Feminism

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.

 

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.

 

5 Red Flags To Check Out For On A First Date

He just asked you out on a first date, you are excited. Probably it has been a while since any man showed signs of interest in you. This looks promising. But what red flags do you need to check out for on a first date?

Photo Credits: Internet Sources

Photo Credits: Internet Sources

1. The guy talking incessantly about himself

I’m one of those types of people who appear tolerant of others. I have equally been on a couple of dates, where I had to listen to a guy ramble on about his achievements and job the entire date, with a face that looked believably interested. However, I consider this a classic red flag of a self centered individual.

When a man asks you out on a first date, the aim is to get to know you a little bit better and to decide whether they want to see you again or not. Therefore, the conversation should be back and forth as you are also trying to know the same about him. I mean, he hasn’t invited you to listen to a monologue about his entire life!

If you proceed to date this guy, he will never give you a chance to express yourself in the relationship.

2. The guy seeming distracted.

This is a first date. You are supposed to be on your best behavior. You are supposed to be on a quest to impress me. But if you are busy checking your phone or wrist watch every now and then and appearing absent minded, you probably are not that interested in knowing or dating me.

If you proceed to date this guy, he will never have time for you.

3. The guy is ogling at you and other women openly during the date.

Creep. No manners.

If he can’t be courteous enough to show you some respect on a first date, he will never be courteous to you in the relationship. Men are visual creatures and female bodies turn them on big time, but that fact should not be a warrant for a particular man, to act disrespectfully to a woman he has asked out on a first date. Huge red flag that you will probably have to deal with countless women of his and baby mamas should you go ahead and date him.

4. The guy suggesting to cook you dinner or lunch at his home on a first date.

You don’t know this guy. You don’t know if he has a criminal record. Why should you trust him enough to head over to his home on a first date? Men who suggest first dates to their homes have no intention of putting any effort to pursue you. In my country, some men have over time convinced themselves that women are too easy so they don’t bother putting in any effort. They simply assume that if they act all sweet by suggesting they want to cook you a delicious meal at their homes, you will interpret this to mean that they are romantic to want to cook for you.

Call me materialistic but this is the most cheapest first date. They get to spend about 200shs to whip up a convincing meal and still get the additional priviledge of a condusive environment for rushed sex to happen. Sorry girl, this man only wanted a lay, used the crudest method to get laid and isn’t going to date you. Give yourself some class woman and avoid initial dates to men’s houses.

5. The guy is not bothered how you make it home after the date and calling to find out if you reached safely.

A friend of mine on facebook complains bitterly, about the misguided form of feminism that often seeems to rubbish the men’s efforts in society and frequently seems to trample on the male gender. I respect feminists and subscribe to feminism thinking when blogging on societal issues but feminist or not, let the man pay for your first date. Let the man cater for how you will get back home from the date.

You prove nothing by trying to show a man on a first date that you can provide for yourself. How will you know if this man is a protector or a provider if you come with money for your food, drink and cab fare, ready to trash his efforts to wow you on a first date? I’m not implying that you carry no money in your purse on a first date. A 21st century, liberated woman always carries enough money for the day in her purse. I’m only implying that you resist the urge to prove to this man, that you’ve got your own cash and can make it home on your own means. Trust me, if you act that way on a first date, he will never try to impress nor pursue you in future.

If he doesn’t call to find out if you made it home safely after the date, he doesn’t care about your welfare. A gentleman will always make sure any woman he’s out on a date with had transport home catered for and actually got home without any mishap. These gentlemen are out there! It’s only that women have over time worked so hard to prove to men how equal they are to them, that men nowadays see no need to try doing some things that they did effortlessly in the past.

Who Said Small Town Girl Can’t Make It Big?

First and foremost, I would like to announce to my readers that I’m officially back in the blogging scene therefore, expect to see more of my posts from now henceforth.

So let’s jump right into today’s topic!

