‘I may belong to the kitchen, if…’

Last week, I entitled my discourse in this column, where does your wife belong? and like ripples widen on the surface of still waters, innumerable lines of thoughts trailed my question. Last week, I desperately tried to do a clean-up of our national image in the international world. The international world mustn’t perceive us as a country where our men are too macho and too African to treat the female gender with the love and respect they deserve, but a number of women pointed my attention to certain things my feminism blinded me from seeing. Those are the issues I would like to discuss today. After reading my ‘where does your wife belong’, young ladies of the current generation applauded me. While some felt it was a terrifically vehement opinion, others castigated me for not sticking it up hot and fierce to the male folk. Some noted that I was too subtle but alas, still tried to allow the feminist in me stroll if not roam unhindered. I must say, I concur but two comments from my readership have got my always calm mind in a state of entropy since last week.

A young lady called me up and we had a long conversation, her opinion I would share first. My caller had just hit the age 30 a week before I published that article. Single, hardworking, she had bagged a master’s degree a year ago in science and is in the early stages of a PhD degree in one of the toughest universities in the South West. Some call it the greatest, but I wouldn’t foray into that.

She is tough, asides from radically pursuing a career in the academics; she has established a business franchise on campus, nourishing people with fruits with her mobile fruit salad business. She begged me not to reveal her identity and I made her a promise, woman to woman. Her opinion to me was intriguing and I bet you would find it fascinating as well.

“All my life, I have competed with the opposite sex on a level ground but all my life, I have heard the words – ‘women are the weaker vessels. ’ How weak are we when in nursery school, we have to learn the same number of rhymes as the little boys? How weak are the weaker vessels when in writing the school leaving examinations, the questions do not come with gender coding that distinguishes the male questions from the female questions. We went on to write WAEC, WAEC didn’t stratify either. In my class as a science student, we were only four ladies, all the others were boys, but I got more frequently called out to solve further mathematics questions. Was there stratification? The male teacher came at us girls with a grown man’s gloves; there wasn’t any pampering in the learning process. He was tougher on us because he felt we didn’t have the capacity to learn further mathematics as girls but we struggled and we whooped those boys badly. Was that fair play for the weaker vessel? JAMB wasn’t any different. Our combinations were not gender influenced neither were our paper types. I got into the university and the faculty of science couldn’t care less that I am female. How they drilled us. Practicals, assignments, we had overnight reading seasons like the boys. In fact, they slept in class while we kept vigil for them, notifying them of the time per hour.  Getting my masters degree wasn’t a piece of cake either. I struggled for a PhD grade with those guys and after I made it, a male colleague, one day, called me out and told me not to think of a PhD without getting married first. After all, he said all these your degrees will end up in a man’s kitchen.

“If truly that is how they want it to be, I do not have a problem belonging to the kitchen. In fact, I would delight in belonging to the kitchen but only when I don’t have to compete on a level ground with the men. I would, sans any dissension, belong to the kitchen on the day that the education standard is lowered for the girl-child. You can keep me in the kitchen when WAEC and JAMB questions come stratified according to gender.

“I will gladly embrace the kitchen when the distinction for girls in the tertiary institution is reduced to 50 per cent. I won’t have a problem belonging to your kitchen if I get a masters degree earlier because I am female and PhD grade for females is lowered to 40 per cent of their weighted average. I would make the kitchen my dwelling place when I don’t have to worry about augmenting my husband’s finance. The kitchen would be my blissful abode and that of all my daughters the day the world allows us to compete as women. Make our world a tennis tournament where the championships are segregated according to gender and I will embrace my status in the kitchen.

She didn’t stop there, she went on to say this, “in a few years, I will obtain my PhD, become a doctor and I will begin to fiercely compete with the men for professorship, I daresay, I may be too tired to compete on that level ground on which I have fought all my life. We have to be twice as good to get half of what they have!”

Can we fight the same battles, with the same stern rules, bleed the same hue of blood and then confine another to the kitchen or tag the other as weak?

After reading my piece last week, a very senior colleague told me what I found instructive, women perhaps underestimate the power being in the kitchen wields but when if we can look beyond what we see, we shall have the world and rulers of the world in our palms.

“I am not of the opinion that describing a woman as belonging to the kitchen is humiliating or diminutive. As a matter of fact, I think it is the highest pedestal. Imagine the things a woman who handles the kitchen with dexterity could achieve not to even mention the other room… With the power of the kitchen, a woman would, with stealth, control the world while making the delusional man feel they own it.”

In ancient Greece, wars started by women were fiercely fought by men who thought they were behaving in kingly manner, but were simply manipulated by the women in their kitchen and other rooms. Deep within every woman is a knowing of the enormous power they possess, but how many wield it?