Beauty

Breast Ironing And The Fear Of Sexually Active Pubescents

Just when I had been tempted to think that FGM was the only remaining barbaric practice targeting the female sexuality, I was recently awakened to the retrogressive practice of Breast Ironing. Apparently, some African cultures such as the one in Cameroon find it okay for grown women, to heat grinding stones, spatulas, hammers and what nots, then proceed to press them on the chests of young girls, who are just starting to grow breasts.

The common belief behind this archaic and oppressive practice being that breasts are attractive to males. And so to prevent this pubescent girl from getting noticed by the opposite sex and possibly get pregnant if she gives in to their advances, these African mothers have taken it upon themselves to subject their young daughters to the unimaginable pain, of having their breasts pounded or massaged with these hot objects. The result; traumatized girls, shame in adulthood, malformed breasts, damaged breast tissue and sadly, in some cases, difficulty in breastfeeding their young ones later on in life.

Speaking up against breast ironing practice. Image courtesy of 9jas.com

The disheartening part about this practice is that it is carried out by mothers, believing that they are preventing their daughters from early marriages, unplanned pregnancies, unwanted sexual attention and incidents of rape. In reality, the only thing that this retrogressive practice succeeds in achieving, is promoting the lowest self esteem in women and furthering the stereotype that a female’s sexuality, is to blame for sexual violence or societal ills. These women have sadly been conditioned by their environment to think that by doing so to their own daughters, they are in fact helping them. Perhaps in the hope that they will thank them later in life for it.

I doubt whether these Cameroonian women, who have been subjected to breast ironing and are now forced to live with the negative consequences of the practice, actually thank their mothers for trying to cub the growth of what makes them beautifully female. It should be noted that most of these barbaric cultures sugarcoated as “tradition” and “helping the woman” do little or nothing to that effect. All of these cultures are characterized by one thing in common. And that thing is often to deny the sexuality of a woman by tampering with what was designed for a woman’s own good in that aspect. In the process, empowering the male’s sexuality.

In this breast ironing case, denying the sexuality of a woman and hampering the nurturing role of a mother to her infant. If this woman who has had her breasts ironed by heated crude tools in puberty, cannot be able to breastfeed her young ones and therefore nurture them, then she has been denied one of the crucial roles in motherhood. In addition to being repulsed by the image of her own breasts, flattened and ugly, from what transpired when she had just started to blossom as a woman.

Just recently, I was shocked and saddened by the fact that some young men actually thought that FGM was beneficial for a woman. We often say nowadays that the boy child has been neglected at the expense of empowering the girl child. However, that recent discovery I made on social media when I read a post from a young man encouraging FGM, makes me think that the girl child has hardly been empowered and that the boy child, is currently enjoying the benefits of being male and in a position to further oppress the female.

Breast Ironing and the tools used. Image Courtesy of Daily Express

The female’s anatomy and what makes her beautiful has constantly been considered a threat and something that needs to be kept in check, if these breast ironing and FGM practices are anything to go by. Society has since led women to believe that they are to blame if a man cannot control himself sexually. We have been conditioned to accept some horrific cultures as things intended to help the woman, even though the only thing they contribute to a woman, is causing her emotional and physical scars that are often times hard to heal.

Women have since been made to feel ashamed of identifying themselves as feminists, in the event of trying to speak up against some of these retrogressive practices that interfere with womanhood. A feminist who is trying to help the girl child escape some of these practices that do her more harm than good is often branded a bitter, wayward, male basher. But perhaps it is time that we decided to actually pay attention to what these feminists are trying to preach, in efforts of allowing a girl child to blossom as the woman she was intended by God to blossom into. In certain cases, only a female is better placed to understand the underlying consequences of some of these harrowing practices.

I tend to feel that the boy child is still very much empowered than the girl child. The boy child still gets to experience his puberty without much interference that will cause him permanent scars in future. Of course I’m not blind to the fact that some boy children, are denied the right to being children and going to school in the event where they have to herd the family’s livestock, get forced into being child soldiers and the likes.

However, society still gets to treat the boy children gently in terms of tampering with their anatomies as men. Circumcision for males is a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. A badge of honor. Circumcision for females signals the onset of early marriages and is actually aimed at preventing the female from being sexually active or promiscuous to put it that way. In the case of breast ironing, subjecting the female to an unnecessary practice, so that the male can not be attracted to a blossoming female as if the male cannot interpret by himself, that he shouldn’t be messing with this young girl who is just but a child.

I’m in no way trying to bash the male with my sentiments as you can see both FGM and Breast Ironing practices are carried out by women on fellow women. However, what I would like to bring to the fore is the motivation behind some of these practices. Often motivations that come about in relation to the privilege that most males are accorded in patriarchal societies that do not value female contribution. Perhaps a father’s intervention could have stopped a mother somewhere in Cameroon, who had picked up a hot grinding stone ready to massage her hapless daughter’s chest with.

But males you will learn, do not hang around environments where the females outnumber the males in such societies. There are in fact oblivious to the going ons and may not really see the need to speak up against some of these practices, only choosing to openly agree with them if it so happened that someone sought their opinion. And so only a feminist’s voice can come in handy in such a situation, of condemning a practice that should have long been done away with. My heart bleeds for the Cameroonian or African female somewhere who was forced to undergo breast ironing.

