I was surrounded by men. My postmate and I were at a bar waiting for the Germany-Ghana games to start and the room was full of twenty-something Beninese men, male students from my classes and the older patrons of the community. They were of all different ages, but, as my postmate was the first to notice, I was the only there who was female.
I started wondering why soccer didn’t interest any of the other women in the village. Girls soccer teams are few and far between (and usually Peace Corps organized) but that didn’t mean women couldn’t also be interested in the sport.
Then I realized where all the mothers and sisters were: they were at home making dinner for all the husbands and brothers who were here with me watching the game.
I knew there are different expectations for girls and boys here, but something about how, already as children, males are given so much more freedom in the choice of what they can do with their time. I had chores and was expected to help around the house, but so did my older brother. Never would I have been told to give up the chance to do something that interested me because I had to stay home and make my brother’s dinner.
What I realized in that bar was not that no other women of the village were interested in soccer, but that they had never been given the opportunity to be interested in soccer.