While men continue to define the cosmos and attain positions that place them at the top of the pyramid, a woman’s job is to still bind the wounds, stir the soup, and bear the children because to some, women are incompetent for any job other than caring for their families.
It may seem like an outdated narrative, but the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen continues to permeate today’s society. Even in 2018, it seems women are expected to live in the shadows.
More women than ever are attending post-secondary institutions and attaining economic security for themselves, but this persistent stereotype, this 1950s rhetoric continues and to some, educated women are still perceived as a threat.
I’m the very first woman of my family to attend university, and the question of where I belong persists. While I am the product of two distinct cultures, Canadian and Cambodian, merged into one, traditional Cambodian gender roles and values continue to cultivate every aspect of my very existence. As a consequence of my gender, expectations and standards were in place even before I was born.
During my formative years, my grandparents instilled in me the idea that women’s bodies impel us to nurture while our minds are designed to be passive and subordinate. There were many obstacles being a girl because the expectations and standards were set much higher for me than for the boys in my family. Being a girl meant I had to learn how to cook and clean beginning at the age of six. I watched my grandmother cook and cleaned alongside my mother to prepare me for the future. My future? The kitchen.
Before I applied to university many of the closest people in my life, specifically the men, asked endless questions that shattered many of my dreams and aspirations. “Why are you wasting your money on university when you are going to get married right after?” “Why don’t you find a good man to support you so you don’t have to work?” “Who is going to cook, clean, and watch the children if you attend university and get a career?” “Do you want your future husband to come home to an empty kitchen?”
I was told I would never be good or smart enough to be a doctor, an engineer, a scientist, or a mathematician because the very thing that limited me to pursue a career in these professional occupations was my gender. I should choose a woman’s profession as a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, or a stay-at-home mother. I should pursue a career that would not take time away from bearing and raising children in the future. I should live in the shadows of a man because he will be the one bringing in the income.
But I reject that. A woman’s place is only in the kitchen if she is sitting with her feet up and sipping a cocktail.
A woman’s place is in parliament, boardrooms, offices, schools; a place where she is empowered, strong, and persistent. A woman’s place is in the S.T.E.M fields. A woman’s place in the resistance of those who incessantly put her down because of her gender. A woman’s place is in the revolution to advocate for equal rights and gender equality for all genders in every nation.
It is my experience of being a woman in my family that continues to drive my passion for being a women’s rights advocate and becoming a human rights lawyer. Stirring the soup and cleaning the house is not what I aspire to. I will not be placed in a subordinate position. I am the chief-executive-officer, the architect, and the engineer of my life, and whether you like it or not, I do not belong in the kitchen.