WHAT IF: A Reversal of Gender Roles in Chimamanda Adichie’s THE VISIT

As a Nigerian, have you ever imagined a world where women asked for men’s hands in marriage and men were asked to stay at home and care for the children?

As a male, have you ever imagined getting arrested for masturbating?

What if you were living in an alternate universe where men acted women’s roles and women men’s roles? Well, imagine no more, for Chimamanda Adichie has brought that imagination into reality in her short story; The Visit.

Over the years, there have been very few cases of women whipping ring boxes from their pockets or bags and uttering the four life-changing words, “Will you marry me?” to their partners. So if women went on their knees to propose, would men fan the heat from their faces, cup their mouths to hide their shock, wipe off the tears from their eyes and stretch their right hands in exhilaration: “Yes! Yes, I will marry you” and hug their now-fiancees? 

Now, what if, as a male, you were arrested for masturbating? According to Prime Men’s Medical Center, a recent study reported that 95% of men masturbate regularly. Therefore, if you were one of these men in this statistics living in the world of this short story, you are likely to be given a jail sentence of 15 years if caught masturbating. But you could join the protest and carry placards which reads: “Respect the bodily autonomy of men. Government hands off my seed. Our Body Our Choice.”

However, the American President in the story says masturbation is ‘a waste of a child’s potential’ so why waste a potential baby into the water closet or with a Vaseline, or coconut oil? You could be one of the fathers that were wished a happy father’s day on the 18th of June.

What if women ruled the world? What if, in an absolute matriarchal society, there were men’s right activists who clamour for men’s inclusions in governance?

What if women say to the men: “Progress is good, we all want progress, but a man should not be in charge of such a sensitive post, it’s too important”?

What if married men bore the ‘Mrs’ title instead and are asked by their wives to sacrifice their dreams, stay at home and look after the children? After all, the woman earns enough salary to cater for the family, therefore, the man should stay at home, water the plants, cook the meals, pick the children from school, and do other house chores. 

What if men raved about the refusal of their unserious girlfriends of three years to propose to them?

Chimamanda Adichie’s The Visit paints a vivid unrealistic, yet, realistic picture of gender roles in this story. However, in this case, there is a reversal of roles: women are the breadwinners of the family; women are paid for being pregnant and giving birth; men are called prostitutes for attending night clubs; men are only respected if they are married. The story is unrealistic because the world in the story has virtually 99.9% chance of never happening in a patriarchal society like Nigeria.

Nevertheless, realism comes to play in the story when it portrays the obstacles patriarchy thrusts into the society. But, in this case, it depicts the matriarchal demands of the women in the society while the women play the roles of men in a patriarchal society. For instance, the women pay the bills, propose to men, are the drivers, etc. On the other hand, the men sacrifice their dreams for the wellbeing of their family, stay at home, bathe the children and carry out other typical “feminine” duties in a patriarchal society. There are also houseboys who are sexually attracted to their Madams and a husband who warns his wife’s lover to stay away from her.  

To some group of people, this short story would serve as a valid point to discourage men from letting women take over “men’s roles”. It could also serve as a fact that shows the emasculation of men. If such ever happened, the man’s ego will be bruised.

From another point of view, Chimamanda Adichie’s The Visit reverses gender roles to put men in women’s shoes and to let them know how it feels like to have to live in a sexist society where, for instance, a man must not attend a night club else, he is seen as a prostitute. 

But what if another group of people —after reading this speculative short story— thought that the writer is trying to point out the dangers of female superiority in the society? What if she were sending a message to persons clamouring for female superiority, rather than equality? In this case, if female superiority were dominant in the society, there will be sexism and misandry.

So, what if women went on their knees and propose to men and men became househusbands?

What if the gender roles were reversed? Shall we try living in this world of reversed gender roles for, say, a week?


Written by Zusan Azeez.

1 thought on “WHAT IF: A Reversal of Gender Roles in Chimamanda Adichie’s THE VISIT”

  1. I loved Chimamanda’s book the visit. It exposed gender bias to the patriarchial society who pretends that women are not unjustly treated.

    P.s. men will do anything never to be at the receiving end

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