Patriarchy

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.

 

Women Fear Men Will Leave Them; Men Fear Women Will Leave Them

I recently had a highly interesting convo with a security guard someplace in my line of duty. On a daily basis, I can talk to quite a number of people a majority being strangers and acquaintances and this security guard was no different. So being part of my job, I suggested to him an idea of how he could make himself more money and ultimately benefit his family.

He was the skeptical type. Didn’t seem really interested in the suggestion but ended up mentioning his wife fleetingly. He thought that since she wasn’t as held up as he was, then she could probably take up the idea I had. Animatedly, I began coming up with more plans for the wife on how she could implement the idea and all of a sudden, this man grew highly uncomfortable.

His demeanor changed and in an uncertain tone, he said, “Na sasa bibi akitengeneza pesa hivyo, si ataniwacha?” (and if my wife ends up making a ton of money, won’t she leave me?) Of course the statement caught me off guard and I laughed and asked why she would leave him.

Then as if challenging me, he inquired whether I was married. I lied that I was. Then he further mentioned, that if I ended up making a lot of money from my job, then it was given that I would leave my husband. I clarified that I wouldn’t since we were working as a unit. Obviously, that didn’t sound convincing enough for him and the conversation went downhill from there.

In short, this man feared that if his wife got a financial capability of sorts, then she would see no need to stick around and no amount of convincing could I do, to get that thought out of his head.

You see, both sexes fear each other.

Women fear that men would leave them for a couple of reasons;

  • After sex. (If they do, f**k em!)
  • They are not beautiful/sexy enough.
  • They are inadequate (now this is crazy)
  • Other women are hotter and more appealing etc. etc…

Men on the other hand fear that women will leave them because of Money.

In most cases, men take a woman’s financial stability as a huge red flag of her inability to be loyal onward. As a woman, I tend to reason in terms of healthy competition but for the man, it is something that needs to be curtailed if need be.

Now I’m not suggesting that all men reason in such a manner but for those that do, I figure it is highly pegged on what society has instilled in men for generations and an insecurity of sorts on their part. It is a harsh fact that patriarchy rules in many societies the world over. Men have always been groomed to have the upper hand.

In recent times, women are now being groomed to have the upper hand. In the process, the men are being left behind. While the girl children are being encouraged to study and attain their maximum potential, the boy children are assumed to already know what is expected of them and to somehow, manage since they are in fact men.

I have encountered people in the past who argued that we spent so much time on girl power that we ended up forgetting all about the boy child. So definitely, if men know that a woman is likely to get justice for a gender injustice of some sort and the man is supposed to suck it up or get jeered at for being a weakling for a similar gender injustice, then men cannot help experiencing certain insecurities.

However, acting all mistrustful of each other isn’t going to even half solve this problem. From that conversation I had with this man, I made a conclusion that he was in a marriage that was riddled with mistrust. Getting him to give his wife my phone number, was equally a hurdle, because he mentioned that she would question him on where he had gotten acquainted with me from.

Well, we may be tempted to dismiss this couple as an exception but I beg to differ. The fear between the sexes has always been in existence. It doesn’t matter how much exposure one has had or education for that matter, women will always fear that men will leave them mainly because they are not good enough if the reasons given are anything to go by.

Men on the other hand, learned or unlearned almost, always fear that a woman’s financial stability is going to change her. Their fears may actually be real in the sense that many women with financial stability, do not seem like the type to be pinned down by the opposite sex. But why in the first place would a man want to pin down a woman?

You see, as a result of our previous conditioning, we got the whole script wrong. In a patriarchal setting, the man definitely has the say. The woman has none. But then, somewhere along the way, the woman discovered that with education and career success, then she could equally have a say and just to prove that she could, she had to act like she could.

Of course this left the men fighting for what they had since grown accustomed to as the norm. And the women on the other hand, fighting for the freedom they had since attained. But then, both sexes need each other like it or not so no matter how much a woman is learned or financially liberated, she would still yearn to feel desirable to the opposite sex.

