Month: February 2016

Are African Men Entirely Clueless On Romance?

I recently stumbled on a comment on some Kardashian related post. Someone had posed this question in what seemed like anger, disgust even; “why are all the Kardashian women dating Black men?!” I must admit that I have in the recent past equally got puzzled by the choice of men to date or get married to in the Kardashian family. Whenever I pore over Kardashian related news and  comments, I always seem to get the idea that Americans are pretty tired of having this family constantly shoved into their faces by the media. Well, Americans, you are not alone.

You see even here in Africa, Kenya to be precise, we are starting to get a little too tired of all the Kardashian themed shows that seem to dominate the E channel. And while quite a number of women genuinely admire the Kardashians’ fashion sense, yet a sizeable number gets really irked by the domination of this family on the media. So fret not brothers and sisters, we are in the same boat of irritation, if we choose to put it like that.

Kim Kardashian and hubby Kanye. Photo courtesy of www.people.com

Kim Kardashian and hubby Kanye. Photo courtesy of http://www.people.com

As a Kenyan woman, I’m very aware of how we tend to rate our fellow Kenyan men on a lower scale while compared to the European and American men or any man who is not of African descent. It’s really interesting that nowadays, I tend to bump into interracial couples on almost a daily basis with of course the man being White and the woman, Kenyan. I mean, these White men are very romantic when compared to the normal African man who probably grew up in the village, went to school at some point barefoot and only landed in the city for campus, we may be tempted to reason.

Well, I would like to question what romance really means to some women. Is romance the ability of a man to be loaded (with cash of course) and to spoil a woman silly, upgrade her even? Or is romance the tendency of a man to treat you right, to listen to you, to support you, to comfort you while in distress and to respect you as a woman and the role you play in his life? If we choose to look at romance from these two perspectives, then I begrudgingly have to admit that most of us Kenyan women or just to be fair, African women are lost.

I have no idea whatsoever why the Kardashian women settle on their choices of Black men but seeing how high maintenance these women come across to be, I tend to reason that these Black men are up to the game. Could be to boost their ratings, who knows? It would be unwise of me to carry on with my list of probabilities seeing that I’m Kenyan born and bred.

However, there was a wide range of wealthy romantic White men for these women to take their pick from but they instead settled on these particular men. Could it be far fetched for us to actually conclude that the Black men in the Kardashian women’s lives are actually romantic? And that the poser of the aforementioned question, happened to be a Black/African woman who over time has accepted the stereotype that Black men are no good or only good for Black women, so why are these White women with them in the first place?

I have nothing against an African woman choosing to date a White man. But if at all she’s of the notion that African men are clueless on romance and therefore her choice to date the former, then I have a problem. We have to admit that as Africans, for the longest time possible we have battled esteem issues with our kind. Why do we have this idea that we are inferior when compared to other races and therefore consider the weaknesses of our African men, as something that is equally inferior to other races? Is it because we allowed our once oppressors to totally brainwash us into believing that nothing good can come out of our race? Just to make things straight, our once oppressors being the colonial masters of many years gone by.

Well, it might surprise you that domestic violence is also an occurrence in countries in the West and is perpetrated by equally, men of descents that are nothing close to being African. So that is not reason enough to dismiss our African men with the notion that they can be violent toward women. Men looking down on women happens all over the world. It simply depends on the mindset of a man and at times has nothing whatsoever, to do with culture or how the man has been socialized to view women after circumcision. Yet another reason that is not justification enough to rate our African men poorly. Levels of civilization depend on one’s open mindedness and if he is not willing to be civilized, then you have no business being with him. However, there are numerous African men who are civilized or act as urbanites and not countrymen if we are to be blunt in that sense.

