In her narrative “Because You’re a Girl” Ijeoma A. recounts her childhood in her native country, Nigeria, as being raised with a set of rules she described as the “Four Commandments.” These were guidelines her family designed to define a woman’s obligations to her family. These commandments were:
- Her office is the kitchen.
- She is responsible for all the chores in the home.
- She is accountable for the children and their actions.
- And, of course, she must pledge complete and total allegiance to the man in charge first, before herself.
Her brothers were not assigned any responsibilities, therefore all the household duties which includes cleaning after her brothers, ensured a life of servitude to her family because she was a girl. Although Ijeoma exceled in school, a natural expectation, her family however did not create a condition at home that supported her outstanding scholastic performance. She resented her upbringing, but she was powerless to challenge her circumstances as she was still a minor. Her father’s decision to send her abroad to attain higher education would bring a chance at freedom. While she was in college in the United States, she developed the power to rebel against what she deemed was an oppressive society that raised her, and began viewing herself as an equal to men. This newfound liberty would eventually mold her feminist ideal.
Ijeoma’s account presents many examples of how every society has an expected gender role for women to abide by against their will. She revealed that the Nigerian culture that raised her is a society with a clear distinct gender role in which the division of labor places the women solely in the domestic sphere, where they service the men in their household. Daughters are raised in preparation for their role as a good wife in anticipation of eventual marriage. As a tool to enforce gender roles, her mother would tell her, “you’re a girl and we’re raising you to be a woman someday.”
Ijeoma’s story was troubling to read as it begs to answer the question regarding her mother’s occupation, for an economically independent mother or wife would not disregard her only daughter’s academia, ushering her into a life that resembles that of a servant girl. If the aim of her upbringing was to someday make her a good wife, then going to college for higher learning serves no purpose as it opposes the role her mother wishes for her. I would like to know how Ijeoma is currently living her life, and what expectations does she have for her daughters.