She can’t admit this however, for fear of appearing desperate despite her status but it is an issue that sometimes gnaws at her. The men on the hand still need to feel respected and needed. So if a woman attains a level where she appears not to need a man and unfortunately in some cases act disrespectful toward the man, then the man is left reeling in shock.

And the power struggle goes on so much, to the point where both sexes have grown mistrustful of each other.

Do you agree?

Does Love Constitute Cleaning For Your Boyfriend?

Notice I use the word “boyfriend” and not “your man” because your man, could also be the person you are married to and in such a scenario, cleaning is inevitable really.

ubi.dromhdc.top

ubi.dromhdc.top

I find it pointless really for women who are dating to take it upon themselves to clean their boyfriends’ homes. I come from Africa and in Africa, there is an emphasis on women to prove themselves as worthy wife materials. So what entails wife material you may ask?

Well a wife is a woman who is organized, mature, tidy, ready and capable of bringing forth life and raising children and one who is in a position to take care of a man’s physical needs, nutrition needs as well as his emotional needs, just to give a rough idea of what constitutes wifey material.

I have no problem whatsoever with the characteristics given of a woman who is ready for marriage. After all, someday in future I would love to be accorded the wife and mother status. However, I find it insane really, for a woman who has been in a relationship with a man for say, 1,2,3 months getting down on her knees and scrubbing his floors clean, doing his laundry and just about everything a housekeeper would do on every visit to this man’s house.

Oh, men hate dirty women and I have heard it preached countless times how a dirty girlfriend is such a turn off, repulsive even, for the man she is dating. It is natural for women to be keen on matters hygiene and to ensure that the home reeks of their attention to cleanliness detail, so it is assumed by many of the opposite gender.

Definitely,if this woman is visiting a man she is dating then she should automatically, set out on a mission to ensure that the highest level of cleanliness is attained in his home. Men want to feel like they really do have a woman in their life who would gladly pick up after them, never mind that the relationship’s future hasn’t yet been ascertained. And women would gladly go along with it because in African culture, having wife qualities is such an inherent need.

I tend to find this kind of reasoning so oppressive to the female gender. There’s an option of a woman to visit her boyfriend and actually not do the overall cleaning thing that is kind of, always, secretly expected of her to do. There’s also the right of a woman not to be branded lazy, just because she ignored the pile of dirty laundry sitting in her boyfriend’s laundry basket, the dusty shoes in the corner and the greasy utensils in the sink.

I mean, if this man is old enough to get his own bachelor pad then he is definitely old enough to take care of his cleaning. Expecting a woman he is dating to come and do it for him is akin to him justifying the fact that he is indeed the one who is lazy and incapable of picking up after himself.

If a man would visit my place then I do not expect him to do my cleaning and cooking for me. The same should be applied to a man whose girlfriend pays him a visit. Women are thoroughly turned on by a bachelor pad that is well kept. We will always give a man a 10/10 for having this spotless, fresh space that is well organized. It just goes on to prove to us that it is not always the woman’s duty to organize a man.

So if indeed this man decides to be untidy on purpose just to have his girlfriend do it for him because that’s her “duty” as a woman to prove to him how much of a wife material she is, then it turns out they eventually break up, would it have been of any sense at all for the cleaning she had to do each and every weekend?

If a woman chooses to tidy up her boyfriend’s place, then that’s her personal choice. Perhaps she has weighed her own pros and cons and has since ascertained that the pros outweigh the cons in doing it. However, I shall never be one to pat her on the back for taking up duties, that should have been reserved for later if the relationship eventually morphs into a lifetime one.

There’s a very thin line between gestures of love and transforming into a man’s washer woman. If at all this man’s intention of dating me was to offer me a housekeeping type of employment in addition to the whole package that comes with dating, then I would rather take the high road.

