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.