Quite recently I remembered a conversation I once had with someone I intended to date. I’m a small town born and raised girl. Well, not necessarily small town per se. I have grown up in locations considered major towns in Kenya but if you compare those major towns to Nairobi, where I currently reside, they are no match to the city. And Kenya, for my foreign readers is not a very large country. It’s big alright but not to the magnitude of Sudan, Brazil and the likes and not as small as The Central African Republic. Somewhere in the middle of very large and small. Anyways…

I have always considered our current Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed as a role model. Secretly, I have also harbored the desire to one day venture into Diplomacy.

kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed

Kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So we were on a first date and somewhere along the way, my conversation with this guy veered toward school and career ambitions and for some reason, I mentioned that I would like someday to go the Diplomacy way in my career. This guy looked at me with a somewhat sympathetic smile and said, “Wewe msichana wa Nakuru uko na hizo mafikira?” For my foreign readers, he simply wondered how I thought I could make it to be a Diplomat, being a chic from Nakuru (my current hometown). Well, I was somewhat offended but being a first date, you kind of don’t show it. However, that particular subject ended at that point and we talked of other things instead.

Well, to cut a long story short, we barely dated. It didn’t work out very early on which was just as well, seeing that this guy wasn’t quite the ambitious type despite his surprisingly, good education.

Anyways, let me state to all and sundry that Amb. Amina Mohammed is actually a small town girl. A “very small” town girl who was brought up in Amalemba, Kakamega and attended schools in the then Western Province of Kenya before proceeding overseas for her university education. We talk of counties nowadays. Plus, she is of Somali descent where for a long time, educating the girl child in the community, was not considered that important. So anyone who thinks that small town girls from marginalized communities can’t make it big are thoroughly mistaken.

I tend to think that society has over time drafted this image considered “ideal” for a woman to make it big. She has to be the sophisticated type, from this exposed family, born and raised in a big city, beautiful, well traveled, of a certain skin tone…blah, blah, blah. The same happens in other parts of the world not necessarily in Africa. Just last month, a West Virginia Official in the US lost her job after referring to Outgoing First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama as an “Ape in heels”. With yet another woman of high standing, agreeing with her in the comment section of the offensive post on Facebook which read;

“It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels,”

From the above incident, it is pretty obvious that society has over time set standards considered ideal, for a woman to make something of herself. And we tend to not quite believe that hard work, ambition and determination is often times all it takes, for a woman to be where she wants to be in life. I consider Michelle Obama one of those self driven women, who were ambitious enough to achieve what they wanted.

She did not come from a well to do family, but that fact did not stop her from making it to top universities to pursue her career of choice. It’s not a matter of what color her skin is or whether someone, somewhere, considers her a cousin to a primate, it’s all about what she has achieved as an individual and the possibility of a Black woman, to carry herself with such grace and end up as a First Lady of a superpower.

Many girls have been made to believe that they cannot achieve anything just from that mere fact of where they come from. Almost like their destiny has been mapped out for them by people who hardly know better. So she’s from a small town or community, then she only needs a basic education, a man to marry her and children to raise that will keep her busy.

Society does not realize that we are killing the dreams of many girls who could have otherwise made something great out of themselves. Who is society? Society is you and me who decide to give a free pass to girls from certain backgrounds just because we assume their social standing equates to success. Society is you and me who look at a woman’s skin tone and decide whether she can make it to an advertising billboard or not. Society is you and me who stereotype girls who come from remote, dusty locations as uncultured, unexposed and unworthy of any forms of success.

It might surprise you that most women who go on to become such great people came from places that can hardly be located on a map. They were not necessarily beautiful, vain or monied. They worked their way up. Got scholarships to study in prestigious universities, maximized on their special giftings and displayed a certain level of intellect that amazed all those who interacted with them.

I can’t really blame that guy I was on a date with for being stereotypical. I actually attribute his reasoning to what he has grown accustomed to seeing. Women not believing in themselves enough to come out of their areas of locality and actually achieve something tangible. It may have sounded really foreign to him that a woman somewhere thought that she could become something, he hasn’t seen other women becoming in that particular locality.