I’m not one who would visit a man and not lift a finger. My womanly nature would not allow me even, to ignore utensils that need washing after dinner. However, I’m equally not a woman who would spend the better part of her Saturday, covered in soap suds as I busily do a home makeover for a man who clearly has issues with being tidy.

That is not my duty to make him tidy. It is equally not my duty to prove to him how much of a good wife material I can make. Any man intending to get hitched to a particular woman in future, would have already seen all of her wifely qualities beforehand. This idea of “prove to me” is only but an excuse of being patriarchal.

Your thoughts?

Are You Comfortable With Your Number?

I got to watch the movie, What’s your number? starring Anna Faris (whom by the way, I find quite entertaining) while in campus. I thought it was quite a bold move by Hollywood producers, to settle on such a story line seeing that many people, are quite uncomfortable discussing the number of sexual partners they have had in their lifetime. And more so if they happen to be female. But that’s what Hollywood is synonymous for, pushing boundaries. So here was the character of Anna Faris, a female, talking about 19 partners already!

I also found the movie quite thought provoking in the sense that several critical questions arise just from watching it; Is it necessary to keep count of the number of sexual partners one has had? Could one of them end up being a lifetime partner? Is it OK to have quite a large number? Is a woman cheap for admitting to having so many?

whatislovedrcookerly.com

whatislovedrcookerly.com

A 2014 Kenya Demographic & Health Survey draws the conclusion that 2 out of every 5 Kenyans have 2 or more sexual partners. The introductory line of an article on the Standard Digital website dated January 15 2016, by Paul Wafula states;

A man in Kenya has an average of 7 sexual partners in their lifetime compared to 2 partners for women on average.

I am not utterly convinced by the latter statistic judging by the fact that many people are hardly, entirely truthful when discussing their sex lives. For women, this is worsened by the patriarchal societies we come from, which arrogantly assume that women should be sexually pure. If not, to at least pretend to be and to sound convincing enough.

I emphasize on the word arrogance since men have always been treated less harshly in matters, sexuality, unlike women. In some African societies, for example, polygamy and the keeping of concubines by men is endorsed and the women expected to automatically accept it as manly nature. It is quite interesting to note that some women in such societies, participate in creating situations  for their husbands to have additional sexual partners.

Just this past week, I encountered a very weird scenario when an older woman complimented me on the gap between my two front teeth. She then proceeded to inquire from me on whether I was married. When I replied in the negative, she mentioned that looking the way I did with that gap, she would not mind getting me as a second wife for her husband. She seemed to be half joking, I really wanted to believe but then while speaking in a low tone, she sounded equally, half serious.

I asked her whether she wouldn’t be afraid if I proved to be a competition assuming her husband fell hard for me and ended up forgetting all about her. To which she replied with a sense of confidence that since I would be the younger wife, then I would definitely be under her instructions. To be quite frank, this conversation which I guess had been intended to be good natured, ended up leaving me feeling very funny in a weird kind of way.

In Africa, it is not entirely uncommon for women to find additional wives for their husbands. This further proves the liberal nature that male sexuality has been accorded by society. And seeing that this woman was from my mother’s generation and had probably been brought up in the village like many of that generation, she must have been well versed on tradition.

We cannot entirely blame her for being backward in her reasoning since women in my generation too, have been forced by society to excuse men for having multiple sexual partners. I keep hearing the notion that men cannot survive long periods without sex and elaborate explanations as to why this is so. Women on the other hand are usually branded slutty for having several sexual partners no wonder the inherent need to fiercely guard their number as a secret.

So if it is indeed true that men cannot go long periods without sex, then they must be highly sexually active in their lifetime, from the very first time they experimented with sex. This first time being perhaps in their teenage-hood and all the way to their late 20s and early 30s, depending on the time they settled down in marriage. Then the average number of sexual partners for Kenyan men, could actually be higher than what is given in the survey. The same applies to women who have over time taken to keeping their true number a well guarded secret.