 

Are A Woman’s Strong Features A Determinant Of Her Desirability?

What makes a woman feminine?

Is it the shape of her face, her soft curves, the roundness of her bottom…? Are these attributes of hers considered female, what men are going to look at and say “wow, she’s hot!”? What about a female who naturally has strong features, otherwise considered “manly” or “masculine” in many quarters?

I sought to find out what 3 men thought about dating a woman who fell in the latter category. One mentioned that he wouldn’t mind the masculinity factor, as long as she possessed all the qualities he looked for in a woman.

As a matter of fact, for him, those special qualities would surpass her physique. However, he was quick to note that sometimes, the physical attributes of a woman contributed to the attraction factor, from the opposite sex. But all the same, he went on to mention female sport figures who possessed obviously, very strong features that he considered attractive.

The next man gave a complete no. He was very certain that he would not even be the slightest bit attracted to such a woman, just from looking at her strong features. The third mentioned that he tends to look at the physical attributes first in a woman.

He admitted to this being superficial and a mistake on his part. However, he highly doubted that he would get past the masculinity factor, in a bid to know more about her as an individual and what special qualities she possessed.

Well, not to judge these men for their honest opinions, I think the answers they gave me, are in truth a reflection of what many men and women alike, think about the desirability factor of a woman, considered to possess strong features.

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

One such woman regarded as masculine by many, happens to be tennis star, Serena Williams. To many, Serena could be confused for a man. Never mind the fact that she recently got engaged and could be walking down the aisle very soon. This is just proof that someone of the opposite sex, despite all the hullabaloo surrounding Serena’s physique, found her attractive and is willing to spend the rest of his life with her.

As an individual who has recorded huge successes in the tennis field, it was inevitable really for Serena to look the way that she does. An immense amount of training goes into becoming a professional in specifically, sport. Back in the day, when Serena and her sister were just beginning to learn the ropes of tennis under the tutelage of their father, they were just but normal skinny girls. But it would take a lot to mold them into the huge stars they have since become.

To exhibit the kind of strength and endurance that Serena exhibits on the tennis court, significant effort goes in building the right physique for it. And this is evident on many female athletes engaging in sports that need a high level of stamina, not only Serena whom many have singled out.

I tend to find musician Pink, equally possessing quite strong features which can be partly attributed to the fact that she’s also a gymnast. Many of her performances have seen her suspended in ropes while performing various tricks on stage. You need the right body for that.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Sports aside, in my usual routine of poring over the Internet for information, I quickly discovered that there are certain features in women, considered masculine. A square jaw was one of them. Some women I saw being pinpointed as seeming “manly” happened to possess square jaws.

There was equally the racist factor that singled out certain African-American women as being masculine just from their looks and what others considered linked to their heritage. It is sad that the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama and British supermodel Naomi Campbell are some of those  Black women, whom if you dig deeper in the Internet, you will find many trolls calling them male or other unsavory names. A cruel reality of the many forms that racism can take including bashing genetics.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

Back here in my country, the physical attributes of a woman equally seem to play a huge role for many in the desirability factor. There’s what biology and society’s standards of beauty have over time portrayed to be feminine. For quite a number, a woman is defined by the soft features that make her feminine. If she seems to lean more on the strong features, then something must be wrong, we tend to assume.

The fact that men are considered visual creatures may also partly contribute to this deeply entrenched idea of what a female should look like. Not to seem like I’m bashing the male, but it is accepted by many, that men look at a woman’s features that are different from theirs and therefore attractive to them. If the woman appears to look like a male, then definitely the whole idea is kind of distorted and the man can be forgiven for reacting with unmasked surprise, at this turn of events.

However, the often, negative, unmasked surprise goes both ways. Women may tend to question how female a fellow woman is, if she seems to come across as male. We assume that if this is how we look as females, then the rest of us should look the same. Quite a close minded view, you might be tempted to conclude.

Well, when genetic factors are at play as they always are in determining our individual physiques, there’s nothing much we can do about it. Looking at this whole issue from a feminist view, regardless of how a woman’s physique is, what she possesses in her mind, is far more important than a pair of well sculpted legs that may appear manly to some.

We need to stop this objectification of women, that tends to place more emphasis on what is considered sexy in a woman, at the expense of her talents and what she is capable of doing. Many women in the sports field are increasingly being objectified while pursuing what they are good at. It could perhaps be the reason why the likes of Serena Williams, have constantly endured castigation over how they look.

For many, if she looks like a male, then she definitely acts like a male and quite a number of men, may shy away from pursuing such a woman. Physical attributes have little to do with a person’s personality and a woman who possesses strong features, may turn out to be the most feminine in personality. However, many can agree with me that changing deeply entrenched perceptions may prove to be the hardest.

Thoughts?

Do I Make A Statement With My Natural African Hair?

I’m at that stage in my life when I have no idea what to do with my hair. It’s about slightly over an inch long (courtesy of a shave I did sometime in September last year, when I still didn’t know what to do with the full length, African mane on my head), partly chemically processed, partly natural. So on days when I’m leaving the house, I do the curl activator thing to make it look a bit presentable and comb it into an impressionable afro. If you can call it that.