Women should stop believing in these baseless stereotypes. Women need to believe in themselves to the point where anything is possible for them to achieve. I still consider Amb. Amina Mohammed a role model. I still hope that someday, I end up in diplomacy. If it so happens, you my readers will be the first to know that I made it 😉

 

Why Are We So Casual About Sexual Assault?

Google Images

Google Images

A couple of weeks back someone, somewhere, decided to share the gruesome video of a man being sodomised by several men in turns. I don’t know who recorded the graphic video and who thought it was worth posting online, but it was posted all the same and widely shared before the video was pulled down. The man’s crime to warrant such vile treatment, according to the story accompanying the video, was that he had been caught red handed sleeping with another man’s wife. And so these other men, “tasked with maintaining law and order in the community” (personally I think they are rapists and  should spend the rest of their lives behind bars)  were simply teaching him a lesson.

What kind of lesson?! And for someone to actually record it and post it online as if it was the most noble thing to do. These are not people maintaining law and order, according to me. These are heartless criminals hiding behind the veil of gangs, that met out punishment to supposed wrongdoers and in the vilest of ways. My heart went out to that man who despite his indiscretions, had been forced to go through such an ordeal under the glare of phone cameras, for a crime which could have easily been sorted out by the area chief.

Fast forward to a few days back. I think at the start of the KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination)  and this candidate sitting her exams was attacked by 4 men, who proceeded to rape her, on her way to school in the morning. So the story made it to the prime time news. And how her ordeal had been handled shocked me. In a wise move, she had been rushed to a medical facility for immediate treatment and counseling but for some reason, the people handling her case decided that she was okay enough, to still sit for her paper as she was taken back to school to continue with her exams. I couldn’t believe if what I had heard from the reporter was actually true.

This is a young girl, 17 or 18 years old, still a teenager, who had just been raped and adults somewhere, actually assumed that she could sit for her papers just hours after being raped?! That the little counseling she had received deemed her fit mentally to concentrate on her final exams for her secondary school education. Who reasons like that?! Since when did examinations become more important than a person’s psychological state?

These two horrifying incidents are what have led me to firmly believe that quite a number of people still display some level of casualness regarding sexual assault. There are things that a section of people, continue to consider harmless regardless of all the awareness on sexual assault, that they have been exposed to in the past. Sexual assault, according to a definition by Wikipedia, is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

It is refreshing to note though, that the aforementioned video was greatly condemned by many who got to view it. That shows that there is still hope in this war against violence of a sexual nature. We need to take stern action against perpetrators of this heinous crime. One of the issues of the Nairobian newspaper, spoke of parents in Western Kenya protecting relatives who had molested minors in the family. According to me, when such a thing happens, the parent should step up as the child’s guardian, put all blood relation considerations aside and have the perpetrator arrested.

Why are we allowing our children to continue living with inflicted scars that they dare not speak about? Do we want those poor children, unfortunate enough to have been molested by a relative, whom the family later protected from facing any criminal charges, to equally grow up thinking it is okay to molest children as adults? Do we want them to take their own lives because they cannot bare the shame and torment that the incident caused them?

It is time that we collectively spoke up against sexual assault. Whether it is sodomy or rape or any of the other forms of sexual assault, it is still sexual assault. No man or woman asks to be raped or sodomised. No child asks to be molested. We need to be responsible adults. We need to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive adequate counseling and medical help. Parents need to clearly state to their children from an early age what is appropriate touching and what is not. The more we treat sexual assault casually, the more the rot seeps deep into our society and that is not a society worth being a part of. This is more like a wake up call for all of us to give sexual assault, the seriousness it deserves and in the process, protect our society from sex offenders.

 

Do African Women Really Need Husbands To Keep Them In Check?

What happens when an African woman gets married?

