Kenyan Politics and Feminism

Politics in Kenya is like a constant movie with parts one, two, three, four… you get the drift. There is always so much drama, always so much talk but never ever, any action taken – until two days ago.

Devolution Cabinet Secretary, Mrs Anne Waiguru, has been making headlines since two months ago when she confirmed an audit that was done that revealed $7,750,000 has been lost within the government due to illegitimate contracts.

A few weeks ago, Waiguru was making headlines yet again because alleged claims had been made that she was overspending on miscellaneous items for her office. The claim stated that her budget was overly exaggerated with pens being priced at $80, money spent to buy condoms and sex toys and a grand piano being bought and placed in her office. All of which are very unnecessary for the Devolution office and their work.

The Cabinet Secretary has since succumbed to pressure from the public and the opposing party, ODM. She officially asked the President to relieve her of her duties on Saturday, November 21st citing health concerns and wanting to protect her family from anymore scrutiny and humiliation.



Typewriter Tuesdays – We Should All Be Feminists

“Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

Thanks to Beyonce, we all know this snippet from Chimamanda’s powerful TedX talk. Ms Adichie has gone on to write a short e-book based on this talk, the book suitably titled- ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. That was going to be the title of this post but I have to stick to the typewriter tuesdays theme because this is actually also a review of the book though I know I will go off on quite a number of tangents. Bare with me:)

Of course I agree with my all time favourite author that indeed we should ALL be feminists because it is quite necessary in this day and age; not just women, but men as well. Chimamanda did a sort of extension of the TedX talk because she wanted to fully explain why she is so adamant on her feminist stance and also why she thinks we all need to join the bandwagon. Being a feminist myself, I know you all may think I will be biased on this post but I will try my very best not to favour my opinion so much.

Chimamanda starts her book by telling a story about her long time friend, Okoloma who passed away in 2005. Okoloma was the very first person to ever call the author a feminist. She explains how at the time she had no idea what it meant but the way that her friend had said it, she thought it an insult at the time. Fast forward many years later, after the release of her novel, Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda was called a feminist yet again by her peers such as journalists, academics and the like. The word feminist according to these people was an unhappy woman who could not find a husband. Feminism was ‘un-African’ and an influence from the Western world; being a feminist meant that she hated men. Chimamanda took the moniker with pride and made it the exact opposite, calling herself a happy, African feminist who does not hate men. As the constant criticism kept rolling in, she could see that the word feminist was associated with so much negativity and she wanted to change that.

She tells another childhood story of how she was appointed class monitor but immediately lost that position to a boy simply because he was male and she was female despite being top of her class and earning the right to be the class monitor. Because boys were usually the ones that were class monitors, it became a norm that could never ever change. It is sadly not just an african mentality but a global one as well… ‘If we do something over and over, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal’. Chimamanda talks of her life in Lagos, how extremely male dominated it is that even a simple girl seen walking into a hotel is looked down upon as people assume she is a sex worker as opposed to someone who really is just coming to the hotel for say a meeting or for lunch with friends.

A woman footing the bill at a restaurant is looked down upon, as if she cannot afford to pay her own bills. I have seen that a lot here in Nairobi as well, though I must send a shout out to the waiter at 360 Degrees, who placed the bill right in front of me at the end of a meeting I was having with a friend. I think because I got there before my male friend, he assumed I was the one who planned the meeting. When it’s a group of 2, even just 3 people meeting at a restaurant and one of them happens to be male, waiters/waitresses automatically assume it is he to pay for the meal. It is something we have been so accustomed to since time immemorial and hence, it became normal. So when a woman pays the bill, the man usually takes it as an insult to his ever fragile ego. When in essence, she is just doing what a man would do as well. She is paying for lunch/dinner/drinks etc, just as he would normally pays for the lunch/dinner/drinks as well. It is OKAY. She is capable of doing it herself so let her. Don’t judge her for it or take it personally. In fact, you should be glad she can pull her own weight in whatever situation just like you as a man, can as well. Equality can’t be that hard a thing to fathom can it?