Media has contributed greatly in giving African women the false illusion that White men are better in matters love and treatment than the normal African man. African women on the other hand are wrong to judge the African man based on how society has groomed him to be a man. We do not expect our African men to hold hands in public and to plant wet kisses on our lips in full view of everyone just to appreciate us, yet we secretly do. To be honest, most African societies frown on emotional men. Even in funerals which are obviously sad and painful affairs, men in many African societies are expected to remain strong and not shed a tear in public even if it happens to be their wives who have passed on. We then have our Mexican soaps where men openly shed tears while professing their love to women and we subconsciously internalize that to mean romance?!

Romance should not be gauged by one’s race. As a matter of fact, romance has absolutely nothing to do with race. And if as a woman you desire to have a romantic man in your life, then perhaps it is time that you truly appreciated yourself to the point where even an African man will see the need to romance you.

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Justified For Women To Provide For Themselves?

I recently had a very interesting conversation with some female acquaintances. We were actually discussing how in recent times, it has become increasingly difficult for men to provide for women. Of course the men have always been quick to point fingers at women, as the cause for their transformation into mean individuals. I tend to hear the accusation leveled against Kenyan women as being merciless gold diggers who are only after a man’s pockets. So just to punish us and make us tow the line, the men in our midst learnt to withhold any monetary favors from us over time.

Anyways, while we were having this conversation, we ended up giving an example of how many men of nowadays, highly avoid spending on a woman they have asked out on a date or simply avoid “the asking out on a date” part because money is involved. Picture this scenario, this guy you have just met asks you out for maybe a coffee date. You are supposed to turn up for the date with your own means which in some circumstances, may extend late into the night, depending on how compatible or interesting you found each other.

Then just because he doesn’t want to spend extra cash on a cab to take you back home, this guy cunningly suggests that you head over to his house for a sleepover, since it is more convenient for you and probably safer(or perhaps only convenient for him). You agree and find yourself spending a night in this man’s house. Sex might or might not happen. But if at all sex does happen, the woman is definitely going to be blamed for giving it up too soon and being too cheap.

Well, just to be fair, for a man to send over a cab to pick you up for a date or to actually drive himself to your place to pick you up definitely depends on his means. If he does not have the resources to send a cab or to own a car, then it would be gentlemanly if he gave you a refund plus fare back after the date. Assuming your respective places of residence aren’t entirely safe at certain hours of the night, then the date can be cut short for that day, so that the both of you can arrive back home safely. You can always arrange for additional dates in future. Well, that’s just per my reasoning.

www.eurweb.com

 

Since the women of nowadays are more assertive and perhaps equally subscribed to the idea of feminism, it is not entirely uncommon encountering women desiring to provide for themselves. Perhaps if a man asked you out on a date, you wouldn’t want him to think of you as a damsel in distress and you may want to prove your level of independence, by showing up and subsequently leaving with your own means. I mean, some of these men who are increasingly withholding monetary favors from the opposite gender, are riding on the wave that the modern woman wants to provide for herself. So why should he if she can?

This whole phenomenon does not only apply to dating per se. In the home for example, there are things that a man is expected to provide for his family as well as things that a woman is supposed to provide for her family. A majority of these things are made possible by finances. So picture a scenario where just because the woman probably earns more than the man and appears to be entirely independent, then the man in question decides to abscond his financial duties as a husband and a father and lets the woman run the home financially. Of course that will generate into an imbalance of sorts and disagreements are bound to arise.

I tend to find a whole lot of misunderstanding in both genders of what feminism entails. And while feminism may many times advocate for the financial liberation of women, it does not mean that the men in the society should now take a back seat. I’m fully aware that for many women with a desire to get into a relationship or marriage nowadays, money is a motivating factor. Heck, money is a motivating factor for both men and women alike!

However, their initial desire to be provided for by a man let’s say in monetary terms, stems from the fact that the man has always been Biblically and historically required to provide for the woman. I do not dispute the fact that many women get over zealous to be provided for to the extent of fully transforming into gold diggers. But just to be logic, when looking at a potential mate, the fact that he can provide for you both emotionally and financially almost always comes into play. Human beings are constantly yearning for a better, stress free life than the present.