With the onset of the HIV/AIDS scourge, openly discussing one’s number is made all the more complex for fear of the sexual stereotypes that come along with that admission. It is often assumed that a man or woman who unashamedly admits to sleeping around may probably be having some sexual disease of some sort that he/she is spreading around.

High libidos are many times frowned upon as being proof of one’s promiscuous nature. A woman in a marriage may feel inhibited initiating sex as a result of the sexual stereotypes attached to women who seem to be possessing high libidos. Society has created situations where, a woman is not supposed to seem too eager to have sex. Yet the man should exercise confidence in asserting for sex, irregardless of whether he wants it from one woman or several women.

However, with the knowledge that HIV/AIDS is in existence, wouldn’t it be important to hear a truthful account of one’s sexual history that you had an intention of getting into a sexual relationship with? And wouldn’t it be unnecessary to hold it against the woman because of her number, if you too as the man, equally has a number bordering on the same?

And while women have always felt the pressure to cover up for their sexual indiscretions, some high profile women have gone against the norm and publicly spoken about their number. At some point in time, Ex supermodel, Janice Dickinson admitted to having slept with close to 1,000 men in her lifetime including actor Sylvester Stallone. Knowing how Janice is, I’m sure she cared less what people might think of her. Proprietor of House of DVF famous for it’s iconic wrap dresses, Diane Von Furstenberg in an interview with Post magazine sometime in 2015, centered around her memoir The Woman I Wanted To Be openly stated, “I slept with a lot of people and I’m glad I did.”

It would be unnecessary really, to hold it against these women for being openly unapologetic of their sexual past. As a matter of fact, I find these women quite comfortable with the way they chose to live their lives whether society would eventually judge them for it or not. I tend to think that they derive their confidence from the fact that irregardless of what could have been considered slutty by others, these women ended up to achieve notable feats in their respectable fields thanks to their individual talents.

The decision to openly discuss one’s number depends on an individual and whatever he/she expects to achieve with the admission. Whether it is necessary or not to keep track of one’s number depends solely on the initial drive behind it. However, sexual health shall always remain very important and something to keep in mind while engaging in sexual activities.

 

The Red Alert!

en.wikipedia.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article goes on to state.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Should Women Shelve Ambition For Marriage?

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

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

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

thewaywomenwork.com

thewaywomenwork.com

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

psychcentral.com

psychcentral.com

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

African Men And Polygamy

Are African men naturally polygamous?

I got thinking about this after a story surfaced on the internet sometime last week concerning the African country of Eritrea. It was alleged by an unknown source, that the Eritrean government had passed a law requiring all men to take up two wives or a second wife or face life imprisonment. The story has since been proven to be a hoax according to http://www.tesfanews.net/eritrea-forced-polygamy-story-exposed/ 

Knowing how creative and hilarious Kenyans can get, the news immediately sparked a horde of memes mainly communicating the glee and anticipation that the story had caused in Kenyan men. Almost like they all couldn’t wait to get a go ahead to woo and marry Eritrean women considered very pretty together with their Ethiopian counterparts in the African continent. The author of the above post on the link provided, has quite some harsh words to say with regards to the reaction, the supposed hoax of a story caused.

I’m not basing my post only on Kenyan men but on African men in general. For generations, most African men have been painted to be polygamous by nature. The practice of polygamy is so deeply ingrained in some African countries that their own leaders have no qualms, getting several wives and being actually proud of it. After all, it is considered normal for an African man to prove his manliness by not sticking to one wife.

African women on the other hand are expected to go along with the flow and accommodate the additional wives. They should consider it healthy competition and accept that their men’s needs have to be met. They should actually keep up with the timetable if there happens to be one, dictating what days of the week or month the husband will visit particular homes of his many wives.

After the introduction of Christianity in my country, many Kenyan men felt embarrassed to openly exhibit their polygamous sides and therefore opted to keep concubines. For some whom the polygamous bug had bitten them to the point of no return, one woman could have been wedded in church thus paraded as the legitimate wife while the other could have been wedded traditionally.