Chimamanda emphasizes the fact that as humans we have really evolved but our ideas of gender are clearly still stuck in the medieval ages. Here in Kenya it is not as suffocating for an independent woman as it is in Lagos and that I am thankful for. Seems we are slowly heading in the right direction. A woman in Lagos cannot be able to do practically anything without a man, and it is not because she is fully dependent on a man but the society there has made it such a norm there that sometimes she has no choice. A woman in Lagos cannot enter clubs alone, she has to be accompanied by a man otherwise she will not get in. When seen hand in hand with a man, the man will be acknowledged but not the woman. The woman is basically invisible. She is just an object as opposed to a human being. I’d like to see the clubs in Nairobi try that and see if they’ll ever have a full house.

The work place is yet another place where people really need to understand why feminism exists and fight for the injustice that women go through on the daily. We all know how condescending some men can be, I say some because it’s not every single man who feels all high and mighty towards women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook wrote an entire book just based on this. Assuring women that they have a right to sit at the table as well, they can give their ideas and opinions and take action without the fear of being judged or even worse getting the sack. If we kept living in that fear, the Daily Nation would have a very hard time finding Top 40 women under 40 candidates for their annual Business Daily segment.

Chimamanda teaches a writing workshop in Lagos and she talks of some participants who have been warned to stay away from her workshop. That listening to her ‘feminist talk’ would make these women absorb ideas that would destroy their marriages. I don’t know why marriage is such a heavily talked about issue in African communities. I am only in my early twenties, but the pressure to tie the knot in this generation right now is crazy! I know some families that wait for their daughter to graduate from school and then the next thing is to find her a husband. Not get a job and build your career or even possibly get another degree, no… It’s all about – Get a man. Get a reputable man, get married, have kids. That is your role in life as a woman. Finding a life partner is not to be looked down upon of course, no man is an island after all. But this man should come into your life because of how you live your life. Not because that is all you want in life.

She not only focuses on women alone though. Like the title says, Chimamanda wants us ALL to be feminists. She has a section on men as well and how we as a society have done a great disservice to them in how they are raised. Masculinity is defined in an extremely narrow way and putting young boys in such a cage so early life teaches them to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of being human. This has left most men with very fragile egos. Any small thing, like say paying the bill at a restaurant instead of letting him do it, bruises their ego so much and they feel like you are challenging their manhood. Guys its okay to not be all put together, it’s okay to accept help when you need it. One of the quotes from this book that really spoke to me and relates to this was a quote Chimamanda said when asked whether she worries about men being intimidated by her… “A man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”

Back on the marriage topic, it is quite sad that women are being pushed to get married by a particular age but men can stay single all through his life if he wants to. An unmarried 30 something or 40 something year old woman is seen as a failure yet for a man the same age it seen as him taking his time to choose a wife. Society needs to change its stance on these gender ‘rules’ if at all equality between the sexes is to be achieved. Women will give up jobs, career dreams, even going to particular places or acquainting herself with particular people all to please the man whilst in a relationship. Why do we never see a man making the same compromise?

The sad thing is we live in a society where men seem to have all the power, and why? Because it happens all the time that it has become normal. Feminists are not bad people. They are not trying to say that women and only women should rule the world, all we are saying is that society should really give us a break. We can’t wear what we want without being judged or some man seeing it as his chance to take forceful advantage of our bodies. We can’t go to work everyday and come home without a man expecting us to cook and clean and raise the kids as well yet he is quite capable of doing that himself. We can’t expect to be as successful as the man because the man expects us to be seen and not heard. So many rules and gender expectations are placed on the woman, especially the African woman and people are still wondering why Feminism is on the rise? Chimamanda talks of men feeling threatened by the idea of feminism, she feels that this is triggered by how they are raised… ‘Their sense of self-worth is somehow diminished if they are not naturally in charge as men.’

Culture may have stated many years ago that women are to be subordinate to men but culture is constantly changing and we should adjust accordingly to the changes. Chimamanda perfectly concludes her book with this powerful statement- ‘Culture does not make people. People make culture.’ She posed a question to her readers that I will post here as I am posing the same question to all of us…

‘What if, in raising children, we focus on ability instead of gender? What if we focus on interest instead of gender?’

Would like to know your responses to that so feel free to comment below! This book though only 70 pages long is quite the short story, one I won’t forget anytime soon.

P.S: I think is the longest post I have done this year, goodness!

Typewriter Tuesdays – 50 Shades Of Grey

Happy New Year guys!!

Can’t believe it’s 2014… feels like 2012 was just yesterday but that’s now TWO years ago man. Goodness time is super flying! Just making me older and older with every passing year:-/ If any of you don’t know, my birthday is in January so the new year nowadays always makes me feel weary instead of giddy of my upcoming aging process lol.

