Kaffir Boy: Gender Inequality
The unfair inequality between males and females is another dominant theme in Kaffir Boy. According to tribal customs, a man pays lobola (a bride price) to “purchase” a bride. This custom leads men to treat their wives and daughters more like property than human beings. Because Mark’s father purchased his mother, she is trapped in the marriage and cannot escape his abuse.
The next day, as I nursed my wounds, while my father was at work, I told my mother that I hated him and promised her I would kill him when I grew up.
"Don't say that!" my mother reprimanded me.
"I will," I said stoutly, "if he won't leave me alone."
"He's your father, you know."
"He's not my father."
"Shut that bad mouth of yours!" My mother threatened to smack me.
"Why does he beat me, then?" I protested. "Other fathers don't beat their children." My friends always boasted that their fathers never laid a hand on them.
"He's trying to discipline you. He wants you to grow up to be like him."
"What! Me! Never!" I shook with indignation. "I'm never going to be like him! Why should I?" (5.13-20)
In this quote, Mark's mother is defending his father even though she doesn't support his abusive nature. It is common in gender separated societies for the woman to be somewhat subordinate to the man and to support him.
In this quote, the idea that the family members are like the father's property is prevalent. The father is like the leader of the house and the other members have to stay under his roof until his death.
Reflect on Your Own Life!
2) Although gender inequality is most often viewed negatively, are there certain situations in which it can be a positive thing?
In this quote, the children of this society already know that a mother and father have different duties in a household and that it is the father's duty to provide for his children.
Often times, what the father believed was pushed on the the family itself and they had to follow his rules regardless of others. This includes following his old tribal traditions even though the new traditions, especially religious customs brought by the evangelists, offered prosperity.
In this quote, it shows that a mere gender difference can prevent opportunities in life, creating a disadvantage for women during this time period.
In this quote, the father's claim on "his laws" shows that he is the head of the family and the other members have to obey him.
2. What causes gender inequality in a society?
3. Where did gender inequality have the most effect on the plot?
4. How did gender inequality contribute to the struggles that Mathabane faced during Apartheid?
5. Was there any part of the story in which gender inequality was overcome?
- Gender inequality has been prevalent in all societies at some point in time
- More common in less developed countries today
- Often leads to segregation, and even extremes such as Apartheid in South Africa
- Also during industrial revolution as gender roles were specialized
What do you see as the pattern in societies that have/had gender inequality? What causes this and how can it be overcome? What is common about all of these societies? Is there usually one leader who takes initiative to overcome this or is it usually a group?