I come from a family where many of the women provide for themselves by choice. That is reason enough to make me transform into this highly independent woman in future, I (or you) may be tempted enough to conclude. Funnily enough, I do expect the man to provide. I want him to do his part while I pull the weight doing my part. That doesn’t entirely make me less of the feminist kind of woman I purport to be. I’m equally unapologetic of that particular fact that the man should provide what is his manly duty to provide.

There is an upsurge of single women in my country raising their kids on their own just because the fathers of those kids weren’t man enough to provide for their offspring. And while I applaud these kinds of women for their bravado, there is always that all too real eventuality of the woman struggling under the weight of all those responsibilities. Sometimes culminating into a desperation of sorts that may push her to take any kind of job just to fend for her children. There is also that section of single mothers who have been blessed enough to sufficiently provide for their children without any strain.

Kudos to the latter kind.

However, whether she is fully financially capable or not to be a single mother, the input of the opposite gender is equally needed. And while a section of men may want to hide behind the false illusion that Kenyan women have become gold diggers, therefore deserving of being on their own with their children, I find no justification for a woman providing for herself if at all there is a man in her life, who can equally pull his weight with an input and especially, if there are children involved.

What do you think?

 

The Red Alert!

en.wikipedia.org

Let’s talk about menstruation. Or rather, let’s not mention that word. It’s quite sensitive, right? A woman’s business, why is she (me) bringing it up? OK, why is it even a sensitive subject in the first place?

I once mentioned some male co-worker attributing a forehead breakout I had to my period. I was offended and you know how they usually advice that if you have nothing nice to say you better shut up? That’s what I did. I clamped up. I knew that if I had spoken up immediately it would have been to tell him off because he was all up in my very personal business. A subject that even my male friends know better not to broach. So why was this man trying to act all too smart by coming up with a diagnosis for what I knew was a case of my sensitive facial skin acting up?

I may consider myself a feminist but menstruation is something I hardly discuss with the males in my life. Not because of any shame attached to it but because I feel it is something exclusive for women that I don’t need to keep on talking about with the opposite sex. Plus there is that whole disgust reaction most men get when women begin talking about their monthly period and cramps that I find hard to condone many a times. I guess the only time a section of men don’t feel at all disgusted discussing our monthly period, is when they are inquiring on when our last periods were. Read, they just want to be sure they won’t have to budget for diapers in the near future, for those who weren’t anywhere near committing to us in the first place.

Many societies in the world have always considered a menstruating woman to be unclean. This has equally been mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. I once read a blog post which discussed how some societies in India forbade their women from sharing the same beds with their husbands during the whole monthly period duration. There are also menstrual huts where menstruating women are supposed to reside during that “time of the month”. Funnily enough, in the same Indian society being discussed, menstruating women were equally forbidden to take a bath during that time.

Before you accuse me of peddling falsehood, the blog post was on an Indian blog typed by an Indian woman. I was curious to see what the commenters had said and was surprised to see Indian women concurring with the revelation that they weren’t allowed to take a bath in the whole duration. Women in the 21st century, mind you. One had gone as far as revealing that her husband literally had to force her to do away with the tradition because she was more than determined to follow it to the latter. Now that’s a good man there. Why further the “unclean” stereotype already in place by ensuring a woman remains unclean (avoiding the bath) in the actual sense, during that time?

However, it’s not only in India where some weird practices have been put in place with regards to the monthly period and how a woman should conduct herself at that time. According to an article on the website http://www.ruby-cup.com titled From menstrual huts to drinking blood. The weird and wacky world of cultural attitudes to menstruation. Pt. 1;

A lot of the obligations imposed on menstruating women are meant to protect other members of the community. For example, men are often thought to be at risk if they have sex with a woman when she’s on her cycle, as menstrual blood is considered polluting. In an extreme case, the Kodi of Sumba (an island in eastern Indonesia) believe that sexually transmitted diseases are contracted by men who have sex with a menstruating woman.

