Month: July 2016

For Men, It Is A Pleasurable Activity; For Women, It Is Often Laden With Stereotypes.

I’m a talkative person. Perhaps that is what makes me privy to sometimes, weird conversations. I shall not reveal identities for obvious reasons but I shall definitely share.

Someone of the female gender this week, shared with me that someone else of the male gender, had warned her against allowing a female friend of hers from holding her infant child. Why? Because according to this man in question, since he suspected that the lady friend to the one who shared with me the info was sleeping around, then she would be dangerous to the baby. In short, when a baby is handled by a person sleeping around, a woman for that matter, then that baby constantly falls ill.

I don’t know if this applies to other African countries but in my country, there is that cultural belief among some ethnic groups, that your baby should not be handled by a cheating husband or promiscuous woman. Sadly, this person who also happens to be my friend wanted to find out from me if it was indeed true. I didn’t even know what to tell her. But I had so many unanswered questions in my mind that I doubt will ever get satisfactory answers.

Did that mean that single women were not supposed to hold their married friends’ babies because they were unhitched and definitely sleeping around? The lady in question is single and the one with the child is married. Does that mean that men now have the mandate to decide for a woman, who is to hold her baby and who shouldn’t considering the fact that this man, has no relation whatsoever to my friend? Explain the relation between sexual activity and being a contagious transmitter of illnesses to young children. And why are women often judged so harshly in matters sex?

Sometimes it is really difficult to question culture and tradition. And especially, when belief is deeply ingrained in individuals. As a matter of fact I found the whole conversation to be in bad taste. I felt as if the stereotype of women engaging in sexual activity as being dirty, was further being propagated against someone, I was made to vow never to disclose the information to. Of course I wouldn’t. How would I start even?

The fact that it was a man who had come up with this whole conclusion made it even worse. What right did he have to judge a hapless woman who probably had no ill intentions toward the said child? Why didn’t he warn my friend against letting both men and women handle her baby because of their so called philandering ways? Why only the woman?

And was it a possibility now for my friend to avoid her friend and therefore create a rift between them because of this information? Would she be blamed for being suspicious now of her friend’s motives each time she wanted to hold her baby? Isn’t loving one another as we love ourselves the right thing to do?

The fact that in many societies the sexuality of women, is always associated with negativity while the sexuality of men, is often associated with some sense of pride, further contributes to some of these deeply ingrained notions. Indeed it is so bad to the extent where some people believe that women who get raped brought it unto themselves. Perhaps they wore the wrong attire or they attracted the wrong attention or they walked in the wrong places after dark, are the reasons that this section of people use to justify why a woman got raped.

I have encountered misplaced stereotypes in the past against single women living alone. With some men thinking that a woman renting her own place has all the freedom in the world to invite different men to her house for sexual activity. Nobody judges a single guy living alone even though in some cases, the evidence of a string of different women spending the night on consecutive days, is open for others to see. But they are just being typical guys! We often assume. Men and women alike. That is what guys do! We conclude. Save me the explanation that men cannot last long periods without sex.

Since when did chastity only apply to women and not men? But that is how society has over time defined the sexuality of men and women. That is why malicious sexual propaganda is often targeted at the female gender and not the male gender. It is a sad state of affairs and one laden with double standards. When I see learned people who have lived in urban areas thinking the same, I know that it will be nearly impossible to change how things have been.


Young, Ambitious & Broke

I recently came across a quite thought provoking article online. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of getting the author’s details as it was one of those random things you stumble upon, while searching for something non-related on Google. But I do remember that the author was Indian. Either from New Delhi or Mumbai and it was a She.

What caught my attention was how she spoke of many young Indians in their 20s, trying to keep up appearances for the sake of their friends or the city life when in the real sense, many were barely making ends meet. Some would possess the latest gadgets yet they lacked food to eat. One wouldn’t even dream of selling her car yet she could not afford her house rent and actually slept in that very same car she drove.

I could relate well with that article. The same scenario is equally being played right here in Kenya. It beats my logic that a section of Kenyans, are wondering why so many young people in our country are increasingly getting hooked to betting games. With one columnist a couple of months back describing Kenyans on one of the dailies asĀ a gambling nation.

Of course the school of thought usually borders on the lines of, the young generation of Kenyans being lazy by nature and therefore, looking for easier ways to make some serious cash. This could be true to some extent, judging by the fact that some people in my country have gone to the extremes of committing suicide, after losing a significant amount of cash in these popular betting games.

However, we tend to miss the whole point that is driving young Kenyans to become increasingly hungry for money. The point which I feel this Indian author captured perfectly in her article.

