I am no hater to the male gender most of the time but living in this Muslim, male-dominated society sometimes makes me so frustrated I wish we could find a way to eliminate the need for men altogether; perhaps find a way to laboratorically create sperm and reproduce only those embryos with no "Y" chromosome…
*Be mindful that the following pontification will be overflowing with sweeping generalizations, stereotypes, and unfair personal opinions.
It seems anywhere you go in Senegal, at any sort of business establishment, garage, or even a really shady tree you will inevitably see at least 6 men sitting or laying around doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and this is especially true in villages (i.e. my village). In contrast, you will see the surrounding women in constant motion. Many families in my village get their money from relatives that work abroad in places like France or America and this allows the men the privilege of sitting around and doing nothing while the remarkable women of this country work extremely hard doing the housework, the cooking, the parenting, and the child bearing (and in many villages the very difficult job of pulling water from the well for the entire family to cook with, bathe with, and drink—and often times while pregnant). The men of my village love to get together, oh say mid morning, (mustn't get up TOO early) sit around, make tea, order their wives and children around and talk about how great they all are ALL day long.
In addition to being born into the super exclusive club of "the greatest people in the world," men also seem to think that it is their duty to hit on any foreign female they happen to see in hopes of duping her into marriage and reaping the benefits of all we might have to offer (i.e. a visa to America). It literally nauseates me the way the men here look at me. Before they even speak they give you a look and a smirk that makes my skin crawl because I know that what's going through their head is "oooh, a white girl! Lets see what I can squeeze out of her." And their eyes flash with dollar signs.
An example of a typical conversation with a Senegalese man:
Man: SSSS, TOUBAK! (white person)
Me: Toubak is not my name.
Man: What's your name? AREYOUMARRIED?!
Me: No, I'm not married and I don't want to be.
Man: Not married? You should be married. You have to get married and have babies. I want to marry a white woman.
(By this time I've already walked away.)
I was once on a horse cart with a seemingly very nice, older man. He expressed an interest in getting a Peace Corps volunteer for his village and so I gave him my phone number. BIG mistake. An hour later he called me professing his love for me. (I must have made quite the impression in that 15 minute horse ride where I spoke little more than 5 words.) He proceeded to call me 30 more times that evening and at least every fifteen minutes for the next 5 days! I couldn't use my phone because he was calling me so often so I had another person answer my phone and tell him he had the wrong number. He eventually stopped and I pray I never run into him again.
In addition to the flirting, we women are treated vastly different than men in any situation. Men are always treated more hospitably and always favored. Men eat first, men get the better seats in buses, and men get served first in almost every situation. The other day Marisa and I were getting into an EMPTY bus on our way to Ourossogui and were not allowed to sit in the front because we were women. I had a male friend visit from America and although he neither spoke French nor Pulaar everyone would direct their conversation towards him when traveling because he was "the man."
The male volunteers' lives here are pretty different, and I dare say EASIER. Their host sisters wash their laundry, sweep out their huts, and pull and bring them their water. They don't know how good they have it. Not to mention they're actually taken SERIOUSLY.
Once again I apologize for my negativity but sometimes you just have to vent.
I'd like to give a shout out to all those Senegalese women rocking the "X" chromosome and kicking ass!