  • People in society take her seriously.
  • She is no longer considered a threat to her married friend’s husbands.
  • She gets to sleep with one man.
  • She now has somebody to keep her in check in terms of taming her once ill habits while still unmarried.
  • She can now be accorded the status of a respected mother once children are in the picture.
  • She has a title while being identified as Mrs. So and So.

What happens when an African woman fails to get married and especially if she has children or a child from a previously failed relationship?

  • Every perverted man now feels he has the warrant to hit on her.
  • Her married friends can be excused for secretly considering her a threat to their marriages.
  • She is untamed because she has no figure of authority in the house.
  • She must be slutty for choosing to remain unmarried and especially if there is evidence of children.
  • Who beds her?!
  • She probably set unrealistic standards that ended up in her being single.
  • She is damaged goods.

And what happens when an African woman fails to get married, has a child/children or no child and is highly successful in her career?

  • Well, some influential man contributed significantly in her climb on the career ladder.
  • She’s free to use her body in whichever way to get ahead. No inhibitions. I mean, she has no husband…

About two weeks back, I attended a Girlfriend’s Confidential Talk in Nairobi and when the floor was opened for women to share their views, literally every unmarried woman mentioned something concerning the pressure to get married that some were already facing. The theme behind the talk was totally different but it was not long before the conversation veered off toward marriage and the expectations that the African society places on women concerning it.

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of www.pinterest.com

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

There’s a notion in Africa that a woman needs to have a husband in order to be kept in check. Single women in top positions in our country have often been criticized bitterly concerning their marital status. It almost seems like nobody in Africa wants to believe that someone can remain unmarried at a certain age and be totally normal. There has to be something wrong with that person according to many. And it sometimes goes both ways with unmarried African men in their 40s and 50s being considered selfish and irresponsible to choose to avoid starting families.

African women approaching marriageable age with no fiance in sight have been known to go to crazy lengths just to speed up the marriage process. I was a child or pre-teen then, I can’t remember, when some preacher decided to show up in Nairobi with a promise that after his crusade, all the women present will be contacted by their future husbands. As ridiculous as it sounded, Kenyan women turned up in droves all jostling to get space in the already crowded stadium where the crusade was being held.

The pressure for an African woman to get a husband is pretty much intense. As you approach your late twenties and seem not to have an eligible character in sight, your elder sisters, mum and aunts will begin questioning frequently when your boyfriend will be visiting. I think the most appalling thing I heard from a close relative was to hurry up and get married before my arms got flabby. Apparently, according to some, women age faster than men. And in Africa, we do not quite want to believe that an older woman can indeed get a husband.

We associate marriage with a woman having a husband who ensures she tows the line. No wonder all the tag names that single women and mothers have to endure being branded. Marriage is a wonderful thing but many times the “Wives submit to your husbands” Biblical phrase is usually taken out of context. Marriage is then made to seem like only the woman has an obligation to the husband to be obedient and to follow his direction.

We forget the Biblical phrase “Husbands love your wives just like Christ loved the church”. So it is not only women who are obligated to obey the husband and to submit to him and to allow themselves to be kept in check. Husbands have an obligation too to love their wives unconditionally. How will it be possible for a woman to submit to a man who does not show any slightest signs of love for her?

Love does not only encompass romance and sex. There are many aspects of love that ensure that the act of submission of a wife to a husband is easily and willingly, effected. Love includes care, support, understanding, encouragement, wise counsel, guidance, tolerance. It is only when both African men and women understand this that the stereotype of African women needing husbands to be kept in check will go.

As a matter of fact, you do not need a man to keep you in check. Your own individual principles are enough to keep you in check. Every person has different principles. Principles are varied and choosing to be and act in a certain way depends on an individual’s perspectives. So even if an African woman who has always been a rebel got married, a husband will not successfully change that. It may even be a cause for their separation or divorce. And that is the main reason why compatibility in a partner is particularly important when choosing someone to date possibly leading to marriage.

I feel like many African women fail to reach their full potential while single because their minds are preoccupied with the pressure to get married and the fear of their success while single being associated with sleeping around. Marriage is a personal choice and there is absolutely no wrong in a woman choosing to concentrate on career and fulfilling her dreams first before settling down in marriage. We all seek self fulfillment at some point in life.