There’s the whole idea of keeping up appearances, the city life and all its tempting offers, being cool and being part of the crowd. You can’t really escape it and especially, if you are a young person residing in these large cities where many temptations of a good life are constantly thrown at you on a daily basis.

Be it through watching already established persons cruising in their latest car models, seeing your peers constantly upgrading their gadgets, getting wind of the latest fashion modes…it’s all there for you urbanite to see. We thought peer pressure ended in our teens but seems like we were wrong. It simply heightens to new levels once we get to our 20s with social media being a major driving force behind it.

I once heard a relative who was 28 then, musing about getting a car simply because all of his workmates in the same age range were driving. And so he had over time come up with this very convincing list of reasons, as to why he should be getting a car before year end and he was seriously saving for it! Equally had a model in mind. It didn’t seem to matter to him whether a car was really necessary to get by year end or something else was more important to get.

I can’t really blame him though. When you walk into a social gathering of young , successful individuals in their 20s who are all blessed enough to be driving and suddenly, everyone you meet in that same gathering is asking you where your car is packed…it gets to you. Trust me, you are going to loathe the fact that you use public transport on a daily basis when your peers are talking of road trips, garage visits and replacing their worn out tires. You simply want to be like them.

Many of these young individuals in their mid twenties, may already be working their first jobs and by now we know that many first jobs are hardly fulfilling. It’s either the pay is not enough or you are working a job position that you were not even trained for. It’s a fact of life being played out in major cities and towns.

But you may still yearn to maintain those friendships you forged back in campus when you were fully dependent on your parent. The downside is, while it was easier back then to spend without a care in the world, nowadays, you have to factor in the reality of you being dependent on your own resources, (which may many times not be enough) and not your parent’s.

When it gets to a point where keeping up appearances to your peers is much more important, than concentrating on what you really need for your own survival as an individual, then we know that something is utterly wrong. Unfortunately, many young individuals do not even understand how it got to that point in their lives and simply accommodate it as how things should be. No wonder one not seeing the oddity behind maintaining a car and actually residing in it, when you could always sell that car and rent an affordable place for yourself.

I’m not sure if it has gotten to that serious point in my country but I’m a young urbanite in my 20s, who equally struggles to make ends meet, resides in the Capital and still occasionally feels the pressure to conform. And especially, when you have friends around you who seem not to understand why you cannot join them for something they consider fun, simply because you secretly know you can’t afford it and don’t want to reveal that bit. Call me drab and uptight, but I would choose the comfort of my four walls nowadays, to an invitation that would leave me 10 times broker than I was initially.

We talk of young women increasingly and despicably getting sponsors to finance their lifestyles in my country… it is the pressure. The pressure to conform. The pressure to live in that 4 bedroom apartment in an upmarket area like so and so or to shop in those big malls like so and so. It doesn’t mean that I’m justifying their actions to mooch off an old man who could as well be a great grandfather to a couple of tots, I’m simply painting the reality on the ground.

So like the author of the article I came across who concluded on a humanitarian stand where she decided to always ask a young person if he/she had eaten, irregardless of what appearance they presented, I conclude not with a humanitarian stand, but two questions. Where did we go wrong? and What do we do about it?


The Day We Decided Black Lives Don’t Matter

There was a point in time when nearly every Kenyan desperately wanted an opportunity to settle in the US.

We had seen the movies.

They all did a good job in portraying the very green pastures that awaited us when we finally relocated. Perhaps we had living testimonies of relatives, who had gotten the opportunity to relocate and we could clearly see, how much their lives had transformed since the move. We yearned to be like them.

To go to a place where tribalism did not exist. Where many diseases had long been put in check. Bye, bye malaria! Where an employee’s efforts were duly rewarded with money that actually seemed to cater fully for one’s needs. Where there was gender equality and a man respected a woman’s opinions and allowed her to spread her wings and fly as far as she wanted.

Where civilization had happened eons ago therefore, the environment was way ahead of time as compared to ours. Where education was termed to be of better quality. Where there stood magnificent skyscrapers and spotlessly clean streets lined with well manicured lawns. We wanted to be the envy of our relatives and have them say “so and so is now an American citizen” in our absence.

My parents’ friends, a couple with two young children then, relocated to the US sometime in 1994. I was only 4 years old then but I can clearly remember the wife telling my mum the good news on a visitors’ bench at the Barclays bank, Eldoret branch.

She was even wearing a red dress that has stubbornly remained etched in my mind since. I surprised my mum quite recently, when I reminded her of the dress color her friend was wearing, the day she revealed that she was moving to the US. The land of opportunities. The family settled in Florida and have been there since.