This is my current hair situation. I was trying a kind of mohawk look sometime back.

This is my current hair situation. I was trying a kind of mohawk look sometime back.

 

This was my chemically processed, styled in curls hair sometime back at its full length.

This was my chemically processed, styled in curls hair sometime back at its full length. Forgive the 60s retro look that is oh, so old fashioned.

 

My once full length completely natural hair when I had belief in my original kink

My once full length completely natural hair when I still held belief in my original kink.

It’s not the first time I’m writing about hair on the blog. Because hair is a part of us. And especially African women who are blessed with kinky manes. That shrubbery on your head, if you would call it that on days that it just can’t sit right and frame your face right, always reminds you of your African roots. You can’t run away from it. You can perm it, like I have done in the past and recent past just to make it more manageable, but as soon as that growth of natural hair appears, you are reminded of your roots.

Not that it is a bad thing to be an African woman.

However, an African woman who chooses to embrace her natural kinky hair is a force to reckon with. I have seen celebrities try the no make-up look albeit successfully. I have also seen celebrities of pure African descent swear that the long, silky hair we were seeing on their heads was indeed natural. I have equally seen pictures online of natural, African hair that still didn’t look natural enough. So whenever I see an African woman walking around with what indeed looks natural and still appear confident in her skin, I silently salute her because I’m still not that confident with my natural one.

Nigerian Writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who has a penchant for rocking her natural mane. Bellanaija.com

Nigerian Writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who has a penchant for rocking her natural mane. Bellanaija.com

Take Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for example, who is never afraid to wear her hair natural. She has actually talked about African hair in her books. She is also considered a feminist. Not the bashful kind of feminist who got the script all wrong and ended up appearing bitter instead of passing a message. Which actually brings me to my blog’s title today, Do I Make A Statement With My African Natural Hair?

In many ways, yes.

It takes a lot of courage for an African woman to choose to wear her hair natural. Not with the wide array of styles and weaves to choose from, coupled with all the tricks available, to help make your hair appear fuller and much more silkier than it originally is. Hair is considered sacred in many religions. They actually refer to hair in Islam as “ornaments” which a woman is supposed to cover, to avoid unwarranted attention such as admiration, envy, sexual attraction and the likes. This just proves how much power hair actually has and especially on a female.

Therefore, when an African woman decides to celebrate her actual hair by choosing to wear it natural, she is passing out the message that she embraces all that makes her African. Including her hair which had once been considered undesirable for a long time, by the African female fraternity due to its texture. A texture that seemed unusual when compared to Caucasian hair.

She is making a beauty statement that by deciding to take the often unpredictable natural look route, she is not fazed by the desirability factor. She is confident enough to work with what mother nature blessed her with. And trust me, African men are totally turned on by African hair on a woman’s head that is well taken care of. So a woman is not only making a statement but embracing that which makes her an African woman. It oozes confidence to the opposite sex.

And while it has taken a very long time for African women to love their natural hair, it is refreshing to see a natural hair fad in Nairobi, a city I have resided in for sometime. It speaks volumes about the liberation of the African woman, who tried sometimes unsuccessfully to achieve that silky Caucasian hair look. Who literally tied her head with a head tie on those days when she didn’t have her braids or weave on, because she was not confident enough to venture out in all her African glory.

That woman has since seen the light and is rapidly moving in a direction that celebrates what was once considered unusual. That woman can be called a feminist who accepts herself first, before she can begin to demand for gender equality and for more opportunities for the oppressed girl child. That woman is a shining light in a dark tunnel.

 

The “Naked Is The New Sexy” Trend

Disclaimer: This post contains some images with varying levels of nudity.

There seems to be a new trend in Celebville of prancing around resembling our African forefathers, who knew nothing about wearing clothes for decency. Our African forefathers can be forgiven for that, because they made use of readily available materials in their locality and possessed the wisdom to cover up areas considered private.

So been wondering how this “Naked is the new sexy” trend came about.

Quite recently, Chrissie Teigen, model and wife to musician John Legend received quite the backlash for wearing a barely there outfit to the AMAs, that ended up showing us a little more than we bargained for. I watched the Fashion Police go at her on her wardrobe choice and couldn’t help getting amused that, they considered her choice poor, yet more and more celebs are flashing  their nudity at every given opportunity and still get considered classy.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Model Chrissy Teigen arrives at the 2016 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for Fashion Media)

The Photo that showed Chrissie accidentally flashing an area that should have been kept covered up. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images for Fashion Media)

A quick check on the Internet and it is clear Chrissie has a penchant for risque outfits, that cause her regular wardrobe malfunctions. But she seems to take it in her stride seeing that she has a modelling background and a hubby, who does not seem to give a hoot over what the critics think of his wife’s wardrobe choices. Who am I to judge?

We’ve seen more skin flashing from other female celebrities to dwell on this particular one.

One of the Risque outfits Rihanna has won to an event in the past. Image Courtesy of Google.

One of the Risque outfits Rihanna has won to an event in the past. Image Courtesy of Google.

 

Yet another risque outfit that J-Lo has won to a past event. Image courtesy of Google.