It would indeed be a tragedy if a woman rushed into marriage to beat the biological clock and got kept in check by a husband so much that all she ever wanted to achieve got buried 6 feet under. We need to understand the concept of marriage rather than confusing it with a husband’s right to domination of a wife. Because this whole keeping in check argument is in essence a form of patriarchal, chauvinistic thinking needing to be done away with.

Thoughts?

 

I recently got the opportunity to join the contribution team of Conor Boyle’s amazing blog The Conversation Room. You can keep up with some of my posts and Conor’s work on http://www.theconversationroomblog.wordpress.com

 

 

The African Pressure For Grandchildren

Slightly over a month back, 27 year old Kenyan woman Jackline Mwende suffered the brutality of domestic violence when her husband of 7 years, Stephen Ngila chopped off her hands after a gruesome machete attack in their home. Reason behind the attack; In their marriage period, Mwende had not borne him any children.

However, the story takes a turn for the worse when it came to light that the root cause behind the couple not having any children was in fact due to Ngila’s infertility. This had been previously proven at a clinical facility. But being an African man sadly with the chauvinistic thinking that men cannot fail to produce offspring, Ngila went ahead and attacked his wife. Slashing her across the face and back then chopping off both of her hands.

Jackline Mwende on the left with injuries after the attack and her husband, Ngila on the right after arrest by the Police. Image courtesy of nairobinews.co.ke

Jackline Mwende ( left) with injuries after the attack and her husband, Ngila (right) after arrest by the Police. Image courtesy of nairobinews.co.ke

It was a tale that left a sour taste in the mouth and got men and women alike outraged and speaking up against it. Women leaders  visited Mwende in her father’s home where she was recuperating and later, in hospital where companies pledged to come to her aid with prosthetic limbs and a decent monthly stipend.

Mwende may have gotten a great deal of help after her ordeal but her limbs are not going to be the same again. The scars she now bears will often be a cruel reminder to her, how brutal domestic violence and patriarchy can often times turn out to be.

But was the pressure to bear children only coming from her husband Ngila? I can’t help but ask.

With all due respect to both families involved in the aforementioned , I will choose not to use them as a reference point for my argument. However, I will choose to look at the African societal set up instead.

In Africa, children have often been associated with being a source of wealth. Indeed parents who bore many children in the olden times needed not worry for it was assumed that they would have helpers in old age. We may have moved from the olden, primitive times but Africans still hold on to the notion that children are especially important in a marriage to complete the family unit.

It is not entirely uncommon to find African women who have faced enough castigation from in-laws simply for the sole reason that they had not borne their son a child/children. Many African families equally value the boy child and an African woman in such a familial set up would give birth to as many as 6 or 7 or 8 children just looking for a boy.

The fear often being that if she does not bear her husband a boy child, then he will definitely go in search of another woman to marry who can give him boys. These things are happening up to date in African society. I reside in Nairobi myself, the hub of East Africa, a capital city and I still encounter stories of real life educated people, who are actively seeking to conceive boy children as if the girl children they have are not human enough.

The pressure from the parents of the husband and sometimes, from those of the wife not doing much to help matters. The idea behind this usually being that the grandparents yearn to see their grandchildren which they consider a blessing to live up to the point of seeing children of your children.

Often times, these aged parents may not see how much their demands may be affecting a couple trying unsuccessfully to conceive. I mean, why do you think rogue pastors in African society are raking in big bucks just from offering false hope to childless couples? It is this pressure for grandchildren sometimes leading to sarcastic remarks from in laws directed many times to the woman and the husband being urged to get a fertile wife to bear him children.

There are many African women who have been cast aside by their husbands because the family had no children. In Africa, unlike the West, you cannot just decide not to have children as a woman. Society expects you to have children by a certain age. As a woman fast approaching my late twenties, I nowadays frequently encounter individuals who assume I’m already a mother. Not that it bothers me. As a matter of fact, I chuckle at their assumptions for I identify it as an African thing.

