Friday, November 26, 2010

Conversation on Polygamy

At my weekly English department meeting (AP), we got talking about a lot of random things. First it was kids, and that led to how many kids each of us wanted, and then somehow we jumped to multiple wives. One of the professors has two wives already, and he said that it was good for a man to have two wives, especially if he wanted a lot of children.

This is a professor I usually like talking to, and so I felt comfortable arguing a little: I said that it was fine for a man to have two wives as long as women were allowed to have two husbands. He thought this was hilarious. “A woman with two men! That’s not good, God doesn’t like that. God wants men to have multiple wives, that’s why there are more women than men in Benin.” It’s like 52% women to 48% men… I (laughing at the logic) told him this was a ridiculous point, and he should start thinking of better reasons.

Anyway, so we argued for a while (without getting too mad), and while neither of us changed our position much, it was really interesting. I kind of assumed that because professors are educated and generally more worldly than other people in village, they’d be more equality-minded… false. In their arguments, there was an underlying assumption that women are to be owned and controlled, and that a man must always be in charge. “Here, we say that the man is the head of the family, and that without him, the body cannot be.” “In America, we say the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants.”

It was frustrating to find out that several of my fellow English professors are unapologetically sexist (even those that talk about girls’ empowerment in the classroom like it’s really important), but in another way it was kind of nice. Seeing girls shoved back every day had kind of drowned out the shock factor for me – in one of my classes I have 33 boys to 13 girls, and I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw that count. It was a good feeling after this conversation to know that I still get fired up about equality, and that I’m still, after all, a feminist. It’s good to know what I’m up against, and what I’m fighting for here… a girls’ club seems more important and needed than ever.

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