Well, you know the saying that everyone sings every 31st December… New Year New Me..?? Yet that never ever happens? Unless you are as disciplined as the 844 system lol. So this year I did’t write down a bunch of resolutions I know I’ll forget by… today haha. I didn’t proclaim to the social media world about my hopes and dreams of the year because contrary to that Law of attraction ish, I feel people are out there to get you for all your positive vibes and dreams and you end up crushed and giving up before you could even try. I just prayed to God Almighty for these 3 things to fill my 2014 and years to come- Growth, Love & Happiness. I think everyone should aspire for this as well esp in our world right now that is filled with so much evil, greed, power and hate. We need more ACTUAL growth in our lives than the new fancy cars that seem to have tripled on the streets, we need more love shown than dead bodies filling our morgues and cemeteries, we need more happiness than what we get from just a few hundred followers on twitter and likes on Instagram. I just feel I need more than that in my life. We need more than that. Both you and I need BETTER than that.

Anyway, this post wasn’t meant for this. It’s book review day! And today I’m doing one on the one and only 50 Shades Of Grey! Yes people… I did actually read it. Little old prudish me took exactly ONE week to read all THREE books in this series. Granted I was on Thanksgiving break at the time haha, but still! 3 books in a week?? That’s a damn record! So 50 shades is an erotica type of novel that is based around the lives of plain jane college student Anastasia Steele and Adonis millionaire Christian Grey. They meet by mistake thanks to Anastasia’s roommate who was meant to interview Mr Grey for the school newspaper but gets sick and sends Anastasia on her behalf. Mr Grey intrigued by Anastasia’s don’t care nonchalant attitude decides to keep tabs on her. Learn her, know her and soon enough want her. His type of wanting though?? Kind of eery, creepy perhaps? Borderline dangerous yo!

Me thinks Mr Grey here has some insane sex obsession thanks to losing his virginity at 15 to one of his mother’s friends who showed him a rather ‘different’ way of having sexual intercourse. Since then he treats women in a rather unorthodox manner… he likes to dominate the woman. Literally and figuratively. And being the gentle man that he is, he asks them to sign contracts first to agree to never disclose their rather awkward relationship to anyone. I think what makes this series so intriguing is the way in which he handles Anastasia especially. I don’t know about ya’ll but I am not fan of dominatrix type of love and BDSM tactics… it’s just kind of sexist? for lack of a better word? And in my opinion quite demeaning to women. Anastasia, a virgin upon meeting Mr Grey didn’t sign the contract at fIrst till she gave herself to him first… the normal way. And then she asked for a taste of the BDSM and realized she can’t handle and leaves Mr Grey devastated. But then another twist in this book is how Mr Grey is able to learn to switch off his inner ‘beast’ when he sees the physical and psychological damage it does to Anastasia. No woman has ever had this effect on him and that’s what kept me reading this rather badly written (in my opinion) book, just to see what happens to them as a couple.

I won’t disclose what happens in the other two books here otherwise we shall have a really really long post on our hands because once I put on my feminist voice there’s no stopping me haha. I’m not recommending this book but I’m not saying don’t read it either. It’s whatever tickles your fancy I guess… If you like erotica books (which I do read from time to time, who doesn’t??) then try it out. If you are completely appalled by anything ‘sex’ in a book then just leave it on the bookshelf and skip over to the more ‘wholesome’ section. In terms of literary skill, E.L. James is just a retired English TV executive who was going through a mid life crisis as she wrote this, so no wonder it’s not so ‘wow’ on the writing style but kudos to her for capturing a world wide audience and topping bestseller lists and Forbes lists thanks to people’s secret love for erotica books lol. I hear there’s a film adaptation that will be out next year… I don’t know how I feel about that, it’s basically going to be violent porn on a screen. But who knows, they may TRY censor something right Hollywood??

Anyway, I won’t be watching it. I liked the story line though, so try it out, lemme know what you think of it. Btw this wasn’t my ultimate choice of book to start 2014 typewriter tuesdays with haha.. I was just talking about it with my friend @MsBibalove the other day and *lightbulb moment*!! Just started writing and here we are.

Happy first week of work, school and whatever else you are getting up to this year. Hope 2014 is great so far!