A wedding photo. Image courtesy of www.brides.com

A wedding photo. Image courtesy of http://www.brides.com

However, the tragedy behind this pressure for children/grandchildren is that African women get blamed for there not being the existence of offspring. Africans do not believe that a man can be infertile even if medical tests prove so. There’s this often stupid belief that African men are fertile, studs in bed. If there are no children, then it definitely has to be the woman. She has to be blamed. She has to be punished for it. She deserves to be added another wife who will bear children.

It is a backward belief. A chauvinistic kind of thinking that makes many African men shy away from infertility treatment. They just don’t want to face and admit the fact that the problem can be both ways and that there is nothing wrong with that. Treatment of either party addressing the underlying issue can solve this. They instead choose to ride on the wave of a false belief of an African man being powerful enough sexually to produce children.

So you can already tell how much mental torture an African woman goes through if she does not get children within an expected period in marriage. The husband may even justify the domestic violence with the fact that “Mwanamke amekataa kunizalia” (A woman has refused to bear me children). As if a normal functioning woman with motherly instincts may just make an intentional decision to irk her husband by not getting any children.

As a modern woman who has become exposed to other societal views, I think that the decision to have children by a couple should be theirs alone. I also urge African men to open their minds to the world of medicine. Infertility can be both ways. There is no shame in it. There is medical help for it. Bearing children is not only a woman’s thing. When two people come together with the intention of conceiving, it is a joint decision. The child will bear both of their DNAs.

How ironic that African children are considered to belong to the father yet when it comes to matters conceiving and family planning, it is the woman who is often blamed or tasked with that? Food for thought, per se.

 

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.

thisisafrica.me

thisisafrica.me

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.

 

Misogyny and Misandry; The Kenyan Society As Of Now.

A lot has been said concerning Beyonce’s Lemonade album. Mostly individual perspectives of what the artiste is on to, some negative, some positive. Today morning, I stumbled upon a post by one of our well known Kenyan bloggers and Twitter bigwig, with that particular album of Beyonce’s, forming the inspiration behind the post.

tvcontinental.tv

Beyonce, photo courtesy of  tvcontinental.tv

I decided to read it and what accosted me was simply a vile case of a misogynist rant. I do not intend to bash a fellow blogger as I would not relish being drawn into a nasty spat.

However, the choice of words in the post to describe Kenyan women as opportunists jumped out at me like a thief in the night. All that seemingly hatred, toward women further proved to me how much the Kenyan society as of now, has sunk deep into the depths of misogyny and misandry.

It’s not only the men who hate the women. The women too do not like the men. The men would love to justify their hatred with claims of the feminist wave messing up any form of rationality in women. The women becoming carefree in recent times to deplorable levels deserving a severe backlash from the male gender. The men would like the women to believe that they do not give a hoot about whatever feminist views the females now possess.

The females on the other hand will react with shock and disbelief at this outcome from men. They will not take it lying down that the men have now chosen to bash what in essence, is their newfound liberation from the shackles of submissiveness bordering on oppression. They would like to prove to the men that their hostile actions do not at all faze them and that any form of oppressive thinking toward women from men will not be tolerated.

A lot of mistrust between the sexes has now over time seeped into our Kenyan society. Men and women have no qualms calling into radio stations and live on air rant about their husbands’ or wives’ transgressions. Often one side will end up being bashed more than the other much to the glee of the radio hosts keen on boosting their ratings. I do not blame the radio hosts. It is part of their job to ensure that their shows get the highest number of listeners and fans as possible.

The way a man would sleep with a woman then after the deed decide that she is cheap and therefore, he has no desire to continue pursuing the woman and without further explanation, bolt is the same way, a woman will develop a deep dislike for men, who seem to only be after one thing from her then disappear into thin air. Indeed misogyny and misandry is so deeply rooted in our society, that both sexes do not know how to treat each other with respect after a night of passion in which both were full participants.

