Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strength & Housework : A discussion held among high school students based on gender equality

Last Friday, I had a class in a high school, it was a summer program. The students were very active and enthusiastic. In this big class, I discovered that the boys were more than the girls in numerical strength. I wondered if this had anything to do with girls’ poor access to education. My curiosity drove me to hold a discussion among these students about gender equality.

At first I asked them the following questions: what is equality? Do you think there is equality in the society? What are women’s role in the society?
A boy gave me his own definition of equality: He said, “Equality is the process whereby people would like to share their resources between two or more individuals”. These boys and girls based on their individual experiences explained what equality is, they agreed that everyone is equal, but when I asked questions about gender equality, the boys are of the view that they were stronger than the girls. A discussion on women’s and men’s role in the society as perceived by the students varies.
Girls’ view:
  •     Cook food
  •    Can be leaders in society
  •    Clean the house
  •   Teach the children good morality
  •    Can do what the men do
Boys’ view:
  •       Men have more energy than women
  •       Men can go to space while women cannot
  •       What men can do, women can do better
  •       Women are more populated
Obviously, some of the girls still hold the traditional image of women i.e. cooking and cleaning of the house, while several girls think that women can do all things, all the boys, except one agreed to this notion so I became more curious about how everyone in the class talked a lot about gender equality yet they couldn’t sense that there is gender imbalance in their daily lives, even within the family?
I noted from the discussion that there is a general notion that men are born to take up all the responsibilities; feed the family, make money, be strong enough to solve all the problems and so on, implying that men are superior and should be respected and that women only act as good helping hands for men by staying at home, raising children, doing house work and cooking for their families.
This is a very wrong notion because what we women are doing and what they have been doing in the past is far more than taking care of the house and the children. More so, household duties should be seen as the responsibility of the whole family so as to address gender imbalance
Another question I asked the student was, Why is it that men outnumber women as taxi or bus drivers in Lagos state? The students most especially the boys replied, “It is because men are masculine and they can handle heavy work while women cannot”. However, if we take a look at the streets of Lagos state, nearly all the hawkers holding goods on their head are women and it is only women who carry their babies on their backs all the time. This does not only require strength but patience as well.
From the discussion, it is obvious that the students’ response to issues about gender inequality stems from their experience in the home and the immediate environment. They see their mothers performing all the household activities every day, they once heard the news that a male astronaut went to the space, they observed during TV commercials that the men have masculine body while women’s body are always soft and gentle, they have always been given transformers, motor cars and toy guns as birthday gifts when they were little boys while Barbe are for the girls.
 I believe no one is naturally born to behave in certain ways because of the gender difference.
In summary, there is no biological reason for gender inequality, and strength cannot shelter men from housework, they should share housework rather than devaluing it, men should respect women, see them as their equal and be role models for their children.

Sofie Hsu


  1. There are some things that men will always be able to do that women can’t and vise versa. Men are naturally stronger, for example. Why is everyone trying to make men and women the same? This is boring! Why can’t we rejoice in, and respect each other’s differences? With that said, I am a male who cleans the kitchen as well as vacuums and mops the floor.

  2. Nice one Clay, I also believe we should respect and appreciate our(men & women) differences. I’m glad you are one of those men who cleans the kitchen and vacuums the floor, If you are a married man, then you are doing well, other men should follow your good steps, but if you are not married, I reserve my comment because many were like you until they got married. You may be wondering why the hassle about strength and housework. I have an aunt who is a medical doctor with a child, her husband is also a medical doctor working in the same teaching hospital. They both come home from work exhausted, the husband makes straight for the sofa switches on the TV and relaxes, waiting for the food to be ready, my aunt goes to the kitchen ,do the cleaning, the cooking, the bathing of the baby, the feeding, the serving makes plan for the next day and perhaps she may even be expected to do other ‘duties’ afterwards which I do not know. I will not want to go into the discussion on culture because her husband hides under its veil but I know it is not only my aunt that finds herself in this situation. What do you think?


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