Yet another risque outfit that J-Lo has won to a past event. Image courtesy of Google.

 

Nicki Minaj in a barely there outfit to a past event. Image Courtesy of Google.

Nicki Minaj in a see through outfit. Image Courtesy of Google.

See what I’m talking about?

I’ve said it here in the past that there’s this pressure for female celebrities to look and appear sexy. Perhaps oversexualized? I’m a huge fan of Ariana Grande and regularly download her music, but I can’t help being concerned that the young lady has for a while, been trying so hard to be sexy. Too sexy for her age.

I would have loved to see her gradually transition from a late teen, to an early twenties young woman to a late twenties woman. Sadly, I have seen her dress too grown up, writhe on the floor, pout her lips and push out her bust and bum for the cameras, at a point in time when she looks really young to be doing so.

Ariana Grande on stage. Photo Courtesy of Google.

Ariana Grande on stage. Photo Courtesy of Google.

And trust me, African female celebrities from the African continent are joining the “naked is the new sexy” bandwagon, as evidenced by South African musician Pam Andrews, who wore this risque outfit to an awards show sometime in 2014.

Pam Andrews. Courtesy of Google Images

Pam Andrews. Courtesy of Google Images

Celebs in the past have been known to be too quick to hush their critics with rather strong words concerning their careers in showbiz, whenever they were faced with severe backlash over how they dressed or portrayed themselves. It’s all about entertainment. Entertainment is harmless, they tend to make it seem.

Well, I consider myself no moral judge. However, the sexuality of a woman tends to be overused in the entertainment scene. We don’t get to see many naked male celebrities in video shoots but we do get to see hordes of women in barely there bikinis and varying degrees of nudity.

The culture of “sex sells” is deeply rooted in our psyc that anything that does not seem to promote sex and nudity is considered rather bland and boring. Show us some more skin, and we definitely gonna look and pay attention!

It’s no longer about the celebration of a woman’s body but rather how sexual she can appear in her skin. How many times sex flashes in our minds when we see these exposed parts of a woman that ought to be covered up but have instead been put on display. I have no idea what the entertainers themselves feel about this topic but it is rather unsettling to me.

It may surprise many to learn that the conservative Indian culture actually celebrates the woman’s body in a saree. You don’t get to see a woman’s “hooha” to quote Chrissie Teigen, her nipples or her booty. But you still get to see the feminine silhoutte that is still attractive in a saree.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

 

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

 

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

So I’m kind of wondering if there are other ways we can celebrate a woman’s body, without having to see her naked or being privy to the fact that she has no underwear underneath. Is it even possible for our female celebrities who have over time grown accustomed to this nudity buzz, to tone down a little bit on just how sexual they portray themselves?

Is there really a future for little girls who have grown up witnessing their celeb moms shaking it on stage, in see through clothes that revealed their breasts and bums? Would I still reach out for that music CD next time I’m out shopping, of a female celebrity I love, in music videos that were akin to a nude party?

What do you guys think?

 

The Woman In Office

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are the author’s.

I have never been so much into Politics in the past and recent past. Indeed, I have hardly blogged about politics in my whole period as a blogger. However, I can’t help but be a Clinton supporter in the American race for presidency. I really admire this woman’s strength and resilience and the events that have unfolded during this American campaign period, have only made me really want her to clinch the presidency. Not that I know much about American politics save for watching the CNN News and chancing on Hillary Clinton’s autobiography in the campus library one rainy evening, which I chose to devour as I found the book highly interesting. But that little knowledge I have acquired about this woman, has led me to firmly believe that women can indeed be world leaders.

There has always been a tendency in the past to associate women in the public eye with beauty, fashion and style. All we get to hear about is what she was wearing and who dressed her and how she looked in the process, downplaying some of the significant roles that a woman in the public eye is supposed to perform. And while it is of equal importance that a woman should take care of her appearance and especially, if she occupies a certain position that requires her to look the part, I tend to think that always being concerned with how she looks doesn’t really matter sometimes, but only does a good job of furthering the stereotype that women ought to be admired in the physical sense and not the intellectual sense.

Image sourced from www.motherjones.com

Image sourced from http://www.motherjones.com

In my country, when wife to the late Joshua Orwa Ojode who passed away in a helicopter crash in 2012, mentioned in a recent anniversary of her husband’s death, that she would wish to represent the Ndhiwa Constituency just as her deceased husband once did, it was interesting to note that what many people noticed was how her hair looked in one of the photos. The said photo did the rounds on social media with Kenyan men and women alike bashing her for what they termed as her hair appearing “wild”. With some going as far as to suggest that she needed a salon visit before declaring her political ambitions. I mean, did anyone consider that it could have been windy on that particular day?!

And while I find Clinton to be well put together in her pantsuits ( we call them trouser suits in my country), subtle jewelery and well coiffured hair, I’m glad that the focus is not always on what she is wearing and which designer she is representing, but on what her values are as an American individual and how she plans to move the American society forward should she become president.