Both sexes see no need to have a sit down and decide to either slow down the pace in anticipation for something solid or not to pursue anything afterward. I’m sure if we were that reasonable and considerate of each other’s feelings, a sit down between two adults who seemingly rushed into sex would have saved both sexes a lot of heartache.

I read what came out as stereotypical thinking from the post of what Kenyan women have now over time transformed into being. Gold diggers, sl*ts, b*****s, opportunists, spinsters on the prey for hapless men to nab and what nots. We may tend to conclude that this is just but a one sided view from a man who obviously has deep issues with women but I would like to disagree.

This is what the battle of the sexes has turned the Kenyan society into. You might be surprised that quite a number of men think the same and are in total agreement with the blogger. You might equally be surprised that quite a number of women think lowly of men and have lumped them into categories of deadbeat dads, players, good for nothings, chauvinists and what nots.

The blogger then went ahead to bash successful female media personalities with an analysis of why each is in the current marital situation. I can only speculate why he decided to go down that route. However, methinks that the fact that he knows these women are considered ideal role models by other women, just from their successes and achievements, then a direct attack of them goes a long way into trying to dent the seemingly perfect image, that these high profile women have created in other women’s minds.

Simply the malicious style of thinking that this whole issue of misandry and misogyny has caused us. It might take a lot of effort to try and at least change this whole outcome seeing that more misogynist views as well as misandrist views are cropping up with each passing day. What happened to the respect that we once accorded one another? Or perhaps there never was a strong foundation of respect between the sexes in the first place. Probably, a ground for unhealthy competition was created between the sexes long before we came across misogyny and misandry as words.

Claiming that women are learning their whorish ways from their own whorish mothers is totally misconstrued. I think a section of men has already forgotten that it is from women that they came from and when you take to insulting mothers, including single mothers, it is a whole level of disrespect toward the female gender, your own mother included. It should be noted that if a woman decides to act in a certain way considered vile by society, since it is societal views which influence our morals often times, it is not because she comes from a background of vile women.

We are choosing as a society to bash one another in the crudest of ways. If your own father left your mother and the children to face hard times yet he was in a position to provide, it does not mean that all men will walk out on women and therefore deserve to be lumped into a category of animals. I think as bloggers who have a public voice, it is our mandate to try and unite the sexes and not draw them into what seems like a hostile competition of who is better than the other. Often times, in a battle of the sexes, none of the sides win.

I would have loved to get a refreshing read of what a Kenyan blogger thought of Beyonce’s lemonade album, never mind the fact that we do not for sure know what goes on in Bey and Jay Z’s bedroom. However, what I unfortunately got was a rant aimed at painting one gender as blacker than the other. None of the genders should even be painted anything in the first place because like it or not we are in existence together and we therefore need to coexist.

There’s no justification whatsoever for a Kenyan woman to bash a Kenyan man neither is there any justification whatsoever for a Kenyan man to bash a Kenyan woman. If a woman decides to get married in her 60s and does get a man who loves her then nobody between the two has been played. If a woman ends up a single mum, then we have no reason to run our mouths on what we think caused it. If a couple ends up divorced, the issues are between the couple and not with either of the gender.

All this slut shaming of Kenyan women and finger pointing of Kenyan men by Kenyan women and men alike will only take our society to a place where we would not be able to recover it from. I rest my case.

The Complexities Of Nude Selfies/Pics

Disclaimer: Any nude photos used in this post are only for illustration purposes with no intention of corrupting the mind of the reader.

The first woman to appear nude in a Hollywood film was Audrey Munson in 1915. The film Inspiration wasn’t anywhere close to being classified as a porn flick but rather, Munson played a Sculptor’s model and is therefore seen completely naked in a couple of scenes.

Audrey Munson. Photo Courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

Audrey Munson. Photo Courtesy of http://www.huffingtonpost.com

The feisty Marylyn Monroe would set her own record in 1947 with the first nude sitting after she got hired by Earl Moran, a calender and magazine Illustrator as a model.

