- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide

Latest Posts

Gender Roles in Rwandan society

By Professor Thomson on February 3, 2013

Throughout this week of class, we have focused on different social divisions and strata, whether these divisions are created by difference in class, gender, or ethnicity.  While class divisions play a crucial role in how society is shaped in Rwanda, what struck me most was the different standards that women are held to and how men view the role of women.  In Pcon 218, we read Body politics and the Rwandan crisis by Erin Baines (2003).  In this reading Baines discusses how it is a common Rwandan belief that women and their bodies represent the purity of Rwanda.  This has ironically resulted in the oppression and overall mistreatment of women around the country.  In an expert from here writing Whispering Truth to Power, Susan Thomson discusses some of the many hardships Rwandan women face in everyday life.  According to Thomson, more then one-third of Rwandan women report having experienced spousal violence whether it be physical, emotional, or sexual (183).  Thomson continues her writing by providing an interview with a Hutu man who explains that men’s daily tasks include making the beds while women were left to do field work, “We also help if necessary with the planting and the harvesting.  But tending to weeds?  That is work for women” (185).  If women and their bodies are so treasured for their purity, why do they experience so much hardship and both structural and physical violence?  Is it the idea of women that is pure and not actual women themselves?  If Baines is accurate in saying that women represent national purity and play such a significant role in the work force, why are they placed so low on the social ladder?

After watching the 2001 documentary First Kill, directed by Coco Schrijber, shock, disgust, and sadness were just a few emotions and reactions that came over me. Then men in to documentary described war as being a trip that they were chasing and how it was something to keep them occupied.  While describing their different stories and how killing became such a rush, the men seemed almost subhuman and emotionless.  Rather than feeling angry, I felt sad for these men that have clearly been emotionally and mentally ruined.  These men felt passionate about killing the enemy, whether it be innocent civilians, including women and children.  What drove this passion?  Was it American propaganda?  If so, is the US using such propaganda to fuel the fire of our current wars?  Are these men examples of humans being innately violent?  As one man said, many of the armed Vietnamese hesitated to fire their weapons, which saved American lives, so is it just American culture that drove these men to mercilessly kill?