Dad Is King But I’m No Princess

king tutBy Yenge Nzuzi Mahungu

When I was a young girl living in Congo my parents fought constantly. But my mother lost every fight. One day I asked why and she said, “Because he is king.”

I understood, without her telling me, that in his kingdom she was not a queen, nor was I a princess.

But I never questioned the status quo. In my world men had authority and women served them. That life had seemed natural and normal to me. I guess, because it was all I knew, and all anyone seemed to know.

If you had asked me if I was a feminist I would have denied it, thinking it was wrong and uncool.

Until I took a class in feminist studies I hadn’t realized how much I viewed the world through the eyes of patriarchal men.

Now I see how my female family members face oppression in their own homes. My sister-in-law gave birth a year ago and reluctantly took a full-time job as a waitress. My brother also works full-time. When he comes home he grabs a plate of food, assumes his holy spot on the couch and watches a movie. When his wife comes home she gets the baby and goes into the kitchen to make three different meals for the men who live with her — her husband, her cousin and her father-in-law.

After a long day at work she stands at the stove with an aching back and tired feet and hopes she won’t burn anyone’s dinner. And then she washes the dishes and cleans the kitchen.

When I asked why she does it all she said, “Because he is the chief.”

Sounds familiar.

Even though she wants a break, she cannot escape her role as a server to men because she puts herself there. Well, along with her mother, her aunts, and the women in the Congolese community… Not to mention the men of our community.

There is an old Eagles song that says,

So oftentimes it happens that we live our lives in chains. And we never even know we have the key.

For me, the key was realizing that the world as I knew it was not the only way. I came to see that it was a social construction. One that I could move outside of.

And I happily have. I only hope that one day my sister-in-law, and all of my sisters and brothers, will do the same thing.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Why Do Women Fight Against Their Own Interests?
Are Women Brainwashed Into Polygamy?
The Burqa and Individual Rights: It’s Complicated

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 18, 2014, in feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Sounds so familiar. In our Indian culture, If a guy cooks food it is considered as a big thing and If a girl does it, she isn’t appreciated for her work and she is told that it’s her job.!! Can relate to the above story.

  2. Powerful awareness and courage to recognize and choose to break this pattern. This patriarchal paradigm can be so entrenched in family that it can be hard to separate from it. Insightful post!

  3. Well said. I think breaking from those roles is hard because, as the author says here, other choices can be seen as wrong. How is a woman to safely call herself a feminist if 99% of the people she knows will turn against her for that? The key, in that sense, is to move away from all you know, which can be a hard pill to swallow.

    • Yes, move away or be really, really strong. And hopefully persuasive. That’s what our foremothers of gender equality did, and many continue today, leaving all women much better off.

  4. Great post! So hard for us gals to break out of our “roles”. A couple weeks ago, I had someone (who will remain nameless) ask if I was wiping down my walls.😳

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