Mrs. Mary Ojode, wife to the late Orwa Ojode in mourning of her husband's death. Photo courtesy of www.capitalfm.co.ke

Mrs. Mary Ojode, wife to the late Orwa Ojode in mourning of her husband’s death. Photo courtesy of http://www.capitalfm.co.ke

The photo that got tongues wagging concerning the apperance of her hair. Courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

The photo that got tongues wagging concerning the apperance of her hair. Courtesy of http://www.nation.co.ke

It should equally be noted that women in office should not necessarily be divorcees and therefore deserving of the stereotype that some careers for the female gender cannot accommodate a husband in a woman’s life. Indeed Clinton has had her fair share of marital woes and especially in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I have come across some articles that criticize her on how she chose to handle some of the scandals with other women involving her husband while he was in office. I do not consider her unwise per se, for choosing to stick to her husband as she would go on to state in her 2003 memoir that No one understands me better and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all these years, he is still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met.

Her choice to save her marriage remains a personal choice. I bet she does value the family unit and the American people equally do irregardless of the divorce rates in the country. If they didn’t, then none of the Obama family pictures would have constantly been put on display like they have been. And beautiful pictures indeed which serve to show that strong willed, opinionated, educated, career oriented women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton can still balance being a mother, wife and office duties.

In African societies, women have constantly been under represented in political issues concerning the country. We tend to sensationalize the fact that women are highly emotional and of a lesser intellectual capability to fully understand what running the country entails. The chauvinistic nature of most African societies firmly imprints in the minds of men that women should not hold positions of leadership. That women should always cower behind the leadership of men. It is refreshing to see that in recent times, more African women are taking up positions of leadership and more African men are beginning to realize that behind that veneer of sexuality and beauty lies a sharp mind.

A woman’s presence should not only be gauged by her marital status and how she looks physically. I recently came across an article in one of the local papers, where women vying for women representative position in the coming 2017 elections, in one of the parts of our country, were being termed as “beautiful”. It was more like who is fairer than the other. I felt as if the emphasis should have been more on their political ambitions and less on their physical appearances. However, this only served to show how much society in recent times, has objectified the woman so much to the point where it did not matter what age she was, what she represented and what she believed in.

Unlike her counterpart in the American presidency race, who has often exhibited high emotions and an ignorance on how some policies, other societies and races function, I feel like Clinton has handled herself with grace and intellect. It would indeed be refreshing to see a superpower being led by a woman and equally, a motivation for African women that high positions in the country are possible for them to hold.

 

 

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?

 

 

 

I’m Not My Make Up

I’m not so big on make up. I was obsessed with eye pencil at 19. Couldn’t leave the house without. Mind you, my eye pencil functioned as both an eye liner and lip liner plus doing the eyebrows. Yeah I know, call me backward. I have never been one to spend my time in the make up section of a cosmetic shop, debating on whether the blue eyeshadow works well with me or the copper eye shadow. I tried full make up at 21 and it just wasn’t my thing.

Quite recently, I was at a salon having my hair done and this hairdresser goes something like, “We’ll shape your eyebrows as a complimentary service.” I immediately declined and I could see the look of utter surprise on her face. Then I went on to clarify that I don’t do make up so shaping my eyebrows would be a waste of time really. I suggested they do my pedicure instead as a complimentary service. Hahaha turns out that was not part of the package for free services!

When I go out clubbing, I do some make up. If there is a wedding function, I also do some make up. Mostly just the lips. I have sensitive skin which constantly throws surprises at me. So foundation is totally out of the picture unless it is something which works with my skin type. I haven’t been that aggressive in identifying one yet. I have had male acquaintances including a workmate in the past suggest that my forehead was breaking out because it was that time of the month.

Please guys, stop going all cluelessly gynecological on women you hardly know that well! I mean it! It sucks. Who gave you the idea that faces only break out because of our monthly periods?! Come on!

I was once reading something where this foreign guy firmly stated that Nairobi women should go easy on the make up. His argument; we were still pretty without. I totally agree with him and echo his advice to Kenyan women. I don’t own a car meaning I’m a frequenter of Nairobi streets where I see all kinds of garish looking make up on women. Some make up is usually so nicely done that I wish I had time to get a tip or two from the ladies wearing such. Others, oh well.

I’ve seen eye pencil drawn like crowns on a woman’s face. I’ve seen really bold shouting colors of lipstick on women I thought their skin tone needed a much less bolder lip do. But hell, I’m not a make up artiste so I shouldn’t really be voicing my opinions on the color of lipstick women of certain shades should wear. Sometimes though, I can’t really help it getting these kinds of disapproval thoughts in my head. Nairobi can get really hot at times. My hometown of Nakuru is even worse. Badly done, cheap foundation stands out in the heat!

I have a problem with mainly the Western media making it seem like a woman without make up is ugly. I have pored over comparisons of female celebrities with or without make up. Some of them are pretty much average looking women without make up. We get so used to seeing them with professionally done make up to the point where their normal selves come out as rather plain and a rude shock to us. Bloggers and columnists maximize on this.

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I have seen celebrities being branded ugly just because they stepped out one day without make up and the Paps snapped a picture. I saw a commenter state that one female celebrity who always looks gorgeous in make up resembled a homeless person without. My point; How is a homeless person supposed to look and what is a female without make up supposed to have in common with that?!