Now that’s a community in need of serious enlightenment on the transmission of venereal diseases although I wouldn’t advocate for sexual relations too at that time. But that’s simply my thought in that respect.

Similarly, to isolate menstruating women from their partners and their families, they’re forced to sleep apart in certain cultural traditions. These include those of Rastafarian societies, Bali, Hindus in South India, and certain tribes in Nigeria, where women are confined to a menstrual hut (a custom that used to be practiced in many parts of the world, but that has gradually disappeared).

Again, for the benefit of a menstruating woman’s family, in the Hindu societies of Nepal and Rajasthan, as well as in Bali, Bangladesh, and in Rastafarianism, she’s not allowed to cook or come into contact with other people’s food.

Instead, to safeguard the community more generally, and as a form of respect for divinities, women on their cycle must abstain from visiting religious sites in many Hindu societies, as well as in Bali, in Islamic culture and the Shinto religion of Japan.

Finally, for a woman to leave behind her unclean (i.e. menstruating) status, she must perform a ritual bath at the end of her cycle: this is practiced, for example, in Bali and in Orthodox Judaism, where the bath is called the mikveh.

The article goes on to state.

One might be tempted to react with outrage, at how a woman on her monthly period is treated in some societies, which seem to possess all forms of patriarchy but you may be surprised to learn that, it is not all doom and gloom in some scenarios. There are societies which actually celebrate a woman’s monthly cycle and her “time of the month.”

However, other customs aim to protect menstruating women themselves. In Rajasthan, girls on their period aren’t allowed to walk through crossroads, as they’re thought to be particularly vulnerable to evil spirits when they’re on their cycle. For this same reason, in South India it’s common to keep a piece of iron and/or a lemon. What is more, in South India, once girls reach menarche, they shouldn’t have contact with boys and aren’t allowed to spend as much time outside as before: given that they can now become pregnant, it’s thought that mixing with males is particularly dangerous.

Interestingly, in many of the societies I have mentioned, whilst menstrual prohibitions are widely practiced, so is the celebration of girls’ menarche. Ceremonies, involving food, family, friends and gifts are customary in Nepal, South India, Bali, Bangladesh, Japan, amongst the Akan of Ghana and the Maroons of Suriname. Amongst the Zulus of South Africa, a goat is slaughtered and the girl is secluded with her friends, emerging the next day to be bathed,smeared with red clay, and taught lessons for adulthood by other women-www.ruby-cup.com

And while there are societies known to go to extremities such as drinking the menstrual blood just to celebrate the woman, I consider these other ones mentioned pretty reasonable. A girl who is first experiencing her period should not be made to feel shame for it. While growing up, we laughed, whispered and snickered at our counterparts who were “unfortunate” enough to accidentally soil their uniforms in school with their first period. We didn’t know better.

However, it is time that parents and teachers taught both girls and boys about the differences between both genders. I do not advocate for going into deep details for the boys lest you scare them off completely but general knowledge, can go a long way in ending some of these stigmas and misconceptions surrounding something that is biological in a woman and a symbol of her fertility.

 

Of Body Art And Beauty Politics

What crosses your mind when you see a heavily tattooed woman?

genevieveng.com

genevieveng.com

Well, I kinda was confronted by that question a couple of hours back. I walked into a shop and one of the shop attendants was a woman, with lots of tattoos on her arms as well as a large flower detailed one on her lower back. You might wonder how I was able to make out that she had a tattoo on her lower back. Well, this particular woman who is every inch African, was wearing a daring cut out blouse that was literally open at the back so you could get an ample peek of her bra as well as the tattoo.

I emphasize on the word African because the tattoo craze has only caught up in Kenya a couple of years ago. Back in 2003, you could walk up and down a street all day long and not spot a single soul with a tattooed arm or neck or whatever. For those who are African and have been born and brought up in Africa like me, they probably know how much religious Africans are. We tend to attach every little detail of life to what religion states and since the Bible forbids one from putting permanent markings on their skin, tattoos are still being frowned upon by many of the older and younger generation alike.

