The Idea of Patriarchy in Ruined by Lynn Nottage

In class we have been discussing the play Ruined by Lynn Nottage. The story takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo and revolves around Mama Nadi’s brothel and the women who lived there. Mama Nadi was a clever character that often used her wit to get her way with the men in the story. Mama had a way of manipulating and outsmarting people in order to take control of any situation she was in. Although to some it may have seemed that Mama Nadi held most of the power in the story, it is also possible to see the power dynamics in this story from a different perspective. In class a term that occurred often in our conversation was “Patriarchy”. Patriarchy is basically the system that allows men to hold power and limits the power that women can hold. This theme occurred frequently throughout this play. Although Mama seemed to be in a position power in most of the situations in the play, there were times that her power seemed limited compared to that of the men in the story. For example, when a man would come into the bar Mama often times seemed to be controlling the situation and then a man with some form of power (like Commander Osembenga) would cause her to have to compromise her power in some way.

As we continued to discuss patriarchy in class we asked a few questions about patriarchy and its effects. One of the questions that came up was how does patriarchy affect both men and women. There are many instances in Ruined where you can see the effects of patriarchy on the men and women in the story. The effects of patriarchy on the women in the story were petty obvious. The women in the brothel rarely had a say in what happened to them and were expected to obey any man that decided to come in and take control of them. The effects of patriarchy on the men in this story aren’t as obvious but they are present. Patriarchy comes with high expectations of men and if men don’t meet those expectations, they are looked down on. In the story, the men (for example the Rebel Soldier) who didn’t meet the “expectations” of patriarchy didn’t have much money or power and because of that they didn’t get as much respect as other men did. These expectations are often harmful to men. 

The topic of patriarchy is one that has been a large part of our class discussions on Ruined


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