I firmly believe that a woman’s looks should not be judged by the make up she wears. There’s just much more to womanhood than make up. Woe unto the man who overlooks a plain looking woman for a woman caked in heavy make up. There are indeed such men, don’t go all war like on me for stating that! Men obsessed with vanity. The real beauty of a woman lies under the many layers of make up.

It is time we taught our women to embrace their flaws rather than to conceal them. There’s this illusion  the media creates that all female celebrities are flawless. There was an unedited picture of Beyonce doing the rounds on the Internet where you can actually see that her face had an acne breakout. Many people seemed to react with outrage that for years, we have been duped into believing that Beyonce was the epitome of female flawlessness. Boy, did she get bashed for it!

Beyonce just like any other female is indeed human. We have put her on a pedestal of perfection to the point where, we actually do not view her as a normal human being with a body that might not be all that perfectly hourglass and a face that may at times work against her. We have forgotten that with technology, anything on a music video or photo can be fixed. I saw no need for the reaction the unedited version of the picture got.

Nobody is perfect. And while I have nothing against make up, don’t misinterpret me, I simply think that this obsession we have with make up to perfect us and give us a confidence boost of sorts needs to go. When it gets to a point where a woman is totally insecure without make up on, then we need to go back to the drawing board to find out what exactly went wrong with this make up business.

I’m all for women embracing their natural beauty first before anything else. Trust me, there are days I pass by my reflection in the mirror after walking under the sun for hours and my face reminds me of a pubescent. Women have battled image insecurities for ages. It’s pretty normal really with all that outside pressure on what constitutes real femininity. We yearn to look perfectly feminine. However, using make up to hide our insecurities isn’t going to be the answer to our image issues. What needs some real work is actually our esteem.

Before I sign off, wishing y’all ladies a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Make those resolutions and rock those natural manes and seemingly plain looking faces you’ve got in 2016!!! You are woman enough! See you guys next year 🙂 😉

 

Is Oversexualization Of Women Another Form Of Feminism?

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I’ve quite recently developed a heightened interest in the oversexualization of women. I have gone ahead and done some considerable amount of reading on the subject, just to find out what other people think of it in relation to feminism and I must admit that, the opinions are varied. Some think that a woman who is in control of her sexuality is the epitome of feminism. The name Nicki Minaj floats about in the above reasoning. Others think it’s just downright raunchy to use your body to sell your music or to capture the attention of the opposite sex.

I was mortified to discover that young children of the female gender are also being oversexualized. Reminds me of a certain blog I was reading, where a mother of a little girl was debating with herself on whether to get her child a two piece swimming costume or just the usual one piece. She thought that the two piece type was inappropriately mature for her little one, considering the fact that she was quite tall for her age and ended up settling for the one piece type. Good choice mum! Now that I know that little girls are equally being oversexualized, I salute mothers who want to protect their children from it.

Well, I’m a fan of the likes of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. I think that they are highly talented women. There’s not one single song of Rihanna’s that I don’t like. However, some of their music videos literally get me blushing. These women are not at all ashamed of their bodies which is a wonderful thing really. Many women struggle with body issues. Some won’t even dream of getting intimate with their spouses with the lights on, as a result of the insecurities with their bodies which plague them.

In this era where sex supposedly sells, do not expect a secular music video having a woman who is covered up. It’s more like “Show ’em what you got!” and these gorgeous and equally, enterprising women seem not to mind if they come across as oversexualized in their line of work. I used to wonder what an advertisement spread of a watchmaking company in a magazine, had to do with a naked woman. We see a lot of that. A perfume advert with a naked woman to go with it.

Couldn’t they have thought of something else creative as part of the advert? Why mostly a bare back of a female going all the way down to her bum area or sensual lips? Well, sex, as it has come to be drummed into us, sells. So whether there is any relation to a watch advert and a naked woman or a car advert and a skimpily dressed woman in the poster, we just have to take it in as the target market, no questions asked.

A woman who seems to be comfortable and courageous with her sexuality according to some, is a highly strong woman. She does not conform to what society thinks is the right way to conduct things. She is capable of using her body in whatever way she likes without feeling any shame for it. The argument goes further to state that women have for years been made to feel shame for their sexuality. But a woman who dresses provocatively or acts in a sexually provocative manner for herself or to feel good about herself, while not factoring the male in mind, is considered a feminist of sorts.

Sorry, but I beg to differ.

It is indeed true that for years, women have been made to feel shame about their sexuality. I once tackled this subject lengthily in one of my posts http://www.definitelylorna.wordpress.com/are-men-dangerous-or-simply-different?? Men have in the past been painted to look like people who have no control whatsoever, of their carnal desires and it is therefore a woman’s fault for provoking it. We were required to cover up so that we wouldn’t entice the men or tempt them into getting sexual thoughts.

At the time I was doing that post, there was a wave of women who were supposedly inappropriately dressed, being stripped naked and shamed on the streets of Nairobi. I personally did not think that the men had been given any mandate by anyone, to teach women who couldn’t seem to dress in our “conservative” way, a lesson on decency. I put conservative in quotes because there are so many ills taking place in our country, to concentrate on a woman who is wearing a short dress. And most African women are naturally voluptuous so something above the knee definitely enhances this.

