Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Women's Troubles

Let’s face it, as Tammy Wynette sang sometimes it’s hard to be a womaaaaan. I concede that it may also sometimes be hard to be a man, but frankly I have very limited experience of that and thus I will talk only about what I know. However, I think being from a liberal family in Britain I’ve actually got it pretty easy compared to the woman of the Bakiga tribe, the local people who live here in south west Uganda.

Some of the lovely Bakiga ladies, not whistling and dressed appropriately ;)
Having lived here for a while I find myself getting chided for things that I find completely normal, most commonly for whistling. I’m surprised I actually whistle at all seeing as at home my sister despises it and thus I thought I’d grown out of the habit. However, free of Wales it seems my knack for whistling without noticing has come back with a vengeance. This in turn leads to a lot of frowns, sideward glances and tellings off. Apparently humming, la-ing and any kind of free form scatting is perfectly acceptable but whistling is the sole reserve of men. In addition to the oh so offensive art of whistling there’s a whole host of other things that as a woman you are not supposed to do here.

Women shouldn’t eat chicken. I have received two reasons for this. Firstly I was told that if women eat chicken they grow wings and more recently I’ve been told they grow beards. Well, I’ve been happily eating chicken for the last 25 years (not continuously you understand) and I am yet to grow wings or a beard, frankly I wouldn’t mind the former… not sure about the latter though!

Traditionally, it is acceptable for men to have several partners, including multiple wives. However the idea of a woman having a couple of husbands tucked away in the village is considered completely outrageous.

Whilst ladies are allowed to travel as passengers on bicycle taxis (side saddle of course), it is not considered acceptable for them to ride bikes themselves. A friend explained that this was because bikes could potentially damage a lady’s ‘personal area’, which is of course very precious. To be honest, logic would surely suggest that it would be a man’s ‘personal area’ that was at a greater danger of damage by riding a bike…

Gents and their bikes, and not a lady in sight
When it comes to clothes the rules are rather more restrictive when it comes to women too. They are not supposed to show their shoulders or knees and there’s a huge taboo about showing off the midriff or too much cleavage. Particularly strict locals believe that women shouldn’t wear trousers, perhaps something to do with the ‘personal area’ again, but who knows! However, having been to the clubs here I can confirm that all sense of decency is flouted in the name of entertainment. At karaoke women are there in skimpy outfits, men are dressed as ladies and there’s more than a fair amount of cleavage, thigh and stomach on show. Clearly the younger generations aren’t quite so stringent when it comes to personal decency.

Thankfully as a white woman locals are much more lax in their expectations of me. I freely walk around in jeans,  straddle rather than side-saddle motorbikes and am as happy munching on a chicken wing as I am tucking into rice and beans.  So Tammy, yes sometimes it is hard to be a woman, but seemingly it's harder for some than others... and for now I will try to keep the whistling to a minimum.

No comments:

Post a Comment