But looking at my mum’s reaction back then I could already tell how much she would have equally wanted our family to be like theirs. I mean, anyone relocating overseas back then seemed successful. Blessed even. Unfortunately, social media hardly existed then and soon after, as much as my parents would have yearned to keep contact with their friends, they went out of contact. Occasionally, my mum mentions them and tries to imagine how they are as of date.

About a year or so later, one of my sister’s primary school teachers, a Mr. Were, relocated to the US with his family. And the reaction at the good news was pretty much the same. How we wished we equally had the same opportunity as them to have our lives transformed. To experience that exposure. We all viewed the US as a land where all our dreams had a sure possibility of coming true.

However, with the recent happenings, I guess we have been forced to rethink our views.

I’m not trying to imply that the US is nowadays uninhabitable. It is still a wonderful place, judging from the stories we hear from people of Kenyan origin, who have lived and worked there. I mean, they eventually got a Black president! One who surprisingly has Kenyan roots! So to some extent, Kenyans feel a deeper connection to this land of opportunities. I’m sure many of us would still want to relocate.

But the sad reality is that, Black people in the US still feel oppressed to some extent. Black men are increasingly dying senselessly at the hands of the police, who are tasked with protecting the citizen whether Black or White. If there wasn’t a problem in the US, then we wouldn’t be having movements such as the #BLACKLIVESMATTER.

From Trayvon Martin to Alton Sterling to Abdi Mohammed of Kenyan origin to Philando Castille to some who never got to be mentioned on the media, with Trayvon, a then 17 year old, being shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012. For the Black people in the US, they are starting to feel as if their kind is being targeted with violence of some sort. And they are increasingly getting pressured to speak up about it hence the Black Lives Matter movement. Just when did the world decide that dealing with a Black person has to be violent?

My intention in posting this is not to spread any form of propaganda. As a matter of fact, I have lived in Kenya all my life therefore, I cannot confidently state that I have valid reasons as to why there are such occurrences in the US recently. However, the world has since become a global village thanks to the internet and we in Africa, are getting to know about the happenings overseas.

We are starting to question whether we will be safe as people of African heritage if we got an opportunity to relocate to say, the United States, for example. Are we going to be appreciated for our heritage or are we going to be lumped together in the racial stereotyping, that a section of backward minded individuals have chosen to allude to?

The United States of America has come a long way in ensuring equality for all. I remember reading a feature on one of those Readers Digest magazines a few years back, where a story from a Black descendant of a Biracial woman in the United States is told.

This Biracial woman was unusually light skinned and could easily pass for White back then. However, due to her Black roots, she was still considered Black and therefore, could not ride in the first class carriage on the train.

The third class carriage reserved for her kind, was uncomfortable and her mother, in a bid to ease her daughter’s torment and have her travel in comfort in the first class carriage, cleverly dusted her face with face powder to try and trick the White train ticketing staff, into thinking she was White.

Her plan almost worked as the employees’ thinking she was White, allowed her into the first class carriage where she traveled peacefully for a while until sleep overcame her. While dozing off, her hat fell off and one of the staff, could clearly notice a line where the face powder began from the rest of her face.

Sadly, she was immediately relegated back to her kind in the third class carriage. Not without castigation and a tongue lashing. The story of humiliation because of skin color, had been passed down to generations and here was her great great grandson, still recounting it to a magazine writer.

I believe the United States of America has since gone past that period where it was an abomination for the races to mix. Black, White and Asian people share transport systems and amenities as equals with no discrimination of any kind. And since this is and has been happening for decades, I believe that whatever is currently happening can equally be put to a permanent halt.

As Africans, we equally have our own political and tribalism issues to take care of and counter. However, we are not blind to what is happening in other nations in the world. We would like to be assured that if we send our children to the United States for higher learning, they are not going to be targeted by some rogue, racist police at a store somewhere and therefore, shot dead at point blank because of seeming suspicious.

It would indeed tear our hearts to pieces just as it has torn the hearts of the families, who have lost their loved ones in recent times and have been left with the sick feeling, that their loved ones’ skin color might have contributed to their deaths. It would make us feel helpless that in our efforts to give our children a better life, we instead unknowingly led them to their deaths.

We still believe that the United States is a land of opportunities, where the likes of Barack Obama Snr were airlifted in the 50s, to get a higher learning education. We therefore hope that a permanent solution shall be arrived at, for us to live peacefully in the world irrespective of our racial backgrounds.