Most people of the above reasoning tend to associate the putting of tattoos on one’s body with being devilish. However, for quite a large number of people from this generation, tattoos just like ear piercings are a form of body art. A way to express oneself. Well, if being tattooed wasn’t entirely a painful process, perhaps I would be having one teeny tiny one myself. I’m not so big on several tattoos on one’s body but I must admit that I have previously (and in the recent past) yearned to have one small one. If I was the very daring type, perhaps 3 small ones in different locations. However, it’s not something that I’ve finally concluded to do. Fleeting thoughts if I choose to look at it from that angle.

Some religious denominations equally discourage body piercings in addition to tattoos. There are members of certain denominations who would not dare wear earrings or any jewellery. All these things are usually attributed to some demonic origin thus the shunning. Well, Christians tend to be divided in the aforementioned reasoning. I personally have had my piercings from a very young age and I now consider them a part of me. The first pair of ear piercings I got at 6 years of age and the second pair at 10. I sleep in my studs, shower in them and only part with them when I want to change earrings into something more fancier.

I tend to believe that the Israelites too donned a lot of jewellery. When Moses in the Bible went up to the mountain and these people who seemed to possess such little faith, decided to remove all of their jewellery and make a golden calf to worship, that must have been a ton of jewellery. As a kid, we once visited the Gede ruins in the Coastal region of my country on a school trip and one of the photos I saw and remember, in the mini museum at the historical site, has this Arabic woman wearing so much jewellery including a quite heavy looking nose ring. I had never known people adorned their noses with other things other than studs before and therefore, remained quite puzzled for a while, long after the school trip was over.

Africans too have been known to fancy tribal markings. This is more like the tattoo version of Africa. Surprisingly, the idea behind some of these tribal markings was to enhance the beauty of a woman. I have witnessed Sudanese citizens currently residing in Kenya with wavy tribal markings on their foreheads that are permanent, men and women alike. I once mentioned that to a friend and with a puzzled look on his face, he stated that he had never noticed these kinds of markings on our Kenyan-Sudanese counterparts. I reminded him to pay close attention next time and he will surely spot this.

It might come as a surprise to many Kenyans of the latter day generation that some communities too in our country had tribal marks. However, you can hardly spot any Kenyan nowadays with tribal markings since these are practices that have been completely phased out over time. Save for the Maasais, Turkanas and Samburus who still elongate their earlobes, it is quite rare to encounter a Kenyan with tribal markings across the face or body. So we can confidently state that human beings have always possessed this fixation with body art for eons. That doesn’t mean that those actively pursuing the culturally motivated ones are primitive or in need of serious enlightenment.

On the tattooed woman I met today, well, I personally still get a little surprised seeing all those tattoos on someone. I’m not one to impose what I believe on another. I’m also very aware that there are a lot of stereotypes attached to people who decide to get tattoos. We may be tempted to brand them as misfits, ungodly or rebels. Perhaps people who have no intention whatsoever of ever being employed in a sober organization. Being a third world, Africans tend to place a lot of emphasis on education for a better life. We are guilty of overlooking the Arts or someone’s creativity in making a living. That’s what the missionaries drummed into our heads. Education is the ticket to success.

Well, it might come as a surprise to many that there are people out there who have no intention whatsoever of ever getting white collar jobs. Who do not care whether a tattoo is on their face, wrists or wherever. That is simply their choice. We also vary greatly in our choices of body art and while I will always prefer ear piercings over large tattoos someone of another thought may view tattoos as the way to go. Such is the diversity of different personalities.

So what crosses your mind when you see tattoos on anyone?

 

 

 

Should Women Shelve Ambition For Marriage?

