactly who is going to pick that baton up and I just hope that there is in fact someone else and we don’t fumble here. 

I can’t help but question why we can’t be 360 Rock stars as females in this world. And I am sadly reminded of the fact that men are still ruling the world! I have so many freedoms and yet I still face men trying to tell me how to live my life. I am not man hating; I have lots of great examples of dudes who are trying to create a more equitable world. I’m trying to talk about the system that is in general asking women to compromise – the conversation that is gender-ized before anyone opens their mouth. I want people to be valued for their conibutions and qualities – if you have a great job your  partner would ideally support you and move with you or make the compromises necessary so you could keep doing it or you figure out a sitauon that works for you both. I want more for my friend but I want more for all of us. If a woman can be valued for the skills she best presents than a man can be valued for his, and that man and that woman can be totally different to the others around them. We’d be working with everyone’s best instead of ignoring half the population because ‘it’s just not how it has been done.’ I might sound totally naive but I have to believe that we can all make a difence in changing things and change is possible – I just hope we can get our acts together in the next year before I lose a friend to a marriage that doesn’t value her and the world loses a really great role model of how to beat the system. My friends marriage won’t negate all the good she’s done in her family, her community , and her job but it could stifle a pretty bright light of female independence because it will be clocked in what’s looks like the status quo. I hope for only good things for my friend and I hope that she finds new ways to stoke her fire and continue burning like the trie all star she is. 


4 thoughts on “Can you be a 360 rock star? 

  1. Dave Marshall

    Hi Krystal. I feel your pain, having had to stand by and watch young people choose to give up on their dreams for any number of reasons – fear, expediency, outside pressure. While it sounds like your friend is making a poor choice, it is her choice and I don’t think it’s gender based. We all have the same capacity for making poor choices and I would challenge you to consider the possibility that it weakens the cause of women to consider females in any way “less” than males. If your friend is choosing to enter into a relationship where she will be stifled, as she most likely will, you’ve probably already reminded her of the rock star effort she put in to get to where she is today and asked her if this guy is worth giving that up. I love and admire you for all the brave, rock star choices you have made to get you to Mali and yes, it is heart breaking watching anyone we love make poor choices so you’re the best of evidence that rock star isn’t a gender based title. BTW, loving your blog.


    • Krystal

      Hey Dave! Glad you like it.

      Women being considered “less” than males weakening the cause for women is exactly the point I am trying to make. My friend is making a choice to enter into a relationship with someone and social norms/systems (and her future husband) are telling her what that means without any regard for who she is for a person outside of being the woman of the relationship. If she is to be a “good wife” she is expected to give up many things she cherishes and assume roles that accommodate the male’s wishes and priorities. I don’t think my friend’s choice is any worse than some other less than ideal situations we accept for ourselves but here in Mali and in many places (including so called developed countries) the cards are stacked against women as power imbalances favour men. Without champions of equality from both sides men and women, often women’s choices and priorities are bypassed or squelched as less important. If you want to be a boss at work it is hard (next to Impossible in Mali) to find a man who would be willing to compromise his things to support you so you have to choose between your two dreams – jobs and long term relationships (assuming you want both a long term relationship and a great career). I guess what I was trying to get to is that I am tired of seeing so many great women have to choose between their cake and eating it too while I watch so many men getting by in life without even considering that women with have values and priorities that are equally as valuable.

      Disclaimer: not all men grab all the space in relationships and some approach relationships with a very equitable framework – I’m just commenting in this post on the wide spread gender inequalities I see here in Mali.

      Ps thanks for calling me a rock star 😊 You’re pretty great yourself!


  2. Momma

    Hey Babe
    I hear your pain and I know the internal struggles this causes within you! Dave is right though, your friend has a choice and she is choosing to abandon all she’s worked for to have a committed relationship. I am sure you have voiced your opinion quite eloquently to this friend and a year is a long time, give her time to mull over what you have voiced and maybe she will realize that she worked hard to achieve all the accomplishments she has made thus far in a very unequal world and decide she doesn’t want to sacrifice all that work.

    You are more than a rock star to me and always will be!

    Love ya


  3. Ugorji Nnanna

    Hello Krystal,

    I came across your blog in my search for a Tamasheq linguist (I handle operations for a translation and localization firm), but your life stories got to me – really touching.

    I must say that it’s sad that women still have to play second fiddle (and to extreme degrees) in certain places. If I’m to comment on the choice part, I’d say this – it’s really difficult to go against all the norms you have known and grown up in. That way of life is what she knows, and making a different choice in the circumstances is not an easy thing.

    The societies have to gradually change to make it easier to choose a different path, but it’s also individual responses that will foster this change. Kind of a chicken and egg situation. Possibly, some critical mass around the same time can engender some change, a push from the top would do a lot (very unlikely any push from the top). Sometimes we can only wait for greater exposure in the society to engender this change.

    Thank you for passing across such emotion, life, reality in words.

    I’d be happy to hear if you have any connections for Tamasheq.

    Thank you.



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