Fast forward to today and nude photography and selfies are beginning to transform into a normal occurrence for quite a number of urbanites. Save for a few instances, where the subject suffered severe backlash and embarrassment after some nudies leaked online, a couple of celebrities seem to benefit greatly, from having their naked pics splashed all over the internet.

Closer home, a Ugandan TV personality was fired by her employer after naked selfies of her surfaced on the Internet early the previous year. Further afield but still in Africa, BBA(Big Brother Africa) 2011 winner, Karen Igho equally had nude photos of her splashed all over the Internet around the same time she was in the BBA house.

The photos were attributed to her modelling days and did not seem to cause her much damage as she went on to win the competition. In Kenya, a female musician suffered enough backlash and quite some huge embarrassment after nude photos of her were maliciously leaked on the internet some years back.

Socialite Kim Kardashian seems to be raking in enough benefits from her nude selfies. And especially with the one below which had her trending worldwide.

The taking of nude selfies and photographs has been associated with Art and creativity in some quarters. In these same quarters, it is believed that a woman who agrees to pose nude or takes her own nude picture is indeed very comfortable in her skin.

She appreciates her whole being and embraces her flaws as part of what makes up her femininity. She is not at all scared by her vulnerability in that state. And as long as the parts considered private are covered up or cleverly concealed, then there is absolutely nothing off putting with the picture.

The picture can actually be used to pass a message! And a very strong feminism related one at that. Quite admirable, you might be tempted to conclude since many women are highly conscious of their nakedness. But here is one who is acting as an example to all, that being naked is actually nothing to fear, flaws and all. Never mind that some naked silhouettes are actually edited to give that picture of a perfect naked female body.

In other quarters bordering on the conservative and religious, nude photographs and selfies are an abomination. A rebellion against the religious or societal view to cover up one’s body for decency and to protect what is considered sacred.

A woman who is willing to bare her flesh in such societies suffers castigation, violence even and labeling. She is considered a woman who deserves no respect since she does not see the need to accord herself any in the first place. A non-marriageable material.

However, some of the women in liberal societies who have no qualms baring all are actually married women with husbands who seem to endorse their wives’ decisions to be in the nude for the public. It is therefore very interesting to witness people who have no relation whatsoever, to such women pointing accusatory fingers at them for being in the nude.

A billboard in my country sometime around 2013 caused so much uproar after one of our then celebrated, female radio personalities seemed to appear nude in the Vaseline advert. Compared to the kind of uncensored naked pics and selfies which increasingly make their way to the Internet in recent times, the picture had been taken professionally, with the woman in a sitting position with only her arms, legs and shoulders bare.

Whether the intention of the advert was in good faith or not, many Kenyans complained bitterly about it. Many thought it was a corruption of our morality and there were several debates going back and forth about the said billboard. The radio personality herself handled it graciously and this worked perfectly for her, since the moral judges gave up on pointing fingers eventually.

The main intention behind many nude photographs is for professional purposes. However, this has always seemed to rub some (and sometimes many) people the wrong way. We have our young children who are growing up and if we constantly expose them to nude photography, then what kind of generation are we risking to raise? Many have reasoned.

I’m personally very sensitive to nude photographs. I see no value behind a woman posing naked and posting it online or have it spread on a magazine. I would prefer a stone sculptor of a naked woman over a real life naked woman anytime.

Indeed my sensitivity is so deep, that I recently thought a carving of a head of a Maasai woman with her breasts bare, wasn’t appropriate to put on an office desk and settled on another carving that was less revealing. I had been sent on an errand by a close friend to get a gift.

My views aside. I respect a woman’s decision to bare it all if she finds it perfectly comfortable as I consider her an adult in her normal functioning capacities. However, I wonder what would have initially pushed her to that level, where she feels that the only way to prove her confidence is to strip naked? Couldn’t there have been a much better, different way to prove this other than a naked body?

What do you think?