We live in fast paced times where it is more of an inherent need for all genders to be gainfully employed. The times when a woman’s workplace was only within the home environment are long gone and we now have women climbing corporate ladders and actually being highly competent at it. This however creates an additional ‘hurdle’ to the lives of career women if we may address it as such. Finding the time to date, settle down and start a family.
A lot of criticism has been directed at women who prefer to concentrate on their careers instead of channeling their thoughts toward finding a husband. Single women who are highly successful in their careers have often times been scorned for ‘shunning’ marriage. Coming from an African society which places a lot of emphasis on the role of a woman as a wife and mother, we may conclude that this has mostly been the contributing factor, to the finger pointing and wagging tongues directed at this section of women.
A look at history surprisingly indicates that while there was an early emergence of the need for women to work, women hardly placed any importance on their careers as is the case in modern times. An article on the website http://www.bbc.co.uk titled Women’s Work and published on the 29th of March, 2011 states;

Urbanisation created manifold opportunities for female employment despite the regulation of hours and conditions of work for women and juveniles in certain sectors and, the coming of compulsory education after 1871. Thus most women in Victorian society, in the two thirds of the population below the upper and middle classes worked for wages…With the emphasis primarily upon their role as wives and mothers, women did not usually see their occupation as a centrally defining characteristic of their lives and therefore, failed to declare it.

The same case applies to African societies where for many years, an emphasis on educating the boy child had been placed at the expense of the girl child. It was not uncommon for fathers to anticipate the amount of dowry that their daughters would bring home therefore, hasty decisions made to marry the girl child off.
Educating the girl child not only empowered her but equally opened up her eyes to the numerous opportunities out there for the woman. With the championing of women’s rights and gender equality in work places, women were now able to earn the same amount of salaries as their male counterparts as long as they were qualified for it and competent to do the job.

thewaywomenwork.com

thewaywomenwork.com

Unlike in previous times where a woman sat pretty anticipating a knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet and airlift her to marriageville, women began to attach their reason for being to the kind of employment they were in. Women found it necessary to dream, to actually strive for it in reality and to eventually be proud of what their efforts had yielded. The times where women shied away from stating their careers since the wage they earned, was nothing to write home about and the fact that the patriarchal societies they came from, dictated that they stay at home and raise the kids gradually faded into oblivion.
And while being consumed by career demands may tend to shift a woman’s focus away from the traditional school of thought of her roles being that of a mother or wife, it would be unfair to go all judgmental on women who chose career and ambitions before marriage or over marriage. It should be understood that marriage is a lifetime decision that may not be cut out for everyone.
Indeed, there are numerous women who successfully pursue their ambitions and in the midst of it all manage to find a husband material, settle down and surprisingly, raise well rounded children. Such women you may come to discover had highly supportive husbands who were not at all threatened by their wives’ successes. Sadly, most African men tend to be a little threatened by a woman who appears to be challenging their masculinity in all feats.

psychcentral.com

psychcentral.com

We blame this kind of thinking in men to what has been deeply entrenched in African societies for years. African societies are very guilty of parading the boy child as a savior of the community. Women on the other hand were only to be seen and not heard. It was the main reason why many fathers saw no need to educate their daughters. Daughters were not given the same intellectual view as sons were.
Unfortunately, many modern African men live by this rule to date. This could be the contributing factor for many women who are highly ambitious, failing to keep their marriages intact. We may be tempted to blame it on the fact that it is quite a daunting task to tame a woman who is successful in the house.
And while this may ring true in a couple of homes which are on the verge of breaking or broke because of a woman’s rise up the career ladder, chances are that the husband too happens to blame, for his lack of acceptance of his wives’ pursuit of ambitions.
There are successful women whose ambition did not interfere with their gentle make up yet they still find themselves single mothers or senior bachelorettes. The reason for the latter; men being intimidated by their social standing or career.
Modern times demand that all genders pursue their ambitions. Motivational books preach success. Women are more learned and willing to go to school to add onto their skills. Opportunities are aplenty for the female workforce. However, the time a woman chooses to settle or the way she views marriage should be left for her to decide. All these stereotypes we attach to ambitious women only serve to hamper the liberation of women in society.