My only concern however, when women feel the need to finally embrace their sexuality despite what society feels or dictates, is whether they are portraying the right image to the women of tomorrow. The women of tomorrow are the young girls who are still growing. I believe that feminism is a cause that is meant to impact the future generations positively. There are women in some countries in the world, who nowadays participate in voting in the general elections, because a feminist somewhere stood up against the exclusion of women, from pivotal decision making of the country they were citizens of.

There are women who have been allowed to get an education because a feminist somewhere was vocal about the importance of educating the girl child. A feminist somewhere championed the building of more schools that would enroll the girl child and therefore empower her. The only impact I see with the oversexualization of women and women who are willing to go along with it, is young girls lifting up their skirts and posing in their innerwear just because their music idols do it. Young girls taking provocative selfies for social media with the main intention of getting more followers, admirers, likes and comments.

We are teaching the women of tomorrow to use their bodies for so many benefits including getting jobs in organizations. We are not teaching them to use their abilities. We are teaching them a shortcut to everything and a very sly shortcut for that matter. A woman’s sexuality is indeed powerful. We don’t have to strip naked and twerk like there’s no tomorrow just to make an impact with our sexuality. But then, we live in a society that glorifies sex and will definitely try to justify the parading of a woman’s assets as some other form of feminism.

 

 

The African Woman’s Natural Hair Diaries

Let’s talk about the African woman’s natural hair.

Forget about the amazing, edited photos we see online of African women with sleek, black “natural” hair braided into cornrows or held up in fancy hairstyles, that make you somehow insecure with your own mane. As a matter of fact, I tried my level best just to find authentic, natural hair images from the Internet for this post.

Let’s talk about our own African, natural hair as we know it. Kinky, often times unmanageable, which hardly grows to our desired lengths or if it does, then thanks to our blessed genes. Let’s face the real truth of our African hair from a feminist perspective.

African natural hair comes with its bagful of challenges.

In my country Kenya, for example, some of the communities famed to have nearly all of their women with naturally long, soft, manageable hair happen to notably be the Maasai, Samburu, Somali and communities from Northern Kenya such as the Borana, Gabra and the likes. Other women from other communities who may possess such kind of hair, considered beautiful by many, may attribute it to familial genes.

As a clarification of my statements above, there are African women with naturally, long, soft hair doesn’t matter from which community they come from, (though there are those from communities that have a distinct hair texture) and African women as well, with kinky, shorter hair.

A shy but beautiful Samburu woman. Photo courtesy of http://www.beontheroad.com

For most of my life, I have struggled with hair. It is the kinky type. The one that a blow dryer cannot even manage. It has it’s good days and oh, so many bad days, that I would be forced to tie a turban to avoid the embarrassment of a bad hair day. I have been tempted to perm it before. I have actually gone ahead and had my hair chemically processed, just to avoid the hassle of natural hair which shrinks when it comes into contact with water.

Please do not be fooled by the picture below. This is my natural hair at its finest. There are days when I swore I would shave it all off and I know many African women secretly struggle with hair issues. We just don’t say it aloud because we believe that we are past that stage of constantly fretting about hair. But then it is a known fact that hair makes a woman. How a woman wears her hair determines her whole look. We look different every time we come from a salon which is proof of this.

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Good Hair Day Image Of My Own Natural Hair

 

There is a contributing factor to this struggle with our hair though. Society long came up with a gauge of what is considered beautiful and what is considered not beautiful. Africans have sadly endured periods of oppression in the past, where their oppressors appeared to have “better” hair, “better” looks and “better” opportunities than them. We were socialized to find something wrong with ourselves from our way of life, to our looks. We developed a desire to emulate what was considered ideal. If we didn’t achieve it, we felt at a loss on what to do and our insecurities set in.

I’m not employing a victim mentality by stating the above, far from it! However, most of the insecurities that African women have with their hair, is mainly due to the fact that it does not grow to amazing lengths, it is not soft and flowy like that of their Caucasian counterparts. The end result is African women trying to achieve the long, flowy hair look by donning weaves and chemically processing our hair.

And while I have no issue whatsoever with weaves and permed hair ( remember, I have equally tried both in the recent past), my perspective on this is that as African women, we have not taken our time to really understand the intricacies of our hair. We only find the need to take really good care of our hair once it is chemically processed, because there are consequences for ignoring a permed head. When it is in it’s natural state, we assume that a full blow dry will do.

Convincing an African woman to treat natural hair with wholesome hair treatments would be like convincing a tired mule to transport heavy luggage. The only hair treatment we deem appropriate for natural hair, is washing it with a shampoo we assume will take care of everything and using hair oil during our blow dry sessions. We at times tend to neglect our hair lines, which break with every braiding and twisting session at the salon, only noticing there is a huge problem once the damage is already done. The blow dryers with their heat do no justice to our scalp.

Braided African hair. Image courtesy of nappilyjenny.blogspot.com

However, all hope is not totally lost as in recent times, an ever increasing number of African women are opting to take really good care of their natural manes. Some are ditching the weaves for their well kept kinky dos and the results are truly amazing. An African woman with a full head of black, natural, kinky hair is a sight to behold. We all have admired the afros of the 70s era that our parents rocked. The same hasn’t changed in this era. An African afro is our identity and will still be our identity for decades to come.

