Not What It Seems

As part of a community-building project, I asked a successful and well-educated Senegalese man if he would switch roles with his wife. He seemed very knowledgeable, well established, and enjoyed his job as an English teacher at a high school. When I posed the question to him, he shook his head in disappointment, which I thought was affirming my initial judgment of men in the society. When I prodded for an explanation, he explained his strong disagreement with members of his society who think that the only place for a woman is at home. He explained to me that sometimes after work, he is the one who prepares the meals at home because his wife also works as a teacher in another school district and he is more than willing to help her out in any way possible.

By the end of our conversation, I had a different perception of Senegalese men. I never imagined a strong-minded man who is always sharply dressed also played the role of a mother to his children. I had bought into a single story of men in Senegalese culture. That conversation illuminated the complexity of gender roles and interaction within my community that I had previously overlooked. As Chimamanda Ngozi, a famous African novelist, once said, When we reject a single story