Thursday, September 30, 2010

Boys to Men, Part 2

Today I stumbled across an Atlantic Magazine article from a couple of months ago about the changing roles and accomplishments of women and men in today's society. Author Hanna Rosin suggests the possibility that “modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women,” and women are destined to be more successful than men from here on out. Complete with a video of Rosin’s kids and husband debating the pros and cons of boys versus girls, she goes in-depth into the statistics that show the ways in which women are dominating more and more aspects of society (mostly using examples from the U.S.) The article echoes so much of what I find myself ranting and raving about, but more than that, it echoes many of the comments I’ve heard from people I work with here in Batahola.

In a conversation about the differences between women and men earlier this year among some of the CCBN's staff, one of the female teachers said something to the effect of "Women do everything. They make the money, manage the money, take care of the house, and take care of the kids. They are naturally more responsible than men, so it fits that they make more decisions." I expected the room to explode, or at least a man or two to argue. But all I saw were heads nodding and a few people saying "asi es." I was shocked. It's well known that micro-lending organizations like Kiva (and even the Sandinista government's own zero-interest lending program) give the majority of their loans to women. The statistics prove that when a woman increases her income, the entire family benefits, as opposed to when a man increases his income and fails to share his new earnings with those around him in a sustainable way. However, seeing these facts on paper or discussed in the political realm is very different than hearing those around you, women and men, acknowledge that women are simply better at life than men. The other night a 7-year-old female friend of mine told me, somewhat out of the blue, “I like to hang out with women more than men. I spend more time with my mom than with my dad.” This might not seem like an unusual comment when considering the role of the absent father, but this little girl has a father who I consider to be an excellent parent. As much of a feminist as I consider myself to be, and perhaps because of my feminism, I found this comment quite alarming.

Perhaps the biggest concern is not the degree of truth in these statements, but what we, as a society, are doing about these perceptions. I have had countless conversations with the women closest to me (and those not-so-close to me) about what it means to be the best woman I can be in today’s world. How many of you men have had such a conversation? How many of us have really asked ourselves what we believe and what want to teach our children about gender identity? And how many of us have really thought about how to change the ways in which society dictates our gender roles without becoming identity-less? These are complicated questions that bring to mind infinite possibilities with serious implications for our future. And until we start reflecting and grappling and sharing about them with ourselves and with each other, we cannot act and make change.

Sojourner’s has an on-going conversation right now on this topic, and next month Richard Rohr (see previous post “Boys to Men”) will be hosting a live event entitled “Is It Really the End of Men?” which will be webcast, giving us all the opportunity to participate in the conversation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

E and Me

As the door to the teacher’s lounge silently creeps open, I spot two tiny hands reaching around the edge of the door, quickly followed by a mischievously grinning face. As this little pixie spots me her grin grows wider and she charges towards me, practically knocking me out of my chair as she hugs me. E, the six-year-old daughter of a scholarship student in the CCBN’s daily computer class, has taken to accompanying her mom to the CCBN in the afternoons and visiting all her “amigas” aka gringa volunteer friends. Never mind my not-very-forceful comments that she really shouldn’t be back here, E just keeps chattering away about whatever first comes to mind. She often tells us about her two-year-old nephew’s antics, or the various pets she’s had over the years, or moments when she was surprised or scared. It is a nonstop monologue, incoherently jumping from one topic to another, and it can be annoying and endearing at the same time. But, as with most children here, if you start asking some basic questions about their home lives, you quickly realize that not all is as rosy as their smiles. For example, asking E about who helps her at home and who she talks to, she is quick to respond “No one.” Not in school, she’s often home alone, left to the devices of her own imagination for entertainment. There are days she comes in without having been bathed, wearing the same clothes as the day before, and days she casually mentions they didn’t have any food in their house for lunch. She is fiercely affectionate, and her hugs make me feel much better when I’m having a bad day. Today we spent half an hour playing around with the camera on my computer, making funny faces and exploring different effects. E was eager to learn how to point-and-click on her own, and her giggles of delight cracked me up.