Of course once the secret leaked that this man had more than one wife other than the one people were used to seeing, the man would indeed be at horrible pains to explain his situation and especially, if he had a position of some sort in the church. No wonder the need for our own president to sign a bill into law permitting men to marry additional wives even if the first wife does not approve of it in 2014. I have a feeling that the African patriarchal way of thinking regarding polygamy pushed the president to do this.

With the emergence of the HIV/AIDS virus at some point in time, a couple of polygamous homes suffered gravely. Many homes too, where the husband kept a concubine or side chick were not spared either from the spread of the deadly virus. Suddenly, polygamy did not seem all that fashionable if people in marriages got infected with HIV and had to suffer the consequences of living with the virus. But still, a huge section of African men felt that they could not survive with only one woman.

Is this really true? Could this be a myth that over time turned into a fact for some?

Polygamy in my view, is another form of cheating in a marriage that is only coated with terms of culture, tradition or male nature. In these times where the economy is never that favorable, you cannot quite convince me that a polygamous man will give his extensive family the very best of his abilities. As per my understanding, one cannot serve two masters.

Many Africans for the polygamy idea may argue that most men who take up additional wives are in fact capable of providing for the whole brood of children as well as the wives. After all, polygamy is yet another sign of wealth in Africa. However, a man with over 12 children from different women may find it difficult to give all of his children and wives his undivided attention, education and livelihood of a similar standard. Of course there is the school of thought that the women should understand the situation and live with it.

But could it be the reason why many co-wives suffer bitter rivalry among themselves all through their lives? There is no one woman who is similar to another and in such a situation, the man may tend to favor one woman over all the others. It is human nature to develop preferences over some things of a similar nature. Jealousy is bound to arise as well as unhealthy competition. It may be hidden in some situations but deep down, it will always exist only to further hamper the success of the whole family. You may even encounter children of a particular wife being more learned than children of the other wives or vice versa.

A section of people advocating for polygamy look at it from the Biblical point of view. Indeed some notable men in the Old Testament of the Bible had more than one wife and God endorsed it. Why is it now considered a taboo in some circles to be polygamous? It should be noted that in Biblical times, population was not as dense as it is in modern ages. Perhaps it was God’s way of fulfilling his multiply and fill the earth law if we choose to look at it that way. It should be remembered too that Jesus Christ in the New Testament came to amend many of the laws that had existed in previous times.

Patriarchal societies have however seemed to twist the whole idea to suit their patriarchal needs over time. African women are now expected to put up with this culturally endorsed form of cheating by turning a blind eye to their men’s philandering ways or welcoming a new wife in the house. Quite recently, there was a story of a Kenyan woman whose own adopted daughter ended up stealing her husband and her husband blaming her for it.

It is despicable really that many choose to justify their lustful transgressions by riding on the wave of polygamy being a male nature. However, polyandry should be frowned upon and such a woman stoned to death if possible. If African women should have no qualms whatsoever sharing their husbands, shouldn’t the African men too have no qualms sharing their wives?

Issues of polygamy in African societies can transform into a raging debate of sorts. I however firmly believe that polygamy is based on personal choice and not biology as many would like us to believe.

 

 

 

Has Africa Done Enough To Cub FGM?

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of globalhealthstudents.blogs.ku.dk

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of globalhealthstudents.blogs.ku.dk

In 2011, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was outlawed in Kenya. A law was equally passed clearly outlining the illegality of practicing FGM or taking someone out of the country, to have the procedure done. However, despite a law banning FGM existing in my country, some communities still actively engage in the heinous practice till date.

According to a definition by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in 1997, FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. World Health Organisation (WHO) goes further to expound that an estimated 91.5 million girls and women above the age of 9 in Africa are currently living with the consequences of FGM. A further 3 million girls in reference to the report by WHO, are at a risk of undergoing the cut every year.

