Can the modern independent Kenyan woman be a submissive wife?

“Submission is a form of trust. It is more than agreeing to follow in the leadership of another person. It is having confidence in his leadership and trusting that he will do what is best for your family,”


When a Kenyan woman said “I do” four or five decades ago, she was under no illusions regarding the role she was expected to play as wife.

Her place was in the kitchen from where she obeyed her husband and trusted him to make all the decisions pertaining to her and her children.

She understood that she didn’t have a voice. Then came the next generation. This woman’s daughter learnt how to subtly use manipulation and to withhold sex so as to get her way in her marriage.

The only way she could have her way, was to sometimes dupe her man into thinking that ideas she had talked him round to were his.

However, she also understood that she was not to be heard.

Today, submission is a word that comes with controversy. With the changing times, the average man will tell you that he wants an independent woman who will not have to depend on him for everything. Moreover women are continually advised not to give up their independence.

Tabitha, a 27-year-old statistician is one such woman. The thought of being a submissive wife makes her cringe. She views submission as following whatever her husband decides without question, something that doesn’t auger well with her because she is an opinionated woman.

To her submission is equivalent to being gagged – unimaginable in modern society. When she weds her long-term boyfriend mid next month, she will not recite the submission passage at her wedding, and though they haven’t discussed submission, she prays that the need to submit will not rear its head after marriage.

“I have a dominant personality. I was raised not to be afraid to speak up and not to be quick to back down. Submission is an outdated and irrelevant practice.

“The good thing is that my boyfriend is a quiet guy who lets me do most of the talking. I hope things stay this way even after our wedding,” she says.

There are many other women liken submission to loss of free will. The concept of submission may have made sense for their mothers, but how about now when the gender roles are blurred? Can the modern independent woman be a submissive wife?

Saturday Magazine spoke to a few strong women who believe that the two can co-exist. According to this group of women, submission and independence collide because of the misconceptions that women have in regard to what it means to be submissive.


“Submission is an attitude,” says Tina Muli, a 37-year-old who runs a successful cleaning company in Nairobi. During the initial months following her wedding 12 years ago, Tina then an upwardly mobile 25-year-old banker thought of submission as losing 100 percent control.

While she submitted to her man on the outside, a storm brewed on the inside and her marriage came close to a breakdown as a result of the resentment she felt.

It took months of counselling for her to understand and respect what it means to submit. As much as she was self-sufficient, she saw that she needed her husband as much as he wanted her. Then she understood that submitting did not mean lack of intelligence or free will but relinquishing some of the control.

“Submission is a form of trust. It is more than agreeing to follow in the leadership of another person. It is having confidence in his leadership and trusting that he will do what is best for your family,” she says.

This is what submission looks like to Tina: Her husband is the leader, so he makes most of the decisions and he doesn’t need to consult with her first. She accepts this because she trusts that when making these decisions, he has her needs under consideration. When one understands this then submission feels natural.

Because of this understanding, Tina was able to quit her job without a fuss and stay home to raise their two children for four years before she founded her company.

She observes that it may have been easier for her to slip into this submissive role because from the onset, her man had proven that he was a worthy leader. The most invaluable piece of advice that she would give to the single woman struggling with this concept is this, “Don’t marry a man you can’t submit to.”


Submitting may seem easy, when the man of the house has money — a symbol of power and control. Perhaps it is easier to relinquish control to a man who can comfortably take care of you financially, but what about the woman who has more financial muscle than her husband? Doesn’t that make her the leader, to whom submission is due? Can a woman who is the breadwinner or who earns more than her husband still be submissive?

“That is where you go wrong. Money does not change the structure of marriage,” says Purity Mbago, 33, interrupting my line of questioning.

Purity, a senior manager with a regional logistics company, earns considerable more than her husband. But though she can easily take over decision-making, especially in situations where money is involved, she doesn’t. While her assertiveness may have attracted her man, she believes that for a relationship to work, she must set aside her self-sufficiency and allow her man to feel necessary and needed.

“The trick is knowing when to submit and when to be independent. Find the balance between staying true to your strong self and still pleasing him,” she says.

It is enough for her to know that she can take care of herself and business if she needed to. She likes to think of her ability to relinquish control not as a weakness but a bridled strength; she is strong enough to be submissive. The other catch is that she only submits to her husband.

“I don’t believe in the concept of women submitting to men because they are the weaker sex or other such reasons. I believe in a woman submitting to the man she is married to. I submit to my husband, not men in general.”


What do you think of submission?

Lucy Kimandu, event organiser

The first thing that pops into my mind when I hear the word submission is slavery. Submission has absolutely no place in the society in the 21st century.

Irene Wanjiru, photographer

Submission is about commitment and being there for your significant other. Often times, it is a good thing but sometimes when you relinquish control, the man may take advantage of you and misuse it.

Edna Muyia, student

(Laughs) Submission is like slavery: a woman worshipping a man and cleaning after him. It is something that we grew up seeing and is part of our culture but with westernisation, my generation of women is slowly forgetting about it.

Molly Kinyua, IT consultant

Submission is about commitment, obedience and being faithful to your partner. It can be a good thing and it definitely has a place in the society today. If someone, however, wants to be worshipped, that’s a different story altogether.

Elizabeth Njambi, public health specialist

The first thing that comes to my mind is servitude; a woman coming second to her husband and trusting him. Whether it is a good thing or not depends on the man you are submitting to. If he is a worthy leader, it is a beautiful thing.





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