What’s sexy what’s not…stereotypes of what’s sexy in Rwanda
So today I was sitting outside on the stump of the porch washing my good clothes in Woolite that one of my friends sent to me.  The clothes soap here in Rwanda is very rough on the fabrics and I have a few dress pieces that I needed to pamper.  While I was soaking and washing and ringing by hand in a bright plastic orange tub MyDear, Claire and Donat the Guard were chattin’ it up with me.  I have been asking many question about Rwandan culture, folk lore, proverbs, and such collecting them for a book I am writing. Nothing is off limits and some of these conversations get pretty personal and well, actually scary.  The one I had today I decided to tell the world and not wait until the book is finished.  It’s just too good to sit on. The conversation began by Donat (the philosopher and security guard) asking if I could wear the shorts I had on to Church.  I looked down and saw that my awesome army green favorite pair of shorts (bought for me by Brenda Blair, thank you very much) were loose and hitting the top of my knee.  “Yes,” I said, “I could wear these to Church.  Not every Church would be okay.  The Churches in Texas? NO.  The Churches down south where Douglas is from, No.  But yes, we can wear this to church in Wisconsin, no problem.” “Ay!” the Rwandan sound for surprised.  Both Claire and MyDear asking if I am sure and clucking their disapproval. ashley in rwanda 027“Can you wear them to preach in?” Donat asks.  “No.  Not to preach.  I could wear them to preach if I was at camp with youth but not in most Churches. It would seem a bit disrespectful if I would”  He nods.  Then he comes near me and points to the top of my knee and asks, “Even if the pants is not covering here?” As he asks he points his wagging finger at the back of my knees. The girls laugh.  “Yeah this length is okay but here, ”  and I pull my shorts up to mid thigh, “It is not okay.” “Why is it not okay here?” he asks and points to where I have just pulled my shorts up to. “Because we don’t want to cause our brothers to stumble.”  I say referring to Romans 14;21, “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”  He looks confused and MyDear is silent trying to understand what I am saying. “You don’t want to show too much thigh because it causes men to think about having sex with you.”  And I take the opportunity to discuss the way many Christians wear very low cut shirts and even wear them to Church. “It’s like the shirts I see many women in Rwanda wearing even to Church.  The shirt is cut so low much of the breast is showing.” I explain. MyDear interrupts, “It is no problem to show the breasts up to maybe here.”  She shows me that it’s okay up to half of the breast.  “Breasts are no problem.” Donat jumps in and explains that men are really attracted to the back of the knee, not the breasts. He tells me this is innate.  God made men this way.  It is natural.  He even tried to explain to me that being attracted to the back of the knee was an instinct.  But I was laughing because, the knee?  Then he said if the woman has stretch marks on the back of the knee well then that’s the ultimate sexy asset! I kept trying to explain to Donat that desiring to see this knee part was a learned thing and not innate but he insisted being attracted to women’s breasts was not healthy!  He explained that the breasts were for babies and not men and that is was sick in a perverted way to have such a thing for breasts.  The three of them went on to explain that when the skin above the knee is lighter than the skin below, you know like a farmer tan on the legs, seeing this lighter skins is also a turn on!
Working in the hot sun with a skirt to the ground.
Alphonsine, our house girl, working in the hot sun with a skirt to the ground.
Being that I am walking all over Kigali in my favorite green shorts just above the knee I asked why they never told me it was not appropriate.  Donat told me it’s no problem for the Muzungus! (white folks)  When I asked why, he said “because we are not attracted to you!”  hahahaha So there you have it.  Stretch marked legs and two tone tans!  Who would have thought?

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