Indeed as I was going through the FGM related images on the Internet for this post, I couldn’t help but find a huge chunk of them to be too graphic for myself and I believe, my readers too. I chose to settle on a milder form of the images. But is there really a milder form of FGM for those women who have undergone the worst form of it and have to further undergo reconstructive surgery in order to consummate their marriages? Worst case scenario, die in the process or develop complications during delivery because of being victims of the cut?

I sought to understand what lies in the mindset of female circumcisers and ended up stumbling on an article dated July 3rd 2015, by Felicity Thistlethwaite on the website http://www.express.co.uk. Two female circumcisers had been interviewed by MailOnline in their village in Kenya (Names have been omitted for this post to avoid ethnic profiling).

Woman 1 had this to say about the deeply entrenched practice in her community;

Girls are cut to ensure they remain faithful because the sexual organ is not there anymore. When you are cut you will not be like a slut looking for men here and there like a prostitute. You are docile waiting for your husband because after you are cut, sex is for having children not for anything else.

Woman 2 further added;

When you are cut, that is when you grow healthily into a woman because the bad blood is not there anymore. In the body, there is good blood and bad blood. After a girl is cut, the bad blood is gone.

Just by looking at these women’s reasoning, it was quite evident to me that a female’s sexuality has always proven to be a bone of contention. In most societies in Africa and across the world practicing FGM, the main intention is usually to tame the girl child from being sexually active before marriage. We can also capture a patriarchal kind of brainwashing in women toward what marital sex constitutes.

If sex in marriage is only for making babies and nothing else, then happens a situation whereby the husband craves sex but with no intention of getting his wife pregnant, then will sex in marriage have lost its meaning? And is it in order to conclude that women do not desire to engage in intercourse with their husbands except in situations where they have a plan to conceive? How then can we explain troubled marriages whose main cause is them being devoid of sex?

Indeed, there lies quite deep connotations of patriarchy in this whole business of FGM in societies which actively pursue the practice. It may come out as cheap feminism banter if we decided to question the liberal nature that has been accorded men when it comes to their sexuality, in comparison to the subdued nature accorded to the women’s sexuality?

And while FGM has always been painted to seem like it advocates for morality in matters sex, truly, its main intention is to further oppress the weaker sex in society, and that is the woman. To deny her a voice and a right to own her sexuality. To equally deny her a right to exercise her own self control while giving the stronger sex, the upper hand to decide what to do with regards to what should actually be a female responsibility.

Some of you may argue that no man participates in the cutting of women and that women, in most cases are actually willing to undergo it. I attribute this fact to the patriarchal brainwashing I previously mentioned. When you live in a society where the major decisions are being undertaken by one gender, then it becomes acceptable over time and a way of life. Unless enlightened, sadly, the situation remains the same and you will find women echoing what has been put in place for generations. They will not even think of questioning its validity in their lives.

You may agree with me that most of the societies engaging in active FGM are societies that lie on the deeply entrenched patriarchal spectrum. And that after the girls are circumcised then they are considered ready for marriage. Why not ready for other aspects pertaining to their lives as women? I leave that for you to judge. Yet FGM is considered a must for women in these societies and a woman who has failed to undergo it is subject to malicious gossip, shunning and taunts.

Apart from the sexual aspect of FGM, the girls are equally exposed to a horde of other risks. There is the risk of contracting the virus due to the poor sterilization standards of the crude razor blades used, bleeding to death, experiencing difficulty in delivery as well as the whole experience being traumatic for the girl.

I once watched a docu series where a circumcised girl in one of the communities in my country, had to walk kilometers after the practice under the hot sun in pain and bleeding. And all the while villagers awarded her with notes of cash. How that is supposed to prepare someone for womanhood beats my logic as the only interpretation I’m getting from it is that, this girl will probably conclude that womanhood is often traumatic. I fear that she may never view her womanhood as a cause for celebration and equally fulfilling.

