*For the purpose of this post the names have been changed.
I like to tease my newly married friend by calling her a bandit and doing things like only referring to her using her maiden name. She laughs with this little giggle that does the soul good because she thinks that my stubbornness for the female cause and not being defined by the person you marry is a fruitless war. Today we were in the field together and I needed her attention.
“Madame Diallo” I called.
“No. Madame Keita” she responded or “Aminata Keita”
“Madame Diallo” I repeated, digging my heels in a little bit with a smirk.
“No. Madame Keita” she repeated a twinkle showing up in her eye.
“No. Madame Diallo” I said a full on smirk and my true colours of stubbornness showing through now.
“Ah, Krystal. You must like men! One day!” she said and started laughing
“No!” I said like a giant two year old “You can’t make me!” I laughed right back.
It is a running joke between me and her, that I don’t like men. Which isn’t totally accurate. But it can be funny! Another time I tried to use humor to point out the ridiculousness of gender stereotypes was when we were facilitating a training on cultural sensitivity. My co-facilitator said to the group “In general, here in Mali, women are responsible for all of the cooking and kitchen things – so when they are done their office work they return home to cook for their families.” To which all of the Malian men in the room nodded. I tried to bite my tongue but I couldn’t hold it in (Okay, let’s be honest, I didn’t try that hard) and I chimed in “If women are responsible for all of the cooking and for feeding their families, do you know what would happen to all of the men if the women went on strike? They would starve!” I know it’s a really bad dad joke but the whole room started laughing and one of the guys said “oh, Krystal, you get it, and you are totally right!”
I don’t like the beliefs and processes that are perpetuated by systems and privileged by systems that they are not overly willing to see change. I don’t actually have a problem with co-existing and collaborating with men. I have a problem with people being unwilling to fight for justice and equality for a marginalized and vulnerable segment of society. I have a problem when people (including myself) participate in and perpetuate systems that exclude people whether they are male or female.
But it doesn’t work when I climb up on my soapbox and try to preach people into treating everyone equally, people don’t listen. But when I make fun of the system, when I point out the absurdity of it all, people can see that the system isn’t working. So on I go, making it clear that I will never be okay with the injustice and making of fun of people as I go. Look out world, I’m coming for you.