Dad Is King But I’m No Princess
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.”
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.