An expose at the turn of the year by NTV’s Enock Sikolia on FGM among one of the communities in Kenya where the practice is heavily rampant, revealed that some trained nurses also perform the cut on unsuspecting, uncircumcised, pregnant women as soon as they go into labor. I found this unsettling in so many different angles.

First, a nurse is someone who has been to medical school and is therefore literate as well as enlightened on the dangers of FGM. Second, a nurse is someone a patient trusts to handle them professionally. Third, circumcising a vulnerable woman in the throes of labor pain is akin to maliciously abusing this woman physically and emotionally, while overlooking her right to stay uncircumcised. It would therefore be in order for parliament to pass a law that will ensure such rogue nurses, are liable for prosecution if it is ascertained that they indeed did circumcise a pregnant woman in labor.

The expose further shed light on the circumcisers change of tact. Instead of performing the practice during the expected periods by authorities, keen on pouncing on such offenders, they opted to circumcise girls at a much younger age or in hospitals. Here is where the role of some of the nurses came in. However, as a result of pressure from the community, many married women had voluntarily decided to get circumcised in a bid to save face. A sad state of affairs.

WHO states that the prevalence of FGM varies significantly between regions with ethnicity as the most decisive factor. The specific FGM procedure performed also varies by ethnicity. As of 2008/9 the prevalence of FGM in Kenyan women and girls between the ages of 15-49 years was 27.1% (www.compassion.com)

An article by Silas Irungu, a Compassion Kenya, Field Communications Specialist titled Fleeing the Knife on the website mentioned above narrates;

Young (insert tribe name) women undergo female circumcision as part of an elaborate rite of passage that initiates young girls into adulthood and ultimately early marriage.

The practice is deeply ingrained in the culture such that women who have not gone through it are not considered for marriage or if married, the bride price is heavily discounted much to the disappointment of the bride’s family.

Silas Irungu goes on to state;

The law in Kenya prohibits female circumcision and other cultural practices considered to be violence against women. It is difficult to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM because of cultural allegiance. Usually the practice is done in private under the cover of darkness.

To sum it all up, FGM is a thorn in the flesh and it is quite refreshing to witness many anti-FGM women crusaders up in arms against the practice in Kenya. Educational centres have been set up in communities where the practice is rampant, with an aim to shield young girls keen on pursuing their education, from undergoing the cut and being married off. Former Marakwet East MP, Linah Jebii Kilimo is one of the many high profile women against the heinous practice of FGM. She rose up to become a female leader in her community, despite being uncut.

Which firmly proves that if the African girl child is to truly prosper, then the practice of FGM needs to transform into a thing of the past. A retrogressive aspect of culture to be shunned and forgotten. Despite the many loopholes that we face in completely eradicating this practice, with one voice as Africa, it can be achieved.

What has your African country done to cub FGM?

 

Must You Be Gay To Work In A Hair Salon As A Male?

A Hair Salon. en.wikipedia.org

A Hair Salon. en.wikipedia.org

My  current employment entails a lot of moving around. Just the other day, I walked into a hair salon for non-hair related errands. As I was chatting with the female employees, mostly explaining why I was there and what I wanted, in sauntered a girlish looking male. I could have been forgiven to think he was a woman with a quick glance at him, judging by his equally very female walking style and demeanor. I had to look again just to be sure that he was indeed a man. And yep, he happened to be one of the employees at the salon.

Encountering this man made me look back at all the other instances where I had walked into a salon and met a male employee who by all means acted female and looked female. I do not wish to jump into conclusions but such occurrences are usually attributed to the fact that these kinds of men, who act all girlish definitely have to be gay, in my country.

True to the assumption, some of them are indeed gay and not ashamed of that fact. It could also be a contributing reason for them to have a preference to work in the salon industry, seeing that their girlish tendencies could not be accommodated in the tough, male dominated fields.To be honest, rarely would you find a male with girlish tendencies working kazi ya mjengo (construction work in Swahili) or in the Jua Kali sector (informal sector) mainly a preserve for male workers.

