In Opposing Community Wisdom: Exposing Lexicon Choices in Kimeru Folklore as Agents of Patriarchy and Gender Bias
Since time immemorial, communities across the world exhibit gender inequity whereby the feminine gender is viewed as lesser to their male counterparts. Studies indicate that no one is born a man or a woman, but rather the society makes us men or women through acculturation into roles that are conventionally stereotyped as male or female. However, the roles and duties for men and women vary from community to community; some duties are strictly viewed as being for one gender in one community are considered duties for the other gender in another community. For example, among the Ameru, a patriarchal society of Eastern Kenya, no woman can undertake the task of building a shelter, while among the pastoralist communities of Kenya, women build family shelters. This means there are no duties that are strictly for men or women in the world. This paper argues that one way that society makes men and women out of her people is through the language used in community folklore transmitted through formal or informal linguistic interactions. A case is made from a careful examination of the Ameru proverbs, wise sayings, and riddles. It will be shown that the language used in these genres continually exhorts and invites the male gender to manifest macho and positive qualities while at the same time depicts the female gender as feeble, vain, and weak. The paper proposes the repackaging of community folklore and wisdom through language that establishes positive qualities for members of both genders.
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