African women need only five remedies to fully appreciate their natural hair:

  • Take time to study your natural hair.
  • Understand your natural hair and what works for it.
  • Embrace your natural hair, short or long, kinky or soft with no comparisons to another’s.
  • Fiercely love it.
  • Take good care of it.

Ethiopian hair. Image Courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

Remember, how a woman chooses to wear her hair reflects a lot about her personality. All these unattainable targets we set for our hair are not necessary. The versatility of natural African hair is that it can be braided into so many different styles and as much as we love our weaves, the hair underneath is what will always matter. So make a mental note to always and I mean ALWAYS, take good care of it.

Our kinky, curly and knotty heads are our identities. Columnist, Carol Odero, on today’s Sunday Nation, clearly attests to this with her article on hair. We got to rock these manes we’ve got!

Oh, The Pain Of Reality Shows!

I noticed recently that I’m developing a huge problem with Reality Shows. Everytime I’m flipping through channels and I happen to land on one with some reality thing going on, I quickly change the channel. I’m actually bored by all the fakeness being purpoted to be reality and especially, since most have women as the main persons of interest.

The reason why I will forever be an African from Africa is the fact that till now, I can’t seem to find a way to wrap my head around how a man suddenly transforms into a woman. And not because I’m a hater who is too “primitive” to embrace this day’s LGBT community since I’m lacking in exposure.

Simply because I come from a society where such things hardly happen in the open (though in recent times, this is somehow changing). Where men are proud to be men and to have women falling at their feet in pursuit of them. Where many cannot imagine being beaten (literally) by women (which is actually happening under wraps in some homes).

Where parliamenterians have discussed polygamy in parliament several times. Where some people, and quite a number, especially in non-urbanized areas, cannot tell you what LGBT stands for. And so for me to actually sit infront of a TV set and enjoy an episode on a reality show, discussing one man’s journey into transformation to a woman, is simply mental torture.

I suggest that the producers behind some of these Reality Shows change tact. The idea that everything can be fixed and especially in a woman’s body is getting tired and old. Cultures are different and if you are going to constantly feed us with what you consider acceptable in your culture, we will slowly start to rebel against it.

There was a period in time, when normal women actually paid attention to what these Reality Shows tried to preach. Where we believed in the standards of beauty that these persons of interest potrayed to us. But then we have come to realize that these standards are actually changing! Before, being busty and tiny everywhere was what was considered ideal.

So assuming i’m a woman who has bodily insecurities and I went ahead and got myself a boob job done, then ensured I worked out day and night so that everywhere else was tiny. Suddenly, I realize that booty has also been included in the picture! Therefore I need me some boobs and booty. I go ahead and get booty implants. But my hips are unproportional to the booty so gotta enhance my hips as well. Perfect!

Next day I realize that laugh lines are considered a horrible sign of aging. I need some botox. I then realize that my very African nose has nostrils the size of a well. Oh, I can get a nose job done too to reduce the size. Next month I discover that i’m probably too dark to look good in bright colors, oh well, I can lighten my skin….and the list is endless.

The huge problem I’m having with most of these Reality Shows is the fact that they are all trying to preach that everything in our bodies is fixable. A few try to get us to embrace who we are naturally but with dismal results. Whatever they show us in these Reality Shows is not whatever happens in real life. Most of the gimmicks are mainly to earn more ratings and of course rake in some money!!! Most do not care about the audience as long as the zeros in their dollars increase by the day.

If an African woman was to think of a Reality Show, I’m afraid that we are not going to see anything different as for years, we have had the same content fed to us. It is not going to be something African probably, because we of course want to compete with what we think is ideal and is going to make us richer. We are not going to show the reality on the ground of an African woman because all the women in these reality shows are ever in heels, made up and donning the latest style.

We are going to see an African woman go to a plastic surgeon because she hates how her nose looks or wants a bigger booty, boobs or some hip enhancement. We are going to see African women sunbathing in skimpy swimsuits with a glass of wine by their side. We are going to see African women speaking in a fake British or American accent. I know I sound pessimistic and some of you are probably rolling their eyes by now…

But truth be told, when you are constantly being fed someone else’s culture, you get used to it and want to embrace it or even compete with it.

However, there is a reality on the ground and the reality on the ground is what is being missed by these same shows. All because this is for entertainment so do not expect something that is going to bore you to death!

Who wants to see a woman dressing in drab clothes, with her body out of shape, getting her kids ready for school, worrying about finances, with a hubby who works day and night to feed his family and oh, he’s not a celebrity neither does he have looks you would actually pay attention to? In an African settting, a woman with a neglected weave that reminds you of a worn out ball of steel wool to scrub your sufurias clean. And chapped heels where a coin can fit perfectly.

So since we all need some entertainment, it would be better that the producers of Reality Shows thought of a name change and actually called a spade, A SPADE and not a big spoon. That would make it much easier for us women not to fall for all the fakeness claimed to be reality. It would make us embrace ourselves for who we naturally are. Better yet, it would make us get some serious women as role models! If you consider these women who sit all day, having coffee and making their nails without going bankrupt as role models, then ask yourself if you ever made yourself any money on a lazy weekend.