But are we indeed right in dismissing all the men in the salon industry as gay “weak” men??

A few years back, there is a salon I loved to frequent. Two of the workers happened to be every inch the Meru (a Kenyan ethnic group they both belonged to) men. Both of them were married with a child each yet these same men, could give you the best nail services you would have ever wished for. I remember one of them sharing tips with me, on how I should file my nails so that they wouldn’t break easily if they were long and I had to do house chores. Eventually, they moved away and opened their own salon.

Seeing how Meru men in my country are considered males deeply in touch with their masculinity, would we then have been justified in concluding that these two men of the same community were gay? Better yet, do we consider the woman fraternity so fickle to the extent where people of the opposite sex, who choose to work in fields where there is a lot of interaction with women, are considered weak or having an abnormality of sorts?

If you ask me, I would prefer male hairdressers, manicurists and pedicurists any time over their female counterparts. I find men more sincere with their work and thorough than a couple of women in the salon industry.

In recent times, we have seen the word metrosexual being thrown around. Again this reminds me of an incident in the same salon where the two men I have talked about worked. One weekend, I decided to get a pedicure done. Lo and behold, just sitting opposite me was a father who had brought his lovely daughter to the salon, with really long natural hair which caught my attention the minute I walked in, to have it braided. Instead of leaving her in the capable hands of the hairdresser, this dad had decided to keep her company and while away the time getting a full pedicure done. He had even rolled up his trousers to the knees for the exercise!

And while I was a bit taken aback then, I really admired his parenting style. I mean, this was a typical African man, Black man even, for those who are more comfortable with that term, who had opted to do what has for years been reserved for the mothers and wives and that was, accompany his daughter to the salon and actually keep her company! I felt like other fathers could learn a thing or two from him. And so what if he was getting a full pedicure done?! Couldn’t a man be allowed to pamper himself at times?! Can we confidently call this man a metrosexual or gay even?!

I find the idea behind assuming all men in the salon industry to be gays as stereotypical and bordering on the homophobic. I’m no advocate for gays, don’t get me wrong. However, I wouldn’t spend my time hating on them and lumping them together in a category, I assume is befitting for them like working in a hair salon for example. As much as we would like to live in denial as Kenyans, the gay community is in fact in most of the fields in our country. Some of them we can’t even easily tell that they are gays yet they are bankers, economists, lawyers, businessmen, your cab guy, you name it.

Just because a section of men tend to be inclined to act more of female than male does not automatically translate to them being gay. And no, it is not a requirement to be gay in order to handle women in a salon. As a matter of fact, it would be insulting to insinuate that women matters such as hair dos, manicures and pedicures have to  be done by men who are “out of ordinary” in their sexual orientation. And if we would like to stick to that stereotypical thought, then would it equally be in order to state that women in the matatu (public transport) industry are lesbians as well?

Being a rough, male dominated field, these women have to literally discard their femininity in order to fit in. They have to dress in trousers, have their voices transformed into a hoarse rasp just from all that yelling for commuters on a daily basis and actually act tough to be able to compete effectively with the men in the same field. Why doesn’t anyone feel inclined to call them lesbians for acting male and for choosing a field, that for years was reserved exclusively for men? Is it because we come from a society where everything associated with men is more serious, as opposed to what is associated with women and therefore, women who venture into it are meant to be applauded for it not branded?

Have we actually taken time to understand the motivation behind these women choosing to work in the matatu industry? Have we thought of something to do for them in order to uplift them and in the process get them back in touch with their femininity? Most of these women are single mothers fending for their children and with the non-employment issue in our country, even a male dominated field could do for them. For some, being in this industry is actually a passion. Something they love to do.

Isn’t it time that we also thought of viewing men working in the salon industry as people of the opposite sex who were passionate with everything beauty related? Perhaps it could have been the only thing that they are really good at and if at all it puts food on the table, why not?